Man and woman giving presentation

The learning event organized by Tunafasi and the Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development (DCDD) brought many people from various backgrounds (researchers, representatives from NGOs and philanthropic funds, journalists, experts and others) together to learn and discuss how to create more inclusive development programs. The learning event is part of the DCDD grant to Tunafasi. The objective is to enhance the knowledge of disability inclusion in an extremely challenging context like Congo and to promote collaboration between organisations working on disability inclusion.

The day began with Anika Altaf presenting her research conducted on extreme poverty, wherein she found that community exclusion (social, cultural and demographical) results into an increased ill-being of individuals and their self-esteem. For example in Bangladesh intersex people are socially and culturally often excluded from the community, are repeatedly denied access to health care, education and are consequently more likely to fall into poverty. This social exclusion from the community and the lack of warm relationships can highly impact the wellbeing of the excluded person and can result into self-exclusion, depression and low self-respect. This highlights that inclusion is not only about passing the threshold of minimum wage or an increase in wealth but passing social barriers to a dignified living. According to Anika, to understand the intersection of community exclusion and self-exclusion one must start to understand the context (root causes, local systems, relation with the community) and the individuals well-being.

 “It starts with understanding, identifying and talking to them. I think that’s the basis: being human again, being no more left behind”. – Anika Altaf –  

Afterwards, Gilbert Mututsi, director of ADED in Congo, shared his learnings on disability inclusion in Congo. ADED is a child centered community development organisation that creates supportive environments for disabled children in Uvira, Eastern Congo. In Uvira only 5% of children with disabilities have access to go to school, indicating that 95% of children face social and economic exclusion through the lack of access to education.

When visiting Karuna in Nepal he saw a good example of how local municipalities can be engaged to create disability inclusive communities and how to screen and identify persons with disabilities effectively in order to address key challenges and barriers. Gilbert was impressed and inspired by the approach in Nepal, which brought about real bottom-up systems change. He decided together with Betteke de Gaay Fortman from Tunafasi (who also founded Karuna) to replicate this approach in Congo. In February 2019, ADED began to screen and identify children with disabilities living in Uvira. Due to stigma and exclusion many children with disabilities are mostly invisible, therefore ADED implemented door-to-door visits, engaged community partners and parents which resulted in identifying more and more children. The identification gradually increased from 336 children with disabilities being identified to 982, which shows that the identification of persons with disabilities is a process that requires persistence.

Gilbert also expressed that inclusion should be an end goal in Humanitarian Aid and structural development work. If it is only a condition, it will not work.

“If we would have stopped identifying children with disability after 3 months, we would have left 500 children behind! “

Through ADED´s and Tunafasi´s work and community engagement the Congolese government became more accountable and allocated more recources to children with disabilities. The Community Based Rehabilitation facilitators who play a key role in identifying and creating a supportive environment for each and every child (medical, educational, family income, participation and empowerment) are part of the Healthzone in Uvira, thus paid by the government. A milestone!

Lieke Scheewe, who coordinates the Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development (DCDD) closed the presentations of keynote speakers by encouraging everyone to work together on inclusion – everyone’s diverse expertise is needed to make sure that barriers to inclusion are removed.  She highlighted that inclusion does not necessarily need a lot of resources but that changing mindsets on disability matters most.

Some attendees expressed that they learnt new things about the challenges of leaving no one behind and about the importance to address the social aspects of poverty. Some attendees expressed their own personal commitment to reach out to extreme poor and/or socially isolated people. Gilbert made a clear request to disability and other organisations present during the event to be part of the Tunafasi project in one way or another. We need to collaborate to able to leave no one behind.

If you wish to receive more information on how to create inclusive projects and programmes please contact:

For questions about the event & content feel free to contact:
Lieke Scheewe:
Betteke de Gaay Fortman:

Click here to download the slides of Gilbert’s presentation.

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