No More Excuses for Leaving Us Behind: Persons with Disabilities Gather in Kampala for Meeting on Right to Inclusion

Based on the 2014 Housing and Population Census, persons with disabilities are an estimated 16% of the Ugandan population – 5.6 million people. While persons with disabilities have rights established in the Constitution and in other laws, such as the Persons with Disabilities Act of 2006, most of these rights have never been implemented, meaning that persons with disabilities remain disproportionately represented among the poorest of the poor and at constant risk of rights abuses.

For example, over one-third of women with disabilities interviewed by Human Rights Watch in Northern Uganda in 2010 reported having experienced some form of sexual and gender-based violence, including rape; and according to a 2014 UNICEF Research Study on Children with Disabilities Living in Uganda), only 9% of the 2.5 million Ugandan children with disabilities have been able to access education. In 2014, a Mental Disability Advocacy Center report documented gross human rights abuse against persons with mental health problems in facilities and within the community.

In 2008, Uganda was one of the first countries to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Uganda submitted its initial report to the CRPD Committee in 2014, four years late; and on April 7 and 8, 26 delegates from Ugandan disabled persons’ organizations (DPOs) participated in the interactive dialogue between the CRPD Committee and the Ugandan government regarding conditions for people with disabilities in Uganda.

While the CRPD Committee recognized the vibrancy of the disability movement in Uganda and acknowledged efforts by the government of Uganda to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy their rights, the Committee also noted a number of challenges faced by persons with disabilities which have grossly limited their enjoyment of fundamental human rights, and thus limited their full and effective participation in society.

Between April 27-29, more than 26 Disabled Persons Organizations (DPOs) from 12 different Districts of Uganda will come together at the Imperial Royal Hotel for a meeting called by the Disability Rights Fund (DRF) to discuss how to change this.

Established in 2008, DRF is a collaborative fund created to support Disabled Persons’ Organizations (DPOs) in the developing world to use the CRPD in advancing the human rights of all persons with disabilities (PWDs).  Over the past 8 years, DRF has given out over 17 million dollars to support DPOs at local and national levels in 32 countries.

Since 2008, DRF has made 169 grants to Ugandan DPOs for a total of more than $3.6 million dollars. This funding has resulted in a number of critical developments including:

  • Ensuring new disability groups representing very marginalized sectors, such as little people, deafblind people, and persons with albinism are represented within the disability movement, including within the national DPO umbrella organization, NUDIPU;
  • Funding changes to the electoral system for PWD representatives through advocacy resulting in an amended National Council for Disability Act, 2013;
  • Increasing attention to University students with disabilities through funding advocacy for the Makerere University Persons with Disability Policy 2014;
  • Ensuring accessibility rights are recognized at national level, via funding reforms to the Building Control Act 2013 which annexed the Accessibility Standards; as well as accessibility ordinances at District level, for example the Wakiso District Disability Ordinance 2013;
  • Increasing access of PWDs to justice, through, for example, funding Legal Action for Persons with Disabilities (LAPD) to address over 100 cases on issues such as land & property rights and abuse & violence;
  • Funding reporting on key rights gaps by the disability movement to international human rights mechanisms including the CRPD Committee, the Universal Periodical Review, and the Economic Social and Cultural Rights Committee.

Despite the tremendous work accomplished, much remains to be done to ensure that the CRPD is effectively implemented in Uganda and that persons with disabilities participate fully and live dignified lives. Most critical is the need to ensure that national laws meet international standards for human rights of persons with disabilities as outlined in the CRPD, to which Uganda is a party, and that persons with disabilities are effectively and directly involved in all processes aimed at realizing the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

With DRF funding, 26 DPO representatives who traveled to Geneva this month were trained on the connections between the rights of persons with disabilities and the SDGs, and how they can get involved at national level, including in the upcoming reporting processes, since Uganda is one of the first countries to be reviewed. The meeting on April 27-29 will underscore the importance of ensuring that any SDG-related national policy, implementation plan, reporting, and monitoring and follow-up processes fully involve persons with disabilities.

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