On Wednesday 12 October 2016, Sightsavers Tanzania was delighted to organise an advocacy event called ‘Hear my Voice: A celebration of collaboration and inclusion’ to launch the report ‘Hear My Voice: old age and disability are not a curse’.
We were joined at the Serena Hotel in Dar es Salaam by our partners Help Age International, ADD International and the Ifakara Health Institute – all of whom contributed to the success of this important research study.
The high turnout at the event showed the significance of the report, and we were glad to welcome civil society organisations, people with disabilities, older people, representatives of the Tanzanian government and the UK Department for International Development (DFID), as well as many other people who had been involved in the project along the way.
The guest of honour was the Hon. Dr Abdallah Possi MP, the Deputy State Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office responsible for Policy, Parliamentary Affairs, Labour, Employment, Youth and People with Disabilities. He watched the presentation of our research, hearing the findings as well as the stories of our peer researchers, before responding on behalf of the government.
Central to the report was the role of our peer researchers – people from communities representing those with disabilities and older people who had been trained, and empowered, to lead the research into the issues that affected them. This methodology, already attracting attention in British research journals like the Knowledge for Disability-Inclusive Development Journal, allowed for an authentic voice to be heard and redefined our work as being done with people rather than simply tothem. Their stories – sometimes harrowing, and always deeply moving – were the centrepiece of an evening that sought to epitomise the core message of the report; that the voices of marginalised people are heard.
I was honoured to open and close the event, and welcomed speeches on behalf of HelpAge International, Ifakara Health Institute, SHIVYAWATA and DFID that highlighted the strength of our partnership on this project.
The launch was a great success but it is critical to see it as a beginning, championing the implementation of the report’s finding, rather than simply the end of an innovative project.
The full report can be downloaded in English, as well as a summary in English and Swahili with the key recommendations available. I was happy to see the launch was covered by media from across the region, as well as BBC Africa and the Tanzanian government.
Our peer researchers led the call to ‘Hear My Voice’ – the impetus is now on all of us to listen, take on board, and deliver the recommendations they have made!
To read the report: Hear My Voice: old age and disability are not a curse. For more information about the event, the report or other aspects of the study, visit www.sightsavers.org/voices.
By Gosbert Katunzi, Sightsavers’ Country Director in Tanzania, with James Hallwood, Sightsavers’ Senior Parliamentary Adviser.