Inclusive employment at ZENA - a worthwhile experience for everyone.
With support from Handicap International (HI), Zena Exotic Fruits, which specialises in jam making, has taken a fresh approach to the inclusion of people with hearing and speech impairments. The company’s director, Randa Filfili, tells us more about this experience.
Faw Seuth Ndiaye, a handler with a hearing impairment at ZENA | ©E.Fitte-Duval/HI
Why did you decide to include people with disabilities in your company?
My husband was helped and partly educated by someone with hearing and speech impairments when he was young, and he’s still very close to them. Our company was stagnating socially. We already employed people with disabilities but we wanted to go further. That’s why we decided to include people who are… I don’t like the word disabled… people who are disadvantaged simply because they can’t hear or speak.
What’s been the outcome of your decision to include these people in your company?
Very positive. They have exactly the same abilities as other people - or even more, because they put more into it and are more diligent. They were included by the other staff members without any problems. We organised several sign-language training courses so that the employees could talk to each other. And for safety reasons, we decided to ask people with hearing and speech impairments to wear a red uniform to distinguish them from the other employees, who wear yellow ones.
Do you plan to employ people with reduced mobility?
Unfortunately, our premises are not presently accessible to them. But we’re looking into it. In the meantime, with HI’s help, we’re going to increase the number of employees with hearing and speech impairments. We presently employ eleven people in this situation. Over the long term, we hope to employ 30 to 35.
How did you meet HI and how has the organisation helped you?
HI approached us. It heard about our company while it was doing a field reconnaissance exercise in the local area, where it was reaching out to people with disabilities in search of work. The local residents told the organisation about us.
HI helped us adapt our approach to people with disabilities, taught us how to include them in our company, and provided us with information on disability in general. The organisation also helped include our employees in the company. It visits our employees and management team every month to make sure everything’s going smoothly and to answer any questions people may have. In fact, it was thanks to HI that we were able to set up sign language training courses.