SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities
Every child has the right to be included. Irrespective of their age, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic status, children, just like adults, should not be treated differently or unfairly because of who they are.
There is little data on the prevalence of disability in Africa, let alone disability among children in Africa. The prevalence of adult disability at a global scale is estimated at about 15.4 percent of the general population, and 2.2 percent of the total population estimated to have very significant difficulties.1
What we do know is that in Africa, children with disabilities are often socially excluded, deprived of their right to education and face significant barriers to achieving their full potential in life due to stigma surrounding disability—and this needs to change.1. World Health Organization (2011). World Report on Disability (p. 27-28).
In Chad, a lack of understanding about disabilities often results in children being marginalized, abandoned, hidden away or even killed. Appalled by the way disabled children were being treated, Change Leader Adoumkidjim Naiban founded a social enterprise called CESER Tchad, the first centre in Chad to support children with disabilities. In the centre the children are offered opportunities to develop to their full potential and become valued, contributing members of society. They receive education, vocational trainings, and take enjoy playing sports, and taking up creative hobbies such as playing an instrument.
Before Adoumkidjim was selected to join the incubator, he was successfully running a centre in the capital N’Djamena but was struggling to scale. “Setting up operations in other cities was very expensive and we did not have neither the resources nor the strategy,” he says. The need for CESER to scale was significant; recent studies on prevalence of disabilities in Chad estimate that between 12 percent (Cornell University, 2013) and 21 percent (WHO, 2011) of adults are affected.
To address the challenge, Reach for Change advisory staff supported Adoumkidjim to develop a feasible strategy. The resulting plan was for Adoumkidjim to set up a national network of local associations lead by parents of children with disabilities. The parents would be recruited to raise awareness and educate community members, to reduce stigma and hurtful practices.
In order to enable the recruitment of parents, Reach for Change supported Adoumkidjim with unrestricted grant funding which allowed him to travel around the country with an awareness raising campaign. During six months he worked relentlessly to make parents realize their misconceptions about children with disabilities and mobilize them to take on the role as managers of local network associations.
“I could not have managed this without the support of Reach for Change,” says Adoukidjim.
In 2017, CESER worked through parent-led associations in as many as twelve cities to reduce the stigma attached to disabilities. This country-wide establishment has contributed to Adoumkidjim being recognized as a leading expert and authority on disability by the Chadian government, a position which gives him the opportunity to lobby for changes in the surrounding the problem. Adoumkidjim shares some of the progress he’s been able to make towards creating his ultimate goal of societal transformation:
“Previously, children with disabilities were not actively included in the World Children’s Day events and activities, but thanks to a shift in mindset the government is now keen to have them be part. Advancements like these are key milestones on the path towards shifting the mentality of the entire Chadian society.”
Another opportunity that has materialized for Adoumkidjim since CESER’s expansion, is being invited on a regular basis to speak on the radio about children with disabilities. In a country where 65 percent of the adult population is illiterate (UNICEF, 2012), radio broadcasting is a key communication channel and a powerful means for Adoumkidjim to impact societal attitudes in the rural parts of Chad.
During 2017, CESER provided direct support to as many as 1,359 Chadian children with disabilities and impacted countless other children through its efforts to reduce stigma about disability in Chad.
Messie is a 7-year-old boy with multiple disabilities, including mobility impairment of the hands and legs and developmental disabilities. Messie was completely dependent upon his parents to move, eat, get dressed, etc. and he struggled to articulate words. As a result, he had difficulty communicating, which was extremely frustrating for the young child.
Due to the stigma against disability in Chad, Messie’s parents were isolated and had few resources to help them in caring for Messie. They had little support in terms of ensuring that his developmental, educational and physical needs were being met. When Messie’s parents heard about CESER, they wondered if it might be just what Messie needed.
Messie was enrolled in the 2016-2017 school year and, thanks to specialized care and attention, after just a couple of months, he started to experience a change. Messie was able to do more things by himself, he started to speak and began to experience more mobility.
Today, Messie can eat on his own, play ball and he has made cherished friendships with other children at the center. The teachers at CESER have also started to decoding his language and he can now articulate a few words and write some letters.
The greatest pleasure of all, Adoumkidjim says, is “to see Messie blossoming and sharing his joy with others, thanks to CESER."
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