Tanzania League for the Blind (TLB) ran a project on advocacy for People with Disabilities for 2 years, with support from the Foundation for Civil Society (FCS) in Kwimba district, about 85 kilometers from the city of Mwanza. The project, among other objectives, sought to empower People with Diasabilities benefit from available opportunities which include economic ones.
Allies in empowerment
The effective awareness and advocacy activities undertaken by TLB in collaboration with other stakeholders such as Tanzania Albinism Society (TAS) and Chama Cha Viziwi Tanzania (CHAVITA)-Kwimba led to noted successes. In this also, the project had benefitted from close cooperation offered by Kwimba district council, especially the community development department. TLB Secretary Mr Isaac Malumbu pointed out that ‘‘all our methods have been collaborative in advocacy, training sessions, awareness raising and mobilization’’.
How self-help schemes enable People with Disabilities
TLB in collaboration with the community development office mobilized People with Disabilities to form self-help groups in 10 wards in Kwimba district. As the results, a total of 14 self-help groups of People with Disabilities have been formed. These groups have been further trained on how to run business and manage fund and are registered at the municipal council. All 14 groups have secured loans provided by municipal council from the fund designated for People with Disabilities. Beforehand the National Parliament had passed the bill on Local Government Finance Act into law that required all the municipals in the country to allocate 2% of their revenue, specifically for giving business loans to People with Disabilities.
The story of Kazi na Maendeleo a Success
Among the groups that benefited from such loans is the group known as Kazi na Maendeleo of Malemve village in Kwimba district. The group is formed by 5 People with Disabilities, two members are blind and 3 members have physical disabilities. So far, the group has successfully repaid 1 million TZS they previously borrowed. They are also borrowed the same amount after repaying the loan.
One member, who is also the group secretary, Mr Cosmas Stanley (33) had this to say ‘‘We are thankfully that we have been receiving loans from the Municipal Council. The loans have enabled us to start and expand our business. Before that our lives were very challenging as we were experiencing a double edged challenge. On one hand, we were experiencing economic hardships as many of us relied on activities with unconducive condition such as crushing rocks to produce gravels for construction purposes. On the other, we were considered as dependent community members who could not take care of ourselves’’. He emotionally added ‘‘It was painfully experience’’.
Before the change, what they were earning was pittance and could not cover for their needs and that of their families and understandably so. Their current business is manageable and conducive for People with Disabilities, it involves buying and stocking up crops such as millet, maize, rice, peas, lentils, green beans and dry potatoes from the small holder farmers who deliver their produces to the storage facility, and selling them to big business in the district.
Out of jail, Out of poverty
More important, this project enabled People with Disabilities with opportunity to save their lives and turn a new leaf. Mr Kahindi Masingija (46) who is a member through the formed groups has experience a change in his life chooses, he explained ‘I have six children and it was very difficult to feed my kids and take them to school. Extreme hardship forced me to involve myself in selling illicit drugs, marijuana, to support my family as I am Blind. Due to my involvement in selling the drugsI was once arrested by police then arraigned and jailed for seven months. I felt bad and dismayed by this outcome’’
Also, he added ‘‘I appreciate that since joining the group my life has changed as I no longer engage in illegal activities. The money I got from group business I served and opened this small shop which has increased my income’’.
There are some People with Disabilities who are beneficiaries of these loans. They have accessed the 2% fund allocation as individuals. One of the beneficiaries is Mr Laurent Simando (64) a physically disabled person. Narrating about how he got the loan he said ‘‘I was in need of money to expand my business to meet the demand of leather products such as school shoes, belts and sandals in Ngudu community and nearby places. I heard about this scheme and tried to convince my peers to form a group to fulfill the set requirement to access the loans but to no avail. Many of my peers were afraid to ask for the loans. I decided to try and seek the loan as an individual. With the support of TLB and district development officer Ms Rosali Magotti I got the loan to expand my business.
Mr Laurent has received about TZS 1,800,000 which has enabled him to increase his capital. He bought more leather, pairs of last, glue, thread bundles and pay for the rent of where his workshop is located. He is happy now he has been able to receive more income than before. On this he said ‘‘In the past with limited capital I could only manage to make 30 pair of shoes for my stock but now I have about 70 pair of shoes in my stock. And each pair of shoes I sell at TZS 30,000 with a profit of about TZS 13,000’’. He also said he earns about 500,000Tsh per month which he uses to helping himself and his family.
SH 18 Million given to People with Disabilities
Commenting on this success the District Community Development Officer Ms Rosalia Magotti said ‘‘We have been collaborating to raise awareness of People with Disabilites with TLB to achieve this success where 14 self-help groups have been formed in 10 wards in Kwimba district. So far this year, in total, People with Disabilities self-help groups have received about TZS 18 Million (TZS 18,151,112). Sheadded ‘‘Those who can benefit from this scheme are registered, have a constitution, and bank account with initial deposit.
So far progress has been such that about 7 People with Disabilities self-groups have started repaying the loans which is due. This proves that People with Disabilities are not a burden and that they can actively participate in changing their lives. It further confirms People with Disabilities can, too, be productive members of society as this particular project outcome has shown.