"40-year plan should enhance our opportunities"
"Unless our public spaces are accessible, neither education nor employment is possible," declared Ms. Sirina Mahammadu of the Brong Ahafo branch of the Ghana Federation of the Disabled (GFD).It called for a more disability-friendly Ghana in which all buildings and services would be accessible to all persons with disabilities (PWDs) and described accessibility as a development goal because it creates "sustainable conditions for persons with disabilities to live an independent life."
The GFD was addressing the Brong Ahafo Region consultation towards the preparation of a national long-term development plan organised in Sunyani, 12-13 October 2015 by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC). This followed earlier consultations in the Ashanti, Upper East, Northern and Upper West regions.
The group called for a new attitude of inclusiveness in the national development process, not as an act of charity towards disabled people but in recognition of their human rights. The GFD added that the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations should ensure that employment centres provide jobs for them.
The deaf and dumb, in their vision statement delivered by Mr. Rasheed Adel of the Bechem School for the Deaf said that, "disability allowances should be increased and paid on time to support our education since the majority of us are from poor homes." He added that sign language interpreters should be employed at public places like police stations, courts and hospitals "for easy access to information." He proposed the creation of special villages across Ghana with factories to employ deaf and dumb people and provide them with technical training.
Students from Notre Dame Girls Senior High School, in a speech read by Annyaah Kanyire Janice, noted Ghana's need for an improved educational system which would incorporate technical and vocational education in the curriculum to enable all students to achieve their full potential.
Ms. Annyaah, reiterated the importance of an improved health care delivery system for improving the quality of human resources. "Well-equipped health care centres with qualified and dedicated personnel should be established in various parts of the country to promote effective access to health care", she added.
The Regional Minister, Mr. Eric Opoku, in a welcome address delivered on his behalf by the Deputy Regional Minister, Mr. Justice Samuel Adjei, said "effective planning has always been considered as an essential pre-requisite for achieving success in national development efforts." He therefore commended NDPC for its pro-activeness and hard work in organising the regional fora, as part of the process to develop a long term plan for the nation.
He said Sunyani is one of the rapidly growing modern cities in the country and an excellent destination for socio-economic activities. Mr. Adjei added that the region "has gradually positioned itself as a hub for conferences, workshops, seminars, congresses and other equally important programmes." He said NDPC should consider making the region the destination of all future programmes of such magnitude.
Dr. I.F. Mensa-Bonsu, NDPC Director for Plan Coordination, speaking on behalf of the NDPC Director-General, Dr. Nii Moi Thompson, stressed that,"everything that exists today, once existed in someone's dream." He therefore called on all to conceptualise their dreams and plan it into existence and urged all Ghanaians, irrespective of their political persuasion, to come together and contribute their quota in building "the Ghana we want."
Participants in the Brong-Ahafo consultations included experts from decentralised ministries, departments and agencies, civil society organisations and students. Also represented were the six main political parties in the last general elections: the New Patriotic Party, the National Democratic Congress, the Convention People's Party, the Progressive People's Party, the People's National Convention, and the Great Consolidated Popular Party.
Groups were formed after the opening session to exchange ideas for input into the long-term national development plan. The five broad themes were: social development, economic development, environmental development, institutional development/governance, and Ghana in the international community.