By One Young World ambassador: Fatou Mbow
Fatou Mbow is an experienced Project Officer at the African Union Commission (AUC). She is striving to influence policies addressing issues faced by persons with disabilities in Africa such as increased rates of poverty, systemic discrimination and risk of violence and abuse – particularly for those with albinism and women and girls with disabilities.
It was in 1975 when my Uncle Khadim acquired paralysis after a polio vaccine. In the rural areas of Senegal, it was a curse to have a child with disabilities at that time. Mother of 13, my grandmother said she survived by growing a skin so thick she doubted anyone’s disapproval could penetrate it. She supported her son’s education and several years on, the 15-year-old won a scholarship to study in one of the most prestigious high schools in France and has now become one of the most well-paid software engineers at Bouygues Telecom.
Unfortunately, the other side of the coin with this success story is that only 20 percent of people with disabilities in Senegal are employed. Though Senegal ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on September 7, 2010, people with disabilities still find it hard to access basic services (health and education) or to earn a regular income.
I see every day a large number of people with disabilities begging outside Dakar’s trendiest places or at traffic lights. I believe it’s crucial to change the mindset of disabled people by getting them to consider themselves as fully functional citizens of Senegal and not simply recipients of charity.
Disability in business means breaking down these barriers by promoting decent employment for people with disabilities, especially young people and women, through social dialogue and corporate social responsibility. In this regard, technical training should be provided to improve the competencies of people with disabilities, and each and every one has the responsibility to advocate for the physical and social adaptation of work environments to accommodate disabled employees.
Uncle Khadim once told me: “Calling me ‘special’ or alluding to my great qualities makes me different, sets me apart, and I don’t want that at all.”