Securing Funds for the Disabled Community in Sierra Leone

A band in Sierra Leone made up of people with disabilties.

Tamba Tengbeh is a jhr trained radio journalist at Cotton Tree News, a community radio station in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

 

Recently, under the guidance of jhr trainers Damon van der Linde and Jessica McDiarmid, Tengbeh had been investigating stories in Sierra Leone’s disabled community. Through his investigation he discovered that the government had never made good on a promise it made back in March 2011, when the Persons with Disabilities Act was passed. The act specified that the equivalent of about $150,000 USD would be put towards programs for people with disabilities.

 

In October, Tegbah broke the story of the government’s negligence in disbursing the promised funds.Other media outlets soon began following his lead. Within weeks of Tengbeh’s story airing, the Ministry of Social Welfare – who had also started receiving numerous complaints from the community- agreed to meet with the Sierra Leone Union for Disability Issues (SLUDI) to negotiate the prompt payment of the missing funds. A portion of the funding was finally released several weeks later; members of SLUDI say the media had a direct influence on pressuring the government into action. “We have been trying for months to get the money allocated by the government to programs for people with disabilities. After the media campaign we were called to a meeting by the government where we received 20 percent of the money allocated to disabilities issues,” says Kabba Frankly Bangura, President of SLUDI. “This is the first time in the country people have got this money. The media keeps people informed. It helped to promote the issues we are struggling for and helps with the outreach that brings the community to action.”

 

Although some of the funds have been released, there is still more to come and disabled rights activists continue to put pressure on government, including calling for a boycott of the 2012 election, if the issue is not resolved. With follow-through and more stories produced by journalists like Tamba Tengbeh, the government will continue to be held accountable for the funds allocated to programs that aim to defend the rights of some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

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