“I truly appreciate my mother for her determination to send me to school despite society’s perception of me being different. This instilled a lot of confidence in me that I still hold today.”
Ms. Olive Namutebi, Executive Director of Albinism Umbrella in Uganda made these remarks during her presentation at the national stakeholder’s engagement on disability inclusion organized by a consortium of the National Association of Women’s Organisations in Uganda (NAWOU), The Uganda Association of Women Lawyers in Uganda (FIDA Uganda), ADD International Uganda Programme and the National Union of Women with Disabilities in Uganda (NUWODU).
The National Stakeholder’s Meeting held on the 9th of February 2022 at Hotel Africana was intended to advocate for increased and strengthened access to government empowerment programs and opportunities for financial and economic enhancement for women with disabilities. It sought to also hold government accountable for the commitments made during the first Global Disability Summit (GDS) in 2018. The process was geared towards efforts leading to realization of SDGs 5 & 8 on promoting gender equality and sustainable economic growth as well as the national agenda as indicated in Articles 35 and 32 of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda, which recognize the right of PWDs to inherent dignity and affirmative action respectively, and the PWDs Act, 2006 which makes provision for respect, protection and realization of human rights of PWDs.
Regional consultative meetings held earlier in Northern, Eastern and Western Uganda which informed the national engagement examined the extent to which Women with Disabilities (WWDs) were benefiting from existing economic empowerment programs and social services, identify gaps, barriers and recommendations to promote their participation. The dialogue brought together Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), National Councils for youth, disability and women, women with disabilities, politicians, local government members, media, selected CSOs.
Persons with disabilities face multiple challenges including accessibility and attitudinal barriers that hinder their participation in social, economic and political life. They also have less access to education, poorer health and lower participation in the formal labour market than people without disabilities. According to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development’s “Situational Analysis of Persons with Disabilities in Uganda” report published September 2020 states that over 80% of PWD live on less than UGX. 8000 per day. Poverty is therefore a dynamic situation and the majority of PWDs are vulnerable to fall into it at some point in the future and risk exclusion from mainstream government programs.
Executive Director, National Association of Women Organisations in Uganda (NAWOU), Monica Emiru Enyou reflected on the commitments made by government towards inclusion of women with disabilities during the first GDS during her opening remarks. The meeting intended to take stock of how far government and other stakeholders were involving persons with disabilities in existing programs more specifically WWDs as they are double disadvantaged which limits full realisation of their social, economic and political rights.
The Global Disability Summit offers a concrete mechanism for collecting new, ambitious, and widespread commitments which are critical to achieving real change for persons with disabilities. The first Global Disability held in 2018 (GDS18) was a historic event for disability inclusion, co-hosted by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Government of Kenya, and the International Disability Alliance (IDA). The GDS18 inspired unprecedented engagement and generated commitments to action that will help deliver Agenda 2030’s vision to ‘Leave No One Behind’ (LNOB) as well as existing obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Ms. Akumu Christine Okot, Principal Gender Officer representing the Commissioner Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development urged partners to engage local government on inclusion of women with disabilities.
“On behalf of the Ministry, we commit to ensuring that issues of women with disabilities are prioritised in all programs run by the Ministry specifically in the department of gender and women affairs and to consistently follow upon on Local governments to ensure women with disabilities benefit from existing programs,” Christine Akumu stated. “The Ministry will strengthen the PWDs monitoring system in all MDAs to monitor matters of inclusion.”
During the plenary discussions, participants took note of several gaps within service delivery systems like access to justice, civic education, sexual and reproductive health education, gender disaggregated data that would be used during the planning processes and youth with disabilities involvement.
Ms Asio Jenipher Rose representing National Planning Authority, provided updates on the Parish Development Model guidelines that are more disability inclusive. She alluded to the reality that government was still lagging in terms of information and interpretation, she committed to organising trainings on sign language interpretation to be more inclusive in their programs and to influence the process of developing new disability guidelines by the Authority. The Authority also has plans of translating the NDP 111 into brail format to meet the needs of persons with visual impairment.
The Chairperson National Women’s Council, Hajati Farida Kibowa commended the government of Uganda for the existing economic empowerment programs implemented for the benefit of women and priority needed to be given to WWDs.
“I commit to going an extra mile in supporting disabled women of Uganda. The country is soon celebrating International Women’s Day and as the council meets with the President of the Republic prior to the event, we shall ensure that a statement on disability inclusion is issued during the National Women’s Day celebrations,” she said.
Investing in disability-inclusive programs is critical for addressing the diverse risks, poverty, inequalities and exclusion that are often associated with disability. Moreover, persons with disabilities and their families live with lifelong consequences that are exacerbated by disability-related costs and barriers that exclude or limit their active participation in community engagements and socioeconomic spheres.