Youths with disabilities struggle to get start-up finance

Young people with disabilities are struggling to get access to funds to help them start in business.

Disabled doesn’t mean unable, says Gamuchirai Matangirwa of the Leonard Cheshire Disability Trust.
Disabled doesn’t mean unable, says Gamuchirai Matangirwa of the Leonard Cheshire Disability Trust.

According to Gamuchirai Matangirwa from Leonard Cheshire Disability Zimbabwe Trust, programmes such as the youth fund are difficult to access for young people with disabilities.

“The problem is that we are denied loans from the youth fund because of the perception that we are disabled and therefore unable. Those of us who have applied are referred to social welfare but there is no money at the social welfare,” Matangirwa said.

She said one disabled youth borrowed bus fare to come to Harare to collect the social welfare money but “was only left with enough money to buy a box of matches” after repaying the debt.

The government gives $20 monthly to disabled people who are registered through the social welfare department.

“The money is not only little, but difficult to access as well. Government is also not being supportive of private organisations willing to assist,” she said.

She said a number of youths were trained in making jewellery, bags, electrical gadgets and preparing business plans at Leonard Cheshire so that after finishing vocational training they can access capital to start their own projects

Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust director Lucy Mazingi said that the voices of the disabled were not being heard.

“People assume that we are all able-bodied. You need to plan, budget and put resources in place because there are different disabilities as well,” Mazingi said.

YETT’s development consultant, Tinashe Gumbo, last week reminded members of the parliamentary portfolio committee on youth, indigenisation and economic empowerment that it was the responsibility of the government to create opportunities for all young people, including those with disabilities.

He said that, according to the constitution, youths should be afforded opportunities for employment and other avenues to economic empowerment as well as opportunities for recreational activities.

He said that youth empowerment and participation in national processes remained limited while unemployment and lack of access to national resources continued to be the central challenge.

Gumbo said the government should partner with civil society and the private sector to provide quality training that cultivated business ethics, business management and managerial skills among graduates at vocational training centres

“It is critical for the government to first take thorough stock of the previous youth schemes under the indigenisation process to assess the effectiveness of the same in future,” he said.

He deplored poor dissemination of important information on national policies and programmes, saying it had resulted in misdirecting important schemes.

“For example, youths in the rural provinces are largely unaware of the various youth financing schemes outlined in the successive national budgets,” Gumbo said.

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