October 23, 2012
A disability rights activist from Ghana is lending her skills and expertise to the Vermont Center for Independent Living. Until the end of December, Sefakor Komabu-Pomeyie is interning at the statewide organization that works to achieve civil rights for people with disabilities.
“We are thrilled to have someone with Sefakor’s background and experience working with us for the next several weeks,” said VCIL Executive Director Sarah Launderville. “International disability rights work and cultural competency are very important to VCIL, and these are areas in which Sefakor will be of tremendous help.”
Komabu-Pomeyie is finishing her master’s degree in policy analysis at the SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro. She is learning how disability laws get successfully implemented, with the ultimate goal of effecting positive change in Ghana and making schools there more accessible.
She would like to see a shift in attitudes around the world when it comes to perception about disability. This would allow people with disabilities to be more productive. She said, “The society is our barrier, because it blocks so many ways for us to engage.”
A wheelchair user who contracted polio as a child, she had to be physically carried to and from school by her mother. Her mother recognized many good qualities in Sefakor and knew that she would succeed if she could get an education.
And succeed Sefakor has. In October, she traveled to Washington, D.C. to receive The International Alliance for Women World of Difference 100 Award. She has also gone to New York to participate in the 56th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and is a Ford Foundation International Fellow.
She has been an advocate for disability issues since 2006. After a serious fall, she began writing letters to the editor about pressing issues affecting people with disabilities. She went on to initiate a municipal branch of a society for people with physical disabilities in the Akwapem South.
During her time at VCIL, Komabu-Pomeyie’s goals will include working to gain support from other centers for independent living around the country to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a treaty seeking to ensure that people with disabilities around the world have the same rights as everyone else.
While Komabu-Pomeyie has enjoyed her time in the United States, there have been challenges. It has not been easy to find accessible housing, and she is looking for a place to stay in the Brattleboro area. She has 4-year-old twins (a boy and a girl) at home in Ghana who she misses greatly. Komabu-Pomeyie would like to bring some technology home with her, perhaps a used laptop or a smartphone.
Her greatest hope is to acquire an accessible van for her village in Ghana. There is not a single one among the public vehicles in Ghana, forcing people with physical disabilities to literally crawl onto buses if they have to go somewhere. An accessible van would help people get to school, the hospital and meetings.
To find out more about Komabu-Pomeyie’s needs or to offer assistance, please contact Kim Brittenham, VCIL’s Community Access Coordinator, at email@example.com or 1-800-639-1522.