Can Philanthropy Work Better For People With Disabilities?

Get an inside look at key trends and opportunities for disability-focused philanthropy in East Africa.


 

Background note: This article summarizes key takeaways from the East Africa Philanthropy Network Conference. You can learn more about the conference at the end of this article.

How can philanthropy work better for people with disabilities and their communities?

 
This is a question I’m keen to answer as the program officer of a GlobalGiving initiative supported by the National Lottery Community Fund. The program, called Kukuza Uwezo, fosters community-led capacity strengthening of Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) in Tanzania and Uganda.

Despite growing donor interest in how we can improve the lives of people with disabilities, there is still a great need for increased funding for the sector. Eighty percent of disabled people live in developing countries and many lack the services and accessibility provisions necessary for them to live full and dignified lives.

Here are eight trends, opportunities, and solutions for disability-focused philanthropy in East Africa:

    1. Funders and businesses want to support disability projects but often don’t know how to do so.

    For example, according to the Tanzanian Disability Act, businesses with over 20 employees must employ disabled people as 3% of their workforce. However, many do not know where to find qualified disabled people or understand what accessibility adjustments may be required.

    2. There needs to be greater awareness of what the word “disability” means and how holistic, inclusive projects can go beyond medical intervention.

    Livelihoods projects can be inclusive if adjustments are made to allow people with disabilities to participate. The concept of ‘invisible’ disabilities is not widely known in East Africa, leading many to assume able-bodied people are not disabled.

    3. There are ongoing capacity and risk management challenges for DPOs, which can create barriers to partnerships with donors and businesses.

    For example, DPOs may not have the complex financial management systems or financial management skills required for large donors to feel confident partnering with them. All stakeholders need to work openly and collaboratively to strengthen systems, which will allow them to harness the value of community-based organizations.

    4. Communicating impact is a weakness within the sector, despite it being a priority for donors.

    Techniques such as storytelling are not widely used by DPOs, but they can prove effective in communicating impact to donors.

    5. Accountability should be key for all partners, including donors.

    Grantees and project implementers are often the focus of accountability exercises. However, accountability on behalf of donors is equally important; for example, donors must provide mechanisms for grantee feedback to ensure their processes are not creating unnecessary administrative burdens on grantees.

    6. An active focus on gender is needed to ensure disabled women are not left behind.

    Intersectional inequalities need to be better understood by philanthropic actors because how and what they fund shapes the power dynamics of the sector.

    7. Everyone is a potential person with a disability.

    There needs to be a mindset shift so that accessibility initiatives are perceived as beneficial to everyone rather than to a minority. No one knows if and when they or someone they love may experience disability, so we should all support efforts to create a more inclusive society.

    8. We need to focus on solutions.

    Solutions include: Better mapping of sector actors, capacity strengthening support for DPOs, more collaborative programs, better representation of the sector at the national level, and regular forums and feedback mechanisms to increase the quality of information sharing between stakeholders.

Background note continued: GlobalGiving is working with the National Lottery Community Fund in the UK to support the disability sectors in Tanzania and Uganda to be better resourced and better able to serve their communities. In September 2019, more than 200 stakeholders with an interest in philanthropy, civil society, and inclusion came together in Tanzania for the East Africa Philanthropy Network Conference. The National Lottery Community Fund and GlobalGiving hosted a session on philanthropy and inclusion. The panel consisted of Jonas Lubago, Secretary General of SHIVYAWATA, the Tanzanian Federation of Disabled People’s Organisations, Nesia Mahenge, Country Director for CBM Tanzania, and Florence Namagandafrom Special Children’s Trust in Uganda. The session was moderated by disability expert and advocate, Rutachwamagyo Kaganzi.

Featured Photo: Empower People with Disabilities in Tanzania by Kupona Foundation
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