Tanzania project breaks new ground for unions


A unique project – backed by international trade unions – aims to promote the employment rights of disabled people in Tanzania.

The pilot programme will find jobs for 20 disabled people, while training existing trade union members in Tanzania to be “disability champions” in the workplace.

It will also deliver training on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to 100 disabled people and about 20 disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) in Tanzania.

The project is being run by the charity Disability Aid Abroad (DAA) which is based in Northern Ireland and chaired by disabled journalist John Coghlan.

He said the scheme aimed to build the capacity of DPOs in Tanzania and empower DPOs and individual disabled people to understand and demand their rights.

It is believed to be the first time that international trade unions have worked to protect the employment rights of disabled workers in developing countries.

The employment part of the scheme will start in January 2011, with the training of the disability champions starting next month.

The project has secured the financial backing of the TUC in the UK, NIC-ICTU, the umbrella organisation for trade unions in Ireland, other unions in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and AFL-CIO, a federation of 56 US labour unions.

Two members of the Tanzanian trade union TUICO will visit London and Belfast in late November to receive “disability champions” training from the TUC and NIC-ICTU, while Coghlan hopes there will be further exchange visits between the UK and Ireland and Tanzania.

UK and Irish unions have so far raised £28,000 of the £42,000 needed to fund the project.

Coghlan hopes the scheme – which will be run in partnership with local trade unions and community organisations – will challenge the stigma surrounding disability in Tanzania.

Disabled people in Tanzania also face inaccessible transport and workplaces, with less than five per cent of disabled people in paid jobs, while only about five per cent of disabled children attend secondary school.

Coghlan said: “The legislation is already there in Tanzania. It is just not being implemented.”

The training will be carried out in Tanzania by the Northern Ireland charity Disability Action.

The project has also secured the backing of the Tanzanian government, and the European Union has signalled that it could roll it out across Tanzania.

If the project is successful, DAA hopes it will be used as a template for trade unions to run similar projects in other developing countries.

To contact John Coghlan, email [email protected]

2 August 2010