Opinion

How GGML makes a difference to people with disabilities in Geita

The gold mine is dismantling a web of discrimination and harmful myths viewed through a distorted lens that sees children with disabilities as cursed or commodities for acquiring wealth.

MONDAY April 15, 2024

Data collection can provide a number of persons with disabilities in a certain location and indicate barriers they face. Data can determine necessary policies and programmes for eradicating the barriers. PHOTO | EUD

By Deus Bugaywa

The Tranquillity News Correspondent, Tanzania

Against the scenic backdrop of Tanzania’s Geita Region, a heart-warming story of transformation is unfolding, charting a new course for inclusivity and empowerment.

The hero of the story, Geita Gold Mine Limited (GGML), a subsidiary of AngloGold Ashanti, in a commendable partnership with the Catholic Diocese of Geita and the World Gold Council, has embarked on a mission to uplift people with disabilities and orchestrate a pivotal shift in societal perceptions.

The $99,200 worth two-year project, entitled Dispel Deadly Myths Against Children with Disability, is already leaving an indelible mark on the community, resolutely challenging long-held stigmas and opening doors to unprecedented opportunities for disabled people.

For too long, children with disabilities in Geita have been caught in a web of discrimination and harmful myths, viewed through a distorted lens that sees them as cursed or even as commodities for acquiring wealth.

These beliefs, according to project coordinator Joseph Massawe, have been the bane of these children’s existence, robbing them of their rights and dignity.

PHOTO | DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION SPEAKERS

“Through this initiative, GGML and the Catholic Church seek to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities at all levels of society and development, and to raise awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of political, social, economic and cultural life,” says Massawe.

The GGML’s initiative aims at dismantling destructive narratives through a comprehensive education campaign, fostering a more inclusive society that recognises and celebrates the abilities and potential of every individual, regardless of his physical or mental condition.

The impact of the project is particularly evident at the Moyo wa Huruma Centre, where a safe haven for children with disabilities demonstrates the transformative power of care, education and support.

Here, children, who might otherwise have been marginalised, are now thriving, their talents and skills enriching the wider community.

The success stories emanating from the centre are a testament to the project’s holistic approach, which goes beyond education to include psychosocial wellbeing, health care and improved access to services, and paints a brighter future for people with disabilities in Geita Region, Tanzania.

Through this initiative, GGML and the Catholic Church seek to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities at all levels of society and development, and to raise awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of political, social, economic and cultural life,” John Massawe, Coordinator of Dispel Deadly Myths Against Children with Disability project.

As the world continues to grapple with health inequalities, the initiative in Geita stands as a beacon of hope, underscoring how targeted interventions can bridge gaps and herald a more equitable and inclusive future.

In a world that often overlooks needs of people with disabilities, GGML’s work is a wake-up call, inspiring others to follow suit and stand up for the rights and well-being of every individual.

In the tranquil yet vibrant landscapes of Geita, a region in the heart of Tanzania, a partnership has blossomed, marking the dawn of a new era for people with disabilities.

This transformative alliance, led by GGML in collaboration with the Catholic Diocese of Geita and supported by the World Gold Council, is lighting the way to inclusivity and empowerment for a community that for far too long has lingered in the shadows of misunderstanding and prejudice.

The seeds of this partnership were sown with a shared vision: To challenge and change entrenched attitudes towards disability in Geita Region, Tanzania.

The cornerstone of this mission is a robust initiative known as Dispel Deadly Myths Against Children with Disabilities.

This project, generously funded to the tune of $99,200 over two years, harnesses the strengths of its staff to embark on a journey of education, identification and support for people with disabilities.

It is a call to arms to advocate for better services, opportunities and equal rights, reflecting a united stance against injustices facing this community.

Tailored to dispel the misconceptions surrounding disability, this project not only champions the cause of education and awareness, but also actively engages in identifying those in need and extending a helping hand.

The goal is crystal clear: To foster a society in which people with disabilities are seen, valued and given the opportunity for thriving on an equal footing.

At the heart of Geita’s social fabric are harmful misconceptions about disability, a plight steeped in myths and misconceptions that have dictated the narrative around this marginalised group for generations.

The reality in Geita reflects a serious misinterpretation of disability, whereby children with different abilities are viewed through a lens of despair and as a curse.

This distorted perception has led families to hide their children or, worse, to believe in the gruesome myth that the body parts of these vulnerable people can be used for gaining wealth.

It is a landscape where an individual’s innate worth is overshadowed by ignorance and fear, perpetuating a cycle of exclusion and devaluation.

The fabric of Geita society is woven with myths that cast a long shadow over the lives of people with disabilities, sowing the seeds of discrimination and abuse.

Police officer Joseph Kessy (wearing a black T-shirt) poses for a picture with children at Moyo wa Huruma Centre in Geita Region, Tanzania. The centre has embarked on a Dispel Deadly Myths Against Children with Disability project. PHOTO | RADIO TADIO

These myths, deeply rooted in the collective psyche, paint a bleak picture in which people with disabilities are seen less as members of the community than as burdens or objects of superstition.

Such attitudes not only deprive individuals of their rights and dignity, but also contribute to a culture of alienation and harm, paving way for practices that dehumanise and marginalise rather than empower and include.

GGML’s journey, in partnership with the Catholic Church and the World Gold Council, is a reminder of the incredible progress that can be made when communities come together to challenge the status quo.

By tackling stigma and discrimination head on, this partnership is not only changing lives, it is rewriting the narrative around disability in Geita, fostering a future where every individual is seen, valued and empowered.

For far too long, the lives of disabled people in Geita have been clouded by stigma and prejudice. However, the proactive efforts of GGML and its partners are setting a new precedent by empowering these individuals through comprehensive education and support.

A central market in Geita township, Tanzania, where social fabrics are laden with harmful misconceptions about disability, with myths dictating the narrative around this marginalised group for ages. PHOTO | GEITA TOWN COUNCIL

This initiative is not just about changing perceptions; it is about equipping the disabled community with tools they need for them to thrive.

Through educational campaigns, GGML and its partners are dispelling the damaging myths that have long isolated disabled people, emphasising that disability does not mean inability.

These campaigns are a powerful message to the community, urging them to look beyond disability and recognise the potential that lies within every individual.

The Geita Gold Mine Kilimanjaro Challenge Against HIV/AIDS and the Geita District Council established the Moyo wa Huruma Orphanage in Geita in 2004.

The centre, which is run through a tetra partnership between GGML, the Catholic Diocese of Geita, Geita District Council and Geita Town Council, has been operating as a residential centre since 2006, providing care, shelter and a range of opportunities for children with disabilities, changing lives in profound ways.

A Catholic Church in Geita Diocese is collaborating with Geita Gold Mine Limited, Geita District Council and Geita Town Council in running Moyo wa Huruma Centre were Dispel Deadly Myths Against Children with Disability project takes care of children with disabilities. PHOTO | DAILY NEWS

One of the centre’s greatest triumphs is the remarkable success story of educational integration. With 156 children under its wing, the Moyo wa Huruma Centre has successfully enrolled many in various levels of education – from primary and secondary school to technical colleges and special education programmes.

More than just a place to learn, the Moyo wa Huruma Centre provides something equally important – a home for children, who might otherwise have ended up on the streets.

The centre provides a safe haven, but it is more than just a shelter, it is about giving these children a platform for building a better future.

Through mentoring, access to education and vocational training, the centre gives them the skills and confidence to forge meaningful paths in life.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on partners around the world to take action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for, with and by people with disabilities.

People with disabilities have the right to harness their full potentials in life. The society is, therefore, duty bound to guard their rights. PHOTO | DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION SPEAKERS

More than 1.3 billion people have a significant disability today, representing 16 per cent of the world’s population.

Many persons with disabilities die earlier, are at an increased risk of developing a range of health conditions, and experience more limitations in daily functioning than the rest of the population.

The work being done in Geita, led by GGML and its partners, is a shining example of how they are taking action, showing how compassion, collaboration and commitment can transform lives.

For people with disabilities in the region, these initiatives are not just changing perceptions – they are opening doors to a world of opportunity where their abilities are recognised and celebrated.

In Geita, the collaborative efforts of GGML, the Catholic Diocese of Geita and the World Gold Council are not only addressing immediate needs, they are boldly paving way for a future where inclusion and equality are not just ideals, but realities.

Participants in a beauty pageant visit orphans at Moyo wa Huruma Centre in Geita Region, Tanzania, in 2014. PHOTO | MALUNDE BLOG

This initiative is a beacon of hope, it is possible for communities to come together to support some of their most vulnerable members.

The project takes a comprehensive approach towards breaking down barriers people with disabilities face, tackling head-on the multi-faceted challenges of health inequalities and social injustice.

Here is how this initiative is creating ripples of positive change:

Education and awareness

Through a concerted effort to educate the community, the project is essentially rewriting the narrative surrounding disability.

It is confronting the harmful myths and superstitions head-on, changing societal perceptions and fostering an environment where disabled children can thrive as equal members of society.

Ms Anne Wafula-Strike, the founder of the Olympia-Wafula Foundation, advocated for the rights of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. PHOTO | UN

Empowerment through education

Education has been a key pillar of the project, as evidenced by statistics from the Moyo wa Huruma centre.

With a significant number of children now enrolled in various levels of education, from primary to special needs, the project underlines the transformative power of access to education.

It is a clear message that, with the right support, people with disabilities have much to contribute to the community.

Access to healthcare

Recognising the essential role of health in empowerment, the project ensures children with disabilities receive the necessary health assessments and support.

By facilitating access to specialist medical assessments and providing essential aids such as walkers for mobility or canes for the visually impaired, the initiative addresses critical gaps in healthcare.

The World Gold Council (WGC), a membership-based body that acts as a market development organisation for the global gold industry, is funding Dispel Deadly Myths Against Children with Disability project at Moyo wa Huruma Centre in Geita Region, Tanzania. PHOTO | WGC

This not only improves the quality of life for these children, but also integrates them more fully into the social fabric.

Inclusion in vocational education

Beyond basic education, the initiative aims at equipping these young people with practical skills to eke out a living.

The emphasis on vocational training paves way for them to lead independent and productive lives, challenging the stigma that disability equals inability.

Community impact

This project extends its benefits far beyond the immediate recipients, helping to break the cycle of poverty and prevent the marginalisation that drives children onto the streets.

By providing a lifeline to these children, GGML and its partners are fostering a stronger, more resilient community.

Eleven global indicators monitor implementation of Sustainable Development Goals with reference to persons with disabilities in areas of poverty eradication, education, employment, reducing inequalities, sustainable and inclusive cities and peaceful and inclusive societies. PHOTO | EUD

At its heart, this pioneering project in Geita is laying the foundations for a society that upholds the dignity and rights of all its members, regardless of ability.

It is a testament to the power of collaboration in tackling root causes of health inequalities and social injustice, and proves that when we work together, a more inclusive and just future is within our reach.

As we reflect on the powerful journey the GGML has initiated, its collaboration with the Catholic Diocese of Geita, and the crucial support of the World Gold Council, the progress in Geita will undoubtedly be profound.

The $99,200 worth initiative to dispel harmful myths and promote inclusivity for people with disabilities is a beacon of hope and change.

The transformation witnessed within the community is a testament to what can be achieved through commitment and collaboration.

Peace Day Celebrations in Monrovia, Liberia, included a football match between Liberia’s top amputee football players in September 2008. PHOTO | UNMIL

For too long, people with disabilities in Geita have been shrouded in stigma and excluded due to deep-rooted misconceptions.

Today, thanks to GGML’s efforts, these individuals are seen as valuable members of the community, capable of making a significant contribution to society.

The initiative will impact education, healthcare and social inclusion. Children with disabilities will be given the opportunity for pursuing their educational dreams at primary, secondary and even at technical schools.

This educational empowerment will be just one piece of the puzzle. The project also aims at addressing crucial areas such as access to healthcare and psychosocial wellbeing, ensuring a holistic approach to community development.

The impact of this initiative will go beyond the immediate beneficiaries. It will promote a more inclusive society and hopefully create a model that can be replicated in other regions.

The Geita Gold Mine Limited-led initiative of prioritising the rights and wellbeing of people with disabilities aims at making a positive impact and offering a roadmap for others to follow, promising a future where being disabled is no longer synonymous with being disregarded. PHOTO | GGML

This initiative is a call to action for stakeholders everywhere to prioritise the rights and wellbeing of people with disabilities, proving that when we unite for a common good, change is within our reach.

In a world that often overlooks the needs of the most vulnerable, Geita’s story is a powerful reminder of what is possible when compassion, action and collaboration come together.

As this GGML-led initiative continues unfolding, it aims at making a positive impact and offering a roadmap for others to follow, promising a future where being disabled is no longer synonymous with being disregarded. Together we can build a more inclusive world, one community at a timeΩ

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