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Changing attitudes through the Paralympics in Ghana

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Changing attitudes through the Paralympics in Ghana

sportanddev speaks with Ghanaian Paralympian Raphael Botsyo Nkegbe about the role of the media in promoting disability sport, the Legacy of London 2012, and changing attitudes to disability sport in Ghana.

Attitudes to disability sport in Ghana have changed hugely in recent years. Its Paralympic Debut saw 3 athletes sent to the Games in 2004, but Ghana almost didn’t compete at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics because of lack of Government support. Only after a strong media campaign by the Sports Wing of the Ghana Society of the Physically Disabled (GSPD) were 2 athletes able to participate.

This year, the team, supported by Right to Dream, returns 4-strong. Raphael Botsyo Nkegbe, a wheelchair racer who also participated in the 2004 and 2008 Games, says that people in Ghana are beginning to realise the importance of para-sports. He explains how attitudes have changed hugely since Beijing 2008 as a result of campaigning and strong athletic performances proving day by day the outstanding abilities of Para-athletes.

“We want to set the pace,” he says. The message? “If you support us, we can give more.”

Are the Paralympics helping to change negative attitudes towards people with disabilities in Ghana? “A big Yes" - para-sports are one of the greatest tools to changing mindsets and perceptions about disability in Africa. Representing mental and physical strength, they are powerful in spreading the message that disability is not inability.

“Being disabled is in the mind,” Raphael says, “if you don’t accept it, then you can do anything you want.”

Uniting the Olympics and Paralympics: The legacy of London 2012
One of the greatest legacies of London 2012 is how the Olympics and Paralympics have been promoted as one event, celebrating that all athletes are equal.

“I give thanks to all the organisers for bringing the Olympics and Paralympics together,” Raphael says, adding that this has given the disability sport movement a platform like never before to spread its message. Because of this new media focus, people are paying more attention to para-sports, and they are listening.

Whereas before the Ghanaian media tended to present disability in a negative way, they are now calling themselves the “friends of the disabled”. “The media attention has changed this year, this year it is good,” Raphael tells sportanddev. Since June, the Ghanaian Paralympic team has been approached by many different media outlets, both Ghanaian and International.

Raphael says that among the greatest challenges to promoting disability rights in Ghana is the lack of knowledge about disabilities, including at the Government level. But, he added, people are beginning to understand more about disability. “Now lawyers are ready to fight for disability rights, and people are going to school to learn about disability.”

“Athletes need to champion these issues,” he said, saying that the stage of London 2012 is a great opportunity to raise awareness and to grab the sport media’s attention, which is usually focused on football.

Visions for Rio 2016
“My dream for 2016 is to assist the young ones to compete,” Raphael says, and talks of the need to “pass the baton” and to inspire and invest in the next generation. “Our supporters are not investing in us as individuals but as a generation.”

He hopes for a bigger team at the next Games. “8 or 10 maybe. Because, after these Paralympics, we will not sit down at home.” The team will push hard to partner with organisations, influence attitudes and to encourage interest in pursuing disability sport.

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Article type

News

Author

Heather Elgar

Published

Sunday, September 9, 2012 - 23:00