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South Sudan Ratifies UN Convention on Disability Rights

FILE- Kator FC and Juba Boyz playing in Blind Football's final competition at Dr. Biar Sport Complex, Juba, June 27, 2023.

JUBA — A joyful gathering of hundreds of people with disabilities convened in South Sudan's capital city, Juba, this week to mark the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an optional protocol in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Diana Joseph, the leader of South Sudan Women with Disabilities, spoke passionately about the significance of the international agreement.

"By signing this U.N. convention, it reminds the government that women with disabilities should have seats in the parliament and anywhere else their representation is needed," Joseph declared.

The convention's signing and ratification is expected to bring a shift in the status of persons with disabilities in South Sudan — granting equal rights to engage in social, economic, and political activities.

Joseph underscored the lack of representation for women with disabilities in positions of power, stating, "I have not seen someone representing women with a disability, whether in ministerial positions or in the parliament."

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir endorsed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on Feb. 21. This move elevated South Sudan to become the 185th country to ratify the U.N. convention.

The U.N. Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities serves as a global protocol dedicated to advancing, safeguarding, and guaranteeing equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all individuals with disabilities.

James Bandas, the head of UNMISS Human Rights division, emphasized the need for South Sudan to integrate the Convention into its legal framework.

"This convention is unique because it interprets policies that incorporate the rights of people with disabilities. It is a legally binding document that really removes barriers and paves the way for the equal rights of persons with disabilities in all aspects," Bandas stated.

Article 7 of the convention directs the government to adopt and integrate it into its legal system, while Article 12 enforces the equal rights of individuals with disabilities before the law.

Augustine Wudu Ilario, chairperson of the South Sudan Union of Persons with Disabilities, expressed optimism that the ratification of the U.N. convention would curtail discrimination against people with disabilities in South Sudan.

Ilario highlighted the plight of many disabled children who are denied access to education due to societal biases and discrimination. She also brought attention to the challenges faced by the disabled population following the violence of 2013 and 2016, which has left many without basic needs.

Joseph said her organization is looking for long-term recipients for assistance. "We have the potential to contribute to the development of this nation when given the opportunity," she added.

She called for the introduction of sign language in schools to support students with hearing impairments.

Ester Ikere, Undersecretary in the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare stressed the importance of raising awareness about the rights of people living with disabilities. She indicated that the ministry's key task in this implementation phase is to ensure nationwide dissemination of the convention, with an emphasis on interpretation using local languages.

The jubilant celebration this week carried the theme "Disability Rights Are Human Rights, Remove Barriers and Promote Inclusion, Leaving No One Behind."