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Disability is not inability

By Melissa Bell, Programme Manager

In Uganda, it’s estimated that approximately 12.5% of the population live with some form of disability. That’s almost 4.5 million people. Most of whom are considered, by the banks of Uganda, to be dependent on others and unable to earn their own income.

Over the last three years we have being working with disabled communities in the Eastern and Northern regions of Uganda.  The project set out to reach 3,700 people living with disabilities in rural regions, providing them with the financial tools and training needed to gain confidence and become economically independent and active individuals.

We have reached thousands more!  Almost 10,000 people with disabilities have participated in the project. Not only did participants receive financial training and loans to build their own businesses but they also grew in confidence;

  • the confidence to start a business,
  • the confidence to take out loans,
  • the confidence to provide for their family.

The impact has reached beyond just those living with disabilities. Family members, carers and other community members have all been impacted.  Most powerfully, perceptions have begun changing about disabled people within their community as valued members.  Through the use of nationwide radio shows and a directed TV show designed specifically for this project, we have contributed to a change of policy at the Bank of Uganda regarding disability inclusion and businesses are now coming forward to declare their disability inclusion policies and actively seeking to work together with people with disabilities (PWDs) for a better future.

There is nothing more powerful than hearing the voices of those living with disabilities say ‘Yes, it is possible to be independent,’

Filming our clients

Throughout 2022, we worked with  InsightShare – an expert in using media tools to give people a voice in participating with community projects - to capture our clients inspiring stories of change.  We worked with local evaluators, who themselves are people with disabilities or part of the groups we support, and our financial inclusion officers and village agents who helped translate and conduct the participatory research videos.

These stories not only share the incredible impact on our clients lives but they also helped us identify the barriers to progress, areas where these barriers have been broken down and where there is still more work to be done. On this project, we are steered by the experience of people with disabilities, to change our activities to fit with their needs. The videos are hugely impactful – both for the learnings around the project and it’s implementation but also for all those who hear the individual stories.

There are seven videos on our youtube channel highlighting the challenges and experiences of our clients living with  disabilities. Below is a summary of the powerful stories that were captured:

The stories I heard were, at times, traumatic in a way that we often cannot conceive of in the UK. In spite of the hardship and, sometimes because of it, the stories were inspirational. Many started their journey underestimating their own capabilities, often experiencing discrimination, stigma and outright abuse because of their disability. With the help and support of their peers, many now have a feeling of self-worth that comes with a successful business venture and the ability to provide a sustainable future for themselves and their families.

Times are hard. Prices are going up worldwide and the knock on effect is felt by the poorest, and people with disabilities tend to be the most vulnerable of that category. They do not have to be. Helping them access financial training, better prepares them for future shocks and changes. Working with local partners ensures that there is local accountability and a structure in place to continue supporting this on-going endeavour.  

Group discussion

We are taking one step at a time but the changes can be seen in the income generated through new businesses and felt in the confidence of our clients. Disability is not inability.

If you would like support this work, please donate here.

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