Living with a disability in Tanzania
In a country of 45 million people, it is estimated that 3.5 million people in Tanzania live with a disability. People with disabilities are often among the poorest and most marginalized in society. Disability can have a significant impact upon the quality of a child's education. The WHO estimates that, in 51 countries, only 51% of boys and 42% of girls with disabilities will complete their primary school education. This seriously limits the development of these children, as they lose access to information, are unable to socialize with their peers and are unable to develop the skills they require to seek employment and contribute to their family and the wider economy. The illiteracy rate among Tanzanians with a disability is 48%, compared to 25% among people without disabilities.
The existing laws in Tanzania categorically emphasize on the equal rights to education, health services, employment, information and communication, cooperation in economy, respect, ability to reach all areas and good standard of life. However such rights are not fully given to the people who are physically challenged. People with disability are still facing challenges in various issues concerning their welfare, especially education. There is insufficient equipment to facilitate the people with disability to study. This makes people with disability not enjoying the right to information and communication as they lack the equipment and translators to assist them. They also face challenge in accessing health services as they usually get humiliated by health providers, while health centers' infrastructure pose obstacles for them to reach the areas.
To give you an insight to the situation of people with disabilities in my home country Tanzania I want to share with you the stories of two persons, Eliezey and Seretti, which I found on the website of Neema Crafts (https://www.neemacrafts.com/index.php). Neema Crafts is a project of the Anglican Diocese of Ruaha and it trains people with disabilities to become skilled artisans from carpenters, to tailors, ceramicists to paper-makers, great chefs, or entrepreneurs starting up their own enterprises. By this, people with disabilities get an opportunity to support their families, send their children to school and get integrated to society, while also changing the attitudes toward disability in Tanzania.
"I've had polio in my legs since birth, which means I've always had to crawl around. We had very little money, so my parents couldn't buy me a wheelchair. I desperately wanted to go to school, but my parents told me I couldn't because I couldn't walk. 'You can't go, don't keep asking!' they'd say, so I tried to keep quiet. I was very sad because I was too afraid to tell them how I really felt, just in case they sent me away. I didn't want to make them angry.
There was nothing to do at home and I got very bored. All my friends were at school and I felt low almost every day. I used to try to get around to see other disabled people, just so I could feel I wasn't alone. I felt a bit better when I did this and made some good friends."
Eliezey also experienced challenges in finding employment, which would enhance his personality and his level of understanding as well as improve his financial situation. However Neema Craft, by offering skills and creating an employment opportunity, has been of great support to him.
"'She should be killed, she can't work, she can't help out at home, she can't go to school, get a medicine to kill her.' That's what they told my father. I was two weeks old when it happened. A witch doctor came to my house at night, took me from my bed and put me into a blazing fire in the room next door. I was only saved by my uncle, who smelt the burning and came to find out what was happening. My legs had been burnt off past the knee and I was so badly injured that the doctors had to amputate them at the hip. After eight months in hospital I was well enough to return home.
'No I will not kill her, she is my child' was my father's reply to the people around him. People saw how disabled I was and though I would only be a burden on my family. I learnt to move around in a bucket, as I didn't have a wheelchair and at the age of ten went to primary school after finding support with the church. I passed my exams and then decided to go to a secondary school in Iringa."
Due to the financial situation of her family, Seretti had difficulties with continuing her education and finding work until she got a chance of employment at Neema Craft, which helped her to be independent and to manage her daily life needs.
You can find many more stories of people with a disability in Tanzania at https://www.neemacrafts.com/stories.php
Sources and literature:
- Joseph Kisanji: Attitudes and Beliefs about Disability in Tanzania. URL: http://english.aifo.it/disability/documents/innovations/5kisanji.pdf (retrieved February 11, 2016)
- Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT): Disability Programmes URL: http://www.ccbrt.or.tz/programmes/disability/ (retrieved April 15, 2020)
- Stella Jimmy: Challenges for people with disabilities persist. URL: http://www.ippmedia.com/frontend/?l=59996 (retrieved February 11, 2016)
- Neema Crafts: Eliezey's Story. URL: https://www.neemacrafts.com/storiesind.php?story=10 (retrieved February 11, 2016)
- Neema Crafts: Seretti's Story. URL: https://www.neemacrafts.com/storiesind.php?story=8 (retrieved February 11, 2016)