In Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, dozens of persons with disabilities today gathered at the popular Hilaac UK Conference Hall to mark the International Day for Persons with Disabilities and discuss the challenges they face and the kind of support they would like from their Government and fellow citizens.The event was organised by the Somali Disability Empowerment Network (SODEN), an umbrella group that advocates and promotes for the rights of disabled people in the country, still recovering from decades of civil strife.
“This is a joyous day for disabled Somalis. We use this day to conduct awareness campaigns and share our needs and challenges with the rest of the public. Somalia is part of the global community and so this day is important to us because the number of disabled people here is very high – it is considered to be 20 percent of the population,” said Mohamed Ali Farah, who chairs SODEN.
“We need care, just like other human beings. We also need international and local support. Though we are disabled people, we do not want to see our children face the same challenges,” said Habiba Mohamed, a participant at the event.The global theme for International Day of Persons With Disabilities this year is ‘Sustainable Development And The Promise Of Technology’. The chairperson of the Somalia Association for the Blind, Ahmed Hassan Warsame, champions the use of technology to assist disabled people to live productively.“My mobile phone speaks to me. If I want to check my contacts, it tells me. If I want to use my camera, the voice function guides me. It’s a positive development that my phone can directly communicate to me. For example, I use a computer. I can tell my D drive from my C drive. I can get anything out or open any document I want to, because the computer speaks has voice-enabling software to guide me,” Warsame said.Warsame also urged the other members of Somali society not to view their fellow disabled citizens as helpless or as a burden.Somalia’s Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed and First Lady Sahra Hassan separately addressed the gathering via mobile phone, loudspeakers and sign language translators. They both pledged government support and the protection of basic rights.
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