|Sustainable Development and Persons with Disabilities: The Process of Self-Empowerment (African Development Foundation, 1995, 117 pages)|
|Section II: Building economic self-reliance|
|Chapter 5: Building economic self-reliance|
Disabled people sometimes feel that they are discriminated against by the donor community. A participant at the Entebbe Workshop asked this question:
Why is it always emphasised that the development of
PWDs should be undertaken in groups, yet the able-bodied develop as
Implied here is indeed a subtle form of discrimination against the disabled. They are assumed not to be capable of handling matters "on their own." They must either have somebody to hold their hands (the charity model), or they must hold each others' hands (the group model). Of course, there is nothing wrong in working in groups. On the contrary, group work has certain definite advantages. The workshop itself identified some of these:
· Groups are important particularly for certain kinds of projects which would otherwise be difficult to be undertaken by individuals, such as fence-making.
· Furthermore, group projects enable people with different disabilities to complement one another's strong points and to compensate for their drawbacks.
· Group work promotes social integration and recognition in the community. Thus, they are most suitable for CBR projects.
· Team work allows for the emergence of new ideas.
· It enables people to acquire leadership qualities, people who need to be constantly accountable to their peer group.
· Group efforts are generally more sustainable, and, if well run, have a higher level of continuity and possibilities of expansion.
· Finally, but not least, group work embodies the spirit of solidarity. A united force can lobby better for changes in the policies and practices of the government, the community, the NGOs, and other stakeholders.
All these advantages of group work are well known and appreciated. What the Entebbe participants were op posed to was the idea that PWDs can only work in groups. They were challenging the general tendency on the part of donors to insist on PWDs to form themselves into groups before they could be supported. One of the donor representatives at the workshop explained it thus:
Donors generally prefer to fund groups because limited resources would this way benefit more people. Furthermore, group projects cater a wider community, and a wide range of skills and abilities are tapped and utilised. Issues like equity, capacity building and management are taken care of In funding an individual, there is no assurance that capacity building would be achieved. There are, of course, some advantages of individual projects, such as, quick decision making and individual recognition. But the disadvantages are that these individual projects tend to have limited life span, and could be exploitative of the workers.
The workshop participants themselves identified the following as specific advantages of individual projects:
The Advantages of Individual Projects
· They are directly related to the needs of the individual.
· They are less risky.
· There is high level of commitment and motivation in individual projects.
· There are less legal implications and difficulties.
And they relayed the following negative experiences many of them had in working through group projects:
Disadvantages of Group Projects
· Divergent needs by different members; some needs are left out when people have to work in groups.
· More risks due to divergence among members.
· Some members lack commitment. Selfishness of some members who want to get more from the project compared to what they put in it. Group projects are burdened by more "observers" and fewer participators. This can result in meagre output because actual contribution is only from a few people.
· Lack of legal contract among group members can create problems.
· Newly formed groups do not understand what it means to work as a group and to take collective decisions.
· Some groups start projects which are not related to their physical and mental abilities. As a result, they are frustrated during implementation and finally the project is abandoned.
· Financial mismanagement and accountability is a constant headache.
· Lack of unity among participants.
· Poor division of labour whereby some leaders tend to personalize projects.
Of course, the debate is inconclusive. This is one of those issues where it is unwise to be rigid. Much depends on the concrete circumstances of each situation. Remember our analogy of the street map - only the inhabitants know the terrain, the byways and highways. From the outside we need to keep an open mind about various possibilities.
The workshop itself recommended that individual as well as group projects should both be promoted. The donor representative who earlier gave the reasons why her organization generally favoured the group approach went on to add, however, that in recent times it was now moving in the direction of supporting qualified individual micro-projects, not directly, but through intermediary (NGOs) The ILO representative at the workshop added that recently there has been a tendency in his organization also to advocate funding individuals rather than groups because of the problems experienced in group funding.
There we are. It is an open field. For certain purposes and in certain situations, there is no question that the group approach is ideal. But there is no reason why highly motivated individuals should not be encouraged to plough their own furrows. The objectives of the next four chapters is to look at general issues that concern both groups and individuals when they get into income generating projects.
However, before we end this chapter, there is an important issue that must be addressed. This is the question of gender and class in relation to strategies aimed at enabling the PWDs to be self-reliant.