First Lady raises $13M to establish business centre for persons with disabilities

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Through a recently-held fundraiser, First Lady Arya Ali was able to raise just over $13 million to commence the establishment of a business centre for Persons with Disabilities (PWD).

“In 2020, when Mrs. Ali assumed office, she prioritized PWD through her ‘InclusAbility’ initiative to support their economic and social empowerment and better integrate them into society,” a press release from her office noted on Wednesday.

The business centre is the brainchild of Mrs Ali who believes that these individuals must be provided with the resources, opportunities, knowledge and skill needed to increase their capacity to determine their own future and fully participate in community life.

“The ability of persons with disabilities to earn a living for themselves, rather than to depend on others for a living, is a cornerstone for their economic empowerment. Experience suggests that the majority of persons with disabilities are unemployed, and often denied employment opportunities even when they have met necessary requirements. Consequently, they have no stable income and have to depend on family members, well-wishers and charity groups for handouts to sustain their livelihood” the First Lady was quoted as saying in the press release.

An artist impression of the business centre for Persons with Disabilities (PWD).

She said that as a result, the business centre was conceptualized to provide an opportunity for these individuals to have sustained economic power, in order to meet their essential needs and contribute to community development.

According to the release, the government has committed to constructing the facility which will be located in Region six, while the Office of the First Lady will be responsible for furnishing the centre, providing start-up capital and implementing the programme. The centre will support entrepreneurs and creative from other regions.

It will comprise: five work stations that will allow persons to manufacture products ranging from crafts to snacks; a retail space for those products to be sold; a boardroom for meetings and training; a therapy room; a cafeteria; and washrooms.

Construction of the facility is expected to commence within a few months, during which, discussions will be had with various groups which represent the disability community to solicit and incorporate their ideas.

First Lady, Arya Ali

It is expected that at least 30 persons with disabilities will gain direct employment in the short term, and another 30 in the medium to long term.

“The plan is to have these persons, some of whom already manufacture high-quality products, be able to increase capacity and readily supply the local and even regional markets,” Mrs Ali disclosed.

She added that these entrepreneurs will also benefit from business development training, and can themselves train other persons with disabilities which would allow them to increase production and increase their market share.

Additionally, the Guyana National Bureau of Standards has been engaged by the Office of the First Lady to monitor and regulate the production of some of the products with the intention of issuing the ‘Made in Guyana’ certification mark.

The medium to long term plan is to then have those products sold online to regional and international customers.

“But this will not just be a centre focused exclusively on making and selling products. Apart from that, we will want to ensure that these persons benefit from technical training and psychosocial support so they can be empowered to lead their own lives,” the First Lady explained.

Mrs. Ali also believes that this move signals the government’s commitment to ensuring ‘One Guyana’ becomes a lived experience for persons who identify with groups that are considered vulnerable or have historically felt excluded.

“We are not only preaching one Guyana. We are demonstrating in a tangible way, how committed we are to ensuring that Guyanese – regardless of their social, economic, political, ethnic, or even physical differences – benefit from opportunities equitably,” she stated.

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