Advancing disability inclusion through partnership and collaboration
Insights from Voice rightsholders in Uganda
by Lauya Nasejje, George Sempangi, Sandra Anena, Josephine N, and Faridah Nabbanja, Linking and Learning Facilitation, Voice in Uganda
Disability inclusion is a paramount aspect of any society striving for equality and social justice. Voice’s values of leaving no one behind, nothing for us without us and putting the furthest behind first reflect the true spirit of inclusion not only for persons with disability but for all other rightsholders including age discriminated youth and older persons, ethnic minorities, and women faced with exploitation, abuse and vulnerability. As such, grantee partners and rightsholders addressing vulnerabilities related to disability in Uganda have since July 2023 to date held several conversations in their Community of Practice to exchange knowledge, share experiences, take stock of lessons on disability inclusion and foster collaboration.
Uganda National Action on Physical Disability (UNAPD), Joy Initiative Uganda (JOYI-Uganda), and the Gulu Women Economic Development and Globalization (GWED-G) shared their valuable experiences and insights on disability inclusion.
The sharing confirmed that “Forging impactful partnerships” with other NGOs, government entities and the private sector has allowed HUDIP, GWED-G, UNAPD and JOYI-Uganda to harness inclusion of persons with disabilities in their community development initiatives.
”We have collaborated with International Justice Mission(IJM), a global NGO that works to protect poor and vulnerable communities through strengthening the local justice systems. This strategic alliance proved invaluable as IJM provided essential support to the Hoima District Union of Persons with Disabilities (HUDIP), facilitating a productive meeting with the judiciary in Hoima City. As a result, HUDIP has successfully established a robust and constructive working relationship with the judiciary which has resulted into improvedg reporting of violations by PWDs. HUDIP has also partnered with the Disability Council and representatives of persons with disability in Hoima city to draft a bye-law against discriminating PWDs”
– Mr. Gilbert Bigirwenkya, Executive Director, HUDIP
HUDIP has also partnered with the private sector to ensure persons with disabilities are able to access services with utmost convenience.
“Our proactive partnership with Centenary bank was steered through creating a dedicated account in the bank. We then positioned ourselves as clients to educate the bank’s management on the potential benefits of adopting disability-inclusive practices in the bank and the benefits for both clients and employees with disabilities. Through lobbying, a specialized desk on the ground floor of their storied office building was provided to cater to the needs of individuals with disabilities, pregnant mothers, and the elderly.”
– Mr. George Katumba, M&E Officer, HUDIP
GWED-G on the other hand, is not a disability organisation but has endeavored to ensure persons with disabilities are included in the different interventions of their voice funded project.
“Besides the peer support training that we received from HUDIP on disability inclusion at the start of the Voice project, we have forged a valuable partnership with Light of the World international ,a global disability and development NGO working in Uganda to improve access to eye health services, education and employment for people with disabilities. The organisation has provided further capacity strengthening for GWED-G staff on disability inclusion.”
– Sandra Anena, Voice Project Coordinator from GWED-G
JOYI-Uganda’s approach to partnership building has been to let rightsholders with disability take leadership in initiating partnerships to improve services delivery for persons with disabilities. Awareness-raising sessions and continuous mentorship for their ambassadors, who actively engage community leaders and other partners have been important interventions by JOYI-Uganda.
“Our community ambassadors have fostered fruitful partnerships not only at the local government level but also with like-minded organizations in the area. For example, the ambassador for persons with disability in Kamengo collaborated with Albinism Umbrella, and secured 100 tubes of sunscreen for individuals with Albinism in Kamengo subcounty, Mpigi District. In Buwama sub-county, the ambassador joined forces with Stromme Foundation, contributing to the renovation of a classroom block at Equator Primary School, inclusive of a ramp for improved accessibility for children with disabilities. Furthermore, we successfully forged collaborations with Buwama Health Center III and Butoolo Health Center III to make healthcare services accessible for persons with disabilities through including psychiatric services available and empowering health care working on how to communicate with persons with speech impairments.”
– Ms. Namatovu Josephine, Fisher Folk Community Liaison Officer, JOYI, Uganda
UNAPD has partnered with local radio stations particularly Pallisa FM to provide free media space where youth with disabilities can reach peers with information about their civic responsibilities but also engage duty bearers to support participation of youth with disabilities in political processes.
Ms. Faridah Nabbanja, UNAPD observes that forming the “NOW US youth groups has harnessed the collective power of youth who are advocating for their political participation. The youth are now utilising the radio show on Pallisa FM, a local and popular radio station to feature 3-hours segment involving dialogues and debates on civic engagement”
Rightsholders acknowledge that in the effort to promote disability inclusion, we are confronted by several limitations including; scarcity of sign language interpreters which affects communication and accessibility for individuals with hearing impairments. There is consensus within the team that grantees and rightsholders need to be equipped with skills in sign language. The team also underscored the need to have disability inclusion policies within their respective organisations that will provide guidance on how disability inclusion would be mainstreamed in all interventions in their respective organisations.