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Piloting the development of a supported approach to micro-finance by BRAC and TLMM

This project will use lessons learned from a previous DFID-funded project, which piloted the development of an effective micro-finance model to be used within BRAC - a mainstream micro-finance organisation. This micro-finance model can then be rolled-out across the country as a permanent part of BRAC's micro-finance programme, promoting sustainability after the project has ended.

BRAC will use its vast experience in poverty reduction programming, in Bangladesh and around the world, to pilot the development of a new model appropriate for the context of Myanmar. BRAC will build on their experience in micro-finance, and adapted poverty reduction models to address the situation of people with disabilities in Myanmar from a skills-development, confidence-building and ultimately sustainable economic development perspective.

Through its work on poverty eradication, BRAC has elaborated on a 24-month pathway out of extreme poverty for those on the fringes of society who can’t normally access micro-finance. Through elaboration three main components have been identified as most effective:
 

  1. Asset transfer of preferably two productive assets (such as a cow)
  2. A cash stipend
  3. Entrepreneurship skill-building
     

These components are furthermore more effective in combination with health care via partnerships with other external organisations. With these assets, stipend, skill-building, and health care, these individuals and families can, first, meet their own most basic needs. With the meeting of these basic needs, they can begin to have dreams of starting their own business.

Randomised control trials revealed that 4 years after baseline, participants showed:

Learning from BRAC’s and other organisations’ pilots, some of the building blocks of these approaches will be adapted to consider the specific needs of people with disabilities and the reality of the markets in Myanmar.

For example, similar to 22 ultra poor households, people with disabilities will receive assets support, technical training on how to manage these assets, and periodic home visits to provide additional technical and business skills and track progress. A key is also the approach of the field staff to the participants who need special coaching and close monitoring. In this project, it is important that the field staff are sensitised to the rights, needs, and concerns of people with disabilities.

As a result of these interventions, after one year the targeted households are expected to see an increase in income, develop confidence and willingness to expand their business. Once these changes are visible among the participants they will be gradually included into the mainstream micro-finance for access to capital and business expansion.

Piloting the development of adapted tools for people with disabilities.

Enablement worked with LMM to develop and pilot the development of adapted (farming) tools for people with disabilities in the agricultural sector. These tools make it easier for individuals with a variety of disabilities to be more productive when working in agricultural jobs and other income-generating activities. 

A manual is created for the production and use of adapted tools. It contains practical information on necessary materials and simple building and adaptation instructions. All tools can be developed at low cost, to ensure sustainability and reproduction on a wide scale. The designs of the tools are derived from various existing sources, such as from AgrAbility and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).  

An example of how to make a farming tool, as described within the manual (Enablement, 2018):

The approach for increasing access to market places is largely based on efforts and lessons learned in a previous TLMM-led DFID-funded project, “Reducing the physical and social barriers faced by 2,000 people with disabilities in seven States and Regions in Myanmar and improving their livelihood opportunities.”

The previous project resulted in the removal of individual barriers, such as building bridges over small rivers, and ramps at a shallow gradient slope into marketplaces, and was well-received and made lives easier for people with disabilities.

From the previous project, we realised that greater funds should be invested in fewer locations. Then, those locations could be built to a high standard and used as an advocacy tool by bringing essential stakeholders, such as national, regional, and local government, NGO and community leaders, to see the model fully accessible marketplace. This can then influence policy, practice and developments elsewhere. TLMM and Enablement will work together to scale up implementing an additional fully inclusive market place, as well as intentionally and strategically using this market place as an advocacy tool to influence change. ​

However, developing a fully accessible market place and using it as an advocacy tool alone is not fully effective in the long-term.

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The team recognises that piloting the development of a fully accessible market place is a big step forward in removing barriers to employment for people with disabilities who are interested in working in agriculture (and buying and selling products). However, developing a fully accessible market place and using it as an advocacy tool alone is not fully effective in the long-term, as communities will need guidance on how to make their own market places accessible.

Therefore, we will also develop a market place inclusion handbook, to ensure the sustainability of these innovations and to ensure that these market places can influence widespread change across the country, and even internationally. These guidelines will incorporate the use of multi-modal communication to ensure accessibility for those with visual and hearing impairments, and those with low-literacy. 

On top of all these developments, we are currently discussing the documentation (on film!) of the current barriers in accessibility to the market place and the transformation towards the model market place. We hope that in the future we can show this documentary and give insight in the obstacles that people with disabilities encounter in market places and what is needed to ensure inclusion for all.

JOB COACHING

Helping people with disabilities towards finding employment, with the help of Job Placement Coaches, trained by Enablement and TLMM

Thanks to our Job Placement Coaches (JPCs) in Myanmar people with a disability get a chance to find a job. JPCs are the link between people with disabilities (and their social network) seeking for a job and potential employers (and the co-workers). Their aim is to find a suitable match and establish a sustainable relationship between the different parties so that people with disabilities become employed.

To achieve this objective, the JPCs undertakes the following steps: I) assessment or intake; (II) sensitisation and/or advocacy; (III) matching and placement; and (IV) coaching and follow-up. These steps are reflected in the figure below, visualising the ultimate handshake when both the employer and the client are satisfied with the match. These steps are converted into a two-weeks training for JPCs, provided by Enablement in close collaboration with the Leprosy Mission Myanmar (TLMM). The objectives of the training were to: ​

  1. Enable trainees to understand the barriers that people with disabilities face in work and employment;
  2. Help trainees to build skills in finding (creative) solutions for challenges faced by people with disabilities;
  3. Ensure that trainees will have the competences to work as job placement coach for and with people with disabilities.

In February 2018 a total of 15 JPCs have been trained. We expect them to be able to get about 35 people with disabilities employed within a period of 2 years. This would mean that about 525 people will receive support towards becoming employed.

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