Parents demand an end to discrimination against people with Down syndrome, others

The Parent Teacher Association (PTA), an affiliate of the Down Syndrome Foundation of Nigeria (DSFN), has urged the federal government, the United Nations, and civil society organisations to fight prejudice against people with Down syndrome and other impairments.

The PTA made the appeal during a webinar organised by DSFN to commemorate the 2024 World Down Syndrome Day, titled “We all belong: embrace, engage, and end the stereotypes.”

Mrs. Ugwuegbulam Ruth, Vice Chairperson of the PTA, stated that children with Down Syndrome laugh, cry, learn, and love just like everyone else, however “they may take longer to achieve certain milestones.”

“We want to remind us to spread awareness that Down syndrome is a condition that has to be managed to help the child live an almost independent life in the future. I was a young mother who gave birth to my child when I was 24 years old. Children with Down Syndrome are unusually born by mothers not having their child at an early age,” she said.

She urged medical practitioners to acquire more knowledge about this condition, as parents are usually on the receiving end.

In a communiqué, the National President, DSFN, Mrs. Rose Mordi, and the National Administrator, Mrs. Nike Dennis urged stakeholders to be committed to creating a more inclusive and equitable society for individuals with Down Syndrome and all individuals with disabilities. Mordi noted that it was imperative to build a world where people with Down Syndrome are celebrated for their unique abilities.

“Our theme for this year encapsulates the essence of our collective mission. Engagement is a cornerstone of progress because it fosters meaningful connections and interactions that pave the way for understanding and acceptance. Let us inspire a ripple effect that transcends virtual borders, leading to tangible transformations in attitudes and policies. Let us embrace the differences that make each of us unique, recognising the inherent value that diversity brings to our communities. In doing so, we contribute to a tapestry of inclusivity that reaches the fabric of our society,” she said.

The Programme Director of Down Syndrome International (DSI), Mr. Nathan Rowe, noted that people with this disability do not have health equity, thus they die younger than other people.

“Health inequities are due to unfair, unjust, and avoidable situations that afflict persons with disabilities inappropriately: stigma and discrimination, inadequate policies and processes, living in poverty, transport not being accessible, not being physically active, having a poor diet, badly trained health professionals, poor quality health service,among others,” he said.

A panel discussion featuring the General Manager of the Lagos State Office of Disability Affairs (LASODA), Mrs. Adenike Oyetunde-Lawal; Clinical and Educational Psychologist, Prof. Roy Brown; convener of the Ibadan Down Syndrome Parent Forum, Princess Christiana Nwankwo; and Inclusion Advocate, Global Consultant, and Scholar, Prof. Paul Ajuwon, highlighted the importance of collaboration in dismantling stereotypes surrounding disabilities.