One billion people, constituting 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability. Moreover, persons with disabilities (PWDs), on average as a group, are more likely to experience adverse socioeconomic outcomes than those without disabilities like vision and hearing loss (World Health Organisation).
While discrimination against PWDs in employment and micro enterprises are problematic globally, it is especially acute in developing regions like West Africa. In Ghana, for instance, more than 700,000 individuals have a disability, and low-income households that include a PWD experience poverty at more than 10% the rate of other homes (The Borgen Project).
“Another part of disability and poverty in Ghana is the stigma that is often attached to having a disability,” the non-profit addressing poverty and hunger and working towards ending them adds. “Many families keep relatives with disabilities like vision and hearing loss inside their homes, hidden from their communities. This limits access to society for people with disabilities.”
A Supportive Collaboration to the Rescue
In reality, most Ghanaian PWDs can only make ends meet by resorting to begging on the streets. Conversely, the small number from the group engaging in some vocations suffer financial problems and cannot expand their ventures to levels that cater for their needs. Moreover, within this minority, most cannot sustain their small enterprises because they lack the essential tools and equipment.
However, one picture of reassurance is Kofi Kyei (above and below right), a humble shoemaker living with hearing loss. Almost unable to continue his small trade without the necessary equipment, Kofi received just the apparatus he needed earlier this year – a shoe-filing machine – through a programme by RYTHM Foundation’s partner in Ghana, the ANOPA Project.
The programme empowers differently-abled youth, especially those with visual and hearing loss, to lead independent lives as shoemakers, hairdressers, and tailors, among other trades.
“I am glad I was gifted the machine because it makes my work easier,” Kofi related. “It is beneficial because it helps me better shape and design my sandals and shoes.”
RYTHM’s collaboration with ANOPA supports the Cape Coast-based NGO’s free vocational and technical training courses for these skills in the country’s central region.
The Foundation also contributes to ANOPA’s sports-focused educational programme for children who train in games like swimming, basketball, and volleyball to encourage their inclusiveness in society.
The disability advocacy group also strives to promote gender equity, peacebuilding, and other essential soft and social skills for children with the sports programme.
Equipment like Kofi’s is essential for many beneficiaries who cannot afford the necessary apparatus to start their businesses or sustain their livelihoods after acquiring the skills.
“I have been able to earn some good income so far, and I promise to work hard to improve my life and that of my family. I am grateful to RYTHM Foundation for the support,” Kofi added.
According to ANOPA’s executive director, Ernest Appiah, many recipients cannot afford the essential tools and equipment. “However, we are gradually changing the narrative with RYTHM’s assistance and funding. That way, they can start earning as soon as they complete their training,” Ernest said.
The NGO’s other programmes include a social enterprise module that helps project sustainability while delivering employable skills to recipients. The modules involve courses in tourism and hospitability and traditional music and dance lessons.