We Are Able! is a five-year project that aims to empower people with disabilities in Central Africa to the extent that they can fully participate in society. In this project, six aid organisations from the Netherlands and Central Africa work together with people with disabilities and their representatives. The programme is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is now, during the corona crisis, extra relevant.

It is often quite a challenge for people with disabilities in developing countries to make a living. The corona crisis makes it even more difficult. Recent research by local partners of the SeeYou Foundation shows that 43% of Ugandan people with disabilities can only survive this crisis with the support of their friends, neighbors and relatives. We Are Able! wants to enable people with disabilities to stand up for their own rights and thus gain access to basic services – even in times of crisis. The implementation will take place in six countries: Burundi, DR Congo, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda. The programme is part of the Power of Voices Partnerships for Strengthening Civil Society and is granted EUR 34 million by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Left out

We Are Able! was set up by the African Disability Forum, SeeYou foundation, Leprazending, VNG International, The Hague Academy for Local Governance and ZOA. Rhonda Eikelboom, head of ZOA’s programme department, emphasizes the importance of focusing on people with disabilities: “These are people who are often excluded and do not have access to basic services such as food and sanitary facilities. They are literally not seen.’’ Again, the corona crisis intensifies the negative spiral that many people find themselves in. Country Director Sophia Mohammed of Light for the World South Sudan said: “Since the corona crisis, we have seen an increasing number of cases of extreme malnutrition in children and adults with disabilities here in the camps around Juba.”

Shifting responsibilities

We Are Able! is carried out with local organisations in African countries. Eikelboom: “We have opted for an innovative approach in which the programme is developed from the outset in close collaboration with local organisations, in particular interest representatives of people with disabilities. Over time, responsibility for the content and results of the work increasingly shifts to these African organisations.” Ultimately, this work should lead to societal changes in the six countries where the programme is implemented. So that people with disabilities are also heard, have a voice in decision-making processes and have access to basic facilities.

Exchange knowledge and experience

Access to basic services for people with disabilities is a challenge, not only in Central Africa. Representatives of people with a disability are also making efforts to this end in the Netherlands. Within the programme, a number of local “inclusive municipalities” and organisations such as Ieder (in) and the Oogvereniging will exchange their experiences with their colleagues in Central Africa.

#1 ranking score

SeeYou is excited to have been awarded a #1 ranking score by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the We Are Able! Programme, developed in cooperation with ZOA (lead agency) the African Disability Forum, the Leprosy Mission, VNG International and The Hague Academy for Local Governance. The programme is part of the Power of Voices Partnerships for Strengthening Civil Society and will be implemented together with local partners in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda. 

We Are Able! focuses on lobby and advocacy by and for people with disabilities and other marginalized groups to increase their access to basic resources such as land and water. We are able! will be working with individuals directly as well as through their representative organisations, such as Disabled People Organisations (DPOs). Formal and informal authorities at local, national and international level will be involved to promote dialogue and a conducive enabling environment for change that ensures food security for those most at need in countries affected by conflict as well as by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are looking forward to developing the details of this programme over the coming months together with our partners.