Educating people on equal treatment of the vulnerable

Tuesday November 7 2017

Residents attending one of the seminars

Residents attending one of the seminars organised by DRS at Magu district. PHOTO | JONATHAN MUSA 

By Jonathan Musa

The word success has its meaning; the correct or desired result of acquired mission, no matter how different it may be defined, the end result is still an achievement.

In this modern world, almost every parent or guardian wishes his or her child a good and prosperous life in the future, especially after succeeding in education.

In Mwanza city, hails Esther Masawe, 35, at her age, she is already a company managing director. An achievement she’s grasped through hard work and dedication.

The mother of three says that what makes her be herself is a long story with determination at the apex.

Today, Esther, through her NGO Disability relief services (DRS), has helped hundreds of vulnerable people in society by providing them with much needed amenities and educating the public on equal perception of the disabled.


Esther traces her early years at Kahama primary school where she received a Certificate of Primary Education in 1996 and managed to join Kahama Secondary now called John Paul II up to form four level in 2000, all in Shinyanga region.

She, however, joined ‘A’ level at Siha high school in Kilimanjaro region in 2003 before joining St Augustine University of Tanzania (Saut) in Mwanza to pursue a degree in mass communication.

“I managed to complete my degree level studies in 2006 and I’m now on the verge of accomplishing a master’s degree in project management at Open University of Tanzania,” she discloses.

Esther, the second born of six children began working at The National Institute for Medical Research Nimr, in Mwanza as a volunteer cleaner and a messenger in 2003 after finishing high school.

She says during this time she didn’t have much work at home to occupy her free time so she opted to join Nimr in order to avoid youthful temptations.

“I saw it better to work as a volunteer at Nimr rather than staying idle at home moving up and down, as a youth I stayed focused on achieving bigger things in life and the advice from my mom helped me maintain my course, I avoided a lot of indulgences in order to focus on my future,” she admits.

She says her aim while young was to rescue the vulnerable. This stems from the various incidents of albino killings that were being reported in Shinyanga region.  

Such a dedicated goal was easier said than done,  “It could not be achieved on a silver platter,” she puts it. There were challenges; being a young girl who did not even belong to the same community was an added weakness.

Esther says she grew up in Sukuma land in Kahama while her mother worked as a doctor at the district hospital and her father was a businessman, both her parents hailed from Kilimanjaro region.


Finding success

Immediately after she graduated from Saut in October 2006 with a degree in mass communication, she landed a job at Shaloom Care Center in Mwanza as a program officer.

Her responsibility was to oversee the development of the organization's programmes. This included staff development, project management, implementation and daily management of activities.

“Since this job was a bit standard and required keenness, I had to put more concentration in creating budgets for project costs and program expenditures,” she informs.

She served the same post until her resignation in April 2008 when she got a new job at Mkwawa University College of Education, Iringa, as a public relations officer.

She states that in all places she managed to work before her current position, she assured that her roles were well maintained and she never worked under supervision becuase she knew what she was doing.


Secret behind her determination

Esther, after only two years working at a busy learning institute as a public relations officer, decided to resign yet again resign from her position. All this happened because her childhood dream had not yet come true.

In September 2010, she got a new job with Forum Syd, a Swedish non-governmental member organization that works with people and people’s rights. She served as a program officer.

Forum Syd was launched in Mwanza and Magu. Ukerewe, Nyamagana and Karagwe served as the preliminary areas of concentration..

The young bright woman says while revolving in these jobs, she used to come across different people whom, she says have been a big support to what she does right now.

“Any office where I worked, I made sure that every staff and other people around got my services equally with no discrimination. This created a good reputation for me and made people me. I got different job offers from various companies without even applying for them, “Often times the interested party would just schedule a meeting with me,” she remembers.


 Becoming a director

In 2014, Esther, the daring woman decided to give a try at her own project. She established an organization, mainly meant to serve the vulnerable in society.

By then, this organization had no support and therefore it became so challenging to let it run on its own.

“My mission was to look for quicker means to help children, youth and women with disability, providing them with education and basic life necessities,” she says.

She strived, even borrowed her colleagues some cash to register the organization and put other issues in place.

In early 2016, Esther, as the head of the organization, Disability Relief Services, managed to get funds from abillis foundation, a Netherland organization which supports the activities of persons with disability in developing countries, mainly with grants.

“We were given Sh14million to facilitate women with disabilities and come up with projects which would make their lives better,” she says.

She adds that, since its launch in 2016 it was named Disability Relief Services, DRS, and has managed to reach more than 10,000 households within the Lake Zone and their aim for now is to eliminate the barrier which has prohibited people from mingling with disabled, especially ones with albinism.

“We provide education and deliver services to the needy. Our target is to let people perceive the vulnerable as normal people and erase the misconception that vulnerable cases are signs of curses,” Esther.


As a director at DRS, Esther, together with her colleagues, has helped about 100 vulnerable children since they began. Apart from that, they have provided about 55 walking kits likes bicycles to 55 disabled women.

Esther is currently focused on providing counseling for different people in need of guidance.

She feels proud when she sees her plans yielding to positive outlooks in the surrounding community.

“Not only women but also old men can organize with my husband and meet me for a public debate on different matters affecting our community,” she says.

Through her hard work Esther has managed to build a modern house at Nyakato where she stays with her family.


On challenges

Being a wife and mother, Esther says at times it becomes hard for her to travel to different places to deliver certain required services. “As a wife, I’m not independent,” she says. But thanks to her husband understanding, he finally got to understand the kind of activities Esther does. 

“Initially, it was not easy. Most of my time is spent on field work, coming home has to be late in the evening or if am out of the region, I have to inform my husband in advance, he has faith in me,” Esther says.

Many people have become fond of her humility and benevolence. However, such a trait has its negative impact because Esther is expected to give all the time, even as she just walks by the street begging hands beckon her and people expect her to give the little that she has. 

Future plans

Her plan is to expand the services delivered by DRS to the national level and let youth get jobs through her initiatives.

“Am in discussion with another US organization, if all goes well then many vulnerable people will benefit from DRS as a non-governmental organization,” she concludes.

Her parting shots; Every jungle has its greenest part.  Everything is possible if only one is determined and focused towards his or her goals. There should always be sacrifice and commitment.