Economic inclusion is an important first step in ensuring that a person living with a disability is exposed to support groups or training that can help improve their situation.
Running a business from home is popular with entrepreneurs, for reasons such as convenience, cost savings, and flexibility. For those affected by health issues and disabilities, a home environment can also provide the freedom and flexibility they need to run a successful business.
In the Solomon Islands, only a fraction of people living with disabilities (PLWD) work in formal employment and businesses.
According to a recent study by Accenture (2018), for a high percentage (59%) of companies worldwide, it costs absolutely nothing to adapt to the use of PLWD, while for the rest it does not. typically costs only USD 500 per disabled employee. On the other hand, the same study reveals that there are innumerable benefits to employing PLWDs, including: increased innovation, improved shareholder value, improved productivity, access to the supplier ecosystem, higher market and a better reputation.
Solomon Islands’ economy is highly dependent on aid funds and other donor partners, but there is a lack of support and recognition of the potential of local businesses. People with disabilities in the Solomon Islands can do much to lead the way.
For some, it is their determination to overcome the challenges that come with disability that fuels their desire to run their own business.
Diana Maáhoro, 40, became interested in artistic creation. Full of creative ideas, she was able to make arts and crafts with cement, dye lava, and create homemade bracelets and rings.
“Navigating strong ideas and creativity in a space where you find discrimination and demotivation is challenging, but as long as I survive my passion, it’s worth listening to any negativity,” she said. .
Kennedy Bontah, a 27 year old young man from Makira province, is passionate about carpentry although he has a foot disability. His vision is to ensure that he can be a resourceful person in his family.
Kennedy was raised in the center of Risu. With the strong support of his family, he completed his formal education at Campbell Community High School in 2011 and then successfully completed further education at Bedestha DTSC.
He spent his holidays busy with his mini carpentry business, proving to everyone that he can do it.
“I graduated last year and can’t wait to create more furniture and homes to earn money for my other eight siblings.”
Experts working on the ground say that Solomon Islands has many human resources in the circle of people living with disabilities, but they are not properly included.
The head of the Solomon Islands Association of Disabled People’s Office, Casper Faásala, made it clear that businesses and other stakeholders should look at the capabilities that people with disabilities have to offer.
“You would think that these people are not capable of such jobs but we don’t understand their strength.
“Always think of us people with disabilities when you have the chance and that’s why we need everyone to fight for inclusion,” he said.
Strongim Bisnis has launched a new initiative that will improve opportunities for people with disabilities in the Solomon Islands and this is seen as a way forward.
“Strongim Bisnis also places a strong emphasis on promoting social inclusion through its interventions and we also have targeted activities for the economic inclusion of people living with disabilities (PLWD), including our partnership with Pasifiki HR “, said Gianluca Nardi, Women’s Economic Empowerment and Social Inclusion Director.
According to Strongim Bisnis’ analysis, the main issues affecting PLWD in the Solomon Islands are: the average minimum level of basic skills, mobility, stigma and, depending on the level and type of disability, communication skills and undeveloped social skills.
According to a report for UNICEF Pacific’s 2010 mid-term report, in the Solomon Islands, the lack of inclusion starts early. Only 2% of children with disabilities attend primary school, 1% attend secondary school and less than 1% attend upper secondary school. Limited school attendance is a factor limiting economic opportunities for PLWDs, but there are excellent examples of skilled PLWDs being successfully employed or self-employed.
Peter Aho, Acting School Principal of DTSC’s Bethesda Disability Training Support Center, believes that PLWD need this formal education if they are to have opportunities for independence and financial stability.
“We give a lot of these special people options in their education because we know these people have the potential, that they can change society and making a living is what we look forward to,” explained Mr. Aho. .
There are only three facilities in Honiara and none in the provinces, and none of them can keep up with demand. Jiope Iputu, director of the Red Cross school, observed the same challenges.
“We have fewer resources, we only have basic education services for these children, and whatever capacity we have, we have to be creative and smart to ensure that students learn something every day” , said Iputu.
Founder of Millicent Designs, Millicent Barty highlights the benefits of working with people with disabilities.
“I really think that opportunities, especially for our most vulnerable groups such as women, youth and especially people with disabilities, are somewhat overlooked, and discrimination is one of the main factors,” he said. -she adds.
Ms. Barty says her experience working with PLWD has been positive, with her colleagues demonstrating a quality work ethic and dedication.
“[We were] get them to support the 2019 National General Elections by sealing and sticking our civic awareness booklets on bags of rice (over 400,000) for distribution nationwide.
“They were great! And I wish it wasn’t based on a project [with a start and end date]but economic activity continues,” Ms. Barty said.
Although the constitution of the Solomon Islands mentions inclusiveness, unfortunately this has not translated into inclusive policies, especially in the area of employment. Solomon Islands has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Elsie Taloafiri, head of community-based rehabilitation at the Department of Health and Medical Services, says the Department of Health is working with other line ministries to review the disability policy before handing it over. to executives for further consideration.
“The inclusion of people with disabilities is one of the main objectives of the policy,” Taloafiri said.
Marella Paleka, 29 and Coordinator for Women and Girls with Disabilities, shares her experience as a market vendor and how it shows there is still work to be done to truly include PLWD.
“Business is not just about selling food…it’s the only way to make money to survive.
“I was born with my physical disability and for me trying to pursue other opportunities was quite difficult. Discrimination, stigma and belittlement[ment] is what i get every day.
“I wish we could be treated fairly with all other professionals,” she said.
Advocates say the government can help improve the livelihoods of PLWD by promoting inclusion through policies and practices. Start by embedding inclusion in education – redesign the curriculum and train teachers to support people with disabilities – and help build the capacity of individuals the economy needs.
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