9 years defending disability rights

Tuesday November 26 2019


By Salome Gregory

I met him during a capacity building workshop for journalists, which is part of what he does at CCBRT.

Frederick Msigallah,52, is the Advocacy Programme Manager and head of Advocacy and Disability Inclusion Unit at the Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation Tanzania (CCBRT).

Frederick whose mobility is aided by a wheelchair was not born disabled. He got Polio at the age of five. Polio is a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. The virus spreads from person to person and can invade an infected person’s brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis.

The second born in a family of seven children, Frederick who hails from Igosi village in Iringa Region has been working with Non-Governmental Organisations for 16 years, nine of which he did with disability organisations. He has extensive experience in human rights, project management, lobbying and advocacy and capacity building on disability rights and disability inclusion.

Sharing his life journey, Frederick says he is grateful to his parents, without whom he would be languishing in poverty in the village. It’s because of his supportive parents that he holds a Bachelor’s Degree in education from the University of Dar es Salaam and a Master’s Degree in International Development, Public Policy Management from the University of Manchester in the UK.

His parents dedicated their time and energy to care for him and made sure he went to school. When he was in nursery school, Frederick would be wheeled to school on a wheelbarrow.


“My father used to tell me that since I could not walk, education was the only solution to living a better life in future. Since my father was a carpenter, he made me a wheelbarrow to ease my movements. I thank my parents for making sure I got everything I needed to get an education,” says Frederick.

Life was difficult during the early days of primary education. He sometimes missed classes because he had to travel 2.5km daily to get to school. The problem was however, solved when his father got a bicycle from the Roman Catholic Church’s Kipengere Parish in Njombe, which helped a lot.

Fred made a lot of friends at school who helped take him to and from school now that he had a bicycle. This gave his parents time to engage in income generating activities, something they couldn’t do before he got proper transport.

“Upon completion of my primary school education in 1985, only two pupils passed the final examination. I was among them. This was a big surprise to the entire village since no one ever thought I would be able to pass my examinations. Some neighbours used to mock my father, telling him he was wasting his time by taking me to school. For them, I was not supposed to go to school,” Fredrick recalls.

He was selected to join Tosamaganga Secondary School for his O and A level studies. His life at Tosamaganga was good as students and teachers were both friendly and supportive.

Fred joined the National Service at Mgulani in Dar es Salaam in 1993. After serving for one year, he decided to look for a job before joining university. Unfortunately, no one seemed to be ready to hire him so he decided to go back to Iringa as he waited for admission at the University of Dar es Salaam.

Facing the stigma

He mentions this to be one of the most embarrassing moments in his life. Fred experienced a lot of stigma from the community due to his disability.

“I still recall a day when I went to a certain office for a job interview. The secretary thought I had gone there to beg and would not let me in. She said it was not the day for beggars and told me to come back on Friday,” shares Frederick.

He told the secretary that he was not there to beg but to meet her boss. Despite informing her that he had an appointment with the boss, she still did not let him enter until she confirmed with her boss.

Fred joined university two years later in 1996, where he obtained a degree in education after four years of study.

Initially, ifrastructure at the university was a challenge for him as he depended on a wheelchair for movement. The university later bought him a Bajaj (tricycle), which helped solve transport issues. The Bajaj helped him get more friends with whom he would ride to class.

After graduation, he got his first job as Assistant Project Manager at the Environmental Human Rights Care in July 2000. His job was mostly working in human rights-related projects. He was later promoted to the managerial position at the organisation.

“My stay at the EnviroCare taught me different things in my line of work. I became more exposed with challenges that women, children and people with disabilities went through and how they were denied their rights,” says Frederick.

In 2007 he obtained a scholarship by Ford Foundation through the government to do a Master’s degree in International Development, Public Policy Management at the University of Manchester in the UK.

Raising public awareness

According to him the scholarship was very competitive but thank God he sailed through. Fred did not stay long with his employer soon after he returned from the UK in 2008. He got a new job at HakiElimu as Policy Analyst.

In 2010, he joined the CCBRT to work in the Advocacy and Disability Inclusion Unit.

“For the past nine years I have been engaged in advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities and their inclusion in all aspects of life. I have been actively involved in raising awareness of development actors and the public in general on the rights of persons with disabilities and the need to ensure the laws and policies that promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities are effectively enforced by the relevant authorities,” says Fredrick.

Email: sgregory@tz.nationmedia.com