Creating livelihoods for persons with disability in Lusaka 

Emma Sitambuli's CMA Award-Winning social impact project

Kanyama is one of the 37 residential areas commonly referred to as “kombonis” in the City of Lusaka, Zambia.  Kombonis’ are home to 80% of the residents of Lusaka. They are sprawling low income residential areas, charaterised by very poor quality overcrowded housing, inadequate public services, limited access to water, poor sanitation, few health care facilities and limited access to formal employment. Kanyama komboni is where the Kanyama Disabled Persons Association (KDPA) is based.

The KDPA was formed in 2008 with the aim of starting a skills center through which the disabled community including other residents of Kanyama would be trained in tailoring and other skills to improve their livelihoods.  The tailoring programmes are free for persons with disability, while other members of the community pay a fee.  The income from the fee-paying students allows the centre to cover its costs.

When COVID-19 broke out, the KDPA suffered drastic drop in fee-paying students. As a result, the KDPA lost their primary source of revenue and struggled to survive, while their beneficiaries became more impoverished. The Change Maker Award 2021 was a major game changer for the KDPA as it enabled the association to revamp the operations of the Skills Centre. They purchased new sewing machines and employed a trainer, who trained thirty trainees with disabilities of which fourteen were young men.

Most of the students are now able to sew different clothing items and are already selling their clothing on the market within their community.  Each student was happily sharing stories about their respective projects, with orders from customers and how much their lives have changed for the better. For example, Miriam Kabai, says she has sold 200 bonnets (special head covers worn by women at night to protect the pillows) since October. She also has orders to sew school uniforms. She is using income from her sewing business to buy food and take care of her needs.

This project has truly changed our lives, without which I would have been forced to survive through prostitution like other girls my age are doing in our community.” Miriam Kabai