Working as a welder, Priscus had a good job and earned a living to support his family. In 2011 disaster struck when injuries from a fall at work put him in a wheelchair. His wife left him after the accident and his family didn’t want contact with him. Without an income his situation was very bleak. Life has turned a corner for Priscus since taking a small business loan and attending training to run a welding business from home. He’s earning enough money to send his children to school and to put some into savings. His social standing in the community has been transformed since being elected as Chair of his village community banking group and attitudes towards him have improved. “People now feel comfortable talking to me, they socialise with me and sometimes people come to me for advice.” Describing our project as exceptional, Priscus hopes to be able to rent a house soon so that his children can live with him instead of lodging with relatives.
Living with a disability can come with many challenges, but in Tanzania where discrimination against people with disabilities is rife, it’s also combined with having to clutch to the edge of society. You’re turned away from basic services such as health care and education, you won’t be considered for jobs and housing, and are shunned by your community – even by your own family. Government funding and representation to support people with disabilities is woefully inadequate, so there’s precious little in the way of national programmes to build rights and opportunities and change attitudes.
To combat this stigma and the lack of prospects for people with disabilities, Action on Poverty is working in Northern Tanzania with local partner Tusonge on a transformational programme that has a two-pronged approach. Alongside training and workshops in business and financial management, the project provides affordable loans and savings schemes for people with disabilities, as well as other vulnerable adults. With access to support and funding to start a small enterprise and earn a sustainable income, confidence and well-being increase in parallel. This is bolstered through awareness training in rights and civic responsibilities, both for people with disabilities and for the wider community to change attitudes locally.
The charity African Initiatives designed and launched the project in 2018. Making the difficult decision to wind up the organisation in 2021, they and the project’s funder, the National Lottery Community Fund, identified Action on Poverty as ideally placed to take over its management. The transfer successfully took place in November last year and we’re thrilled to be working in Tanzania with Tusonge on this life-changing project for people with disabilities.
Sustainability is one of the key elements in all our projects – how will it continue to deliver benefits when our funding and management comes to an end? The funding for loans is central; it’s held by the village community banking group which is mutually owned by all the members with additional security embedded. As the loans are repaid the money becomes available again for others to borrow, and the pot slowly grows with the small amount of interest added. In addition, the training and campaigns bring about long-term changes in attitudes towards accepting and celebrating people with disabilities. The project has already promoted people with a range of disabilities into community champions who inspire others by showcasing their success stories. This combination of elements secures the project’s sustainability, as well as making a profound impact on the confidence and self-esteem of people with disabilities and reducing discriminatory attitudes towards them.