In 2016, 15 parents of Persons with Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities who were tired of having their children sidelined and discriminated against met and decided to join forces together to create the Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities of Nigeria (AIDDN) to fight for the rights of their children.
AIDDN as a community and an advocacy group over the years has grown from having 15 children to over 1,000 children under their care.
The National President of AIDDN, Mrs Joko Dawodu Omotola, spoke to The Ikeja Record’s Omon Okhuevbie about the stigma attached to being a parent of a child with Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities, the various challenges faced by the Association and their newly launched project, Action4Change.
Omon Okhuevbie: Please ma’am can you briefly introduce yourself and what you do?
Joko Dawodu Omotola: My name is Mrs Joko Dawodu Omotola. I am the National President for the Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities of Nigeria. The acronym is AIDDN. AIDDN is an advocacy group. It consist of persons with intellectual developmental disabilities, the parents and the caregivers, then professionals, NGOs, and individuals who have interests and passion for our course. So, we advocate for the right of the children or persons of persons with intellectual developmental disabilities.
OO: You mentioned earlier how a group of parents founded the organization, please can you shed more light about that?
JDO: Initially, we just met at PTA meetings and we said ‘why don’t we form an association for our children who cannot express themselves?’ Because we are the voice for them. So, 15 of us came together to start the association. We were initially thinking of having a sport outfit for them but eventually we thought an association would be better where sports activities will be included. So, we came together and started having that meeting at Modupe Special Home or something, in Akoka. That was where we started the meetings. And then, the purpose was to fight, to promote and protect the rights of our children and persons with intellectual developmental disabilities. Gradually, the membership enlarged and there was a need for us to leave that classroom type of place. We paid an advocacy visit to the Lagos State Sports Commission, in fact we were looking for space for office and eventually they gave us space to be holding meetings at the Table Tennis Court in Teslim Balogun Stadium. And then, the association continued with mobilization drive and the association membership continued to expand.
OO: Can you share the mission and goals of AIDDN?
JDO: We want to ensure our children live a sustainable and independent life, that is the ultimate. And every opportunity we have, we ensure that our advocacy will reach those that will formulate and develop it into policies that will give them the accessibility they require to all the benefits that are derivable in the community.
OO: Can you share some of the challenges you have faced since the inception of AIDDN?
JDO: As the president, the challenges are numerous and they have to do with the challenges that we the parents face. I am also a parent, my child has Down Syndrome. I have a son that has Down Syndrome and the challenges are numerous.
A lot of stigmatization. A parent gave a testimony to that effect, that they make fun of her, ‘look at that woman with a child with disability that cannot walk’. You know, the more she hears that, the more she loses her confidence. Sometimes, it could even launch her into depression because to walk on that street would be difficult for her. You won’t even know who is even making jest of you again. So many parents, because of this anxiety have fallen into depression.
OO: Can you briefly tell us about the Action4Change project?
JDO: Action4Change project is a project designed for bridging the gap, systematically to aid our children. You know, our children don’t have access to so many things. We want to ensure that they have access to qualitative and inclusive health, to ensure that they have access to inclusivity, to promote these children and get their rights for them in the community. And that is why we will continue to intensify our advocacy, it will reach every where. It is part of the activities under this phase (Action4Change Project). We are going to go into the communities to sensitize the community, the leadership, the clerics, all of them.
OO: Do you have sponsors or partners?
JDO: We have never had. CBM global is our first ever partner. But yes, we collaborate with the State Ministries.
OO: So, since 2016, no sponsors on previous projects?
JDO: No projects. What we do is just to socialize, to engage in social activities for our children and then we seek for individual support and then some private companies to give us their products.
OO: Please you share some of the successes and accomplishments that your organization has achieved?
JDO: We have succeeded in getting more members to bring their children out. They now have confidence that they are not alone. So, we counsel them, give them encouragement and we build their capacity through attending trainings. We get invitations from NGOs, so we allow our parents to go for trainings, and workshops to build their capacities. We organize with the help of NDAs, we organize seminars like the one we had for nutrition for our children. It is not every food that our children can take. You can see them, they are calm there but if you want to increase their hyperactivity, give them sugar, give them all these noodles. It is not good for them, it increases their hyperactivity.