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In their own words: How 99-year-old Jane regained her independence

Jane can move around using a stick to feel her way

In Tanzania, we have partnered with two local organisations, the African Women Aids Working Group and the Magu Poverty Focus on Older People Rehabilitation Centre, to help improve the health and wellbeing of thousands of older people and those with disabilities. Jane, who at 99 is blind and lives with her brother’s family, told us how our project had helped her to feel regain a sense of independence by supporting her to make and sell rope from sisal fibres.

The Sukuma people are the largest ethnic group in Tanzania, and are a patriarchal society, with the role of women being to take care of their husband and children. Unfortunately, this can mean that older women who don’t have a husband can have problems earning an income.

Our project uses a network of Older People’s Forums in Tanzania to run groups that provide the opportunity to socialise with other older people, play games, exercise, and learn about ageing issues and wellbeing. With our partners, we also help members like Jane to earn an income.

Jane is a member of the Older People’s Forum in her village. When she was younger, Jane was married and had five children but sadly, her children and her husband have passed away, and she has lost her sight. But with support from our project, she has been able to earn an income and feel that she is still contributing to her family.

When asked about her life story, Jane told us how our project had helped her:

“Forty-two years ago, I became blind in a mysterious way. I was attended by traditional healers who tried to restore my eyesight but they didn’t succeed, so I came to accept the condition and started a new life as a blind woman. It wasn’t easy to cope with the new life challenges resulting from my disability; the condition forced me to move from my home and stay with my brother, who was taking care of me.

After facing different challenges, I decided to use my knowledge and skills to increase the income at my brother’s home by making a variety of sisal ropes for tying goats and cattle. Through doing these activities with my condition I am making four ropes a day, making 4,000 Tanzanian shillings per day. This a great achievement I have made. I no longer feel a burden to my brother because I am contributing something. Through making ropes I play a vital role in raising my family’s social and economic situation. The income collected from making ropes is serving my personal needs by buying clothes, soap and buying other basics for myself and family at home.

In my free time, I like to sing and enjoy time with family. I am independent, active, walking, healthier and committed to what I am doing. Thanks to all those people from the project helping people with disabilities to cope with life. They really encouraged me.

Jane making ropes which she sells for TShs 1,000

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Last updated: Apr 14 2021

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