Rasak is programme officer for Inclusion Works, a disability-inclusive employment programme in Nigeria, part of the Inclusive Futures initiative funded by UK aid.
‘Disability’ only occurs when an impairment interacts with a barrier. I understand this well, having myself become blind as an adult. I was determined not to be pitied, and so found any means possible to overcome the barriers I found were in my way to being productive as a blind person. I have managed to do this successfully, and have built an impressive career in communications and project management. I now help others do the same.
In my spare time, I’ve authored four books and contributed to numerous policies nationally and regionally. Prior to joining Sightsavers, I worked as the public awareness and communications Manager for the USAID Strengthening Advocacy for Civil Engagement (SACE) project in Nigeria. I am a co-founder of the Africa Volunteering Week and 360 Connect Champion – a social enterprise building the technological capacity of people with disabilities. This was all made possible by my conviction that there is productivity in disability.
My job as part of the Inclusive Futures employment programme, ‘Inclusion Works’, includes working with job-seekers with disabilities, ensuring they’re well equipped for their job hunt with the relevant skills to ensure they secure a good job they can make a career out of.
I also work with organisations that represent disabled people to encourage private sector companies to become inclusive workplaces, with disability-inclusive policies in place.
We also work hard to influence the Nigerian government to ensure the Nigeria disability act, which calls for five per cent of every workforce to be made up of people with disabilities, be put into practice.
The Inclusive Futures initiative aims to create a world where everyone has the same opportunities to go to school, access quality healthcare, and claim their rights to work through formal and informal employment.About the initiative
From conversations with people involved in the project, I realised there is need to highlight the success stories of a number of people with disabilities already excelling in good jobs across different sectors, to convince more employers to employ qualified and competent people with disabilities.
Many of my contacts saw me as a rare exception, as a person with a disability excelling at what they do. I wanted to show them this wasn’t the case; that there are many other people with disabilities demonstrating incredible value through their work, regardless of their disabilities.
I cannot bring these people along to every meeting with me. So, I set about shooting a short promotional film capturing their voices, and most importantly, testimonies by their employers, telling of the value they bring to the organisation.
The objective was to help employers be aware of the value people with disabilities can bring to their organisation, to influence them to make their workplace disability-inclusive, and ultimately, be confident to employ job seekers with disabilities.
We captured the views of employees with disabilities working in the private and public sector, their employers, the HR regulatory body and the federation of employers in Nigeria.
On the third day of the shoot, I recall the camera man asking me to come over to see his display screen, to check the shot was what I wanted. I laughed, and joked that I’d left my glasses at home. He had forgotten that I am blind. We laughed about it together, and carried on.It wasn’t just that he had forgotten: he had been fascinated by how often I’d told him to zoom out, fade in, take a close shot… and so on. He couldn’t imagine how I’d got to know such terms, given that I am blind. I explained that I wasn’t born blind. At the age of 17, I was an on-air personality presenting in a TV cable station in Lagos. I learnt a bit about shooting, and gathered some experience within the short time I worked there, before I moved on to work in radio.
The employees who contributed to the film were excited that their examples could help influence employers to recruit more job-seekers with disabilities.
Likewise, I found their employers hugely enthusiastic to tell their own stories of becoming a disability-inclusive employer, making strong business cases for diversity and inclusion. They were proud that their brands would be associated with such values and qualities, when the film would be made public in Nigeria and globally.
We’ll be showing it at annual general meetings of huge national and global corporations, in advocacy meetings with government representatives, in training sessions for HR professionals, at careers fairs and at other employment-related events. Our aim is to influence all these groups, as well as the general population of Nigeria.