A seventeen-year-old girl during a recent youth engagement dialogue I participated in asked me, “What is the total population of Persons with Disabilities in Ghana, and are all forms of disabilities acquired from birth?”
“No data on PWD population” and “No” were the answers I provided respectively to her questions – because almost everyone is likely to experience some form of disability, temporary or permanent, at some point in life.
This means in every community there are Persons with Disabilities (PWD), and that requires regular reliable data on PWD for development planning and inclusive interventions in everything we do as active citizens. In view of this, taking stock of Ghana’s national surveys which have been conducted in the past two decades (since 2000) to date raises the question: is Ghana generating inclusive and comprehensive data on Persons with Disabilities – as a human rights priority and to affirm its commitment to the provisions of the National Disability Act 715 (2006) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (2007)?
In my work across the sixteen regions and communities in Ghana, I found out that data on PWD are yet to be mainstreamed into national, regional and district data collection systems and tools. For example, previous national population censuses as well as demographic and health surveys have missed the opportunity to collect, analyse and develop national data on PWD in Ghana since 2000.
Also, a significant proportion of PWD – young people, women and children living with various forms of disabilities – are left behind and considered as an ‘after-thought issue’ in the planning, implementation and evaluation of Ghana’s development and intervention programmes. For instance, I observed and found out that the training of enumerators for the ongoing National Census did not include training on how to engage and collect data from PWD; and none of the recruited enumerators is a person with disability. Also, there are no sign-language instructors as part of the enumerators. On the other hand, the rise in teenage pregnancy nationwide in 2020, as reported by Ghana Health Service, did not include PWD and how many of these pregnant teenagers were girls living with disabilities.
At this point of Ghana’s recovery and building back from COVID-19, I appeal to the Government Statistician to declare 2021 and 2022 as ‘National PWD Data Bank’ years – that is, baselines for generating quality data on PWDs in the structure of Ghana’s national statistics. By doing so, it will be one legacy that he’ll be remembered for after his tenure of office. This is because two national data collection exercises (i.e. Population Census in 2021 and Demographic & Health Survey in 2022) serve as entry points for developing a national database on PWD.
To date, I am aware of some administrative data on PWD – students in some special schools from elementary to high school, and a few of the universities which have facilities for PWD. Therefore, to develop comprehensive data on PWD in Ghana, I suggest the following questions be considered in establishing a reliable national database on PWD:
- What proportion of the structures and buildings that were listed as part of the census, are disability-friendly and accessible to PWD?
- What is the total population of PWD in Ghana; and disaggregated by age, gender, type of disability, urban and rural locality, and regions?
- What is the level of access to services such as education and health among PWD by age, gender, urban and rural locality?
- What percentage of PWD are employed and unemployed? And what type of businesses and sectors of the economy are PWD are associated with?
- What percentage of PWD is children and young people who are in school?
- How many businesses/organisations have employed PWD or have staff as PWD?
- What percentage of PWD – by age, gender and type of disability – experienced stigma and discrimination due to their disabilities? And what was the form of discrimination experienced?
- What percentage of PWD own and are using smartphones, laptops, white-sticks and other assistive-enabled technologies by age, gender, type of disability, urban and rural locality?
- What percentage of PWD is fully aware of their rights in Ghana?
Another area that should be considered is the use of disability-friendly data collection instruments and standards on disability data at the global level. On this note, I propose that the Government Statistician should engage development partners such as the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to enable the Ghana Statistical Service to access technical support from Washington Group on Disability Data platform for countries for developing the needed skills and instruments in this regard.
At the end of data collection for the national census, I recommend the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) should engage and collaborate with disability organisations in Ghana to organise a national stakeholders’ validation workshop on the data collected on PWD. Subsequently, the GSS should publish Ghana’s first-ever national report on PWD based on the 2021 census.
I also appeal to the Ghana Statistical Service, Ghana Health Service, Ghana Education Service, National Commission on Culture, Parliamentary Select Committees on Health and Social Services, National Council for PWD, Ghana Federation of Disability, Ulti-Leaf Foundation and other relevant stakeholders to collaborate and introduce a questionnaire on PWD during the next Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS), due to be conducted in 2022.
At the global level, 15 percent of the world’s population – an estimated 1 billion people – live with disabilities, according to World Health Organisation (WHO). Also, a report by UNESCO reveals that ninety percent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school. And unemployment among the PWD is as high as 80 percent in some countries while an estimated 386 million of the world’s working-age people have some kind of disability, says the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Also, violence, rape as well as bullying against children, women and young people are on the increase globally. In December 2020, the WHO reported that the number of people with disability is dramatically increasing. Therefore, establishing a national database on PWD needs urgent attention from all stakeholders at the national and local level in Ghana.
The life-blood of all development planning is data, and so development is premised on inclusion – that is, leaving no one behind. This is the future we need as active members and citizens by developing a National Database on Persons with Disabilities from ongoing population censuses, as well as inclusion of questions on PWD in the next demographic and health survey in Ghana. The course of development today is data-driven – let’s count and include all.
The writer is the Founder and Executive Director, Ulti-Leaf Foundation, Ghana) Twitter: @SarpongAkwasi1, [email protected]