The birth of a child is a time of celebration; families are excited about the newest edition to their family. Sadly, this is not the case if you are a disabled child born in Uganda.
Children with disabilities face extreme forms of violence, stigma and discrimination based on misconceptions about the cause of disability that are rooted in cultural beliefs and traditions.
The most frequently-stated causes of disability in Uganda and Africa at large include witchcraft; a curse or punishment from "gods," anger of ancestral spirits, bad omens, reincarnation, heredity, incestuous relationships, and the misdemeanors of the mother. These misperceptions not only lead to stigma, but also to a belief that children with disabilities should be demonized.
As a result, children may be lashed in attempts to drive out "evil spirits" causing the disability, or may be neglected or even killed. Negative attitudes about children with disabilities within communities are reinforced at the household level and parents themselves often contribute to these children becoming invisible, virtually hidden from society.
Henry Nyombi, a lawyer whose mother refused to see his disability as a bad omen from God is a man who chooses to inspire the disabled children in Uganda. He has formed the Youth with Physical Disability Development Forum; a community-based organization established by youth with disabilities whose mandate is to contribute to an environment that empowers children and youth with disabilities to realize full social, political and inclusive development.
Data relating to Children with disabilities is scarce, and to some extent, unreliable. Significant gaps in information are the lack of disaggregation of statistics by gender and types of disabilities and the nonexistence of national and accurate data in other areas than education. Based on estimations, the child disability prevalence is about 13% -- approximately 2.5 million children live with some form of disability in Uganda.
Coupled with the above, the statistical information available in Uganda indicates extremely low enrollment and completion of primary and secondary schools by Children with disabilities (cwds). In fact, only about 9% of children with disabilities attend primary school, compared with a National average of 92%, and only 6% of them continue studying in secondary schools. YPDDF implements the following programs and interventions.
Young people with disabilities are among the poorest and most marginalized of the world's youth. Estimates suggest that there are between 180 and 220 million youth with disabilities worldwide, and nearly 80 percent of them live in developing countries.
Youth with disabilities (YWDs) are often found with a low self-esteem, belonging to the poorest of the poor in society. Most YWDs do not complete their education; highest amongst girls. Due to lack of access to education most YWDs do not have skills and competencies required for employment or to become involved in any activities that can give them a livelihood.
Hence most of them are left out in most of the government programs intended to reduce poverty levels among rural communities such as NAADs. In addition, the physically demanding nature of unskilled labour also makes it difficult for disabled youth to be involved in labour intensive activities, that otherwise do not require high skills or competencies.
This programs' focus is on improving livelihood of YWDs through empowerment in terms of skills and competencies in managing viable income generation activities as well as empowering YWDs households to be able to meet their basic needs. Over 80 disabled youth have gained independence from training and have begun small- scale businesses like candle making.
Youth and children with disabilities are vulnerable, by virtue of their impairment and negative societal attitudes arising from fear, ignorance, superstitions, neglect and to a large extent, lack of awareness of their rights. As a result, they are very often discriminated by service providers from the development programs. It is assumed that they are not sexually active, thus are at minimal or no risk at all of sexual and reproductive health and HIV and AIDS infections.
YWDs often experience stigma and marginalization in accessing social services such as education, health, sexual reproductive health and HIV/AIDS services among others.
Female youth with disabilities are often victims of sexual and gender violence, sexual harassment thus predisposing them to HIV infection. Available sexual reproductive health and HIV/AIDS services and policies do not provide for special emphasis on disability friendly services but are rather lumped under the vulnerable populations.
It saddens me to know these atrocities are occurring in our beautiful world and would like to help Henry in supporting his efforts at changing the lives for the disabled children and youth of Uganda. "There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that the rights of children including children with disabilities are respected, their welfare is protected, and that their lives are free from fear which can grow up in peace."