Sefakor, originally from Ghana, is pursuing her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the most recent recipient of AUCD's International Service Award. It was impossible to mention each of Sefakor's connections to CDCI because the work she does as an advocate, leader, and educator reach so many communities, cultures, and individuals.
Career and Background
CDCI and UVM are privileged to be working with Sefakor in many different ways. She is a Ph.D. candidate in the College of Education and Social Services, a co-teacher of CDCI’s Culture of Disability course, a commissioner on President’s Commission on Inclusive Excellence, a member of UVM’s standing Accessibility Committee and the Jean Garvin Fellowship Committee, and is on the research team for the Refugee Family Partnership Study. Off-campus, Sefakor serves as a board member of Vermont Center for Independent Living (VCIL) and as a Global Advisory Council member of World Learning International Brattleboro/Washington DC. Sefakor does this work to “bring disability from other cultures closer to the table of discussion.” CDCI’s national network, the Association of University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, honored Sefakor this November with the International Service Award for her project Enlightening and Empowering People with Disabilities Africa (eepdAfrica). This project was started “to analyze policies, create awareness, advocate for change, and influence policies that affect people with disabilities in Africa.”
eedpAfrica is a nonprofit organization founded in 2012 that analyzes policies, creates awareness, and advocates and influences change in favor of people with disabilities in Africa. It is comprised of individuals with and without disabilities and focuses on the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities to work towards equality of opportunities by using universal designs. Most recently, eedpAfrica is working on building an inclusive school in Ghana. “This project is all that I dream about,” Sefakor said. “For every child with disability to have equal access to education and become productive one day.”
Sefakor shared that when she is not working on her dissertation, her focus has been on a fundraising campaign to build the school. “Everything I do revolves around how to make this dream a reality in the lives of children with disabilities in Ghana. That is why the community sold this big land to us very cheap because they believe in our vision of building such a unique school in Ghana.” Finding funding for this project also connects to the work she is doing here at UVM: “My dissertation is about the Challenges of Implementing Inclusive Education Policy in Ghana. Hence, our new campaign to make the change we want ourselves. We can't wait for the government anymore because disability issues are not on the priority list of our leaders.”
Sefakor finds her motivation in her faith and from her own experiences as a child with a disability. She shared:
My motivation first comes from my late Mum who groomed me with the word of God and made believe that I am made in God's own image. I learnt from the word of God that I can do all things through God who strengthens me. Another strong motivation that I have is from my friends and families who believe in me and my vision despite all odds. Being a person with physical disability, I was a victim of cultural stigma and marginalization but I am a survivor now, hence I have to give back to the community. I never want any child with disability go through the pains I went through and leave such an indelible mark in their memories. I have had enough and I am so motivated to do any disability work because I enjoy saving lives and my focus is to leave a legacy one day for posterity.
Sefakor is hopeful for a better future, but also knows that even with progressive work like building an inclusive school in Ghana, there is still so much to overcome in order to change perceptions and priorities.
"I see the future to be so bright especially if this school is built for my people in the community. We are always advocating for the rights of people with disabilities and things are changing gradually compared to the past. I believe in one step at a time as we always say in a proverb my language, 'kutekute dzana wu vedzi,' meaning 'little drops of water make a mighty ocean.' We will definitely make the change we want."
"On the flip side," she continued, "we have a big challenge of attitudinal change and lack of resources. Both human capital and financial resources are becoming a challenge to us because most people are not interested in disability issues in my culture. Mostly, people can hugely invest or donate to other fancy campaigns such as Miss Ghana, Miss World, World Cup, etc. but not in a worthy cause of building an Inclusive School for ALL Children with different abilities. This is just because of how we perceive disability negatively in our culture hence people are not changing their attitudes."