In Tanzania, people with disabilities have been greatly deprived of their economic base and means of livelihood. Being unable to meet their basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter and other life essentials means they need to beg or be dependent on their families, relatives, and the community as a whole.

Basic needs for people with disabilities include self-management; use of toilet, washing, dressing, transfer from bed to the appropriate wheelchair, access into public buildings, private buildings and boarding public transportation. These are ordinary activities that able-bodied people take for granted and never think twice when performing them. However, for a person with disability, it is a gargantuan task.

When it comes to women and girls with disabilities, they have even bigger and more specific challenges. Many of them are hidden away. They aren’t included in community activities because other people think they are less useful and of less value than women and girls without disabilities.

Songambele Initiative Organization (Songambele) is a grassroots community-based organization formed and run by women with disabilities irrespective of race, culture, religion or social status. The organization started by women with disabilities in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania who faced stigma and discrimination because they are women and they have disability. Stigma attached to disability also affects access to health services, education, employment and how their communities and social groups such as the church treat women and girls with disability. When the organisation started, it served simply as a meeting support group for experience sharing and consolation.

However, since then, Songambele has strived in showing how, when they have the same opportunities, women and girls with disability can contribute to their families and communities, like every other woman. Songambele’s main purpose is to promote and encourage good health, inclusive education and wellbeing of women and girls with disabilities in Tanzania.

Many people at the organisation have suffered Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). Nowadays, sadly, since spinal cord injury is not known, it is a death sentence in Tanzania. That is because before the patients are taken to a referral hospital, they are admitted to health centres or other hospitals where doctors and other health professional have no information about spinal cord injury. Because of this, many people with SCI have lost their lives due to preventable complications like UTI and pressure sores.

This TIE project will focus on helping Songambele increase awareness of Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and disability issues among stakeholders, the overall community and health professionals.