Disability advocates honoured

By Lanuola Tupufia ,

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 BIG WINNER: Disability Champion of the Year was awarded to Faaolo Utumapu, presented by Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma.

BIG WINNER: Disability Champion of the Year was awarded to Faaolo Utumapu, presented by Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma.

Individuals, organisations and government agencies championing rights for disabled Samoans have been officially recognised in an awards ceremony.

Nuanua o le Alofa (N.O.L.A) was behind the Australian government-funded human rights awards, with a ceremony held at the Development Bank of Samoa conference room yesterday.

Three main awards were handed out, with Fa’aolo Utumapu named the Disability Champion for 2015.

The Office of the Electoral Commission received the award for Ministry of the Year. They had played a crucial role in educating and ensuring that people with disabilities registered for the upcoming general election, allowing them to vote. 

The Non-Government Organisation and Private Sector award was taken by the Loto Taumafai for their inclusive role that has expanded and overcome many challenges. 

In his keynote address; Minister of Women, Community and Social Development, Tolofuaivalelei Falemoe Leiataua; said there were many unsung heroes that advocated for the rights of those with disabilities. 

“They have removed barriers that hinder their participation in society,” said Tolofua. 

“It’s heartening to see all this…all efforts are valuable and needed.”

Tolofua said N.O.L.A was one organisation that should be applauded for their commitment. 

He pointed out those running the organisation are disabled themselves, with some being blind, deaf or having other kinds of disabilities. 

He acknowledged the support of those that push for an inclusive society. 

Deputy High Commissioner for Australia to Samoa, Rosemary McKay, said the event recognised the individual and collective efforts of government and non-government groups for a more inclusive society. 

She said the celebration was timely as it was just a year ago that the government of Samoa signed a convention on the rights of people with disabilities, a demonstration of the strong commitment from Samoa. 

“Inclusive can only be achieved if we all play a part by recognising people with disability,” said Ms. McKay. 

“Well done N.O.L.A for [the] vision to educate a more inclusive Samoa.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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