“In Ghana, the work we began on disability inclusion will continue”

Peter Kwasi, June 2023

Organisations of people with disabilities exist all around the world. They are groups that bring together people with disabilities to share their expertise and experience, empower their members, and advocate for change.

Involving these groups in project planning and implementation is crucial to Sightsavers’ work. People with disabilities are experts in their own conditions and impairments, and this makes them best placed to articulate the issues that affect them.

When we began working on the Ghana Somubi Dwumadie programme, we knew we needed to do a lot of work around advocating for the rights of people with disabilities. We wanted to uphold the principle of ‘nothing about us, without us’ – so to undertake that work, we needed to partner with organisations of people with disabilities (OPDs).

Ghana Somubi Dwumadie (Ghana Participation Programme) is a four-year disability programme in Ghana, with a specific focus on mental health. This programme is funded with UK aid from the UK government. The programme aimed to improve access to health services, advocate for disability-inclusive legislation and policies, and tackle stigma and discrimination around disability and mental health conditions.

What we did

To start with, we approached the Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations (GFDO) – the national umbrella organisation of OPDs in Ghana. The federation has existed for 30 years and its network includes the Ghana Blind Union, the Ghana Society for the Physically Challenged, the Ghana Association for Persons with Albinism, the National Association for the Deaf, and the Mental Health Society of Ghana.

We carried out due diligence to understand the federation’s capacity and realised there were some areas we needed to strengthen. In response to this need, we came up with a technical assistance plan and selected three main areas to focus on: leadership strengthening, generating data for advocacy, and monitoring and evaluation.

By working with the federation, we could make sure that many groups of people with disabilities, especially minority groups that are often underrepresented – including people with albinism and people with psychosocial disabilities – could participate fully and directly benefit from the project.

The project supported OPDs to strengthen their own organisational capacity. We carried out leadership training in 16 regions of Ghana to ensure that at local as well as national level, people with disabilities could use the training to advocate for their rights.

We also focused on policy change, working with OPDs on a national disability bill amendment to ensure it met the standards of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and used the appropriate human rights language. And thanks to advocacy and influencing work by our OPD partners, the government has committed to making 111 planned new hospitals accessible for people with disabilities.

A large group of people gather together for a photo outside a building. Some people are seated, some are standing and there is a man in a wheelchair at the front of the group.

Ghana Somubi Dwumadie

As part of Ghana Somubi Dwumadie, we helped improve support for people with disabilities, improving access to services and tackling stigma around mental health conditions.

Learn about the project

Tackling the challenges of finance – and other lessons we learned

The project partnership with our OPD partners was not a financial one; instead, we provided technical assistance. We agreed with GFDO that we would build its capacity to be a more sustainable organisation. We did, however, cover the financial costs of OPD member participation in all the project events. On reflection, we realised this created challenges for the OPDs, who had to cover their overheads and salaries. This meant that as a result they would prioritise work on other projects where they were being paid these costs.

So that OPDs can function effectively in the long-term, they need to be financially strong. Our key learning was that OPD partners need to be remunerated in a way that meets their needs and supports their growth. This may include in-kind and financial resources so that they have the time and capacity to fully engage.

Through the project, we established a cross-party disability caucus of MPs in parliament. We made sure that our OPD partners made the necessary contacts and led the process. The caucus will allow OPDs to work with parliamentarians to articulate the issues of people with disabilities on the parliament floor, and we’re now focusing on getting it formalised to make it more sustainable.

Another important lesson we took away was that we needed to proactively involve women with disabilities in every stage of the project – otherwise we would not achieve 50-50% representation on any of our project committees. We invited the federation’s gender committee, led by women, to take part in project committees and talk about the issues they face as women and girls with disabilities. We learned that the more we got women taking part in training, the more they were selected to be on committees. This has a knock-on effect: once they are part of those other committees, their influence grows, and they join the decision-making bodies of their organisations.

Thanks to advocacy work by our OPD partners, 111 planned new hospitals will be accessible for people with disabilities.

The long-term benefits

The OPD partners led the process of engaging with decision-makers. This meant they could reach new contacts and networks, which they will still be able to access even now Sightsavers’ contract on the project has come to an end. By collaborating with OPDs, our project will have a much more sustainable impact, as OPDs continue the work we started with them.

We also set up a committee to generate disaggregated data on disability. In 2021, Ghana carried out a census, which showed that around eight per cent of the population had a disability. But as the data collected wasn’t disaggregated, there was no breakdown of gender or impairment type. The committee we have set up will now be able to engage with the Ghana Statistical Service to generate that data for future censuses.

The resources we have jointly created will also support our OPD partners in the future. For example, we worked together to develop an accessibility checklist, which the OPDs are using to carry out accessibility audits of public buildings such as hospitals. We also developed documentary films on carrying out accessibility audits and access to justice, which they will use to raise awareness and educate other people with disabilities as well as influence decision-makers.

Through working on the project, our team at Sightsavers gained a better understanding of how many people there are with disabilities in Ghana, and what types of disability or impairment they have. We were also able to better understand the challenges that people with disabilities face – and how those challenges differ between rural and urban areas. We learned a lot during the project about collaboration and the importance of involving people with disabilities and their representative organisations at every stage to inform our work. I’m hugely proud to have been part of the project, and excited to see how it will develop as the network of OPDs continues to advocate for change.

Interested in learning more or partnering with us on disability inclusion work? Contact Tracy, deputy technical director for social inclusion, by emailing [email protected]

Building successful partnerships

As part of the Inclusive Futures (IF) consortium, Sightsavers and partners have produced a guide to help OPDs and INGOs build successful partnerships.

Read the IF guide


Peter Anomah-Kordieh Kwasi was Sightsavers’ programme adviser for disability inclusion during the Ghana Somubi Dwumadie project. He is now programme manager for the Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations.


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