We are Able! Uganda – a review by Muzamil Alli

By Light for the World (SeeYou), consortium partner of We are Able!

Muzamil Alli works for the We are Able! programme as a Disability Inclusion Officer in the West Nile region. In Uganda the programme is implemented in two sub-regions of West-Nile and Acholi. The project is running since 2021, but was facing some difficulties due to the coronavirus lockdown. But the lockdown is lifted so the implementation of the programme is full back on running.

He has a bachelor in Education but is engaged with disability inclusion throughout his life. He has a visual impairment, so based on this background he went through a lot of challenges in terms of barriers and exclusionary practices. These challenges have given him a drive to improve the lives of other persons with disabilities. It made him more resilient and think of doing something actively for disability for eternity.

Muzamil joined Light for the World (SeeYou) in which he was trained to become a Disability Inclusion Facilitator. During this period he worked for the project ‘Make 12.4% Work’, in which he trained organizations on support of disability inclusion based on the work experiences and opportunities of persons with disabilities.

After that, he officially came on board at Light for the World as a Disability Inclusion Officer. At the moment his role is to:

  • Manage relationships with a wide range of groups such as consortium partners, disability inclusion facilitators, organisations of persons with disabilities, local government actors and all project actors within West-Nile.
  • Manage the work of disability inclusion facilitators, allocating and utilising resources in an efficient manner.
  • Give project updates to project stakeholders/management among others and support DIFs who are in training. 

The programme objective of We are Able!:

By 2025, through engagement with public authorities (formal and informal powerholders), men, women and youth with disabilities and other excluded groups, through resilient and capable local CSOs/DPOs in six fragile and conflict-affected countries, are successfully influencing laws, policies, practices and norms for improved food security for all.

The project has three pathways:

1) Community mobilization

2) Strengthening the capacities of CSOs (Civil society Organizations) and OPDs (Organizations of Persons with Disabilities)

This is about building and strengthening the capacities of such organizations, such as the organization NUDIPU (National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda). This is to better and more affectively be able to lobby for their mission to better include persons with disabilities in society. There are also capacity building trainings on disability inclusion and access for people with a disability. The main goal is that main organizations have programmes that have technical knowledge of how to include persons with disabilities. Light for the World comes in to bridge that gap. Action points are generated from the trainings, from these action points we are doing monitoring visits and where we can bring technical support where needed.

Some CSOs are already engaged with in the first year of WaA! and this will continue during the years. Light for the World Uganda would like to see better-capacitated CSOs who support inclusivity to lobby and advocate.

3) Working with public and local authorities

In Uganda, there is a local government in the districts and sub-counties that Light for the World works with. The focus is on inclusive planning. There are government programmes where WaA! is building capacities of local government authorities to be able to govern inclusively. That pathway is managed by the consortium partners VNGI and The Hague Academy. This includes activities such as the formation of councils with disability. There is a structure that is supposed to exist and be building stronger.

When there are direct partners taking lead in some of these pathways, inclusion always cuts across all pathways. All consortium partners complement each other in achieving the three pathways.

Highlights of 2021

In quarter three, there were some disability inclusion trainings with CSOs. It stands out that we were doing a training with farmers from the Yumbe District Farmers Association. This association was established a long time ago. For 20 years they had practices that were excluding people with disabilities.

When we engaged with them, the first thing they said is that they wanted to bring people with disabilities on board. They started that process by electing persons with disabilities from villages to welcome them in their board. This is very important, because when a partner comes on board, it means that persons with disabilities can better benefit because they are represented.

Another thing is that Light for the World started mentoring Disability Inclusion Facilitators to be on board in the WaA! programme. Four out of seven have been certified already. The way they are being empowered and the way they are doing their work is good and important. They come into CSOs and OPDs and ensure the process of inclusivity and accessibility.

DIFs are young persons with different disabilities who are engaged with the implementation of the programme. They come together in a team to discuss challenges and opportunities. One DIF for example, who was doing the mapping of CSOs, talked about the barriers. The barriers that persons with disabilities face are about accessibility, such as not being able to access an office or being accepted by officers who they are supposed to engage with.

When the project started with different disability inclusion trainings, you start seeing that people are being encouraged/empowered to more and better strive after their goals. An example for this was a person with a hearing impairment, who started working in a saloon. She started a business herself. Engagement is still limited due to the lockdown, but results will show more. It gives a platform to better be heard and understood.

Challenges of 2021

The greatest challenge in 2021 was the pandemic since it affected the project implementation intensively. Apart from that, when we came on board there were some challenges in terms of coordination of meeting consortium members. Furthermore, initially this project was designed for two districts, but as the project evolved and was implemented, they started planning meetings within the two districts but also new districts came up. This was a challenge since the budget was already set. 

Enable Me Platform & help desk

This platform can be used to empower and mobilize people in bringing them information and stories to share. The platform is not live yet, but the prototype is out there. Once the platform is on, it shares information relating to disability inclusion, opportunities available and all other kinds of information. This will be backed with an automated help desk.

The Enable Me Platform will support people who have online access via a smartphone or laptop. But for those who do not have Internet access, there will be an alternative help desk. Disability Inclusion Facilitators will be in charge of that help desk. This help desk can be reached through a dial number. Via this, the telecom companies design a code, so that community members know how to reach the help desk in terms of need.

The help desk offers to get info on disability inclusion & in terms of help and support. The idea is that is supports disability inclusion. If someone is looking for opportunities, the help desk can help them. It is an alternative to the online platform. Both the automated helpdesk and enable me will be run and managed by Light for the World.

Future of WaA!

Muzamil hopes that by the end of this project persons with disabilities should be able to participate in CSOs and OPDs and that there is better knowledge on the technical inclusion of persons with disabilities so that they are included in all programmes and in the process of decision-making.

Secondly, Muzamil also hopes that persons with disabilities are included into local governance. So that they are able to influence and actively can participate during decision-making of inclusive governance. Above all, they should participate in livelihoods and should have different income generating activities through those Isave groups and have partnerships that are supporting to ensure that no one is left behind.