Reversing roles to raise awareness and promote social inclusion

The NGO Together! in Ethiopia was founded by a team of professionals who have several years experience working in disability main streaming, computer training, vocational education, and rehabilitation support. They have developed a holistic project aimed at the educational and professional inclusion of people with visual impairments.

Their vision is to empower blind and visually impaired people to become self reliant and productive members of society. At their Rehabilitative Shelter for visually impaired women and their children, seven women have gained strength, parenting education and communication skills which have helped them to be more self confident to stand up for their own and their children's rights.

When Ato first came to Together! he did not have any computer skills. He was regularly facing challenges in this new digital world where Braille, Slate and Stylus are obsolete and expensive. For simple things such as writing a letter he always had to ask for help from a sighted person. He said, “One day I heard on the radio about an NGO called Together! They were preparing a dining in the dark experience to raise awareness about blindness. From the program I understood that Together! not only raises awareness but also builds the capacities of visually impaired people in information technology. This is it! I said to myself it is time for me to wake up and keep up with the world.”

Together! had its first 17th October event in Addis Ababa where they read in Braille the message from the International Committee for 17 October. Together!'s right holders (those who participate in their projects) told their stories and their role in fighting extreme poverty.

The event focused on the special abilities of people with visual impairments to help open up a unique approach to social, professional and economic participation.  They do this through their Dining in the Dark experience where they guide and serve people with sight in complete darkness. This reverses the customary roles of people with visual impairment and people with sight.  Changing roles, raises awareness of the hardships that people with visual impairment face in our society. These cultural events also prove the countless capabilities and special skills people with visual impairments, which promotes their social inclusion.

Martha N., from Together! explains: "People shall not pity the blind because they think that they cannot do anything! They can do everything! It is only one sense that is missing and they can cope with this and use all the other senses. Do not say that blind people are not able to do anything!"

Tilahun G., Ethiopia