Disability is not Inability
“I was a very vulnerable girl. I had no job, no skills and men could easily ask me for sex in exchange of money. But now, I am a confident woman, and I am self-reliant as I make clean money, with the things I do myself .”
24 year-old Grace lives in Ellembelle. She is part of a group that runs a small business that makes soaps and hair foods. This region, as many others in Africa, faces a problem of unemployment. This problem is commonly related to the lack of skills, thus lack of access to opportunities. The project GEOP (Growing Economic Opportunities for Sustainable Development), funded by the European Union and implemented by Christian Aid intends to create more economic opportunities for young people, women and most importantly physically disabled people in Ghana.
That is how last year in September, Grace and her colleagues were selected to start a training on soap making. They were trained on different techniques used to make soaps and, after the training, were given basic materials to start with.
“We thereafter met and realised that working individually was not benefiting us at all. And thus we started an association of the 5 of us, and started making soaps” says Agnes, one of the soap making group members. “As you can see I am disabled and can neither stand nor use my legs. Before doing the training, I used to spend my days sitting at the market, sometimes selling bananas and other small commodities. But since I started making this, I felt that I am capable of more than I imagined. I feel more confident, and I love that my community now values me as useful, since they are using products that I make.”
But the story I found here is not only about beneficiaries, but also it is about the way the local administration was not left out, but instead made a key partner in the implementation of the project. The district assembly plays a key part in the project, and the project is also helping the assembly in their ways of maximising resources to solve problems in their community.
“GEOP is not only helping us by creating employment for our people thus making their lives better, but we are also working closely with them to develop some social economic policies as the assembly. ”
After a short visit at the assembly, we went on and visited another beneficiary who is a shoemaker, Kaku Famey. He is another testimony that disability doesn’t mean inability.
“I wasn’t really a shoemaker, rather, a shoe repairer. And when the project approached me and told me that they wanted to teach me how to make actual shoes, I was very interested. But I had one doubt, the fact that they would ask me to pay fees for the training that I didn’t have. But they assured me that it was free.”
Currently, Kaku owns a small workshop for himself, where he makes good quality shoes, and he assures me that the market is quiet happy with his products. The proof is that some of the staff of Christian Aid are good customers of his.
“Despite the fact that I am disabled, my income has gone up considerably. I can afford basic needs that my family has. In addition, Christian Aid has encouraged me to open a savings account for my business, and with those savings, I am planning to enlarge my production and sales area.”
There is a great quote by Robert M. Hensel that I recently read, and it goes: “It is time we take our focus off disability and place it on capabilities, so we can see the person first.” In every human being lies a strong capability, no matter how disabled they might be. This is a great proof that, when the world gives disabled people accessibility to opportunities, they can become problem solvers too.