Saturday, 31 December 2016

Does Uganda have inclusive education?

Only 1 in 5 children with disabilities (CWDs) is enrolled in primary school (see Educating Children With Disabilities).

Of that intake, more than 2 out of every 3 CWDs will not complete P5 (the 5th year of primary school), in other words 130,000 CWDs out of a 200,000 annual intake will not achieve basic literacy or numeracy. 

There are many reasons for these high dropout rates. For instance, CWDs are often treated badly by other children. Some can’t walk the long distances from home to school. Other CWDs can’t see the blackboard or hear the teacher. Classes are often overcrowded and underfunded.

The table below shows that schools are far from inclusive. Notice that as disability increases CWDs are less likely to complete P5. In other words as the level of disability increases it becomes harder to complete P5.

Table: Disability and P5 completion for 13 - 17 year old children.

P5 not completed
P5 completed
Difficulty seeing even with glasses
No difficulty
Yes - some difficulty
Yes - a lot of difficulty
Difficulty hearing even with hearing aid
No difficulty
Yes - some difficulty
Yes - a lot of difficulty
Difficulty walking or climbing stairs
No difficulty
Yes - some difficulty
Yes - a lot of difficulty
Difficulty remembering or concentrating
No difficulty
Yes - some difficulty
Yes - a lot of difficulty
Difficulty with selfcare
No difficulty
Yes - some difficulty
Yes - a lot of difficulty
Difficulty communicating
No difficulty
Yes - some difficulty
Yes - a lot of difficulty

Table compiled from the 2012 paper, Access to education for children with disabilities in Uganda: Implications for Education for All.

For more information see Education and Disability: Dropout Figures for Uganda.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Educating Children With Disabilities

The table below shows the total number of pupils enrolled to primary school in 2010 and 2011.

If schools were fully inclusive we would expect this percentage of children with disabilities (CWDs) enrolled to be 11.5%. In other words 79% of CWDs do not even start education


Thursday, 29 December 2016

Thank you for your support

Thank you for your support
The Disability Support Uganda Team
Wishes you a happy and prosperous 2017

Education and poverty

Eradication of poverty is a driver for getting people educated. Even small gains in education have important benefits on reducing poverty (see The Uganda Poverty Assessment Report 2016). Education should therefore be a priority for persons with disabilities (PWDs).

Wednesday, 28 December 2016


Ableism is the conscious or subconscious behaviors that assume that able is the norm. Ableism asserts that persons with disabilities (PWDs) should try their hardest to fit into an able society.

Ableism views disability as an error in life that is inferior, it devalues and negates the experiences of PWDs.

Disability is not a curse, it is a simply a consequence of human diversity.

Look beyond the disability

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

The Social Model of Disability

People with disabilities (PWDs) have impairments. The impairments have an impact on the life of a PWD. However it is not the impairment that makes someone disabled.

PWDs are disabled by the world around them and the barriers they encounter. If the barriers were removed the world would be more accessible. PWDs would have only their impairments.

Barriers are things like:
  • Peoples attitudes
  • Stairs in stead of ramps or lifts
  • No braille signs
  • No sign language interpreters
  • People that don't understand your disability
When you understand that you have impairments, you can begin to get barriers removed.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Stigma is the greatest barrier for a person with a disability

The greatest barrier a person with a disability (PWD) must face is stigma.

The diagram below shows the connection between stigma, disability and poverty. Both cycles depict negative feedback systems.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

1 in 5 people in Uganda has a disability

What should everyone know about disability in Uganda?

1 in 5 persons in Uganda has some form of disability. This has been known since 2006. 

The current population of Uganda is estimated to be 40,965,921 (see Worldometers: Uganda Population (LIVE)). One fifth of the population, that is 20%, has a disability. 

There are 8,193,184 persons with disabilities (PWDs) which is almost 2 times the population of my home country New Zealand (4,583,129 see Worldometers: New Zealand Population (LIVE)).

Four Case Studies

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Seasons Greetings

Seasons greetings
 from the
Disability Support Uganda 


Human Rights: Disabled Refugees

It is important to understand that the human rights laws of Uganda extend to all people in Uganda. This film is about the rights of disabled refugees in Uganda. The poster says:
As the world celebrated the International Day for Persons with Disabilities on 3rd December, the Refugee Law Project (RLP) focused on drawing people's attention to the plight of refugees with disabilities in Uganda.

As part of the celebrations to mark the day, RLP organized a public dialogue on 29th November 2011 at Pope Paul Memorial Hotel where a documentary titled 'Caught Between a Hard Place and a Rock; The plight of refugees with disabilities in Uganda', was launched.

Comprising of interviews with PWDs, both in Kampala and refugee settlements, the documentary highlights the challenges faced by refugees with disabilities and proposed recommendations to these challenges.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Education: Monitoring the CRPD

It is the responsibility of the Ugandan government to monitor its own progress in the implementation of of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Besides the government's monitoring, there are many independent organizations that monitor the implementation of the CRPD as representatives of persons with disabilities. This blog post will discuss monitoring the CRPD.

Paul Emong in his 2014 thesis, The Realisation of Human Rights for Disabled People in Higher Education in Uganda: A Critical Analysis Drawing on the UNConvention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities gives an overview of the monitoring of the CRPD:
 Article 33 of the CRPD, requires States to develop focal points in government to ensure policy coordination, establish independent monitoring frameworks and involve disabled people in the implementation and monitoring of the obligations in the Convention. This article has been complied with in Uganda. Uganda government has already established focal points on disability and as well as independent monitoring frameworks. What is therefore required is for government to ensure the full functioning of these focal points and independent monitoring mechanisms.

The key government focal point on disability is the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD). In this ministry, a State Minister for Disability and Elderly Affairs coordinates disability affairs at government level. Below the Minister, a Technical Department for advising government on disability issues is established and is headed by the Commissioner who has now been designated as a focal person on the CRPD. Therefore, the Technical Department is the focal point for the government on the CRPD.

The coordination points (focal points) on disability for Uganda appears robust; as there exists also at district local governments level a position of Community Development Officer designated for disability affairs. There is also the Commission for Special Needs Education and Guidance, coordinating disability issues at the Ministry of Education and Sports. In education there is also an expanded disability coordination mechanism. At the Uganda National Examinations Board, a Special Educational Needs Desk is already established to coordinate issues relating to disability and national examination. However, the mandates of these structures are mainly on primary and secondary levels of education, which leaves a gap for coordination of disability issues in higher education.

On the independent monitoring framework, Uganda already established the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), the National Councils for Disability (NCD) and the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) as discussed in the previous section. These bodies have been delegated the task of monitoring the implementation of the CRPD.

On the involvement of civil society, in particular disabled people and their organisations, in the implementation and monitoring of the CRPD, Uganda has active civil society organised under the NGO Board, and active disability organisations which government on many occasions engages on matters of disability through NUDIPU as already stated in this chapter. A classic example of this involvement is the national elections of disabled people where government has been involving the disability organisation through NUDIPU on organising these elections. Another consultation with disabled people on national matters was during the development of Vision 2040. Another was during development of the National Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP). 
In concluding this section, it can be stated that Uganda seems to be fairly fulfilling the provisions on establishing the structures required by CRPD to ensure effective implementation and monitoring of disability rights. But each of their roles needs to be defined clearly to bring about their effectiveness through avoiding problems associated with legitimacy and credibility; problems that are associated with those kind of institutions. Additionally, these institutions need money and strength of law to further enhance their individual effectiveness for these mandates. At the time of writing this thesis, these bodies have not provided any guidance on the meaning of disability discrimination and have not also done any work on higher education related to disability such as providing codes of practice.
The Commission for Special Needs Education and Guidance, coordinating disability issues at the Ministry of Education and Sports has already been discussed in Special Needs Education in Uganda: The Salamanca Statement. However, Emong notes that the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development is the key government focal point on disability. I was interested to read their position on PWDs:

Government through the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development has a mandate to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities (PWDs). According to Uganda Population and Housing Census(2002), one in every 25 persons has a disability and hence making it a development concern. Some of the disabilities include difficulty in seeing, hearing, speech, moving and learning. The underlying causes of disability include but not limited to communicable diseases, congenital abnormalities and injuries. The situation has been exacerbated by poverty, illiteracy and varying degrees of negative attitudes. The Government is mandated to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities and the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda stipulates the need to empower and provide equal opportunities to PWDs. Government has focused on provision of health services, community based rehabilitation, vocational training, Universal Primary Education as key measures to empower PWDs. This policy on disability will contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of People with Disabilities (PWDs) through expanding the scope of interventions. The interventions will necessitate PWDs themselves to participate in designing, managing, monitoring and evaluating initiatives that are meant to improve their well-being. It will also ensure that the central government, local authorities, CSOs, parents and caregivers involve PWDs. Disability issues transcend all sectors. Therefore, the Public sector, Ministries, Local Governments, CSOs, NGOs and other actors should use this policy as a framework to guide planning, resource allocation and implementation of interventions of PWDs. The process of developing this policy has been consultative and participatory involving cross-section of policy makers, implementers and beneficiaries. I would like to extend my appreciation to all, Government Ministries, Local authorities, Private sector, Civil Society Organisations, Communities and persons with disabilities for their contributions to this process. I wish to acknowledge the logistical support of development partners especially the Norwegian Association of the Disabled and International NGOs. I am convinced that the zeal exhibited during the development of this policy will continue into the implementation phase. This policy is an inherent of the Social Development Sector Strategic Investment Plan (SDIP) which is itself a framework for operationalising the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP). Support and participation by all stakeholders is critical for successful implementation of this policy. I have no doubt therefore, that the policy address and redress the inequalities that PWDs experience in the society .
The current government policy is nonsense based on outdated figures. This is the reasoning. It is not in dispute that:
According to Uganda Population and Housing Census (2002), one in every 25 persons has a disability and hence making it a development concern.
However these figures are not up to date. 1 in 25 PWDs, represents 4% of the population. A wildly inaccurate figure if more recent data is assessed. This blog has shown that the total number of PWDs in Uganda, according to the 2011 figures, is 12.5% of the population that is 2 years old or over. Another 2014 report estimates the number of PWDs to be 19.2% (almost 1 in 5) of the population that is 5 years old or over (see Estimate of the Numbers of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in Uganda). 

Mbale PWDs demonstrate against Nanteza’s appointment

This article from August 2016 PDWs want authority to manage their affairs shows the extent of dissatisfaction of PWDs. If trees are protected by a government authority, how much more should PWDs be protected?
KAMPALA - A group of 11 organizations supporting persons with disabilities (PWDs) want government to create an authority that will manage their issues.

"If forests can have an authority – NFA – to protect the trees and environment, what about the PWDS who pay taxes and contribute to the national economy?” said Ambrose Murangira.

He is the executive director of the Uganda National Association of the Deaf (UNAD).

The group was meeting MPs on the committee of gender who are in the process of amending the PWDs Bill 2014. The piece of legislation is apparently being scrutinized by the committee chaired by Nakasongola Woman MP Margret Komuhangi.

"We want an enabling law to be enacted that will create an institutional framework with the mandate to protect, promote and develop PWDs’ affairs and health,” said Murangira.

The kind of authority the group wants will have powers to recruit professionals to manage their issues, have a vote on how disability funds are used, demand for disability aides like wheelchairs, white canes, hearing aid, crutches, hearing loops, Braille system used by blind and visually impaired to communicate, etc.

With the authority in place, it will make it a must for hospitals to recruit interpreters to help those who cannot explain clearly their ailments to get the right medication.

The group argues that their affairs are not catered for by the National Council for Disability (NCD), a government institution assigned to handle PWDs’ affairs under the ministry of gender, labor and social development.

They say NCD is not helping in voicing their concerns like funding.

"NCD is weak and swallowed up by the gender ministry,” said Murangira. “It should be strengthened to a level of an authority to carter for better governance of all PWDS."

The program officer at Disability African Rights Medi Ssengooba said PWDs, Uganda's largest minority group, face challenges in participating in and accessing education, employment, health care, transportation, political participation or justice.

And Hassan Mulondo, who is the general secretary for Uganda Albino Association, said most albinos lack the finances to buy medicine that treats the skin ulcers that affect them.

"In the Bill, there is no clause that addresses issues of albinism and yet we cannot afford most of the things we need to survive.”
The government agencies that monitor the rights of PWDs are using figures that are out of date. It is vitally important that organizations that have interests in the rights of PWDs campaign and maintain their presence. Almost 1 in 5 of the population is disabled over the age of 5 years has a disability. As the population grows older so the number of PWDs increases. 19.2% of the population is a significant proportion of the population to exclude from social life. The government should not be diminishing the contribution PWDs make to Ugandan society.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Disabled Women's Rights: Sexual Abuse

Barbara Nandutu talks about some of the sexual, physical and mental abuse she has experienced because of her disability. The Poster says:
African Youth with Disabilities: Raising our Voices for Inclusion was a six-day gathering of 50 youth with disabilities organized in response to the growing youth with disabilities movement on the African continent. In this segment we hear from Barbara Nandutu who says, "The laws are there to protect people with disabilities but the knowledge of them at this point is very low. For the authorities it's just about the position of power, not its just implementation."

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Ugandan Law: Enforcing Disability Legislation

In Ugandan Law: Persons With Disabilities Act and Education it was shown that the Persons With Disabilities Act 2006 (PWDA) is the foundation of human rights legislation in Uganda. This post will discuss the organizations that enforce the PWDA.

Paul Emong in his 2014 thesis, The Realisation of Human Rights for Disabled People in Higher Education in Uganda: A Critical Analysis Drawing on the UNConvention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, gives a good introduction to the organizations that promote and enforce disability legislation in Uganda. In the thesis he explores how disability rights are promoted and enforced in courts:
Generally, the Ugandan disability legislation has not been subjected to judicial interpretation and enforcement because cases exclusively on disability discrimination are not brought to court, except one case concerning accessibility at the Bank, discussed shortly. Lack of litigation on disability in Uganda, in my own experience is due to various factors among others:
Firstly, the general culture in Uganda of preferring conciliation to legal action makes people prefer informal mediation to litigation. This is also evidenced by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) study on the rights of disabled women in Northern Uganda.
Several women with disabilities interviewed for this report said that they had tried to seek justice for sexual and gender based violence but failed. Sometimes local councillors discouraged them from reporting incidents to police and instead pressed for informal mediation, which did not result in changes in behaviour and allowed the violence to continue.
Secondly, prior to the establishment of Legal Action for Persons with Disabilities (LAPD), an NGO established by disabled lawyers in 2005 and government Equal Opportunities Commission in 2009, there was no organ / organisation exclusively supporting disabled person to bring their cases to courts.
Thirdly, in Uganda most people, including disabled people, are rarely made aware of their legal rights. For disabled people, this contributes to the lack of legal enforcement of the disability legislation.
Lastly, in Uganda, generally for all citizens, the professional costs involved in litigation discourage those who may wish to litigate.
As pointed out above, it appears that only one case, challenging the physical inaccessibility of a bank, has appeared in Ugandan courts, the case of Santo Dwoka and Nyeko Okellov. Centenary Rural Development Bank - Gulu Branch.  However, it is doubtful whether it set any precedents as might have been hoped for a test case of that nature, as it was settled out of court. Moreover, the claimants were not compensated as the Judge reasoned that there was no substantial proof that the lives of the claimants were affected when they were enduring the Bank‘s stairs. The key facts of the case were as follows.

Both Santo and Nyeko were disabled people due to polio. Both moved with the aid of callipers, crutches and wheelchairs. Both were clients of Centenary Rural Bank - Gulu Branch as signatories to their group account - Gulu Disabled Cooperative Society. The physical accessibility of the bank excluded them from access to the banking hall on an equal basis with other clients. They had been pleading with the bank management for 2 years about this difficulty but they were ignored, so they took legal action against the bank. The Judge advised settling out of court as, while the case was in progress, the bank began putting accessibility structures on the premises.

While it appears challenging to enforce the disability law through individual litigation the constitution provides in article 50 and 137 for the bringing of a case through public interest litigation (PIL). PIL is seeking to precipitate change through court-ordered decrees. Article 137 provides for PIL to be brought to the Constitutional Court to challenge unconstitutionality of the provision(s) of an Act of Parliament or a customary practice. Through Article 50 PIL may be brought to a competent court to challenge the infringement of rights of individuals or groups of individuals by any practices and force the institution to comply with the existing law. In particular, article 50(2) provides that ―Any person or organisation may bring an action against the violation of another person‘s or group‘s human rights. Therefore, a case challenging the inaccessibility of institutions of higher education merits being brought through PIL under article 50. In Uganda PIL has been used on political rights, unconstitutionality of the death penalty, and right of access to information, the right to freedom of worship, smoking in public places and challenging the paying of a dowry.

In India, in the PIL case of Javed Abidi v Union of India and Others, the Indian government was compelled by the Supreme Court to establish institutional structures envisaged in the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 of India. In Uganda, a similar approach can also use to litigate on the matter of public physical accessibility for disabled people. The outcome such PIL has the potential of generating awareness about accessibility needs among the Ugandan public even if the case is lost. If the case is decided in favour of disability, the PIL could arguably bridge the gap between the legislation and enforcement, help interpret the accessibility provisions and set minimum standards of enforcement.
Emong next discusses the scope of powers of  the National Council for Disability (NCD or the Council), the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC or the Commission) and the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC):
The NCD, is established by the National Council for Disability Act (the NCDA) 2003. The NCDA establishes three levels of the Councils, namely, at national level, district or municipal, subcounty or division or town council. This places the Council in a position to monitor any policy on equalisation of opportunities for disabled people. It is a body through which the needs, problems, concerns, potentials and abilities of disabled people can be communicated to government and its agencies for action. The Council is mandated to carry out monitoring and evaluation of both government and non-government policies for the inclusion of disabled people, and to coordinate and advocate for this inclusion. It is also to carry out research and investigations into violations of rights of disabled people or non-compliance with laws relating to them. With these mandates, the Council is empowered to determine the level of equal opportunities disabled students are accorded in higher education. However, the Council has not been able to execute its functions effectively, including at the institutions of higher education due to limited resources and management challenges.

The EOC, is established by the Equal Opportunities Commission Act (EOCA) 2007 and was launched in 2009. The Commission is established to give effect to the State‘s constitutional mandate to eliminate discrimination and inequalities against any individual or group of persons on grounds such as disability and take affirmative action in favour of those groups for the purpose of redressing imbalances that exists against them.The Commission is empowered with the comprehensive and complimentary roles of monitoring and evaluation and with the enforcement of compliance with the equality laws. Stated as follows:
The functions of the Commission are to monitor, evaluate and ensure that policies, laws, plans, programmes, activities, practices, traditions, cultures and customs of—
(a) organs of state at all levels; 
(b) statutory bodies and agencies; 
(c) public bodies and authorities; 
(d) private businesses and enterprises; 
(e) nongovernmental organisations, and 
(f)social and cultural Communities, are compliant with equal opportunities and affirmative action in favour of groups marginalised on the basis of sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, tribe, creed, religion, social or economic standing, political opinion, disability, gender, age or any other reason created by history, tradition or custom.
In executing its functions, the Commission has statutory powers similar to the powers of the Judicial Court, therefore has powers to hear and determine complaints and may resolve them through mediation, conciliation, negotiation, settlement or other dispute resolution mechanism. That power places it in a position to enforce the PWDA and other equality Acts.

EOC can undertake research-related activities on the inclusion of disabled people to highlight the extent to which they are accorded equal opportunities in higher education It has powers to ensure recommendations arising out of such research are put into action as it can refer any matter to any other institution, body, tribunal or authority which, in the opinion of the Commission can best handle that matter. This means the Commission can refer such recommendations to the Commission for Higher Education or to the National Council for Higher Education for appropriate action.

Another role of the Commission that places it in a good position to bring disability equality into higher education is its function to ―prepare and publish guidelines for implementation of equal opportunities and the avoidance of acts, that undermine equal opportunities. This could lead to the development of codes of practices for disability inclusion for institutions of higher education. In Uganda, these guidelines are clearly absent. This research argues that the Commission has powers to ensure that codes of practice are developed as it is invested with powers to 'recommend to or order any institution, body, authority or person to adopt or take particular steps or action which, in the opinion of the Commission will promote equal opportunities'. In this particular case, the Commission can recommend developing the codes of practice to the NCHE whose role is to streamline the operation of higher education.

Finally, there is the Commission‘s role to 'monitor the compliance, in Uganda, with the provisions of international and regional conventions that relate to or are relevant to the functions and objects of the Commission'. This has the potential to ensure Ugandan disability legislation on education complies with the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People (CRPD).

The UHRC is the national human rights institution, established in accordance with the Constitution, to promote and protect human rights as well as monitor them in the country in line with international human rights instruments.  UHRC‘s competence and responsibilities is in tune with the international standards, spelt out by the Paris Principles relating to the status of national institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights.
In summary, the breadth of the mandate of UHRC includes human rights promotion and outreach, investigation and resolution of complaints, commenting on the Bills before parliament, monitoring Uganda‘s compliance with international treaties and the Constitution on matters of human rights and performing any other human rights matter as may be provided by law. It also publishes periodic reports on the status of human rights in the country and submits those reports to Parliament annually. In the performance of its functions, UHRC assumes the powers of the Judicial Court. On the investigation of the violation of rights of disabled people, there has been a general improvement in the way disability features in UHRC reports to parliament since 2000. In particular, the 2009 annual reports highlights the situation of disabled people in the country, challenges faced by disabled people in enjoyment of their rights and recommendations for the improvements of the human rights situation for disabled people. It appears the UHRC has done much on the issues relating to access to primary and secondary education, but little on higher education. This is the gap in the work of UHRC that needs to be filled to ensure that UHRC ensures a right to education for disabled people in higher education.
DPC Aron Baguma talks to one of the disgrantled disabled persons, Aisha Amooti, sitting in the middle of the road along Saidi Bare Avenue during a protest over a land title

How are these organizations measuring up. Are they performing well defending the rights of PWDs? This 2013 article, Persons with disabilities need access to justice in Uganda, highlights the problems PWDs are having accessing justice. It is clear that though all the mechanisms are in place, and all the laws are sound, there is still great difficulty accessing Justice:
UGANDA: Have you ever taken time to reflect on what the term justice means in its real sense? Ordinarily, one would imagine that it refers to fairness, impartiality, righteousness, reasonableness, even-handedness, honesty, integrity and uprightness.

The list is endless. Suffice it to note that the inference of the term is largely general, but its application may fall short of its reality, depending on an individual’s interests.

For instance, while most of the interpretations may favour persons without disabilities, it does not apply to those with disabilities. Experience from National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (Nudipu), as an umbrella organization of persons with disabilities, has shown that the term Justice is farfetched as far as people with disabilities are concerned, and may not hold water by any standard.

A baseline survey commissioned by Nudipu early this year to assess the legal aid needs of people with disabilities in Uganda indicated that 54 per cent of people with disabilities whose rights were violated did not report to any authority for various reasons, including lack of awareness of their rights to access justice.

Of those who took violation of their rights to court for redress, only 34 per cent were satisfied that they had received justice while 66 per cent were unhappy with court verdicts.

The survey was conducted in the districts of Lira, Gomba, Kampala and Iganga to inform the implementation of the Access to Justice Project (AJP), funded by Democratic Governance Facility (DGF).

It also revealed that there were few cases of public interest litigation on disability handled by courts. Three cases— electoral democracy for people with disabilities 2010, physical inaccessibility to public infrastructures 2010 and mental health petition on abusive laws 2012, are still pending. It is not even clear when these could probably be handled.

The survey notes further that human rights violations against people with disabilities were majorly on aspects such as freedom from exploitation (31.7 per cent) and against equality and non-discrimination (23 per cent). The right to education was equally reported to have been violated.

It notes the non-implementation of the existing laws and policies as a major reason why people with disabilities’ rights continuously get violated without or with minimal redress. For instance, the survey generally revealed that across the country, district service commissions had not considered employment of people with disabilities.

Those who find their way into the employment are denied promotions.

“I have been in public service in my ministry for 20 years and was denied promotion to senior position on grounds of disability,” the survey quotes a respondent from Kampala, as saying.

The leadership of people with disabilities at the district unions, said sexual abuse against women with disabilities accounted for 80 per cent of the injustices faced.

Where perpetrators are arrested, they are hardly prosecuted because it has become a tradition for parents of the victims to prefer settling such cases out of court with or without the victims’ consent.

Interestingly, it is the local council leaders who often convince the parents of the victims to settle the matter out of court. One other interesting issue to note is that confinement of people with disabilities as a means of protection by their caregivers is equally rampant.

This often causes the person to develop other disabilities. With such despondency, it is rather unlikely that the term justice applies in the life of a PWD. In fact, in every bit of their life, there is an element of injustice— be it in mobility, education, economic rights, let alone a right to have a family.

It is these scenarios that prompted Nudipu to develop a project ‘Access to Justice by people with disabilities,’ geared at helping people with disabilities realise the practical meaning of the term ‘justice’. And already, there are some results.

A number of advocates have been trained in disability equality and management. It is our prayer that a number of the advocates will appreciate and support disability related cases.

We would, therefore, like to call upon government to, among others ensure that the judicial system recognises the challenges faced by people with disabilities in their quest for justice and find appropriate strategies to address the bottlenecks.

Some of the strategies could include orienting the judges, lawyers and police on disability rights, reform the laws to be disability-friendly, ensure physical accessibility to courts of law, access to court information and decisions in friendly formats, among others.

It is only then that people with disabilities will receive appropriate legal support, hence making the term justice more meaningful to every Ugandan.
Disability rights laws are often not enforced because people do not know their rights. It is the right of any individual to make a court case if it is in the public interest, however there are very few such cases despite the benefits to the whole community. Besides individual legal actions there are organizations like the NCD, EOC and UHRC that can take action to demand equal rights. These organizations are often hampered by lack of funds and resources.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Is Legislation for Persons With Disabilities Fair?

This video from the National Union of Disabled Persons Uganda (NUDIPU) criticizes law and policy affecting persons with disability (PWDs) in Uganda. PWDs deserve human dignity and respect. Respect is a right. The Government of Uganda should be doing more for PWDs. The poster says:
In an effort to influence policy and decision making processes in Uganda, NUDIPU engaged in policy review using media strategy. NBS TV worked with us to provide an insight to the impact of Policies and Laws on the livelihood of PWDs in Uganda.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Disability Rights Groups in Uganda

The Persons With Disabilities Act 2006 (PWDA) is the overarching law that protects the rights of Persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Uganda (see Ugandan Law: Persons With Disabilities Act and Education). The PWDA ensures the rights of PWDs through legislated organizations like the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC). The PWDA also provides for grassroots organisations run by PWDs. This blog post will give an overview of disability rights groups (DRGs) and their relationship to the National Union of Disabled Persons Uganda (NUDIPU).

Paul Emong in his 2014 thesis, The Realisation of Human Rights for Disabled People in Higher Education in Uganda: A Critical Analysis Drawing on the UNConvention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, summarizes the work of DRGs in relation to education:
The Uganda DRGs are arguably 'perhaps the most politically integrated disability sector in the world'. They are organised under one national umbrella organisation - NUDIPU, which brings together the separate national impairment organisations of the blind, the deaf, people with physical disabilities and national disabled women‘s group. NUDIPU structures itself alongside the local government structures (see Figure 1 below).

Figure 1: A Simple Illustration of the Structure of the Disability Rights Group in Uganda
From the illustration above, NUDIPU has roots at every level of local government administration. That is to say at the district, municipal, sub-county and village or grass-root levels. In addition, disabled people are represented in the legislative organs of government - in Parliament with 5 MPs, at district, local government or city council level by 2 councillors (man and woman), at lower local government levels, namely, municipal council,  municipal division council, town council and sub-county council by 2 representatives (man and woman), and lastly, at village council level by 1 representative who assumes the position of secretary for disability affairs in the village.

Therefore, the DRG has two wings i.e. civil society represented by the disability organisations and the political wing represented by MPs and Local Government Councillors representing disabled people. In addition to the two wings, its advocacy is also done by National Council for Disability (NCD) and the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), the role of the NCD and EOC will be discussed in a later post. It can therefore be said that, the DRG provides a robust framework for promoting the ideals of the legislation through advocacy for policy change and raising public awareness of disability rights... it is sufficient to say, notwithstanding the existing exclusion of disabled people, inclusive disability policies in government programmes, private sector and civil society exist. They are part of the evidence of the extent to which the disability legislation has been complied with through the promotional approach. To complement campaigns for policy reform, the DRGs have recently started providing free legal aid clinics to disabled people, organised by Legal Action for Persons with Disabilities (LAPD), a recently formed DRG of disabled lawyers and NUDIPU has also started employing lawyers to provide legal advice and represent disabled people in courts.
In higher education, DRGs have not created disability awareness at the same level as they have done for primary level of education. Although, DRGs advocacy in higher education appears to be patchy awareness-raising activities, these campaigns appear to be particularly targeted actions. For example, they focus on issues of admission for disabled students, accessibility, challenges disabled students face in lectures, strengthening associations of disabled people as voices of disabled people in the universities and advocating for universities come up with disability policies.
Before the formation of NUDIPU in 1987, PWDs had little representation in Uganda. The founders wanted to create a unified voice to challenge the situation of PWDs, to free them from bondage that reduced them to sub-humans (see Our History). NUDIPU was then a union of 17 small organizations which represented different groups of PWDs. The biggest asset to NUDIPU at that time was the enthusiasm of its members. The ambition of the Union was to improve the lives of PWDs:
changing the traditional stereotyped system that marginalized them, despised them, only looked at the negative aspects of their disabilities, undervalued them and confined them to the lowest positions in society.
NUDIPU lies at the heart of DRGs that are working for PWDs. The page About NUDIPU: Vision, Mission, and Values gives an overview of their current aims:
Our Vision: A dignified society for all Our Mission: A unified voice for PWDs for the full realisation of their rights and inclusive development through support and advocacy.
  • Economic Empowerment
  • Disability and Human Rights
  • Disability and HIV/AIDS
  • Capacity building
In order to efficiently implement activities under the four programme areas, NUDIPU will use the following approaches
  • Networking and coordination
  • Advocacy
  • Rights based approach
  • Capacity building
  • Research and documentation
  • Gender and Youth Mainstreaming
  • Accountable and transparency (Honesty and integrity)
  • Respect
  • Love and compassion
  • Team spirit
  • Equity
  • Unity in diversity for PWDs
NUDIPU Objectives
To facilitate the achievement of its mission and provide meaningful services to the membership, NUDIPU pursues the following strategic objectives:
  • Mobilize PWDs to form groups and organisations for collective social action.
  • Influence the formulation of disability-friendly legislation, focusing on relevant Acts of Parliament, national policies, policy implementation guidelines and by-laws.
  • Improve on the social and economic situation of PWDs through support for employment opportunities.
  • Promote the delivery of services to PWDs through networking and collaboration with Government and other service providers.
  • Enhance awareness on the needs, limitations, potentials and rights of PWDs so as to improve and/or change society's attitude towards them.
  • Promote the inclusion of PWDs and their interests in mainstream development through removal of social, information and physical barriers in the political, economic, social and technological environment.
Youth worker Betty Cheptovek speaks to community members during the identification of marginalized youth with disabilities in Lira district

This article from NUDIPU, UN challenges Uganda government on disability rights, shows the scope of NUDIPU's work.
UN CRPD committee of experts faults ugandan government due to continued.
Discrimination, Exclusion, and grave human rights abuse.

Persons with disabilities in Uganda continue to suffer grave human rights abuse despite existence of exquisite legal and policy framework, Dr Uchenma Emelonye, a Country Representative of the United Nations office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Uganda, says.

Dr Emelonye made this observation on June 15, 2016 at a meeting held at Imperial Royale Hotel, in Kampala. The event was jointly organised by National Union of disabled persons of Uganda (NUDIPU) in partnership with Uganda Human Rights Commission to disseminate the UN Committee of experts concluding observations on the rights of PWDs.

The UN is concerned that although Uganda has very sound legal frameworks, their implementation remains a huge challenge. This is however not peculiar to Uganda, but nearly all African countries experience the same scenario.

“There are still challenges in the enjoyment of rights of PWDs in Uganda. The laws exist but implementation is still challenging,” Dr Emelonye said, adding that majority of PWDs in Uganda continue to suffer discrimination, exclusion, sexual violence against women and children, and experience serious challenges while accessing justice.

The UN CRPD committee of experts in April 2016 reviewed Uganda’s progress report on the implementation of the CRPD, eight years after ratifying it in 2008. However, the committee faults government on a number of areas.

For instance, the committee noted varying definitions of disability as contained in the current laws and policies, delayed enactment of the PWDs Act 2014, non-consultation of PWDs and their organisations while enacting laws, failure to protect children with disabilities, limited access to information, inaccessible transport system, violation of right to life, and access to justice among others as issues that need immediate government action.

The CRPD committee therefore, recommends that Ugandan government reviews of the laws related to disability, establishes mechanisms of consulting PWDs and their organisations on budget allocations, incorporates the concept of reasonable accommodation in the legal systems, establishes measures to tackle discrimination against women with disabilities, increases awareness on the rights and dignity of PWDs, and raises awareness among members of parliament, executive and judiciary with the regard to the Convention on the rights of PWDs and ensure their support in implementation of the concluding observations in consultation with organisations of PWDs.

Dr Emelonye believes the concluding observations can only be successful once government critically understands the concluding observations to the later, and believes in them as the best options to address the plight of PWDs in Uganda.

According to Edson Ngirabakunzi, Executive Director National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU), was meant to drum up support of various stakeholders in the implementation of the recommendations.
The National Union of Disabled Persons Uganda is an umbrella group for DRG's in Uganda. NUDIPU campaigns for the rights of PWDs in Uganda. It has groups at all levels of society and is recognized by the government. NUDIP disseminates and collects information on disability issues throughout Uganda.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

The work of the Uganda Human Rights Commission

In 2009 the Uganda Human Rights Commission released, its Annual Report. This short video discusses some of the findings of that report. The report also highlights the scope of the UHRC's work.
A new report on disability in Uganda is proposing better services in all facets of life for disabled persons. The report launched by the Human rights Commission focuses on Education, Transport, Taxation and the Administration of Justice for the disabled.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Disability Rights: Uganda Human Rights Commission

In the blog post Do you know your rights? it was shown that the basis of  human rights for the population of Uganda and more especially for persons with disabilities (PWDs) is the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Chapter four of the Ugandan constitution guarantees the rights of all people in Uganda including PWDs (see Education: Disability and the Constitution). The Persons With Disabilities Act 2006 (PWDA) is the over arching law that protects these rights for PWDs in Uganda (see Ugandan Law: Persons With Disabilities Act and Education). This blog post will discuss the work of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC). 

The UHRC was established 1995 in the Bill of Rights which is Chapter 4 of the Constitution. The UHRC is a national human rights institution. It is mandated in Article 52 of the Constitution. Wikipedia explains:
The Commission is composed of a Chairperson, currently Mr Med S.K Kaggwa, and not less than three other persons, appointed by the President with the approval of Parliament. There are at this time seven commissioners. The Chairperson and Members of the Commission have to be persons of high moral character and proven integrity. They serve for a period of six years and are eligible for re-appointment.
The UHRC is the national human rights institution, established in accordance with the Constitution, to promote and protect human rights as well as monitor them in the country in line with international human rights instruments.  UHRC's competence and responsibilities is in tune with the international standards, spelt out by the Paris Principles relating to the status of national institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights. 
In summary, the breadth of the mandate of UHRC includes human rights promotion and outreach, investigation and resolution of complaints, commenting on the Bills before parliament, monitoring Uganda‘s compliance with international treaties and the Constitution on matters of human rights and performing any other human rights matter as may be provided by law. It also publishes periodic reports on the status of human rights in the country and submits those reports to Parliament annually.
In the performance of its functions, UHRC assumes the powers of the Judicial Court. On the investigation of the violation of rights of disabled people, there has been a general improvement in the way disability features in UHRC reports to parliament since 2000. In particular, the 2009 annual reports highlights the situation of disabled people in the country, challenges faced by disabled people in enjoyment of their rights and recommendations for the improvements of the human rights situation for disabled people. It appears the UHRC has done much on the issues relating to access to primary and secondary education, but little on higher education. This is the gap in the work of UHRC that needs to be filled to ensure that UHRC ensures a right to education for disabled people in higher education. 
On their website, the UHRC explains its functions which have been mandated by Ugandan law:
  • To investigate, at its own initiative or on a complaint made by any person or group of persons against the violation of any human right;
  • To visit jails, prisons, and places of detention or related facilities with a view of assessing and inspecting conditions of the inmates and make recommendations;
  • To establish a continuing programme of research, education and information to enhance respect of human rights;
  • To recommend to Parliament effective measures to promote human rights including provision of compensation to victims of violations of human rights, or their families;
  • To create and sustain within society the awareness of the provisions of the Constitution as the fundamental law of the people of Uganda;
  • To educate and encourage the public to defend this Constitution at all times against all forms of abuse and violation;
  • To formulate, implement, and oversee programmes intended to inculcate in the citizens of Uganda awareness of their civic responsibilities and an appreciation of their rights and obligations as free people;
  • To monitor the Government’s compliance with international treaty and convention obligations on human rights; and
  • To perform such other functions as may be provided by law.
The vision for human rights in Uganda, which is supported by law, is articulated by the UHRC in the following way:
UHRC Vision
A society that respects human rights and fulfils civic obligations.
UHRC Mission Statement
To protect and promote fundamental Human Rights and freedoms in Uganda for sustainable development.
UHRC Values and Principles
  • Integrity
  • Transparency
  • Accountability
  • Fairness
  • Dignity of the person
  • Independence
  • Professionalism
  • Non-discrimination
What can PWDs complain about to the UHRC?
The Uganda Human Rights Commission can investigate and resolve complaints of discrimination, harassment and bullying based on a person’s:
  • sex, including pregnancy, marital status, breastfeeding, family responsibilities and sexual harassment
  • disability, including temporary and permanent disabilities; physical, intellectual, sensory, psychiatric disabilities, diseases or illnesses; medical conditions; work related injuries; past, present and future disabilities; and association with a person with a disability
  • race, including colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, immigrant status and racial hatred
  • age, covering young people and older people
  • sexual preference, criminal record, trade union activity, political opinion, religion or social origin (in employment only)
It is against the law to be discriminated against in many areas of public life, including employment, education, the provision of goods, services and facilities, accommodation, sport and the administration of Commonwealth laws and services.

The Commission can also investigate and resolve complaints about alleged breaches of human rights against the Commonwealth and its agencies.
The report highlighted key human rights concerns for the elderly, albinos, PWDs and ex-combatants

The blog post Report on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities discussed the work required by Uganda to fulfil its obligations as a signatory to the CRPD. The Committee on the Rights of PWDs: Concluding observations on the initial report of Uganda was a report written by the United Nations committee that oversees the progress on the implementation of disability rights law in Uganda. The UHRC gives input into that report. This summary of their findings gives an idea of the UHRC's scope of involvement in disability rights:
The Chairperson, Uganda Human Rights Commission led a delegation of stakeholders that have done a lot of commendable work in the promotion and protection of rights of persons with Disabilities. This delegation included representatives from National Council for Disability, Equal Opportunities Commission, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, NUDIPU and Uganda Human Rights Commission.

Uganda ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its two Optional Protocols in 2008. In 2012, Uganda complied with its international treaty body reporting obligation by submitting its initial report to the Committee on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Consequently, in April 2016, Uganda’s record on the implementation of the CRPD was reviewed by the aforementioned Committee and concluding observations and recommendations were developed. To that end Uganda is meant to address the key human rights concerns and observations raised.

Under paragraph 69 of the concluding observations, the Committee enjoins Uganda to transmit the concluding observations and action to members of the Government, Parliament, officials in relevant ministries, local authorities, organizations of persons with disabilities and members of relevant professional groups, such as education, medical and legal professionals, as well as to the media.

On 15th June 2016, the UHRC together with NUDIPU and OHCHR disseminated these concluding observations to over 120 stakeholders including: the media; DPOs; education, medical and legal professionals.

These concluding observations and recommendations encompassed: harmonizing definitions of disability in various laws and policies and a systematic review of all legislation and bringing it in line with the Convention; adopting measures to amend and/or repeal legislation with derogatory terminology against persons with disabilities; providing for legal protection against disability-based discrimination, multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination facing persons with disabilities; incorporating the concept of reasonable accommodation in the legislation as defined in Article 2 of the Convention and recognition of the denial of reasonable accommodation as a form of discrimination based on disability.

In addition the Committee recommended for the repealing and elimination of legislation and practices that allow for deprivation of legal capacity on the basis of disability and the adoption of measures to prohibit deprivation of legal capacity on customary basis; adoption of measures to ensure that all persons with disabilities have access to justice including the establishment of free legal aid for persons with disabilities concerning their rights; and the dissemination of information in appropriate formats like braille, tactile, augmentative and alternative formats and the Ugandan sign language; establishment of a National Coordination Team for the implementation of the concluding observations; development of an action plan for the implementation of the CRPD; and strengthening the capacity of the Uganda Human Rights Commission with sufficient budgetary allocation and human resources to fulfill its mandate effectively.

The Commission in line with its constitutional mandate pledges to continue monitoring Government’s compliance with the CRPD and the concluding observations. In addition, the Commission plans to work closely with the Equal Opportunities Commission, National Council for Disability and Disability People’s Organizations (DPOs) in the monitoring the implementation of these concluding observations.

It is in recognition of the Parliament’s key role in ensuring that these recommendations are implemented by various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that the Uganda Human Rights Commission, the Equal Opportunities Commission, the National Council for Disability, the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development and the (DPOs) presented these CRPD concluding Observations and recommendations to the Human Rights Committee of Parliament consideration and action.

Therefore, Parliament is called upon to ensure that the rights of PWDs are promoted and protected in Uganda and to ensure the expeditious implementation of the concluding observations and recommendations by the various MDAs.
The UHRC is important for the monitoring and feedback on all aspects of human rights in Uganda. It is of particular importance to PWDs because of its monitoring of the CRPD. The UHRC is an independent body that protects the rights of all people in Uganda. PWDs are citizens of Uganda and as such have the same rights as every other citizen. Do you know your rights?