Disability is not an inability

Last updated: Thu, 09/20/2012 - 18:11

Lawrence Makiyi lives in Chitalo village, in Malawi’s Kalembo Balaka district. He is 47 year old, is happily married with four children and he is a person with a disability. In Malawian society, for the most part, people with disabilities are viewed as beggars as they must rely on the constant help of other.  The majority of disabled people in Malawian society are forced to beg to obtain food to sustain themselves and rarely participate in development in the community.   Due to the already significant challenges in their lives, the issues of hygiene and sanitation tend to fall behind and it is the norm for the majority of people even with disabilities to participate in open defecation. 

Though Lawrence is a person with a disability, he is doing work that some able-bodied people fail to do. He does farming work and above all participates fully in the development of his village. When Chitalo village was being triggered by the Global Sanitation Fund’s programme, he participated with strong interest and enthusiasm.  After impressing the team of facilitators he was chosen as one of the natural leaders of the village to lead in the fight against open defecation in the village – a key development issue.

Perhaps even more impressively, he then went onto to construct a beautiful pit latrine that has a well-made drop hole cover and a foot operated hand washing facility for his family members as well as a modified hand washing facility for himself. After noticing his keen interest in the GSF programme activities, Mr Makiyi was identified and trained as a mason and small scale business entrepreneur, in order to assist him with making a variety of drop hole covers and hand washing facilities to sell to other community members.   Since the training, Mr. Makiyi has been constructing and selling drop hole covers for pit latrines and is helping local community members to erect hand washing facilities at a fee to assist with maintaining his business. Mr. Makiyi’s business has been doing very well, so much so that people from neighboring villages buy his goods.  

In the past, community members were hesitant to invest money in any form of  hygiene and sanitation, however, following awareness-raising campaigns and realizing  the benefits of having and using proper sanitation and hygiene facilities, community members are now willing to invest in such facilities. Mr. Makiyi is working hard to change the mind-set of community members. With the help of Lawrence, people of Chitalo village are striving to live in an ODF environment where diarrheal diseases are a thing of the past. Indeed this goes to show that disability is indeed not an inability!