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© 2022 Opportunity InternationalOpportunity International United Kingdom is registered as a charity in England and Wales (1107713) and in Scotland (SCO39692).

Serving over 17,000 disabled people in Uganda and counting…

By Melissa Bell, Programme Manager for the disabilities project in Uganda

Discrimination, exploitation and exclusion are daily challenges for people living with disabilities. COVID-19 has disproportionally affected disabled people. Healthcare has been interrupted, restrictions cause further isolations and public health messages labelling disabled people as 'high risk' quickly spread fear.

Over 80% of people with disabilities live in some of the poorest countries in the world. The vast majority have the capacity to make meaningful economic contributions. There is a vast number of people that are currently underserved.

Our project in Uganda, working alongside disabled people, provides people with access to savings, loans and digital financial services. Training and support enables them to build businesses and work their way out of poverty.

Financial Inclusion officers work with groups in communities - raising awareness of financial services available and encouraging entreprenurial ideas.  

SUCCESSES

We started the three-year project with the goal of reaching 3,700 people. In just one and half years we’ve reached a staggering 17,000 people. The same aim was set to train 3,700 people, and 7,500 people have already received llife-changing training. 

There are many reasons to the success… 

  • DEMAND: The disabled community is an underserved section of Uganda’s population. There’s great need for financial services. The potential is huge. 
  • PIONEERING PROJECT: Developing something new comes with risks, but also intrigue and interest. The building of an accessible bank branch by Opportunity Bank Uganda in Nakivale Refugee Settlement has set the ‘gold standard’ for banks moving forward – inspiring the community around it too.
  • INNOVATION: Radio adverts, mobile texts and speech messages reach disabled people living remotely with financial advice and training. Radio was an integral communication channel during COVID-19 restrictions.
  • BESPOKE: Our Financial Literacy Training curriculum is designed for people with different types of disability, such as: hearing, sight, and learning speeds.
  • LOCAL INVOLVEMENT: Recruiting staff from local communities who are culturally aware and speak local languages builds trust between bank branches and people living with disabilities.
  • CHANGING MINDSETS: Training on the value and potential that disabled customers can add is changing mind-sets and increasing equality. It’s a balance between the business case for the bank with inclusive environments and supportive staff for clients with disabilities.

Fully accessible, inclusive bank opened in Nakivale, refugee settlement, Uganda in September 2021. Setting the example for others to follow. 

COVID-19, CLIMATE CHANGE AND ONGOING CHALLENGES

Progress is above expectations, but the impact of COVID-19 and cultural barriers continue to impact the clients we’re working with. Uganda has experienced prolonged and strict lockdowns that make the UK’s look short and comparatively easy. Having access to adequate food, clothing, housing and good living conditions is key for persons with disabilities and their families to have a good quality of life. Restricted travel has isolated many people with disabilities in remote rural regions. Domestic violence against people living with disabilities has increased as tensions in the home rise.

Climate change is another factor that is projected to exacerbate food shortages and malnutrition in the world’s poorest regions where agriculture and communitie enterprise are the main livlihood.  Those living in the poorest communities, in which persons with disabilities are disproportionately represented, will be impacted most.  

 

WHAT’S NEXT?

We continue to adapt our methods to increase financial awareness and training for disabled people. We’re currently recruiting actors for Television Adverts to be broadcast beyond the districts we’re working in to reach a wider group of people.

The recruitment of Financial Inclusion Officers from local villages is securing the long-term benefit and sustainability of the project.  When the project finishes, the training, knowledge sharing and support will carry on.

The amount of people we’ve reached is amazing, but presents challenges. The demand is high and we need to continue serving as many people with disabilities as possible to maintain momentum and promote inclusivity.  Will you help us to reach disabled people with financial training and business skills? Support them to build a sustainable livelihood and lift themselves out of poverty.

DONATE HERE

Read more about our people with disabilities project.

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