Brief of UNAPD Work

UNAPD is an umbrella organization of Persons with Physical Disabilities (PWPDs) formed and established  in 1998 by groups of PWPDs with the aim of uniting them, advocating for their rights, fulfilling gaps that were existing in the representation of PWPDs, fighting marginalization, educating themselves on their rights and forming associations that can uplift their standard of living. The vision of UNAPD is A barrier free environment for people with physical disabilities. and the mission is “An organization dedicated to the removal of barriers in society, which prevent persons with physical disabilities from enjoying their full rights” UNAPD is located on Namasole road, Kikuubo Zone off Gayaza road, Plot 459, Kanyanya P.O. Box 959, Kampala Uganda. UNAPD’ is a membership organization with a registration of 38 District Associations with 7,436 members as of 31st July 2019. Her  supreme policy organ is the general assembly, which is mandated to establish the Board of Directors and the composition of the current BOD comprises of 9 members (4 females & 5 males), and a Secretariat of 17 staff (7 females & 10 males) to run the organization. UNAPD works through her structures called the district associations to reach out to the grass root individuals in the community.

Over the years UNAPD’s work has evolved from focusing on short term projects to long term programs as reflected in her new strategic plan 2018 – 2022. However, as the organisations makes the shift from project to program based approach, over the years UNAPD has managed or implemented the following thematic areas of disability inclusion.

Membership Development:

PWDs are considered the most marginalised category among the vulnerable groups globally, and it’s worse in the African context like Uganda. Relatedly, persons with physical disabilities are the majority of all types of disabilities globally and in Uganda’s context, these are members of UNAPD by virtue of their being of physical category. In an effort of empowering PWDs to reduce their vulnerability, become self-advocates of their rights, and actively participate in the decision making processes which affect their lives, UNAPD regularly builds the capacity of her members through the membership associations in different skills and knowledge such as leadership, group dynamics, project managements, advocacy and lobbying, financial managements, etc. Such efforts are aimed at enabling PWDs to become self-advocates for their rights, but also actively manage their associations, and participate in the on-going development process at all levels.

Advocacy and Lobby:

Currently, UNAPD is an advocacy organisation for the rights of PWDs to be integrated into the existing ongoing programs and policy frameworks. Therefore Advocacy and lobbying is a cross-cutting intervention both at national and local levels which feeds into all the above thematic areas of UNAPD. In this efforts, UNAPD identifies strategic advocacy areas either in policy, programs or service delivery and engages the different relevant stakeholders to advocate or lobby for the review, inclusion, implementation or development of specific disability sensitive areas, all aimed at ensuring an inclusive society for all without “LEAVING NO ONE BEHIND” These interventions crosses to education, health, formal employment, livelihoods, disability sports, plans and budgets, among others and have yielded a number of positive results across the different sectors leading to creating a sustained social change in the lives of PWDs.

Policy Development and Review:

Policy development or review is one of the areas which UNAPD invests a lot of time and resources to ensure that laws/legislations passed by Parliament of Uganda and other local government structures are not discriminatory to PWDs. UNAPD effectively participates in formulation, review of various national and international legal instruments. The organization’s profile in this area begun in 2009 with the development of the first ever “Accessibility Standards” in East Africa which guides the construction of accessible structures/facilities and now adopted by Government. Recently, UNAPD worked tirelessly with Parliament of Uganda representing PWDs to ensure that the Building Control Act (2013) during its debate in Parliament considers the Accessibility Standards as one of the reference policy documents to be used by the construction industry, which was achieved before the law was signed by the President of Uganda. For effective implementation of the Act, the Accessibility Standards are equally included in the National Building Code, and all these instruments are to guide the construction of accessible infrastructures like buildings, facilities, roads, etc. Additionally, UNAPD has identified herself with the on-going process of developing the “Special Needs and Inclusive Education Policy” spearheaded by Ministry of Education Sports, Science and Technology, and several engagements have been held to complete the this long overdue POLICY  and hopeful that will be done by end of 2019.

UNAPD in partnership with the Appropriate Technology Centre (ATC) for WASH under the Ministry of Water and Environment and developed a practical guide for inclusive WASH services at household and community levels in Uganda. This guide is being used by the relevant stakeholders in WASH to ensure accessible WASH services for PWDs and other vulnerable groups. In order to institutionalize disability sports in the government departments and development partners, UNAPD in July 2018, launched a campaign of mobilizing the disability movement and sports stakeholders towards the efforts of developing the first ever disability sports policy in Uganda. This is intended to integrate disability sports in schools, community, and in different other private and non-government programs.

Livelihood and Economic Empowerment;

PWDs are considered the poorest of the poor in society who survives on less than a dollar per day, this means that the majority of PWDs lives in abject poverty. In order to change this stereotype, requires joint efforts of different stakeholders to reduce the poverty levels among PWDs in society. UNAPD’s response to this scenario over the years has been through designing strategies which are practical to the livelihood needs of PWDs at local level, which include; UNAPD mobilized 1452 PWDs into Poverty Alleviation Groups in the 4 districts of Kabale, Mbale, Mukono and Lira and empowered with VSLA skills. This enabled PWDs to save and loan among themselves, which enabled individual PWDs to start their own different income generating projects. Many of the PWDs used the loans to start their own projects like goat rearing, piggery, while others hired land to starting farming on large scale like maize growing, tomato growing. This approach enabled PWDs in the different districts to start an income generating activity of their choice, with manageable skills and capacity within their households.

UNAPD also engages in advocacy and lobbying meetings using the existing the existing legal frameworks, policies, guidelines to advocate for inclusion of PWDs in the on-going livelihood development programs such as NUSAF, Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), Youth Livelihood Program (YLP), Women Empowerment Program (WEP), among others. Such advocacy efforts ranged from review of policies/guidelines to be inclusive, affirmative action in favor of PWDs while implementation the programs, and involvement of PWDs in the management of these programs at local levels. Through this efforts, over 2500 PWDs benefited through receiving farming inputs like coffee, animals, fertilizers, while others benefiting from inclusive groups for OWC, YLP, and WEP.

Lastly, PWDs land access is an area which UNAPD puts much emphasis as well, especially inheritance of land by PWDs in their families since land is key in sustainable livelihood. The organization got involved in several land family issues which prevents PWDs free access to land due to discrimination, cultural norms, monetarizing of land in the families. This efforts enable PWDs to access land on an equal basis with other family members, and this has been instrumental in having sustainable livelihoods among PWDs at different levels

Equal Access to Quality Inclusive Education for CWDs

With UNAPD’s built expertise in physical accessibility/inclusive design for PWDs, since 2014, the organisation has used this experience in her efforts of promoting quality inclusive education for CWDs/learners with disabilities in 8 districts of Uganda. The organization has played a key role in enforcing accessibility indicators in schools using the “Accessibility Standards” to ensure independent living of CWDs in school environment (e.g. UNAPD conducts accessibility audits of school facilities, modification of facilities, constructing model facilities for PWDs). In order to enforce the continued enrolment and retention of CWDs in schools, UNAPD also developed guidelines for enrolment and retention of CWDs in schools and worked with a selected number of school managements to adopt these guidelines as operation tools of schools. This is coupled with Child to Child approach as a strategy of imparting skills and knowledge of school managements on retention of CWDs. Relatedly, the mobilization of parents/PWDs into groups for economic empowerment equally supplements the efforts of promoting improved enrolment and retention of CWDs in schools (e.g. use of Village Saving and Loan Associations-VSLA approach). This is concluded by the continuous awareness raising and sensitization of parents, community members and stakeholders on the education rights of CWDs in society and UNAPD is proud of the current enrolment of 1,412 CWDs in different schools.

Inclusive Planning and Budget for PWDs:

In her efforts of ensuring inclusion of Disability in the on-going development programs at all levels of local governments, UNAPD realized that while the technical and political wings of local governments are engaged in planning and budgeting cycles at different levels, hardly involve PWD leaders to get their views or needs to be considered for planning and budgeting. This gap leads to neglection and non-prioritization of disability interest in the final plans and budgets at local levels leading to a discriminatory budget. It’s based on this analysis that UNAPD since 2016 embarked on the campaign to build the capacity of PWDs leaders/councillors in the sampled 2 districts of Uganda(Hoima and Soroti) to acquire the skills, knowledge and tactics for effective participation in the local level planning and budgeting cycles. This effort has opened the eyes of PWDs to start actively engage in planning and budgeting at local levels but also those of the political and technical wings of local government to recognise and appreciate the need to involve the marginalized groups like PWDs, Youth & women during the planning and budget for “Inclusive Planning and Development”.

Disability Sports:

Promotion of Disability Sports as a strategy for membership mobilization and registration but also to raise the pride, self-esteem, confidence and identification of talents of PWDs. Through disability sports, UNAPD provides an opportunity for members to relieve stress, come together and discuss common issues that affect them, as well as change attitudes of the public towards PWDs. UNAPD members are involved in disability sports disciplines such as wheelchair basket-ball, sitting volley ball, Boccia, Para-rowing, athletics, amputee football, among others. During such events, advocacy for other issues affecting the members also takes place. As disability advocacy and empowerment becomes more dynamic in current disability movement, disability activists also have to think deep on how to catch up with these dynamics. Since 2011, UNAPD has adopted disability sports as one of the Articles of CRPD that is (Article 30 participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport). This campaign which so far is evident in Mubende, Kampala, Nebbi and Busia provides opportunity for PWDs to engage in sports.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights for PWDs.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) has been overlooked by both the disability community and those working on Sexual and Reproductive Health Services (SRHS). This leaves PWDs among the most marginalized groups when it comes to SRHS, they have the same needs for SRHS as everyone else. In fact, PWDs may actually have greater needs for SRH education and care than persons without disabilities due to their increased vulnerability to abuse. The challenges to SRH faced by PWDs are not necessarily part of having a disability, but instead often reflect lack of social attention, legal protection, understanding and support. PWDs often cannot obtain even the most basic information about SRH thus remain ignorant of basic facts about their bodies, rights and available services. PWDs may be denied the right to establish relationships, or they may be subjected to sexual abuse where they may be treated as objects than members of the family. As a group, PWDs fit the common pattern of structural risks for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections due to high rates of poverty and illiteracy, lack of access to health resources and power to negotiate for safer sex. Due to the above situational analysis, UNAPD embarked on an effort of advocating for inclusive SHR services through a pilot project being implemented in Mbale and Pallisa districts, the project focuses on implementation of existing is based on the existing “Inclusive Implementation of the National Policy and Service Standards for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Uganda”.

Waged Employment for PWDs.

In an effort to promote access to employment opportunities for PWDs. UNAPD  realized the need to empower  employable PWDs with employability skills, career guidance, self-esteem, and rights awareness among others. One of the approaches used by UNAPD is individualized job coaching and mentorship that has helped build a positive change as well as career growth among PWDs. UNAPD also through her advocacy efforts has taken measures to raise awareness among employers to make appropriate adjustments in the workplace to accommodate PWDs including making the work environments accessible in all ways possible. Promoting public awareness within society and among potential employers about the abilities and skills of PWDs has helped to break the negative stereotyping of PWDs in regard to the capacity of PWDs to perform well at the work place.

Climate Change for PWD Inclusion:

In most development programs, Disability can be classified as the “forgotten tribe” in society and development partners normally consider disability either by chance or a donor condition to source for funding. UNAPD is an advocacy organisation for the rights of PWDs and engages different stakeholders to ensure that particular attention is paid to the needs of PWDs in their programs. However, despite this , the organisation realised that although development partners come up timely when the country has been hit by climate change such as drought, floods , landslides, little or no attention or strategy is design to specifically analyse the lives of most marginalised sector of society like PWDs, or CWDs in such situation. In 2014, UNAPD embarked on the campaign to assess the impact of climate change on the lives of PWDs in an emergency and humanitarian situation, with particular focus on land slides, typical in Budduda district of Uganda. UNAPD’s intervention, the first of its kind in the area capitalized on profiling the situation of PWDs in a disaster prone areas after being hit by landslides as a foundation to draw strategies of which can support the development partners to ensure inclusion of PWDs in their programs during such disasters. This was through a baseline survey in Bulishiki and Bukalasi sub counties aimed at determining level of involvement and participation of PWDs in Disaster related issues at different levels of local government. Currently, the organization is using the findings of the survey to develop programs.

Networking and Partnership Building:

In order to cause social change in lives of individuals, teamwork is important. This teamwork or partnership can be on advisory level, joint advocacy and lobbying, organization development, fundraising, project implementation, among others. Over the years, UNAPD has networked and built partnership with national and international agencies, government, politicians in an effort of advancing an agenda aimed at uplifting the lives of PWDs in society. Areas of partnership and networking differ from time to time but can range from fundraisings, advocacy for a common agenda, capacity development, and inclusive service delivery, among others. Such interventions normally involve development partners, politicians, CSOs, disability movement, policy makers and implementers, among others