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Reading: Nigerian Realities: Can we ignore Traditional Leadership in developing successful CBR?


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Nigerian Realities: Can we ignore Traditional Leadership in developing successful CBR?


Bertine Vermeer,

Board for Special Needs (BSN), NL
About Bertine

Bertine Vermeer obtained a Masters degree in Management, Policy Analysis and Entrepreneurship from VU University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands in 2010. Currently, she works as a Programme Coordinator with the Board for Special Needs (BSN), which is the international branch of the Reformed Congregations.

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Marije T Cornielje ,

Enablement, NL
About Marije T

Marije Cornielje graduated in 2013 in the field of International Development Sociology and Research from Wageningen University. She has conducted research in Nepal, Bangladesh, Ireland, Malawi and Netherlands. The topics that she addressed were evaluation of rehabilitation programs, sexual and reproductive health, and well-being and social networks of elderly. Marije is a staff member at Enablement.

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Huib Cornielje,

Enablement, NL
About Huib

Huib Cornielje is trained as a physiotherapist. From 1984 to 1993 he worked in various rehabilitation programmes in South Africa. He holds an MSc degree from the University of Witwatersrand and a Higher Diploma in Adult Education from the same university in Johannesburg. He obtained an MPH at the Netherlands School for Public Health in 1996. Since 1999, Huib is Director of Enablement.

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Erik B Post,

Royal Tropical Institute, NL
About Erik B

Erik Post has extensive experience in specialised disease control programmes (tuberculosis and leprosy) in different regions of Africa, Asia and South America. Currently, Erik works for the Royal Tropical Institute as a Senior Health Advisor. He has a good track record of managing projects in-country and from the perspective of NGO headquarters. He has conducted numerous evaluations and technical support missions. He focuses on innovations and pilots in disease control programs, specifically, with a strong focus on achieving practical results and bridging the gap between policy and practice.

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Mike A Idah

Netherlands Leprosy Relief, NG
About Mike A

Mike Idah is a trained Public Administrator with extensive knowledge of disability and rehabilitation management in an inclusive society with an experience of for more than 18 years. He works as the Rehabilitation and Development Advisor with The Netherlands Leprosy Relief in Nigeria. His responsibility is to provide strategic and technical support to partner organisations (local NGOs and government) involved with disability services. Mike also works very closely with the DPOs in the area in terms of their capacity building.

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Purpose: To study the role of traditional leaders (Sarakuna) who provide a form of social welfare for persons with disabilities in the Hausa society of Northern Nigeria. From the results of this study, lessons are derived for cooperation with Sarakuna in (emerging) Community Based Rehabilitation programmes.

Methods: A literature study was done using different (non-)electronic sources. In addition, 26 semi-structured interviews were conducted with different stakeholders (e.g., non-governmental organisations, disabled people’s organisations), and 8 focus group discussions were held with (leaders of) persons with a disability. Question-led analysis was utilised by considering 4 dimensions: rehabilitation outcomes, rehabilitation services, involvement of beneficiaries, and social acceptability.

Results: Not much literature is available on the role of traditional leadership in rehabilitation programmes and social welfare. Nevertheless, this study found indications that traditional leadership is still present in contemporary Northern Nigeria. Some Sarakuna improve the socio-economic position of persons with disabilities by functioning as mediators and by their ability to provide social insurance. Their cooperation with multiple stakeholders enables them to distribute food and clothes. Also, since they possess essential information, NGOs are helped to access the community of persons with disabilities. Sarakuna are in a position to promote the inclusion and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities, but often lack necessary skills and training; yet, Community Based Rehabilitation programmes often ignore them.

Conclusions and Implications: Community Based Rehabilitation programmes should take better note of social contexts and therefore should also work in the specific context of traditional leadership. In this way, rehabilitation programmes are more likely to meet the expectations of persons with disability.
How to Cite: Vermeer, B., Cornielje, M.T., Cornielje, H., Post, E.B. and Idah, M.A., 2015. Nigerian Realities: Can we ignore Traditional Leadership in developing successful CBR?. Disability, CBR & Inclusive Development, 26(1), pp.50–62. DOI:
Published on 09 May 2015.


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