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The World's Largest Minority

By Nicole Baldev, Philanthropy Assistant

Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It is a day to support equality of opportunity, a day to embrace difference and a day to promote the inherent dignity of people living with disabilities.

In a global population of 7 billion individuals, over 1 billion live with a disability. That is 15% of the world’s population – the “world’s largest minority”. Many of these individuals live in some of the world’s poorest countries where physical barriers, coupled with deeply entrenched social and cultural stigmas, create a set of complex challenges.

With 20% of people living in poverty having some form of disability, their lives of poverty and economic marginalisation are exacerbated. This has a significant impact on their quality of life, personal dignity, and self-confidence. Without support to help manage their conditions, they become isolated. They are left behind.

Over 50% of people living with disabilities in Uganda are involved in economic activities and yet under 1% are formally banked. Opportunity International recognises the urgent need to remove barriers to accessing finance for persons with disabilities. That’s why last year we launched an innovative three-year project, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, to increase economic empowerment and financial inclusion of 18,500 persons living with disabilities and their families or carers in eastern Uganda. We are already seeing huge progress – despite the complications of COVID-19!

To date, we have successfully:

  • Created a safe, accessible banking environment; attached ramps to branch entrances, reduced the height of customer counters and streamlined account opening processes.

  • Delivered disability awareness training to all branch staff, enabling them to understand the difficulties people living with disabilities face when accessing financial services.

  • Assisted persons with disabilities to access loans and open savings accounts, empowering them to take control of their finances, increase their income and store their savings securely.

  • Provided financial literacy training on the importance of savings and investment, to include educating individuals on income generating activities to create their own business and plan for the future.

  • Established “Councils of References” – councils selected by persons with disabilities and comprised of persons with different impairment types, district union/local government officials and representatives from disability organisations and local communities – to give persons with disabilities a voice and the ability to steer the project in a direction that works for them.

Yet, this is just the beginning!

Over the next 2 years, we will continue supporting these communities in eastern Uganda and will incorporate digital solutions to further assist people living with disabilities to access vital financial services.

Disability group in Mbale, Uganda

Our clients are resilient, yet they face huge challenges and disadvantages.  Living with a disability is one of those, but with your support we can eradicate the stigmatisation of visible and invisible disabilities and enable more people to work their way out of poverty.

Today is a “day for all”, so let’s work together to give an opportunity to all.

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