As a matter of fact, unemployment is one of the major challenges facing persons with disabilities worldwide with research suggesting that they experience significantly high rates of unemployment compared with the general population, and are often employed in low-paid jobs. The situation is not different in Kenya where it is estimated that persons with disabilities constitute only about 1.2 % of the workforce in the public sector; and indeed less than 1% in Mombasa County. As a result, poverty is more rampant among Persons with Disabilities compared to their non-disabled compatriots. Consequently, they are most often unable to afford their upkeep together with their families, they cannot access services such as education and health care and therefore are worse off in terms of educational and health outcomes than the non-disabled population. As it is, several mitigation programmes have to a greater extent been targeted at group formations as opposed to individuals and more so, the programmes have proved to be a drop in the ocean thus having minimal impact. Therefore in order to maximize the impact directly, we crafted this project so as to respond to the plight of those persons with Disabilities with business potential but lack capacity, resources or even business points/market stalls and who in most cases have lost hope in life and have been viewed by the society as unproductive and incapable.
Gladys Wandia is a Blind woman who lost her eyesight at adulthood while in marriage at the age of 34; and who previously used to work as a Saloonist. She lost her job immediately after acquiring Blindness and was divorced and left with her only daughter who was supposed to join secondary school but was forced to stay away from school due to lack of education support. Gladys was also left in desperation at the mercy of well-wishers with almost one or no meal in a day; and was also compelled to vacate their rental house due to persistent rent payment default. Nevertheless, she decided to move on with life by joining rehabilitation programmes and also training in ANMOUR SHIASTU, (Japanese therapy). Since 2019, Gladys had been spending most of her time looking for a job but to no avail. Gladys said, “I could not access any information including job adverts from newspapers because they were not in Braille. I could not read print neither did I have a radio. Even if employers were looking for people to work I wasn’t able to know; and no one told me about any job vacancies. I was depending on well-wishers and almighty God for survival because He touched peoples’ hearts to support me for food in order for me to live; I was not a street-beggar and I didn’t want to be one; but even when i attempted to personally walk into offices in search of a job, I was mocked and handed cash like a street-beggar; and turned away by employers, because they had low expectations in me,” said Gladys.
While undergoing those challenges coupled with the Covid situation alongside the lack of a White Cane for mobility, Gladys heard about our organization and paid us a courtesy call whereby we supported and facilitated her proposal to change her career to hawking 2nd hand clothes popularly referred to as “NGUO MTUMBA” in Swahili. After undergoing our training in basic skills in business management and receiving the donation of a White Cane as well as a stock of 2nd hand clothes.
Gladys can now put a smile on her face since she has managed to cope with the business and is now able to pay her house rent which is €34.84 euros and is also struggling to pay for her daughter’s school fees who is now back to school for her secondary education.
However, the picture still remains gloomy for Evelyn Lumidi and Kaginya Chabogo who are Deaf Persons whose situations represent that of over 5,000 potential adults with Disabilities in Mombasa. Evelyne Lumidi is a deaf woman from Mombasa city – Kenya; of age 35; a beneficiary of Vision of the Blind small grant. She has been a street vendor in Mombasa Central Business District (CBD) for the last six years. The business has been supporting her family and also educating her children. However her business is gradually collapsing due to the effect of covid 19 situation and even her children are now out of school. Her marriage is currently unstable due to her poor income.
Kaginya Chabogo is a deaf man aged 52 years who is a street vendor in Mombasa Central Business district in Kenya. Vision of the Blind assisted him to get a business point and stock to do business in the year 2015. He has since then been supporting his family together with fellow colleagues. His first born is undergoing secondary education but has been in and out of school due to poor business fortune occasion by the current bad economic time. His wife has also passed on since he was unable to manage her medical treatment.
His current business stock cannot match his household expenses henceforth he has been reaching out for support to various well-wishers which has not been forthcoming.
Finally, it is important to note that, involving people with disabilities is the only way meaningful change can occur. That’s why we chose to sum up our story with the famous quote by Oliver Sacks, neurologist, naturalist and author from the smart people behind Axschat. He said: “I wish for a world that views disability, mental or physical, not as a hindrance but as unique attributes that can be seen as powerful assets if given the right opportunities.”