News / Africa

Sierra Leone Police Hire Disabled Officers for First Time

Sheka Conteh answers phones at the police call centre, Freetown, February 1, 2013. (N. de Vries/VOA)Sheka Conteh answers phones at the police call centre, Freetown, February 1, 2013. (N. de Vries/VOA)
x
Sheka Conteh answers phones at the police call centre, Freetown, February 1, 2013. (N. de Vries/VOA)
Sheka Conteh answers phones at the police call centre, Freetown, February 1, 2013. (N. de Vries/VOA)
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 10 percent of people in Sierra Leone are living with a disability.  But for the first time in the country's history, people living with disabilities are now working in the police force.  The newly hired officers are hoping to inspire others. 

Sheka Conteh is one of four disabled officers working at the communications center of the Sierra Leone police force.  He answers calls from the public, similar to a 911 service in North America.

Conteh has a background in information technology and says when he saw the police were hiring disabled people, he jumped at the opportunity to apply.

He says it has been a challenging journey to find employment as a disabled person.  He contracted polio at the age of seven. 

"I've faced a lot discrimination in any community I find myself, but I've started to see positive changes, because it is now minimizing, especially in areas of employment," he said.

Workforce diversity

Francis Munu, the inspector general of the Sierra Leone police, says, when the Disability Act was passed in 2011, providing employment for those with disabilities became a priority for the police force.  He says those with disabilities bring a different face to the job.

"So that people can understand that policing is not just about using force all the time, we also need to engage people and communities, we need to get people to have trust and confidence in the police," he explained.

He says the program has been running for several months and has been going smoothly.

None of the officers are currently working on the street but that could happen in the future, says Munu.

"We want to change the way people perceive disability issues and even the way disabled perceive themselves or their fellow disabled persons.  So if they see some of their colleagues working, being gainfully employed, then they are also motivated to work hard at school and try to invest in themselves," he said.

Change is something Kabba Franklyne Bangura, president of the Sierra Leone union on disability issues, wants to see too. 

Bangura says police force hirings are a step in the right direction but more needs to be done, specifically for unemployment.  According to a Handicap International study, 95 percent of those with disabilities in Sierra Leone are unemployed.

Legacy of civil war

Many people became disabled during the country's civil war in the 1990's when rebel fighters amputated peoples' limbs.

Bangura says the organization is doing what it can to make life easier for the disabled community.  Currently, the union is creating profiles of people who are qualified to work in various job sectors.  The plan is to have a national press conference to showcase their skills to potential employers this spring.

"Here are many disabled we have profiled - we have their documents, we have their qualifications, here they are, see what they possess and see what they can do if given the opportunity," Bangura said.

He adds that the 2011 Disability Act still has not been implemented.  The act calls for the creation of a national commission which was just recently established.  Bangura hopes things will now start to move at a quicker pace for those with disabilities.

Back at the call center, Shekah Conteh says what he wants most is to inspire others living with disabilities.

"The advice I can give is any opportunity that comes their way, let them grab it and make good use of it as I have done," he said.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs