Maji Buckets proudly produced by people of determination
The production of Maji Buckets is in full swing. After the tremendous success of the #Sweat4Soap campaign, we were eager to produce 450 zero-touch handwashing stations in Ghana. We tapped into the potential of the workforce of the Ghana Federation of Physically Disabled Persons, providing suitable employment opportunities. “The experience is just wow”, says Elvis Alipui (48), a vocal advocate to promote the abilities of Persons With Disabilities (PWD), often overlooked by employers.
It all started with the #Sweat4Soap campaign in celebration of Global Handwashing Day (15 October). We joined hands with ultra-runner and water warrior Mina Guli and three leading safe water enterprises to raise awareness around hand hygiene under a week-long activation. Every 100 km logged by runners around the globe was matched by one Maji Bucket donated to a community in need. Truth be told, we were floored with the traction of the campaign. Our target was to reach 15,000 km, equaling to 150 Maji Buckets, but the movement of runners and hikers around the world smashed this target on day three. Ultimately, we logged over 68,000 km, and our generous partner Aqua for All committed to funding 450 Maji Buckets.
What is the Maji Bucket?
The Maji bucket is a simple low-tech invention by the Project Maji Ghana team,
developed with a vision to ensure safe handwashing practices among rural communities. First off, the handwashing station is foot-operated, eliminates the need for touch, and successfully curbs the spread of bacteria. In addition, not only is it highly affordable, it is made of locally available products that allow for its easy replication and bulk production. See a brief overview of the Maji Bucket here.
The Project Maji promise is that everybody should win in this project: Those who produce the Maji Buckets and those using the handwashing stations. As such, we signed an agreement with the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations, a national umbrella organisation that works with the vision to ensure inclusive employment. Persons with disabilities are frequently not considered potential members of the workforce. Perception, fear, myth, and prejudice continue to limit understanding and acceptance of disability in workplaces everywhere. This problem is particularly stubborn in developing countries, 80% to 90% of persons with disabilities of working age are unemployed.
Ready, willing, and able to work
You will find myths abound, including that persons with disabilities are unable to work, and that accommodating a person with a disability in the workplace is expensive. Our Project Maji team can bust these myths immediately. Project Manager Ama Wilson: “The PWDs working on the Maji Bucket project have been highly motivated and skilled for the job. It has been a pleasure to assemble so many Maji Buckets in such a short time, without compromising the quality of course.”
The experiences by our guest colleagues have been overwhelmingly positive. “The Project Maji team has been very welcoming and provides very good supervision and training. They have provided a good space to work and because of the training, we are able to independently work on the project”, says Elvis Alipui (48). “I must say, it has really been a ‘wow’ experience to work on this project!”
Elvis understands what it is to be excluded from society because of his disability but is now firmly advocating for inclusive opportunities for all. At the age of five, he started using a caliper to walk, until he was 12 years old. In his teenage years, he was forced to crawl until he turned 24 years old and obtained a wheelchair. He is now representing the Society of Physically Disabled and encourages all people with disabilities to change their mindset and explore how they can tap into their abilities and true potential. Elvis continues: “We don’t want sympathy. We want an impact on persons with disabilities to reduce unemployment, sickness, and disease among PWD. Project Maji, we thank you, we are very grateful.”
People with special needs face many daunting challenges including difficulty in securing employment after school. This is echoed by Nii Kotey Amli (37 years), a polio victim who started using crutches in his toddler years. His family struggled because mobility aids are very costly and Nii Kotey roamed the streets for many years. Fortunately, he got his training at Orthopedic Training Centre at Nsawam Aduagyiri and now seeks employment opportunities through the Society of Physically Disabled Persons in Ghana, vastly increasing his independence and securing an income.
“I was a street boy, surviving to pay for food. But I would like to thank Project Maji for assisting me, as well as the Ghana Society of Physically Disabled. We all know the Veronica Bucket and we all know the Coronavirus too, which is destroying so many lives. But these handwashing stations are different. You don’t use your hands, but you use your feet to avoid contracting the disease”.
Nii Kotey also stressed the importance of working independently. “The experience is just amazing. I can work with or without supervision because we received excellent supervisors who assisted us a lot. And in terms of employment, right now I have my own work. I can buy anything I want, even my accessibility and mobility aids like my crutches. I can buy anything I want without ‘streeting’.”
It is important to mention that the situation is worse for women with disabilities as they experience multiple disadvantages on account of gender and disability. Project Maji hired both men and women for this project, acknowledging that the condition for women with disabilities in Ghana can be more complicated, given the intersection of disability, gender, poverty, cultural beliefs, and practices. As employment provides not only income for women with disabilities but opportunities for social participation and increases psychological well-being as well as self-esteem, it is imperative to remove barriers that hinder their employment.
Overall, the Project Maji team is extremely impressed with the ethos of our temporary colleagues. Wilson: “Their work ethic is fantastic, and we love having them for this project. We hope in the future we can involve people like Elvis, Nii Kotey, and Melody in the future as well. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and they are highly skilled.” Research affirms what the Project Maji team experiences firsthand: It makes good business sense to hire people with disabilities. They have above-average records of job performance and loyalty. After all, employees should be judged by the quality of work they perform, not by whether or not they have a disability.
Soon to come: Updates on the distribution of the 450 Maji Buckets, providing first-line defense against the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.