Promoting employment opportunities for Uganda’s disabled people

27 May 2016

Robert Nkwanguby Robert Nkwangu, livelihood technical advisor at Leonard Cheshire Disability's east and north Africa regional office

Employment is critical for the realisation of human dignity.

Uganda’s constitution talks about affirmative action in favour of marginalised groups in order to redress imbalances which exist against them. However, despite a commendable legal framework, action is still unsatisfactory.

Most disabled people in Uganda have limited or no access to mainstream education services, which leads to a lack of skills and limited opportunities for mainstream employment.

Many also face discrimination and stigma in the communities where they live, and the resulting low self-esteem can leave individuals feeling isolated and afraid of exposing their disability.

The recently re-elected government places an emphasis on private sector-led growth to help generate employment opportunities for Ugandans, but the East African nation’s disabled community are largely failing to benefit.

While reliable statistics are hard to come by, it is widely believed that the majority of people with disabilities in Uganda are unemployed.

The few work opportunities that arise are irregular and those who fall into this unstable existence have never had the chance of an education to learn to read and write, due to being denied the same education opportunities as non-disabled children in their formative years.

The economic activities are risky and low paid, and the quantity and quality of jobs remains a major development challenge.

There is hope though.

In order to create accessible and sustainable livelihoods for people with disabilities, Leonard Cheshire Disability — in partnership with Cheshire Services Uganda — has implemented a livelihoods project model.

The project in Uganda is funded by the European Union, with similar projects run by Leonard Cheshire across Africa and Asia supported by other partners.

What characterises this model?

Well, the vocational and business skills training sessions we run are fundamental. In addition, we also offer counselling, career guidance and life skills training.

Business start-up kits are also provided.

Issa Gabrielle received work skills training in shoemaking from Cheshire Services UgandaPolio survivor Issa Gabriel, pictured, has been supported by Leonard Cheshire.

The 40-year-old did not pursue a university education because his family felt he would not be employed because of his disability.

He has quadrupled his income after being trained as a shoemaker by Cheshire Services Uganda.

'It has changed my life. I can now pay my children’s school fees.' — Issa Gabriel

We work with employers and vocational training institutions too, providing tailored strategy support. And with the local government in order to ensure sustainability.

The World Bank estimates that 20% of the world’s poorest people is disabled.

As of this year we are now working directly with the World Bank in joint efforts to share and learn from one another’s methods as we strive to overcome this inequality by 2030.

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