People with disabilities around many parts of the world have to overcome different disadvantages and barriers preventing them from fully participating in economic, civic and community life. This can be anything from inaccessible buildings, inadequate transport systems, reduced access to information and communication technology as well as lower level of funding for services. These disadvantages result in disabled people having a smaller world open to them and create a feeling of marginalisation from many societies around the world.
The World Bank has estimated that 1 billion people have a disability worldwide, which roughly equates to around 15% of the world’s population, with up to 190 million having a significant debilitating condition. The proportion of people living with a disability is significantly higher in developing countries, which are thought to make up 80% of the total global population of disabled people. In these developing countries there is often a stigma against people with disabilities and a general culture that casts them as second-class citizens. As a result, people with disabilities, as a group are more likely to be discriminated against and deprived of basic human rights such as education, poorer health services, lower levels of employment and higher poverty rates.
Poverty and disability have an interrelated relationship, with both believed to significantly affect the other. Altogether, 400 million disabled people are thought to be living below the poverty line. Poverty may increase the risk of disability through malnutrition, poor access to safe water and sanitation as well as a distinct lack of education and health care services. Whereas disability may increase the risk of poverty through lack of employment and education opportunities, lower wages and the increased cost of living with a disability.
The disabled community is one which has been given greater attention in recent years by many transnational development organisations. December 3rd is the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities and has been celebrated annually around the world since 1992. The theme for this year’s International Day is “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want”. This theme notes the recent adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the role of these goals in building a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities while aiming to promote their rights and increasing the awareness for disabled people in every aspect of life.
COCO’s work providing education for disadvantaged children has looked at how we as acharity can progress towards these goals, with education playing a key role in overcoming cultural stigmas and helping to give disabled children a greater chance in life. Roughly one in three of the children around the world who do not have access to primary education have a disability and 90% of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school at all. Of the 14,408 people Coco’s work has directly affected, 256 are disabled.
In 2016, COCO invested in developing a Food for Fees programme for SHIKUWATA, an organisation educating disabled children. The community-based organisation is located in Tanzania where there is generally a stigma attached to disability - children with physical or mental disabilities are usually hidden at home and not able to go to school. Margaret Mapunda felt sorry for this marginalised group and decided to set up an organisation to help them by working to change the attitudes of community members and enable disabled children to attend school, to learn, play and make friends with all the other children.
COCO's investment was used to establish a community farm to increase income to sustain the organisation, which has in turn brought in income of more than £1,000. As well as advocacy work to change the perceptions of local communities, SHIKUWATA financially assists families to be able to send their disabled children to school by helping to buy uniforms, shoes, transport fares and learning materials.
Margaret Mapunda commented “It is important that these children get the chance to get an education. I saw that these children were marginalised and ignored by most people; I decided that I must be one of the few to help them and set up this organisation. It is a difficult task, but very rewarding. We are extremely grateful to COCO and Hoja Project for supporting us. Without you and your supporters these children would still be hidden at home.”
By Lorenzo Wareham