| Economic Opportunity
For thousands of people each year worldwide, a violent encounter with a landmine alters their lives forever. These survivors not only face a tumultuous recovery process marked by physical suffering and mental anguish, but they often suffer the pain of losing their jobs and the ability to support their families.
The lack of economic stability, particularly in post-conflict and developing countries, only worsens these debilitating circumstances. Often the poorest of the world's poor, amputee survivors and other people with disabilities face workplace discrimination and exclusion from society—rendering escape from poverty nearly impossible. In time, as their self-esteem erodes, survivors begin to question their own value and abilities.
Landmine Survivors Network is helping to improve the standard of living for survivors across the world. Our Global Economic Opportunity Program focuses on helping survivors succeed by connecting them to meaningful work, removing barriers to equal opportunity and promoting systemic changes that ensure their reintegration into society.
Survivors tell us that, aside from peer-to-peer support and networking, economic opportunity is the greatest benefit LSN offers them. Work also aids recovery — without it, one day can melt into the next, creating a downward spiral of depression and hopelessness.
LSN’s Economic Opportunity Program works in seven heavily mined regions to reintegrate survivors into society by building their capacities and supporting their efforts to compete in the mainstream marketplace. The Program achieves these goals by leveraging resources through partnerships and incorporating advocacy into all economic recovery activities.
LSN’s Program is distinct in its focus on individual capability, not disability. Charity labor does little for survivors’ long-term financial stability and self-esteem. It merely perpetuates the negative stereotypes of people with disabilities. Our approach focuses on the market forces of supply and demand, and brokers matches between survivors’ skills and the needs of employers and the marketplace.
Each field office employs an Economic Opportunity Agent trained specifically to link survivors with local employment. Because many of our staff are landmine survivors, they offer examples of success as well as professional guidance.
Partnerships Make the Difference
LSN relies heavily on partnerships to create opportunities for survivors. In addition to our work with local employers, LSN identifies vocational and business-training providers who help survivors refine their existing skills and, if needed, learn new ones. This training frequently results in immediate and viable employment opportunities.
By fostering relationships with financial institutions, we facilitate survivors' access to micro-credit loans and financing to start or expand their own businesses. LSN helps these survivor entrepreneurs develop business plans and acquire materials needed for startup or expansion. When economically advisable, we pool the talents and resources of several survivors into a single venture.
Our support does not end with employment, or a micro-business start-up loan. LSN helps foster successful survivor businesses by monitoring their progress and offering additional training in bookkeeping, inventory management, and more advanced business skills.
Helping One, Helping Many
Survivors are not the only beneficiaries of economic opportunity. Their skills and accomplishments help fill service gaps, improve local economies and diversify the community’s income stream. Most importantly, survivors improve their standard of living while gaining confidence in their ability to once again provide for their families and contribute to their communities.
In addition, these survivors help change negative perceptions that lead to discriminatory treatment. They demonstrate the true potential of workers with disabilities, and serve as role models for others in similar circumstances.
Survivors often share the benefits of LSN?s Economic Opportunity Program with their communities. They initiate a variety of services, depending on their situation, that demonstrate their desire and capacity.
Creating Opportunities Together
Just as no one survives alone, no one succeeds alone. Increased economic opportunity for survivors requires the input of partner organizations, the private sector, and government institutions that share our vision of helping survivors and their families achieve economic self-sufficiency, and be productive members of society.
LSN also joins forces with disability and human rights organizations worldwide to advance equal opportunity, dignity, and human rights for people with disabilities.
LSN is a key participant in the negotiations of the Draft U.N. Convention on Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which should soon become international law. Influencing public policy and opinion requires ongoing media outreach, advocacy, and networking from LSN and our partners.
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