Policies key to fostering disabled entrepreneurs
THE development of inclusive disability policies and strategies is crucial for the process of supporting entrepreneurs with disabilities to significantly contribute to the economic growth of the country.
This was said at the ‘Aiding Disabled Entrepreneurs Campaign’ launched in Maseru last week by the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT) in partnership with the Lesotho National Federation of Organisation of the Disabled (LNFOD).
Organized by LUCT Professional Communication students, the campaign theme was ‘My Disability, My Adrenaline’. It seeks to raise awareness about the lives of entrepreneurs with disabilities; appreciate their work; and encourage other potential entrepreneurs with disabilities not to allow their conditions to derail their ambitions.
Although it is not clear exactly how many people with disabilities are running their own businesses, it is estimated that scores are managing successful enterprises ranging from textile, retail to catering, among others.
In his Keynote address, the Deputy Minister of Education and Training, Ntoi Rapapa, said access to services for people with disabilities should be strengthened to ensure the country has systems that do not discriminate but promotes equality for all people.
“The government is already working on initiating means of making public facilities and institutions in the country to be disability user-friendly. We all know that disabilities vary, with some standing out more than others, but importantly, we are all humans and need to work together to create a more inclusive environment for all Basotho,” Dr Rapapa said.
He commended the students’ initiative to participate in the campaign in an effort to create awareness that highlights the economic contributions by entrepreneurs with disabilities.
One of the students, Maseipone Mokhehi, said the entrepreneurs were outstanding people who were creating jobs for able-bodied people.
“Despite their disabilities, they have not allowed their physical conditions to be an inability factor. Through innovation and resilience, they are creating jobs and contributing to poverty eradication, in line with Vision 2020,” Ms Mokhehi said.
She said while government efforts should be applauded, more needs to be done to address the concerns of people with disabilities.
“This campaign calls for political will to see that issues of disability are not neglected, particularly at this crucial time of reforms,” she said.
Of critical importance, she said, was the need to fight stigma associated with disability in order to create an enabling environment that provides equal opportunities for all people in business.
Also speaking at the launch, LNFOD Projects Coordinator, Rabasotho Moeletsi, said the country can only achieve the Sustainable Development Goals if no one is left behind in all development programmes.
“Through this initiative, LUCT has demonstrated that you are pioneers of the Lesotho’s road to achieving Goal 8 of the Agenda 2030, which encourages governments to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, through creating productive employment and provision of decent work for all,” Mr Moeletsi said.
He said Lesotho has an obligation to reduce the proportion of unemployed persons with disabilities, warning of the high costs of social and economic exclusion on developing countries.
Mr Moeletsi urged the government to design inclusive disability programmes that can improve conditions and enable the targeted group to contribute more to the development of the economy and society.
“It is our concern that people with disabilities still face challenges of discrimination in accessing skills development programmes and in some work places, that is if they get employed, which is not easy. I believe all actors can bring change if we can work together to ensure that the rights of all women and men with disabilities are recognised, respected and protected,” Mr Moeletsi said.