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Sense International is supporting women to access work this International Women’s Day

8 March 2021

Today is International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge, promoting the message that “a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change”.

Gender equality is an integral part of Sense International’s work across eight countries. Sense International supports girls and women with deafblindness/ multi-sensory impairments (MSI) to access healthcare, inclusive education and vocational opportunities, as well as supporting mothers caring for children with deafblindness/ MSI.

Women and girls with disabilities often face double discrimination and exclusion based both on their gender and disability. More than 200 million women with disabilities remain below the poverty line and face challenges including access to education, healthcare and employment. Women and girls with deafblindness/ MSI are also at greater risk of being abused and are under-represented in politics and decision-making processes.

To mark International Women’s Day, Sense International is sharing the stories of two women supported by Sense International – Mwanaasha, whose soap-making business has continued to thrive since the outbreak of COVID-19, and Mrs Namuddu, a teacher who started her own school for children with disabilities. Both are challenging perceptions about what women with deafblindness/ MSI can achieve.

Mwanaasha’s story

Mwanaasha sitting at a table in front of a map of Africa.

Mwanaasha is a young woman from Tanzania, who became deaf and partially sighted at the age of six following a failed operation. She attended mainstream primary and secondary schools but experienced numerous challenges – her teachers couldn’t use sign language and she struggled to pass her exams due to this communication barrier.

After leaving school, Mwanaasha was determined to look for opportunities to start a business and learned to make liquid soap. She took part in a five-day seminar for young entrepreneurs run by Sense International, where she learned how to generate business ideas and business management skills including budgeting, procurement, record-keeping and advertising. Sense International also provided Mwanaasha with glasses to improve her vision.

Mwanaasha has had great success with her soap-making business and now plans to launch a small liquid soap-making industry and employ two to three other young people with deafblindness/ MSI.

In Tanzania, a lockdown was implemented in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic which began to be lifted from May 2020. Mwanaasha’s soap business has continued to be profitable despite the pandemic, which has enabled her to open a small fabric shop selling women clothes. Mwanaasha is happy to have diversified her business and have two initiatives up and running.

She said: I feel very happy and have a peace in my mind… this project makes me feel confident and to be free to live my life.”

Find out more information about Sense International Tanzania. 

Mrs Namuddu’s story

Mrs Namuddu sitting down.

Mrs Namuddu is a teacher in Uganda who has seven children, four of whom have cerebral palsy and deafblindness. She struggled for many years to look after her children on her own, often having to take them into her own classrooms while teaching.

Sense International Uganda began supporting Mrs Namuddu through home visits, teaching her about deafblindness and ensuring her children received the therapy, care and education they needed. Sense International Uganda also supported Mrs Namuddu to attend training.

The support from Sense International Uganda motivated Mrs Namuddu to start her own school for children with disabilities, including her own children, and train other teachers and parents in her community to understand deafblindness.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the closure of schools in Uganda, Mrs Namuddu’s school had more than 100 students, 35 of whom have disabilities. Throughout the pandemic, Mrs Namuddu has been making regular home visits to parents in her community while they educate their children at home, providing a vital lifeline. She is a role model for parents in her community through her work to break down barriers in society and provide quality education for children with deafblindness/ MSI in Uganda.

Find out more information about Sense International Uganda. 

First published: Tuesday 18 June 2013
Last updated: Friday 6 December 2019