US, Nigeria partner to include persons with disabilities into workforce
Nigeria and the United States (US) have partnered on creating equality and the inclusion of persons living with disabilities (PwDs) into the workforce through the Reciprocal Exchange programme.
The Inclusion works project took place on the 3rd of March 2022 at the Barack Obama American Corner, Victoria Island, Lagos State.
The program kicked off with the welcome Speech by Ms. Jennifer Foltz, the deputy public affairs officer of the United States Consulate Lagos.
Ms. Jennifer stated that the Reciprocal Exchange programme is an initiative to implement hybrid projects to continue collaborative work with Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni on the continent.
She commended the organizers of the program for their effort to reduce barriers of the employment of persons with disabilities through a programme like this.
Mr. Austin Emenau, the Mandela Washington Fellowship Coordinator stated that the U.S Mission in Nigeria would continue to support it’s exchange alumni to networks, and increase mutual understanding between the United States and countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This followed quickly with the unveiling of the short video documentary on Inclusion works for persons with disabilities in Nigeria. The documentary featured three young adults with visual disabilities of the Federal Nigeria Society for the Blind who shared their educational and employment journey as well as some of the cultural and social biases and barriers they encountered in the course of employment.
This documentary instigated thought-provoking discussions between the young adults with visual impairment and the employers of labour on Nigeria’s disability rights legislation that requires organizations to hire people with disabilities. The discussion was curated to shift attitudes from a “culture of compliance” to an increase in truly inclusive workplaces.
The documentary also featured senior management staff of the Pan Atlantic University Enterprise Development Center such as Nneka Okekerau Nnena Ugwu, Halima Rabiu calling on Nigerian employers of labour to be more inclusive in employing persons with disabilities.
After the documentary, the deputy public affairs officer of the United States Consulate Jennifer Foltz launched the Disability Employment Manual and T-shirts as a message to promote mainstreaming of disability, giving participants an opportunity to become ambassadors in respecting, supporting and promoting inclusive employment of persons with disabilities.
Thereafter, the administrative director of the Special Needs Initiative For Growth Ms. Kikelomo Olatunde and the reciprocal exchange participant and project co-lead – Ms. Sarah Cohen made a presentation on the inclusion of persons with disabilities into the workforce.
Ms. Kikelomo stated that any company that desires to improve productivity and expand its customer base should adopt an employment policy that embraces diversity, particularly disadvantaged groups of society. Sarah buttressed that Persons with Disabilities, when given employment opportunities, are an asset rather than a liability to the employer.
The programme moved on with a networking activity with the employers of labor and the visually impaired adults. This gave the young adults the opportunity to pitch their skills, talent and background for employers to see the advantages of hiring them into the workforce. This followed quickly with a speed dating session with employers such as Jobberman, Sifax Group, Brainiacs STEM and Robotics providing mentoring support to the adults towards inclusive employment.
Organization personnel such as Mr. David Mbelu and Godswill Ekwughaonu from Jobberman, Emmanuella Oku and Osinachi Ononiwu from Sifax Group and Theresa Odeh from Brainiacs STEM and Robotics represented their organizations.
The programme ended with testimonies from the employers stating their commitment to hire the three young adults into the workforce upon introduction of upskilling practices for them.
Racheal Inegbedion who is a 2021 Mandela Washington Fellowship alumnae collaborator stated that this project is one of the advocacy productions used to promote inclusion of persons with disabilities into the workforce in Nigeria.
She stated that employers of labour in Nigeria can forge strong collaborations with civil society organizations like the Special Needs Initiative For Growth to recruit persons with disabilities as an apprentice/intern/part time/full time staff. This will help them to fully adapt to working tasks and ethics and learn on the job; performing excellently.
The Management of the Federal Nigerian Society for the Blind Mr. Chigozie Asogwa and Mr. Joseph Oladokun thanked the organizers for the event.
Racheal Inegbedion and Sarah Cohen were selected for the reciprocal exchange component of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.
Launched in 2014, the Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). The program empowers and fosters closer relations among young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities, and local community engagement.
The Reciprocal Exchange component provides U.S. citizens with the opportunity to build upon strategic partnerships and professional connections developed during the fellowship.