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Govt, 1st Lady collaborate to establish business centre for persons with disabilities

First Lady Arya Ali has been able to raise the sum of just over $13 million through an All-White fundraiser event that was recently hosted, and that money will now be used to commence the construction of a business centre for persons with disabilities (PWD) in Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne).

An artist’s impression of the business centre

In 2020, the First Lady prioritised PWD through her ‘InclusAbility’ initiative, to support their economic and social empowerment, and better integrate them into society. The business centre is the brainchild of the First Lady, who believes that persons with disabilities must be provided with the resources, opportunities, knowledge and skills 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 has shared.
She said that, as a result, the business centre was conceptualised to provide an opportunity for those individuals to have sustained economic power, in order to meet their essential needs and contribute to community development.
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 facility, providing start-up capital, and implementing the programme.
The centre will support entrepreneurs and creatives from other regions. It would comprise five workstations that would allow persons to manufacture products ranging from craft items to snacks; provide a retail space for those products to be sold; have a boardroom for meetings and training; besides a therapy room, a cafeteria, and washrooms.

An artist’s impression of the business centre

Construction of this facility is expected to commence within a few months, during which discussions would be had with various groups which represent the disability community to solicit and incorporate their ideas.
It is expected that at least 30 persons with disabilities would gain direct employment in the short term, and another 20 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,” the First Lady disclosed. She added that these entrepreneurs would 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 them the ‘Made in Guyana’ certification mark.
The medium-to-long-term plan is to 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 has explained.
The First Lady also believes that this move signals 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.