Welcome, everyone To the 2015 WID report I am Kat Zigmont, I’m the Global Initiative Assistant Director at the World Institute on Disability And this session is on WID’s Mandela Fellowship Program, part of our New Leaders Initiative that brings young African leaders with disabilities to WID as part of an exchange program through IREX So, what is the Mandela Washington fellowship? Well, it’s an opportunity for young African leaders that began in 2014, it’s the flagship program for President Obama’s Young African Leadership Initiative, YALI, that empowers young people through academics, course work, leadership training and networking The Fellows are between the ages of 25-35 They have an established record of accomplishments with their organizations and communities within their country In 2015 Fellows represented all 49 countries of subsaharan Africa 50% of the Fellows were women 76% had never spent substantial amount of time in America There’s approximately 1,000 Fellows each year and 100 of them get professional development experience which is a month-long internship in a nonprofit organization or an organization that is similar to their work in country Why is WID interested in this, what’s the relevance for us? >> Well, the World Health Organization states that over a billion people, about 15% of the world’s population have some sort of disability It’s estimated that over 80% of those people with disabilities that live in developing countries The World Bank also estimates that over 20% of the world’s poor are people with disabilities that are living in developing countries The biggest value for WID to understand what life is like for people living in developing countries in Africa So, with that said I want to tell you a story We had volunteer fellow here this summer her name is Jayne She’s from Kenya And one of our first meetings I asked her, what’s the biggest problem for you? What is the number one issue related to disability that you deal with And she goes, “oh, Kat, it’s the witch doctors.” I go, “what now?” I had never heard of this She said, “well the witch doctors believe that because I’m a person with albinism my blood has magical power thus they try and cut off my limbs or kill me outright and they sell my blood on the black market.” I went, “what am I going to do something about this for her?” And she goes, “but don’t worry, Kat. The number two issue is sun screen.” And I go, “okay, tell me more about that.” Clearly for person with albinism you need to protect your skin from the sun But she further went on to explain that if you’re a mother struggling financially in a developing country in Africa and you have four kids and one is a person with albinism, you can either buy a bottle of sun screen for one kid, or feed all four That’s real choice that mothers have to make So why do I tell you these stories? I tell you them because they are two great examples of major issues that we have seen from all the experiences of people with disabilities in Africa regardless of their disability One is social factors Social factors and belief systems have huge impact on people with disabilities living in developing countries Albinism clearly is very specific one But many people with disabilities their families believe they’re cursed or depending on the disability they might think they’re blessed These attitudes and mindsets really impact the way that an individual sees themselves the way the family treats the individual and the way that that individual can interact with their community So social systems and beliefs are huge The other thing is resources Such as sun screen is an expensive resource even though it seems simple to us, it is expensive and not accessible. This is also true, for example, of white canes Rally, from Liberia, for example, told us

that many members of his community were unable to get white canes So they would fashion a stick to use instead of a cane And even armed with their stick the infrastructure was such that large potholes and other obstacles created injury on a regular basis Social factors are huge and resources are huge What about policy? Well, the UNCRPD is ratified in many countries in Africa However, we hear again and again it’s not being implemented People don’t know their rights It’s very corrupt There’s even committees that are assigned and working on these issues, they might even have a person with a disability on those government committees But they’re not actually implementing policy that is seen on the ground So, while the UNCRPD is typically ratified in the countries, it is not being implemented Benefit systems, are there benefit systems in these countries? Sometimes Sometimes not Again, the biggest issue is implementation Often, there are obstacles in the way such as you have to travel to the capital and you have to see a hospitallist that’s very expensive And the paperwork is cumbersome and so for these families that are struggling financially, can’t afford to put food on the table the cost of going and trying to apply for benefits to receive some sort of financial subsidy is out of their sort of realm of availability They can’t afford to go through the process While there might be benefit systems on the books they’re not frequently utilized Education systems There are often, in a variety of countries, schools for the blind, schools for the deaf Mostly these systems are primary education only, and once you pass your regular primary education, typically you either go to a trade school or you’re done What does this mean? It means you can’t choose your own career path And you are only able to do jobs deemed appropriate for your particular disability type So, education systems limit a person with a disability living in Africa to do and be what they want to be Clearly some individuals do get into college, university systems do not have supports like ours do When that happens the person comes from some bit of wealth or has some other sort of support So far all of the reasons I have stated thus far the employment outlook for people with disabilities is not ideal When you are going into the workforce coming from one of these trade schools or rather from these schools for the deaf or blind, you don’t have the same skill set as the general population So, employment is a big problem And I have to say we’ve had over the past few years five Mandela fellows and all of them in one way or another are working on increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities in their country I think that is pretty telling I’d like to talk a little bit about Alieu, he was here last month actually He is a blind young African leader, living in the Gambia He came here one of the main things he wanted, he wanted to increase his marketing skills He wanted to know how he could tell his story a little better and sort of get it on those platforms So, we filmed a WID discussion series with him Instead of me telling you about him I thought I’d just take a minute and show a segment of this discussion series so you can hear about his work from his own words Alieu, will you tell us a bit about yourself and your work in the Gambia? Alieu: Thank you Kat. I am a teacher by profession and I am the founder of Start Now organization in The Gambia with the vision to see inclusive higher education and employment of visually

impaired people in The Gambia and Africa at large Kat: That is amazing. So tell me, why did you choose Start Now? Alieu: Blind and partially sighted people in the Gambia face a challenge to compete with their sighted peers in higher education and employment. Being visually impaired when I was going to high school and after completion of my high school, it was very difficult to pursue higher education, due to a lack of quality rehabilitation services. I always wanted to become an accountant, but due to special training and motivation I limited myself to become a teacher, is which many visually impaired took as the main profession If this is not available they either stay at home or become beggars on the streets Now, in 2011, I visited Kanthari in India, to learn on leadership training aimed to set up a social project. Upon my return home, after the training, with additional skills in project management and computer literacy skills, I was about to start up Start Now organization with the mission to train and empower visually impaired high school graduates and adults in computer skills and rehabilitation techniques as a preparation for higher education and employment, so that they can realize their career dreams in any area of their choice without limitation Kat: That is really great, Alieu, how you had your own personal transformation and now you pay it forward through your organization by giving those sorts of skill sets to others, with the same sort of visual impairments That’s great. Can you tell me specifically about the types of programs that you have at Start Now? Alieu: we have 2 ongoing projects, namely the Step Higher project and the Jump High project Kat: Step Higher and then Jump High, Alieu: That’s right Kat: Oh good Alieu: So the Step Higher is meant to prepare visually impaired high school graduates seeking for higher education. So that they can go to any university or higher education institution and realize their career goals. And the Jump High is meant to prepare adults on job placement and internship to create, you know, job opportunities for them to placing them in companies of their interests Pat: Great, so there’s 2 tracks. There’s the higher education track and the employment track Alieu: That’s right Kat: Wonderful. You know, those are WID’s values too. We feel like people disabilities moving towards higher education and employment is the right way to move forward. So it’s great that you’re doing that same type of work in the Gambia. Do you have success stories from people who have been through your program? Alieu: Oh yes!. Since the establishment of Start Now in 2012, we have prepared over 20 youth and adults on computer skills and rehabilitation techniques. One of our current staff is a beneficiary of the Step Higher project. And today, he is the program officer at Start Now. And he was also recommended by start now in 2014 for a leadership training in India And one beneficiary is a nurse that has benefited from computer training, and today he is able to use the internet to his side on his field We have been partnering with institutions in the Gambia and outside for the develop of Start Now Kat: It’s amazing how technology can help facilitate one’s research and employment skill sets. So that’s great. So what are your long-term goals and Start Now’s long-term goals? Alieu: It is to expand start now as a technology hub in Africa to train more visually impaired people in need of skills, and also to campaign against societal prejudices and discrimination toward visually impaired people so that we have an inclusive world with equal opportunity for everyone So like Alieu, many of our Mandela Fellows are very bright, they are very driven

And the exchange is really valuable I feel With that said I think I’ll open it up for questions Anyone have any questions? Audience Member: Kat, thank you for that very good presentation. I’d like to know if WID is finding ways to continue to have relationship and dialogue and be supportive and to learn from the Mandela Fellows that come here >> Kat: We are We continue our relationship with every fellow that visits in various ways And we hope to develop projects with them going forward And with them personally and their DPOs and circle of DPOs that is definitely the intention of sort of developing these relationships I have to say among all of the Mandela fellows one of the biggest feedbacks we’ve gotten is the ability to network with each other So person from Kenya might not necessarily know someone from Uganda so the fellowship provides the opportunity for them to find each other in various countries So that’s been really cool as well >> Attendee: Sort of answering your question in a way In 1991 WID got the first USAID grant for a disability program It was to do leadership development with people from African countries and other under-developed I was actually one of the people that put that together so this is really exciting for me I did a lot of work with international visitors and this is leading up to a question A lot of people that I met with disabilities had acquired them as opposed to being born with them And said that the financial status of the family had lot to do with whether you even survived with your disability >> Kat: That’s absolutely right >> Attendee: The disability organizations as well Because governments change so frequently just about the time you’ve laid the seeds and begun to work with politicians they change you have to start all over again I’m really interested that there’s established organizations it sounds like now that are being run somewhat by people with disabilities As opposed to people begging on the street which has all kinds ever religious and political implications in African countries So can you talk a little bit about that, about developing organizations there? >> Kat: Sure The Mandela Fellows are clearly very driven individuals but they’re not alone They just were able to apply for this scholarship, right But clearly finding employment is extremely difficult for Africans with disabilities in general We are finding that many of these young leaders are creating their own disability organizations based on the need And again, the need has typically been helping people prepare for employment in various ways or advocacy organizations that would inform the community on their rights then hopefully lobby government in some way I think the problem with the DPOs is they are also struggling and still finding an online presence or finding a way to network with each other to become stronger has been difficult So while there are a fair amount of DPOs they’re really hidden in country, off line and so again that’s why it’s a great thing that the Mandela fellowship is here so they can meet each other and partner up That’s one of the things that WID is looking at as well how can we facilitate that process, of helping them learn about each other, network better and become a unified force in Africa That could really make some change

Thank you Any other questions? Thank you so much for coming Enjoy the rest of your day

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