The unrestricted grant will help to advance disability rights worldwide, enabling the IDA to increase its advocacy work, provide technical assistance and support people with disabilities.
Sightsavers and International Disability Alliance join in $1 million partnership
Sightsavers has given a new $1 million unrestricted grant to the International Disability Alliance (IDA) to help advance disability rights worldwide.
Sightsavers has worked in a strategic and effective partnership with the IDA since 2013, sharing expertise and resources to advance disability rights and the inclusion agenda. The organisations have worked together to organise two Global Disability Summits, supported the development and growth of the Global Action on Disability (GLAD) Network, and jointly led major consortium initiatives to advance inclusion of people with disabilities.
The grant will enable the global umbrella disability network to increase its advocacy work, provide technical assistance, and deliver capacity building for the world’s 1.2 billion people with disabilities and their representative organisations. The funding is unrestricted, which means it can be spent wherever it is needed, rather than being tied to a particular area of work.
This is the largest unrestricted grant Sightsavers has made during its 70 years of supporting partners, enabling the partnership with IDA to reach a new level. Behind this partnership lies a shared principle that people with disabilities are in the best place to decide how and where resources should be used to enable them to realise their rights.
IDA president Yannis Vardakastanis said: “I would like to thank you wholeheartedly for the financial support to IDA. There is no question that for us, at IDA, the partnership with Sightsavers is a flagship partnership. In these challenging times, partnerships like ours give hope and vision for disability rights. We are looking forward to continuing to work with you.”
Sightsavers chair Sir Clive Jones said: “We simply could not do what we do without the partnership between Sightsavers and IDA. We make this unprecedented show of solidarity with the firm belief that people with disabilities, and their representative organisations, are best placed to make and influence the decisions that affect their lives. This represents a commitment to the meaningful, independent and fully financed engagement of organisations of people with disabilities in the development process.”
This grant enables IDA to further its focus on the fact that inclusion cannot happen if people with disabilities and their organisations are not empowered to participate. The only successful way to ensure that people with disabilities and their representative organisations are recognised as agents of change is by including their voices on all matters and aspects of life.
The Global Labor Program, part of the Inclusive Futures initiative, aims to increase the inclusion of people with disabilities and improve labour rights at two large Kenyan companies.
Sightsavers and partners launch US$6 million inclusion and labour rights programme
A US$6 million programme supported by Sightsavers aims to increase the inclusion of people with disabilities, particularly women, and improve labour rights at two large Kenyan companies.
The Global Labor Program, part of the Inclusive Futures initiative, is funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). It will work with East African Breweries Limited (EABL), owned by Diageo, and Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (Kenya) to ensure inclusion and labour rights are a key part of the companies’ supply and distribution chains.
The two companies are thought to support the employment of 47,000 farmers, more than 9,000 distribution workers and about 65,000 retailers.
Simon Brown, who leads Sightsavers’ work on disability-inclusive economic empowerment, said: “I’m thrilled that we have secured more than US$6 million to try to change the way big businesses work. It’s a very bold programme: what we learn will not only benefit people who are frequently marginalised, but everyone working in supply and distribution chains. And hopefully all big businesses will be paying attention and replicating the approach.”
The five-year programme builds on existing work by Inclusive Futures, funded by UK aid in partnership with EABL, which gave farmers with disabilities the skills and resources to supply sorghum crops to brew lager.
Sightsavers Kenya country director Moses Chege explained that women, people with disabilities and young people often face unequal treatment in work, despite global improvements in labour rights legislation and policy. He said: “What we achieve will be used to demonstrate to industries and governments how to improve the employment of people with disabilities and demonstrate how labour rights can be strengthened for everyone.”
For more information about Inclusive Futures, see www.inclusivefutures.org.
In Kenya, students who have been studying IT as part of a Sightsavers initiative are now looking ahead to their graduation, internships and future careers.
The IT Bridge Academy: what’s next for students?
After months of studying, the IT Bridge Academy’s first intake of students are now looking ahead to their graduation, internships and future careers.
In an increasingly digital world, the initiative in Kenya is making it possible for people with disabilities to access information technology (IT) training, giving them the skills and practical experience they need to compete equally in the jobs market.
Since the course resumed after Kenya’s COVID-19 lockdown, the entire cohort of students has passed their exams. They’ll be using their skills in a six-month internship at Safaricom, the largest mobile network provider in Kenya.
In March, the students will take part in the first graduation ceremony at the academy. It will be a special day for them and a chance to celebrate their hard work and achievements with their friends and families. They’ll also be joined by the academy’s second cohort, who will be able to watch and share the success of the students that came before them.
Sightsavers caught up with students Benson, Divinah, Jacklyne and Shanice to hear about their reflections on the course and their hopes for the future.
Benson: “I’ve improved my life”
A teaching graduate from Kenyatta University, Benson struggled to find a job because of his visual impairment and hoped the Bridge Academy would increase his employability.
One of Benson’s favourite things about the course is how practical and hands-on it is. “Before the course, I was just imagining what the router looks like, what the switch looks like,” he says. “But when the physical equipment came, I enjoyed it the most because even though I can’t see them, I can feel them.”
Knowing how the equipment works has not only increased Benson’s confidence but allowed him to tell others about his skills. “When I tell some people that I’m in school learning about computers, they want to know how a person who can’t see can navigate the keyboard,” he says. To this, he confidently replies: “I know every keyboard key.”
Looking to the future, Benson says: “I see myself as a great person. I have improved my life, my background.” He has big dreams for his career and hopes that his internship at Safaricom will lead to a permanent job.
Divinah: “I learned to interact with different kinds of disabilities”
Divinah enjoyed learning alongside other young people with disabilities, which was made possible thanks to the academy’s location at the National Industrial Training Authority in Nairobi. Changes were made to ensure that the building was accessible: ramps were added to the classroom and dining hall, and the washroom was adapted. Interpreters were also made available for students with sensory impairments. While studying together, students were able to learn from each other and hear about the experiences of other people with disabilities.
Divinah says: “I learned to interact with these different kinds of disabilities, which was one of my dreams when I was young. The experience was awesome – interacting with one another and learning new skills.”
Divinah hopes to use her new skills in her dream job as a data analyst, and she also has plans to start her own company. But she hasn’t just learned about IT and computers. “This project has built my capacity, given me new skills, and also helped me to network,” she says. Her networking skills will be useful when she fulfils her ambition “to be one of the top models in Kenya living with disability”. As she said at the beginning of the course, he ultimate aim is to “inspire everyone out there – whether they are disabled or not”.
Jacklyne: “They see me as someone who will help them, an inspiration in their life”
Jacklyne’s love of computers led to her joining the Bridge Academy. “This programme has really changed my life,” she says. “I was a single mother, and it was difficult because of my disability.” She even told her parents not to focus on her education and instead prioritise educating her son.
But after studying at the academy, Jacklyne’s outlook has completely changed. When asked to describe her life in three words, she says: “Living my dream! I’m more confident now because I know I’ll get a job. And I’ll be able to educate my son.”
The practical IT skills she learned at the academy have also been useful in her home life. Now known as the ‘engineer’ of the family, Jacklyne has even been able to use her new knowledge to fix her father’s TV. She explains how her family’s perception of her has changed. “My siblings, my parents: now they see me as someone who will help them, an inspiration in their life,” she says. Jacklyne’s family are all hoping to join her at her graduation later this month to celebrate her success.
She’s now looking to the future and aspires to be an engineer, but explains she is mostly “trying to make my parents proud and to make my kid’s future good.” She’s grateful to the donors who made the Bridge Academy possible. “I thank them from my heart,” she says, “and thank you for changing my life. Thank you to all the people. May they continue helping more people with disabilities.” Her final wish is “to meet my sponsors and give them a high five” – we hope this wish can come true too.
Shanice: “Education is the key to success”
The Bridge Academy has been designed with employability in mind, and many Kenyan businesses have worked with the academy to make the students ‘job ready’. After graduation, the students will start their internships at Safaricom, and Shanice is one of the students who is looking forward to working at Kenya’s largest telecommunications company.
During her internship, Shanice is hoping to widen her skillset. “I really expect to gain some skills from Safaricom, and then they’ll help me gain more experience on different things I’ve learned,” she explains. She’s hoping to impress her new manager and get a permanent job at Safaricom. “With a job, I can easily support myself. Education is the key to real success.”
Shanice believes that technology is key to Kenya’s growth, and she wants to use her IT knowledge to help people with disabilities, especially women and girls. “If I become successful, I’d really like to empower other girls who are living with disability,” she says. “I would like them to know that they can make it on their own.”
Alongside her goal of becoming the CEO of her own company, Shanice plans to hire women with disabilities and become an advocate for girls’ education. Shanice is hugely grateful to the donors of the Bridge Academy. “Thank you, because you brought equality to the table. We have enough accessibility. We are now valid.”
She also wants to find time in the future to empower other people with disabilities. “I want to build something that is going to help people living with a disability. I want to train them in how to survive, and then I’ll give them experience in how to own a business. In short, I want to coach people with disabilities to be independent.
“This is a dream come true and I really thank Sightsavers for everything. I would also like to thank all our donors and our supporters, because without you, we couldn’t make it.”
The IT Bridge Academy is run by Inclusive Futures in partnership with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. The training takes place at the National Industrial Training Authority (NITA).
The project in Kenya is funded by donor partners: UK aid, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad).
The petition, part of Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign, calls for governments and global organisations to attend the summit and commit to disability inclusion.
Sightsavers’ campaign petition for the Global Disability Summit hits 30,000 signatures
Sightsavers’ Actions Speak Louder petition, calling for governments and global organisations to attend the Global Disability Summit, closed today with 30,143 signatures from 111 countries.
The petition is part of Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign, which fights for an end to disability discrimination and inequality. It was launched 100 days before the start of the second Global Disability Summit, and has been handed in to government ministers in participating countries through Sightsavers’ country offices.
The summit, taking place on 16-17 February, is a virtual event hosted by the governments of Norway and Ghana alongside the International Disability Alliance. The first summit was held in the UK in 2018 and saw hundreds of commitments made to disability inclusion, but progress has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, while some commitments were too vague or not adequately financed.
Sightsavers’ head of campaigns, Tessa Murphy, said: “We’re hugely grateful to the thousands of people from all over the world who have signed the petition and supported our campaign. The Global Disability Summit could be a pivotal moment for the world to make progress on disability rights, and it’s vital that decision-makers not only attend, but also make ambitious, properly financed commitments to disability-inclusive global development.”
Cameroon has become the second African country to begin to ratify the African Disability Protocol, which addresses unique issues that affect people with disabilities in African countries.
Cameroon approves landmark disability legislation
Cameroon has become the second African country to begin to ratify the African Disability Protocol (ADP), which addresses unique issues and discrimination that affect people with disabilities living in African countries.
The protocol was adopted by the African Union in 2018, and enables countries to draw up disability laws and ensures citizens are able to hold their governments to account. Mali has already adopted the protocol, but it will only come into force once it has been ratified by 15 member states of the African Union.
The president of the Republic of Cameroon has also signed and ratified the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which aims to protect the rights of and transform attitudes towards people with disabilities. The move to ratify both pieces of legislation follows years of campaigning by disability organisations.
As part of its Equal World campaign, Sightsavers is working with disability groups and other partners to call on African governments to ratify the ADP ahead of the Global Disability Summit in February. It has worked alongside disability rights groups such as the Platform Inclusive Society for Persons with Disabilities, and partners including the Cameroon Commission and the UN Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa.
Sightsavers Cameroon country director Dr Joseph Oye said: “We’re delighted that the government of Cameroon has listened to our campaign and formally ratified these protocols. They will be key to ensuring the rights of people with disabilities in Cameroon, as well as millions more across Africa.
“These milestones have happened in the lead up to this year’s Global Disability Summit in February, for which we call on all governments to make concrete commitments to and action on disability inclusion.”
Sightsavers Cameroon programme manager and advocacy lead Boma Cliford said: “People with disabilities in Africa are significantly less likely than their peers to be in school, have jobs or participate in political life. Legislation like the ADP gives people the power to change this.”
Sightsavers will continue to advocate for the ratified decrees to be submitted, and will support Cameroon’s Ministry of Social Affairs and disability rights groups to communicate the importance of the convention and protocol to communities, government stakeholders and the public.
In Rajasthan in northern India, an initiative run by people with disabilities is providing fresh food for the community at low prices.
Indira Rasoi: a kitchen with a difference
In Rajasthan in northern India, a brilliant initiative run by people with disabilities is providing fresh food for the community at low prices.
Sightsavers has played a significant role in helping to set up the Indira Rasoi initiative: government canteens run by women who are members of the local organisation of people with disabilities (OPD). Sightsavers has also worked to empower local people with disabilities and their institutions through training on gender, leadership, rights and entitlements, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Amaresh Pandey, state programme lead for Sightsavers in Rajasthan, says: “I was waiting for the doctor and was walking on the lane and suddenly I saw a huge poster for Indira Rasoi (‘rasoi’ means kitchen). The kitchen is one of three supported by the government of Rajasthan, managed by the OPD that was formed under Sightsavers’ social inclusion programme in Chittorgarh district.”
In the eight months since the three kitchens opened, they’ve served more than 150,000 people, with up to 300 people visiting each day. Customers can enjoy nutritious food for around Rs8 (approximately 8p, $0.1) per plate.
“The scheme launched with a pledge that ‘no one should sleep hungry’, and the kitchens provide fresh, nutritious food twice a day for a very low sum per meal,” says Amaresh. “The menu includes Indian bread, pulses, vegetables, pickles, yogurt and fresh, seasonal salad. The government of Rajasthan outsources the running of the kitchens to individuals, institutions and grassroots-level organisations.”
Amaresh created a short film about Indira Rasoi using footage captured on his mobile phone: watch it below to find out more about the groundbreaking initiative.
Sightsavers won the innovation award for its accessibility standards and audit toolkit, which helps improve healthcare facilities for people with disabilities.
Sightsavers wins Zero Project award for accessibility audit pack
A Sightsavers toolkit that offers guidance to governments, healthcare providers and development organisations on developing accessibility standards and assessing health infrastructure has won an innovation award.
The Zero Project award recognises innovative policies and practices that improve the lives and support the rights of people with disabilities. This year’s theme was accessibility, and Sightsavers was one of 76 winners to be shortlisted from 381 nominations.
Since its launch in 2018, Sightsavers has used the accessibility standards and audit toolkit to train more than 200 members of organisations of people with disabilities, governments and the private sector, conduct accessibility audits in 50 hospitals across eight countries, and complete priority accessibility renovations in 16 health facilities.
Andrea Pregel, Sightsavers’ global technical lead for inclusive health, who coordinated the project, said: “We are incredibly excited and humbled to receive this award. It’s the result of a collective effort within the organisation, as many people dedicated their time and energy to the development of the toolkit, and many more are working tirelessly every day to use it in the field alongside our fantastic partners.
“We believe good ideas are worth sharing, and that’s why the accessibility standards and audit pack is freely available online. More than 1,000 people have already downloaded it, and we know it has already been used across many countries. Our hope is that the toolkit will enable the development community – from small community-based organisations to large multilateral donors – to incorporate accessibility into their work, and promote equitable access to healthcare for people with disabilities around the world.”
The toolkit has also been adapted to assess the accessibility of the wider build environment beyond healthcare facilities. The Sightsavers-supported Inclusive Futures initiative has produced practical guidance to help leaders, HR executives and property managers foster inclusive workspaces.
The Zero Project 2022 winners will receive their awards at the Zero Project Conference, due to be held at the United Nations office in Vienna in February. You can watch the event online from 12-25 February 2022 on the Zero Project website.
The Equal World petition calls on global decision-makers to attend the Global Disability Summit and make ambitious inclusion commitments.
Equal World campaign launches Global Disability Summit petition
Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign for disability rights has launched a petition calling on governments and global organisations to take action on disability-inclusive development at the Global Disability Summit being held in Norway in February 2022.
The Global Disability Summit, co-hosted by the governments of Norway and Ghana and the International Disability Alliance, aims to address the global needs of people with disabilities, and ensure they are integrated into policies and laws. It is the world’s biggest gathering of people with disabilities, governments, international agencies, charities and business leaders, and is a vital opportunity for governments and organisations everywhere to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
The Equal World petition calls on global decision-makers to attend the summit, consult and engage with organisations of people with disabilities, and make ambitious, achievable commitments to disability inclusion.
Tessa Murphy, Sightsavers’ head of campaigns, said: “The Global Disability Summit is a huge opportunity to address inequality and promote disability rights – but for that to happen, governments and global organisations need to not only attend, but ensure it results in strong, properly financed commitments to inclusion. It’s also vital that the voices of people with disabilities and their representative organisations are heard and taken into consideration ahead of, and during, the summit.”
The research, part of the Inclusive Futures initiative, found many people with disabilities were unable to get help with food, medicine and other relief efforts.
Research shows ‘shocking’ exclusion of people with disabilities during pandemic
New reports from the Inclusive Futures initiative show that many people with disabilities have been excluded from planning and relief efforts during COVID-19.
Researchers spoke to people with disabilities about how they have been affected by the pandemic, with many saying they were unable to get help with food, medicine and other crisis relief efforts that were available to the wider population.
In Uganda, a man with albinism told researchers: “Many agencies have come to my area with relief food, but I have had access to none. This exclusion from interventions to me is just a sign that people like me are still discriminated against.”
In Kenya, a man with a physical disability said: “Before COVID, people with disabilities were struggling. Now with COVID, this is worse. Those I have tried to talk to see this as the end of their lives.”
Inclusive Futures technical lead Lorraine Wapling, who worked on the research, said: “We knew this situation was bad for people with disabilities, but when we looked into the detail, it was even worse than we imagined. I was in shock. Despite all the hard work by organisations of people with disabilities, the right to be included in times of crisis still seems far from being achieved.”
At the start of the pandemic, Sightsavers was part of a response by 10 organisations in five countries through the Inclusive Futures consortium, helping to provide 60,000 people with immediate relief and longer-term support. What we learned about disability inclusion was vital to shape the learning across the consortium, which has also been published.
Sightsavers is also using the results of the research and learning to encourage disability inclusion across the development and humanitarian sector.
Susan Pieri, associate programme director at Sightsavers for Inclusive Futures, said: “Experience shows that it is more effective to plan for inclusion rather than react. Lessons learned in our COVID-19 response can be directly applied to making future crises response and recovery disability-inclusive. We know these lessons have been found before, but people with disabilities are still being left behind and these lessons still aren’t being learned by the sector.”
To read the research, visit www.inclusivefutures.org/learning-from-covid-19
The Prime Minister of Mali has signed the new social decree into law, which promises to improve the lives of people with disabilities and make it possible for people to claim their rights.
Mali passes new law to protect the rights of people with disabilities
After years of work by campaigners, the prime minister of Mali has signed a new social decree into law that will protect the rights of people with disabilities.
This week, Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maïga signed the decree of implementation related to the Law of Social Protection and passed it into law. The law promises improvements to the lives of people with disabilities and will make it possible for people to claim their rights.
In response to this week’s commitment, Sightsavers’ country director for Mali, Boubacar Morou Dicko, said: “We welcome the news about the commitment to the rights of people with disabilities decided in a ministerial council by the Mali transitional authorities on 1 September 2021.
“This decree is vital to turning policy wording into action and making real improvements in the lives of people with disabilities in Mali. It is something that our Equal World campaign has been calling for and it’s great to see it realised.”
The new decree covers the correction of current legal deficiencies and will give people with disabilities greater access to employment, education and social benefits. One of these benefits includes better access to public sector jobs. People with disabilities will now be able to apply based solely on their skills and qualifications and without passing the required regular exam. They will also gain equal access to water, sanitation and hygiene services and development programmes and benefits. This will allow the specific requirements of people with disabilities to be considered across the board in various key development sectors.
Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign and the Federation of People with Disabilities of Mali (FEMAPH) have been calling on the government to sign the decree for years. In May 2019, over one thousand people signed a petition calling for the decree to be signed by parliament.
Mr Dicko added: “15.5 per cent of the population of Mali, that’s about 2.2 million people, live with a disability. Many still experience significant inequalities that prevent them from fully enjoying their rights: from weak legal protection to non-accessible health, education and employment, stigma and discrimination and a lack of proper data collection. This new decree is a step in the right direction for ensuring that no one in Mali is left behind.”
Mali has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This means it is required to promote and protect the full enjoyment of human rights by people with disabilities and ensure that they experience full equality under the law.
The campaign for the signing of the decree is part of Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign, which works with partners to call for disability rights to be upheld worldwide.
Sightsavers global advocacy adviser Aissata Ndiaye said: “We are incredibly grateful to all our supporters and partners of Equal World for helping to make this happen. It’s great to see the government of Mali listening and taking action to secure the rights of people with disabilities.”
Rasak was selected for his work tackling the barriers faced by people with disabilities as part of the Inclusion Works programme in Nigeria.
Sightsavers Nigeria’s Rasak Adekoya becomes One Young World ambassador
Sightsavers’ Rasak Adekoya has been named as a One Young World ambassador for his work tackling the barriers faced by people with disabilities.
A group of ambassadors are selected each year at the One Young World summit, which aims to connect the world’s most dynamic young leaders to create a better and more responsible world. The summit hosts more than 1,800 young leaders from more than 190 countries.
Rasak is the programme officer for Inclusion Works in Nigeria, part of the Inclusive Futures initiative. He is being recognised for his work within the programme, which addresses the barriers that prevent millions of people with disabilities from finding mainstream jobs.
Rasak said: “I’m super excited to be selected. This is one of the most outstanding global platforms where the work of young people is recognised for the impact they are contributing in solving the most complex challenges.”
This year’s summit was held in Munich, Germany on 22-25 July, where Rasak joined other global One Young World ambassadors to share his experience and work supporting the Inclusion Works programme. He said: “Ensuring people with disabilities have equal access to livelihoods is a right, not a favour. Therefore, every young business leader should understand the business and ethical rationale for mainstreaming disability inclusion and its benefit to their business growth.”
At Inclusion Works, Rasak helps jobseekers with disabilities to gain the relevant skills to find and secure jobs. He also promotes disability-inclusive workplaces and helps to influence the national government to ensure disability rights.
Outside of his role at Sightsavers, Rasak currently serves as the Speaker of the Nigeria People’s Disability Parliament, has written four books, and co-founded Africa Volunteering Week and 360 Connect Champion – a social enterprise that builds the technological capacity of people with disabilities.
Sightsavers chief executive Caroline Harper said: “I was so pleased to hear that Rasak has been selected – this is a huge achievement. It is wonderful that he will be able to represent Sightsavers and the Inclusion Works programme at the summit. We are all so proud of him and the hard work he has done for disability rights in Nigeria and beyond.
“Rasak is a powerhouse when it comes to advocating for a more inclusive society, from authoring books to founding social enterprises – he never seems to stop! He has inspired so many people to build a better world, as well as making concrete impacts on the lives of people with disabilities, and fully deserves this honour.”
Sightsavers’ director of policy and programme strategy, Dom Haslam, responds to the “devastating” outcome of the vote to keep the budget for international development at 0.5% of national income.
Statement: Sightsavers’ response to UK aid reduction decision
In response to Conservative MPs voting to keep the budget for international development at 0.5% of national income, Dom Haslam, Sightsavers’ director of policy and programme strategy, said:
“Today, despite valiant efforts by those across the political spectrum to stand up for global solidarity, MPs have taken a step backwards and voted in favour of maintaining foreign aid cuts. The tests that the government have in place that set out when the UK will return to spending 0.7% of GNI on aid were not being met prior to the pandemic and today’s decision will mean aid will not return to 0.7% for the foreseeable future. This will have a devastating and long-term impact for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Progress to eliminate disease will be undone, patients left untreated, and some of the poorest and most marginalised communities around the world will be left without the support they need in the middle of a global pandemic.”