Zakia (personal assistant), PhatCat, Jamila, and Yumna, disability justice activists, Tanzania.

Zakia (personal assistant), Fakihat, Jamila, and Yumna, disability justice activists, Tanzania.

Participatory Grant-Making.

Disability justice activists know best.

In the face of discrimination, lack of access, and exclusion, they come up
with innovative and effective ideas to unlock real and lasting change in their
communities. No one understands the challenges faced by disabled people better than those who live them.

But there is a problem.

Disabled people’s own ideas to make their lives better are dramatically
underfunded. And too often it is not disabled people themselves who get to decide how little funding available is used.

We believe participatory grant-making is the answer.

What is Participatory Grant-Making?

Participatory grant-making is a different approach to giving out money as grants where the people receiving the money also get to say how much is given to whom, and how it is spent. 

This could look like a panel of disability justice activists deciding which of their peers should receive funding based on their knowledge of the context of the work, and of being disabled. It could also be done slightly differently, for example in the context of an emergency, but always has the group it is funding at the centre of decision-making.  

This is in opposition to traditional models of grant-making, where money often comes with a set of conditions about how it must be spent, and the requirement to report back in a very specific way about it. The trouble with this is that it means the money often goes to people and organisations who are good at applying for grants, and good at reporting, but not necessarily those who are best placed to do the work. We want to make sure money flows to disability justice activists and organisations who have the right, and the unique knowledge to use it. Participatory grant-making is the approach we are taking to make this happen. 

At the heart of participatory grant-making is the idea that decision-making power about funding sits with the groups it aims to serve. This includes power over the design of the funding as well as who receives the grants. 

Our Tanzania Participatory Grant-Making pilot.

In 2023 we ran a pilot for participatory grant-making in Tanzania. Young disability justice activists came together to agree the process, and ultimately formed a panel. Other young activists applied for funding to make their ideas for change a reality, and the panel decided which ideas should receive funding.

Zenna was one of the people on the deciding panel.

People with disabilities are very skilled and should be given a chance to lead. In my country, it’s not very easy for Organisations of People with Disabilities to get funds.


The panel awarded funding to two initiatives – one of which was Eva‘s. Eva is a young, determined disability justice activist who has faced discrimination and exclusion. Her idea? To tackle stigma in her community through the power of music.

I want to engage bus drivers and conductors to raise awareness and change their attitudes and perceptions towards persons with disabilities.


With funding, she can reach a wider audience with her music, ensuring that disabled people all over Tanzania can realise their right to use public transport.

The panel decided to award a second grant to Yumna, Jamila and Fakihat, who are training disabled people in their community in digital literacy skills, so that they can get online to access opportunities and tackle digital discrimination.

Zakia (personal assistant), PhatCat, Jamila, and Yumna, disability justice activists, Tanzania.

Giving us the power to decide what projects to implement and how, gives us the chance to address the actual problems that persons with disabilities face. This is because we are the ones being affected, hence understanding the desired solutions.

Yumna, Jamila and Fakihat.

Through their project they are training peers who will go on to train even more people in their communities.

When people with disabilities decide how funding is used they ensure that the most pressing issues are addressed based on their own experiences, and that the projects most likely to succeed are the ones which go ahead.

Participatory Grant-Making in an emergency.

In 2023, fighting broke out in Sudan, causing many people to be displaced. Those with disabilities were disproportionately affected, losing access to their homes, medication and assistive devices they relied on. While many organisations supported people affected by the conflict, people with disabilities told us they were missing out on the help they really needed.

ADD worked with our network of organisations run by disabled people in Sudan, who got together and formed committees. We ran an appeal to raise money for Sudan, and those committees decided how it should be spent.

Because disabled people themselves were the ones deciding how the money should be spent, they were able to identify needs that had been overlooked, and fund ideas that would really help. Many of the disabled people they represented reported that they really needed cash to cover things like medical expenses, and this had not been available. One woman who received money explained why this was important:

The money support me to have safe delivery as I have to admitted to hospital for the surgery I was very sad because I haven’t money to pay the fees of hospital but when I received the money I paid the fees and delivered my child safety.

A disabled woman from Gedarif, Sudan.

When disabled people themselves decide how money is spent, it has more of an impact. Read more about this work here.

Disability Justice Fund for Women – Africa.

This year we are launching a new fund for disabled women in Uganda, Ghana and Tanzania. Disabled women from these countries will decide how the grant will work and how the money should be spent.

Currently, a panel of women with disabilities from Uganda, Tanzania and Ghana are designing the fund, which will open later this year. We are excited to share more information about it then.

Find out more.

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supporting leaders

Find out about our Global Disability Leadership Academy.

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Find out how we are transforming our organisation.


Read our new strategy for disability justice.