How Physically Challenged Woman is Changing Narrative for People With Disabilities in Cross River

How Physically Challenged Woman is Changing Narrative for People With Disabilities in Cross River

By Umo Akwang -- Cross River

Disability describes impairment of the body or mind that limits the activity of persons with the condition, as well as interaction with their immediate environment, thereby hampering the individual’s ability to achieve set tasks.

Disability which may be mental, psychological or otherwise, has hampered the achievement of great potential, thereby robbing the world of their talents and abilities.

According to the World Health Organization, in 2018, about 29 million of the 195 million people who comprise Nigeria’s national population were living with a disability, while the Disability Data Bank, says about 22,000 Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in Nigeria are domiciled in Cross River State.

Beneficiary receiving starter pack after training from Enabled to Enabled. 
Photo Credit: Enabled to Enable
Beneficiary receiving starter pack after training from Enabled to Enabled. Photo Credit: Enabled to Enable
Source: Facebook

Disability has an adverse impact on education, employment and earning capability, which may worsen social and economic well-being and poverty for PWDs.

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In Cross River, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Enabled to Enable, through vocational skills training, is contributing its quota to empower PWDs in the southern senatorial district of the state.

Founded by Enoobong Okpo, a 35-year-old physically challenged lady, the NGO runs a vocational skills empowerment programme that trains women and girls with disabilities alongside other vulnerable women in different vocational skills, including fashion and design, wig making, makeup artistry, shoe making, beading, knitting, bag making and baking.

Notwithstanding her own disability, Okpo's Enabled to Enable is putting smiles on the faces of other vulnerable persons.

Okpo, who suffered from polio-myelitis at 2 years old, affirms that as a physically challenged woman, she understands more than any other person the inequities, stigma, discrimination, and lack of access experienced by persons with disabilities.

"It was one of those things that made me start up this organization," said the founder of the Enabled to Enable Platform.

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No fewer than 129 women and girls with disabilities have benefited from the Cross-River state. These beneficiaries are drawn from Calabar South, Calabar Municipal, Akpabuyo, Biase, Akampka and Odukpani local government areas in the state's southern district.

Participants undergoing training. Photo Credit: Enabled to Enable
A physically challenged woman is changing narrative for people with disabilities in Cross River state. Photo Credit: Enabled to Enable
Source: Instagram

At the end of the free training, outstanding participants are given start-up kits to enable them to set up their own businesses.

Vulnerability to Capability

A beneficiary, Arit Okon, a 34-year-old physically challenged mother of one who was trained to bead by the NGO, now owns a small business, meaning she is using it to cater for herself and her child.

“I’m grateful for Eno Okpo who invited me for a skill acquisition training and empowered me to start my own petty trading. Now I do not have to beg people to feed myself and my baby,” she said.

Although Arit, was born with the ability to use her limbs, a wrong injection administered during an asthmatic attack cost her limbs when she was a toddler, and this affected her life forever. After losing her mother at a tender age and being driven away from home by her father due to her disability, Arit dropped out of school to live off the charity of people.

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Ekaette Bassey, 36-year-old a PWD enrolled in the baking training and currently bakes to earn a living.

"The baking skills I learnt have really helped me. I now bake for a living and don’t need to beg or depend on people for my daily bread.
“Before I learnt to bake in Enabled to Enable, I was practically living from hand to mouth and people avoid me sometimes because they always look at me as a beggar but now, I don’t need to ask anyone for money before I can take care of myself. I only talk to people to patronize me and show them pictures of cakes I have baked before to convince them of my skills," she said.

Lovina Akpe, a 28-year-old PWD who was trained in fashion and design, now makes clothes for people to earn a living.

"The training really changed my life. I did not know I could be an entrepreneur as a PWD, but today, here I am, making money from sewing.

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“I do not only make money from the skills, I am also able to make clothes for myself and family. Things have really changed for me economically and socially since I acquired this skill,” she said.


One major setback of the organisation’s intervention is insufficient funding. While Cross River state has 18 Local Government Areas across three senatorial districts, Enabled to Enable is only able to impact 6 LGAs in one senatorial district. Okpo said, “insufficient funding limits the number of people that we would have helped”.

Similarly, difficulty in mobility and transportation to and from the training venues constrains PWDs from accessing the skills development programme. Okpo lamented that “there are many persons with disability who are willing to come learn a skill, but the transportation system does not favour them, the environment and high level of poverty impede their access to these skills”.

Although the Disability Bill passed into law in 2021 by the Cross-River state government seeks to address this challenge, PWDs cannot readily access the services provided by Okpo's organisation in a bid to raise them beyond their limitations.

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Conversely, for beneficiaries who beat all odds to gain the empowerment skills, the organization only provides starter packs to select participants who excelled at the end of the skill acquisition programme due to limited funds. This inability to provide tools for every beneficiary hampers their capability to become established and set up small businesses using the skills gained during the training.

This story has been made possible by Nigeria Health Watch with support from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.


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