By Anna Ingwafa
Perseverance and hard work is what drives the Disability Economic Empowerment Project (DEEP) at Oneshila.
Started in November 2007, DEEP is a project initiated and operated by six disabled individuals who attempt to create a niche of their own in a world where they often face stigmatism and discrimination. Oneshila is an informal settlement at Oshakati.
The project is the brainchild of a group of people from varied backgrounds and walks of life, who have come together to empower and enlighten a community often indifferent to the plight of those with disabilities.
DEEP sells and repairs second-hand bicycles donated and subsidized by the Bicycle Empowerment Network Namibia and Bicycles for Humanity in Ontario, Canada.
They charge anything from N$250 to N$400 to repair bicycles taken to the project.
The project was initiated specifically for and by the people with mobility disabilities through assistance from the Ministry of Health and Social Services, the Federation of People with Disabilities in Namibia and the French Government.
It has been operating at Oneshila for the past six months, where its mechanics and administrators provide equitable and affordable transport alternatives to everyone.
“The fact that the project is located in a community dominated by informal settlements is perhaps its greatest accomplishment. People with disabilities have been suppressed for generations, but together the community of Oneshila and DEEP have worked to uplift and encourage these six individuals to strive to reach their potential and earn a living,” said Menta Rukshan, an intern for DEEP from the University of Toronto.
She said the issue of disabilities is one of great concern especially in Namibia, and when projects such as DEEP are born, they must serve as a tool to empower others facing similar life circumstances so that they stand up and fight for equality both in the realms of social functioning and economic opportunity.
Rukshan noticed that members of DEEP have merged collaborations at grassroots and political levels.
“Through their efforts on the ground and in the community, the project has managed to educate and enlighten the members of Oneshila about the true abilities and capacity of people with disabilities. Their hard work and dedication has earned them a level of trust from the members of their neighbourhood,” she explained.
At present, the project has a ship container that comes with the initial installment of bicycles.
The project lacks running water, electricity, toilets and office space. The entire administrative and technical operation is carried out from a big green container that has become a trademark of the project.
“It is the aim of the member of DEEP to construct a building to permanently engrain themselves in the community. This will also allow the operation to expand so as to include more people with disabilities, who the current members of DEEP will train and employ.
“This will serve to build the capacity of people with disabilities in Oshakati and hopefully will be a source of inspiration to disabled people across the country to rise up and fight for equality and fair employment opportunities, whether it is in the commercial sector or for self-employment,” Rukshan explained.
The project appeals for assistance from companies, corporations and private donors so as to build capacity and construct an office. They want to start a welding service and are in need of a fax and photocopier
Members of the projects have opened an account with First National Bank in Oshakati, account number 62151574152.
They urge those who want to purchase repaired second-hand bicycles or mechanical services on bicycles to visit them at Oneshila, Oshakati East.