With the UK Aid Match programme, we helped decision-makers understand the importance of accessibility and accessible infrastructures. The programme was one of the first to pilot Sightsavers’ accessibility audit toolkit. Before this project, we did not have any interventions that considered accessibility. So we started to train the regional health management teams on accessibility audits. We used the audit tool in 14 facilities to identify whether the buildings were accessible and whether staff could communicate in an accessible way.
After this, we renovated two buildings, which are now used as model facilities for the government to copy. Whenever they build any eye health infrastructure or building, they now know they need to consider what’s required so that the building can be accessible. As a result of this, the disability unit at the prime minister’s office has asked us to work with them to help the government develop its own accessibility audit tool. This has all come about through the programme.
We have also helped the prime minister’s office to implement the National Disability Act by supporting the training of disability committee members at village level.
Ensuring gender inclusion
To make sure women were not excluded from the programme, we worked in partnership with Tanzania Gender Network to provide training, develop training manuals and liaise with social welfare officers working at district and regional levels.
It was especially important for us to consider the accessibility of operations. Around 56% of the people who benefited from the programme are women, but in terms of cataract surgery, the number is 46%. Why? Because if a woman accepts cataract surgery, she may need around two weeks to recover. Who will take care of the children? That is the challenge. To tackle it, we need to change community behaviour, so that men can be more responsible in taking care of their children and doing domestic work.
While there is still work to do in this area, it was encouraging to see that during the programme, the number of women who accepted cataract surgery increased from our previous project where it was just 36%. So we’ve seen an increase, and seen the benefit of working with women’s groups through social welfare officers.