PWDs – So Much More Remains to Be Done [column]

One of the key challenges of trying to address hardships faced by persons with disabilities is the sheer size of the task at hand.

On my tours of western Uganda, the thought that came with every positive testimony about the Operations Day Work (ODW) youth project was how much more needs to be done.

Take Miriam Nziabaki, 28, a woman whose face and voice exude happiness. As she smiles, her hands are equally busy weaving – making handcrafts. This is how the physically-disabled Nziabaki is able to earn a living. She is a member of the Kasese District Association of Youths with Disabilities (KDAYWD).

Formed with the support of ODW project, implemented by the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda, KDAYWD helps to mobilise youths with disabilities to engage in development activities. The group has 30 members including youths in and out of school, participating in savings and credit, music, drama and making crafts.

Nziabaki can now take care of her needs because she is able to sell her products. She has also become a leader, representing persons with disabilities at the district disability council, a government structure responsible for monitoring the implementation of disability policies and laws.

Whereas the ODW project has registered good results, Nziabaki says the monitoring of beneficiaries to assess progress needs to be strengthened.

Like Nziabaki, KDAYWD chairperson Sylvia Biira attributes her leadership and enhanced self-esteem to the trainings and sensitisation campaigns by project agents – in human rights, HIVAids, hygiene and sanitation as well as entrepreneurship.

She specifically recalls the days she used to cry every time community members referred to her a PWD.

“After knowing that we need to accept ourselves, we decided to forget about what people think of us and started aocating for our rights,” she says.

Her multipurpose group performs at functions at a fee, and participates in games, such as sit volleyball under Uganda Para Olympics. Recently, Biira led the group to Rwanda for a PWD tournament, where they performed well.

Beyond ODW

While the ODW project is phasing out, Nziabaki and Biira hope that Nudipu and her partners will renew the project, on the strength of the impact it has made in the lives of PWDs in the districts of Rubirizi and Kasese over the last five years.

The project has helped to improve community attitudes. Previously, the community would look at PWDs as an unproductive segment, but now they appreciate their skills and input to society. Biira’s only challenge is that they don’t have enough resources to produce music that can be sold. They have only managed to produce one of their six songs.

Another woman I spoke to, Dina Mulhumbira, narrates how her self-esteem has greatly improved, after her participation in the ODW project. She got training in making re-usable pads, a skill that will go a long way to improve her life. If she makes her own pads, Mulhumbira can save the Shs 6,000 she would otherwise spend on buying pads a month.

At least now she knows her rights unlike before. She, for instance, knows that one actually doesn’t need a lot of money to thrive. A member of a savings and credit group that meets every week, she now intends to start making pads as an income-generating activity.

In spite of such good testimonies, the ODW project was not able to reach many PWDs in Kasese and Rubirizi districts, given the limited resources and insatiable demand for assistance.

This calls for government intervention. The youth grant may be on how but the question is: how many YWDs have been targeted by such programmes? My visits to the project area have further confirmed what we know – the people reached by projects such as ODW are only a tip of the iceberg.

To melt that iceberg, the government and other stakeholders in the disability community need a deliberate strategy to replicate the gains and lessons learnt from Western Uganda.

The author is the communications manager at Nudipu.

Source : The Observer

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