Gambia is a tiny sliver of a country on the west coast of Africa, but some of its citizens are taking a big stand for disability rights. All Africa reports that Ebrima Danjo, CEO of Aid For Orphans and the Disabled (AFOD), is publicly advocating for the rights of people with disabilities to make decisions regarding their own lives. Danjo says, “At home persons with disability have often been sidelined even on issues affecting them. AFOD rejects this as a non starter.”
Misperceptions about disability are all too common even in developed countries like the United States. In less developed countries like Gambia, this problem is still more pronounced. With fewer opportunities to make a living and a lack of accessible infrastructure, many Gambians with disabilities must resort to begging. Danjo points to this practice as reaffirming stereotypes that tar the demographic as incapable and objects of pity.
In order to break this cycle, AFOD sponsors scholarships for young people with disabilities. They have sponsored 14 students, some of which now have jobs. Further, 20 girls have been trained in skills like sewing and tie dying and are now earning an income. This is the sort of program that is needed in less developed countries. Handouts won’t help Gambians with disabilities over the long haul. Education, the skills to earn a living–these things provide both material support and a sense of agency and purpose. We wish AFOD luck, and hope that they will continue to able to expand their work in West Africa.