After the Battle

Last week during the meeting of The Network of African Women with Disabilities a consistent theme was the need to rebuild the lives and societies which are shattered by the outbreak of hostilities. The horrors of the conflict and persuction are followed cruelly by subsequent hardships which themselves will take time to overcome.

In the immediate flight there is the need to provide a safe space for these women. On the way through these areas of conflict medical supplies must have been limitied, access to food and water as well, and the means through which these might have been acquired are sometimes too terrible to consider. These concerns do not dissapear once a refugee camp has been reached, and it is important that we and our network partners provide a safe space in those camps as well as making it as easy as possible to access the neccessary supplies.

Our partners in the International Rescue Committee are doing great work across multiple camps trying where possible to make the safe space a one-stop shop for all the health, nutrional and care needs. This begins a long process of rehabilitation and social re-integration, and the work of such charities is vital to bring the human touch. In Ethiopian camps one of the ways in which women with disability were included was through their involvement in coffee ceremonies. A small but important step towards total inclusion.

Yet there is a life outside the camp and beyond the crisis as some of our delegates were testament to.  Their stories of renewal after harrowing experience moved the conference. They had found a role for themselves, and so must we help others find theirs.

We were asked to write down our hopes for the next ten years and someone wrote that they hoped to see no more camps and instead empowered women. Therein lies the future. The path out of this misery lies within, having survived the turmoil of a forced exodus an inner steel must be present, a steel which needs revealing and that is the mission which WCC is trying to achieve.

The Network of African Women With Disabilty

WCC is not just an organisation focused on Kenya. We have our eyes cast across the great continent of Africa and even beyond. Nor are we alone and last week we had the great pleasure to host the annunal meeting of the Network of African Women with Disabilites. This conference brought together a group of empowered women to discuss the way forward for African women with disabilities, particularly those in conflict zones.

This meeting was driven largely by the Network, the African Disability Alliance and the Women’s Refugee Commision. It was the consistent message from this meeting that if women with disabilities are twice marginalised, then the problems faced by these women are compounded in areas of Conflict. Not only are there the obvious increased difficulty of access to vital resources but also hidden dangers like the loss of care givers and the strain placed on those already limited resources by an increase in disabilities.

During the conference the sad fact that never has humanity been so engaged in conflict and the flight from persecution. The number of people classifed as refugees has never been higher and this leaves women particularly vulnerable to the ravages of that situation. Those with a disibility are especially vulnerable. They simply cannot run away as quickly  and are more dependent on the society structure around them. This is one of the great struggles of our age.

There are people doing something. The Women’s Refugee Commision is working, collating data and co-ordinating with a host of UN Agencies and organisations on the ground and the hope is that we should  be able to act effectively with this sad situation. Such groups as International Rescue Committee are doing vital work assessing the needs on the ground and providing safe spaces within the camps.

As a charity well aware of the needs of women with disability it comes down to WCC and those in the Network to provide the information, the support and the visibility required to protect, assist and empower those women who find themselves swept up in the tides of conflict. It is a task which will take all our experience at home and which too will make us stronger to empower at home.

 

 

 

 

WCC and Economic Empowerment

It is a sad fact that Women with disabilities are more likely to be the victim of economic hardship than Men with disabilities.  It is also true, and the root cause of this poverty, that Women with disabilities are more likely to be illiterate and otherwise unskilled having had their access to education hindered in their youth and discriminated against in their later life. This is wrong, and WCC have taken up this challenge.

Literacy rates among women and girls with disabilities are exceptionally low. Along with this, disabled women are excluded from other employable skills as well.  The education of a girl with disability is not a priority in many families. They see no value in investing a girl with a disability and as they often say:  ‘No one will employ her anyway’.

This creates a culture of dependency where these women and girls are dependent on family members or begging for handouts. Furthermore this financial exclusion from health care. With no means of earning the money for clinical fees these women, and their families, were having to go without. WCC is changing that.

Having seen the need for women to have cash in order to pay their medical bills, amongst other costs, WCC has set up an Economic Empowerment programme. This began with a micro-finance project to enable women to fund their own business ventures. This aimed to reach 300 women and has so far reached over 90 across numerous ventures, from the peanut butter makers next in the site next door, to poultry farming and tailoring.

This is in addition to providing business support with the help of our VSO volunteers who have been able to assist several businesswomen. Previous teams have helped to create business plans for burgeoning businesses and one of current interns is beginning to build up a social media strategy.

The outcome of this has been to empower those whom WCC has come into contact. They are now much closer to being financially independent. They have all opened bank accounts and have adopted saving culture as a result. As such they are now able to pay school fees for their children and any medical costs. This is in addition to showing that a disability does not mean social exclusion, nor even financial dependency.

 

Action on Climate Change

Climate change is dramatically impacting the environment. The debate about it continues but the effects can be seen and most affect those in dire situation. In order to combat this, through funding from Volunteering Services Oversees (VSO) in partnership with WCC the climate change project was set up. Various projects were set up in Kenya which the WCC has identified will promote within the community. These objectives are to highlight climate change and how to promote an income generating project. The women with disabilities were shown how planting trees would result in a sustainable environment. The premise of this is to grow the trees and in future sell the trees to either the government, forestry service or to lumber companies.

The team of WCC and VSO volunteer went around Kenya in order assist in education and promotion of this method. The Kenya forest service were the main stakeholders in educating the community as well as providing the seedlings. The VSO funds allowed the WCC to facilitate the purchase of the seedlings from the Kenya forest service. Not only this the wheelbarrows, watering cans, rakes, watering cans, water tanks, water pipes and many others were brought to ease the implementation of the project.

Nyeri Disabled Women Group

Receiving the Tree Seedlings

Tree Seedlings Ready for Plantation

Tree Seedlings Ready for Plantation

In Kakamega a district officer was in attendance and even participated in the workshop of the climate change. This support showed commitment to the project from the government which helped brew excitement into the community.

Planting Tree Seedlings in Kakamega

Planting Tree Seedlings in Kakamega

The long-term goal of this project is to allow communities to become self-sufficient; at the same time impact the environment in a positive way. There have been numerous challenges to this project but the main theme seemed to be lack of commitment by the group as well as adverse weather. Other challenges were women were not allowed to own land and plant seedlings.

In future the main issue to address is to educate the community on discrimination which are ingrained due to cultural beliefs. Support from government would also allow a better involvement from the community and perhaps increase in this project from the women’s group.

In conclusion the success of this project hinges on the pledge from the women’s group; WCC as well as VSO can only educate and facilitate the programme.