I believe that, as the legislative arm of the Ghanaian government, parliament is a critical ally that organisations working to influence the enactment or implementation of legislations or policies should consider collaborating with.
I have been leading Ghana Somubi Dwumadie in engaging with a parliamentary caucus in Ghana to ensure the rights of people with disabilities are upheld within national legislation. Ghana Somubi Dwumadie is a non-profit organisation which collaborates with different stakeholders including organisations of people with disabilities (OPDs), government and its agencies, as well as the Mental Health Authority.
Armed with learnings and experiences from Sightsavers, we contacted the Parliament of Ghana in our quest to influence policies and budgets, and to re-enact Ghana’s Disability Act, implement the Ghana Accessibility Standards for the Built Environment and ratify the African Disability Protocol (ADP) to ensure disability-inclusive development.
In 2021, I was faced with the challenge of securing an appointment with the minister for gender, children and social protection – but I was not alone in this challenge. Other stakeholders in the disability community had also found it almost impossible to meet with the minister, who had been away from office for some time due to health issues. The absence of a substantive figure at the Ministry impeded major activities, including progress of Ghana Somubi Dwumadie advocacy objectives with Ghana Federation of Persons with Disabilities (GFD) and the disability community.
Interestingly, there was a delay in the appointment of the National Council on Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) board for 10 months after the inauguration of the new government. This made securing influential governmental allies critical in order to ensure that disability issues were not left behind.
The natural course of action was to revisit the idea of starting a disability caucus in Ghana – although similar attempts by other stakeholders had not been sustained. A former member of parliament, honourable John Majisi (himself a disability advocate), supported the identification of like-minded members of parliament to initiate the establishment of the parliamentary caucus. Learning from previous attempts, we are focusing on ensuring the assignation and formalisation of a parliamentary clerk to the caucus, which would increase its chances of sustainability – even if current elected members were voted out of parliament.
The disability caucus is a voluntary group made up of parliamentarians interested in championing the cause of people with disabilities in Ghana, with initial membership comprising 12 members of parliament, including its patron the second deputy speaker. Currently, 22 members of parliament have signed up as members – and this number is likely to grow.
On 26 October 2022, I led a team from Sightsavers comprising a trustee, the country director and senior programme manager – as well as a team from GFD and Ghana Somubi Dwumadie – to discuss the progress of formalising the caucus. On that day, the chair of the caucus honourable Dr Clement Apaak informed the delegation that formalisation was in progress and that the leadership intended to meet with the speaker of parliament, introduce the caucus and assign a clerk. Deputy speaker of parliament, Andrew Asiamah Amoako, also expressed how the needs of people with disabilities must be prioritised, and he pledged his support to their cause.
The focus for the group’s establishment in parliament was to give the disability community a platform, and to ensure that disability issues are promoted and mainstreamed in the work of parliament. Taking into account the fact that disability issues are cross-cutting, the caucus is there to:
- Support disability-inclusive legislation in Ghana
- Represent people with disabilities in parliament to ensure disability inclusion
- Act as disability champions
The caucus will provide the disability community with a platform and ensure that disability issues are promoted and mainstreamed in parliamentary work. We have proved that it is therefore possible to have a functioning parliamentary caucus within parliament in Ghana.