International charity group, Oxfam, is advocating for better opportunities and access to social services, health, education, and employment opportunities for marginalised persons.
The organisation which marked the five-year anniversary of the Voice project in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital on Wednesday, April 7, also noted the project had been extended for three years, following the exceptional milestones achieved over the period of the project.
Oxfam International, a global affiliation of 20 charity organisations based in the United Kingdom with financial support from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has reached over half a million people including people living with disabilities, women facing exploitation abuse and violence, children and the elderly, and ethnic minorities.
These beneficiaries are spread across Plateau, Enugu, Abuja and Lagos Imo and Kaduna, states.
Imo and Kaduna states are covered by the Sudden Opportunity Grant which targets specific unanticipated opportunities across the country.
Ijeoma Okwor, the Project Coordinator of Voice in Nigeria revealed that a sum of €50 million had been granted by the Dutch Foreign Ministry to 10 countries, with €40 million for the additional three-year phase of the project.
She also highlighted how the success of the project had come with a few hurdles.
“Voice is aimed at strengthening the capacity of the target groups and to begin using their voices to demand for better governance, better opportunities and transparency,” Okwor said.
“We’ve had a tremendous five years despite the challenges and of the success stories over these past years. There are policies that we feel are anti-social and anti-human rights in this country and have made it quite difficult for us to get the work done at times.”
On the next three-year phase of Voice, Okwor said Oxfam intends to be everywhere, and reach every nook and cranny of the country, while also being more proactive in trying out new strategies.
Olumide Ojo, representing the Oxfam International Country Director in Nigeria, said the Oxfam’s main mission is to promote an inclusive society for equal and fairer opportunities for all.
“Our sustainable development depends on the collective effort we can make in recognizing the different levels of disabilities of people which is one of the things we are living out in the Voice project,” Ojo explained.
“This means recognising people that have been marginalized, people whose rights have been trampled upon and people who ordinary wouldn’t be given a fair chance in any life opportunity,” he added.
One of the project beneficiaries, Pelemo Ava Nyajo expressed how she struggled to go anywhere because of her physical disability, but had now learnt how inclusion is her right, and not a favour.
“This is what Voice is all about, speaking up for yourself. People with disabilities are people before anything else. We should be included in all sectors without discrimination. Change begins with the mind, and a lot of people have negative mindsets. Once mindsets can be changed, the nation as whole can be changed,” Nyajo said.
She argued that there is yet to be a substantial inclusion in Nigeria, noting that there is still a huge gap in providing support and amenities to those in need of them.
“I’ve never been abroad before, but I’ve seen how things as simple as ramps for wheelchair users are unavailable,” Nyajo said.
“There are some places I can’t go because I use crutches. Some toilets are inaccessible to those with disabilities. Things like this are the reason why I would remain indoors, and it greatly affected my mental health. You don’t know the potential you’re hiding by not being inclusive of people of different capabilities.”