THIS week we are looking at running disability programmes through cooperatives and encouraging persons with disabilities to form cooperative and create employment for themselves.
This is a very interesting topic and to appreciate it, we need to look back at the history of Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities.
The history dates far back as 1961 when the Northern Rhodesia Blind People’s League was born to the time of Zambia council for the handicapped.
Readers may recall that the idea of running farm centres for the disabled as cooperative is not new in Zambia, though the only question we should ask is why theUnited Nation independent party decided to take over the activities of the Zambia council for the handicapped from being a cooperative or a disabled people’s organisation run and managed by disabled themselves in which leaders were elected and not appointment by Government.
Over 30 years into the post-colonial period, there still is frantic search for alternative development paths and new roles for the State and civil society in meeting the continent’s socio-economic challenges for persons with disabilities.
The search for a new direction follows the stark failure of previous cooperatives and disabled peoples’ organisations and ideological models to propel Africa towards the structural and institutional transformations.
The search involves many Government created agencies, commissions and ministries for the purpose of service delivery to the disabled.
Until recently, the State appeared to have largely run out of steam and thinking of going back 30 years, a move which is restrogressive and against the spirit of disability Act number 6 of 2012, Part II.
The search talks about individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons; non discrimination; recognition as persons before the law; respect for physical and mental integrity; independent living; full and effective participation and inclusion in society.
If Zambia is to create an inclusive society, we should continue with what we have started and let disabled people’s organisation think of cooperative approach and not Government agency.
Further, PART III, clause 14 of disability Act provide for functions of the Agency which are to plan, promote and administer services for persons with disabilities; develop and implement measures to achieve equal opportunities for persons with disabilities by ensuring.
Disabled must obtain education and employment, participate fully in sporting, recreation and cultural activities and are afforded full access to community and social services provide and coordinate habilitation, rehabilitation, training and welfare services.
Disabled must operate schemes and projects for self employment, regular or sheltered employment, promote research into all aspects of disability; promote public awareness in all aspects of disability; cooperate with State institutions and other organisations in the provision of preventive, educational, training, employment, rehabilitation and habilitation services and other welfare services.
The Act should also recommend to any State organ or institution any measures to prevent discrimination against persons with disabilities; consultation with relevant State institutions, organisations of persons with disabilities and other civil society organisations.
It should further take appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability by any person, organisation or private enterprise; make representations on behalf of any person with disability before any State organ or institution and provide or procure legal assistance.
And register persons with disabilities, organisations of, and for, persons with disabilities and institutions rendering services to persons with disabilities; promote, directly or indirectly, the development of human resources in the prevention of disabilities and in the provision of habilitation, rehabilitation, education and training services and their general welfare.
Only if we have tried to implement above activities and programmes can we think that Government has failed its responsibilities of providing social services to its people.
Across the continent, sustainable rehabilitation of persons with disabilities is a challenge but with good laws, there is light at the end of the road so it will be wrong for any Government in Africa to promote cooperatives as a way of empowering persons with disabilities.
According to the definition by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), as well as the characteristics enunciated in the 1966 ILO’s Recommendation 127, the principal values and indicators for identifying a cooperative are:
• Self-reliance and autonomy of the cooperative enterprise and the adherence of its members to this principle;
• Group responsibility, nurtured by a spirit of mutual support;
• Equality among members in the operation and management of the cooperative enterprise;
• Equity in distribution of, and access to the benefits of the cooperative activity;
• Honesty in all transactions among cooperative members, and between the cooperative and third parties;
• Autonomy of action and choices; and
• Social responsibility
The practical expression and validity of these values are anchored in the universal principles of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA).
From the foregoing, a cooperative can be described as: a distinct mutualist association, organisation or group with a varied capital and membership base, democratic in its management practice, and which is distinctly different from but this will not fit well with our disabled friend because it has failed before and chances are that it will fail again:
As against the foregoing merits, the co-operatives suffer from the following drawbacks and limitations, which prevent from securing benefits of such merits to the maximum extent: Disabled and other socially disadvantaged people (regardless of gender) should be encouraged and supported to become members of existing cooperatives, or to initiate new ones that are relevant to their potentials and needs.
The co-operatives are launched by economically weaker sections of society. The shares are generally persons may associate it these societies.
The resources of co-operatives are limited to the extent of capital contributed by the members and fund raising capacity from stated cooperative banks.
From our experience donors are not ready to support cooperatives for the disabled which are completely independent from Government for the reasons of transparency and accountability.
The co-operative societies are not self sustainable because of their limited resources, are unable to secure the services of efficient managers.
They manage the society by its members who lacks managerial or professional skills and we must not risk again as country.
In efficient management may not bring greater success over a period of time but promote disability politic on how becomes a leader.
The other problem is that members are drawn from different sections of the society. There may be lack of harmony among them.
The members do not understand the working of the societies, so they start doubting each other. Some members lack interest in the affairs of the society and leave everything to the paid officials.
Co-operation brings an end to the feeling of individual self-interest.
But men are selfish by nature. Therefore, generally the members lack motivation to work more.
Most of the time ‘every body’ responsibility becomes no bodies’ responsibility therefore we advise that Government continue to run centres for the disabled and provided sheltered employment to the disabled not only in Zambia but Africa as whole stay blessed and looking forward to your feedback.
For your letters please send to us on P.O. BOX 34490 Lusaka, Zambia or use our South African Address.
[The author is Regional Disability policy Analyst for SADC and Inclusive Development Advisor for Centre for Disability Development Research, Law and Policy, Johannesburg. Project Office, P.O. BOX 1981 New Castle, 2940 South Africa]