Our Time is Now – Our Rights, Our Future!

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A young woman with a physical disability stands on a podium with a floral backdrop speaking into the microphone
Young women with disabilities at the Brave Girls Festival

2022 honours the 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl (IDG). The past decade has indicated improved attention on issues that matter to girls amongst policymakers, governments and the public, and more prospects for girls to have their voices heard on the global stage.

While investments in girls’ rights remain limited and girls continue to confront a myriad of challenges to fulfilling their potential; worsened by concurrent crises of climate change, COVID-19 and humanitarian conflict, the resourcefulness, creativity, tenacity, and resilience of girls with disabilities has shorn through.

They have proven that given the skills and opportunities, girls with disabilities can be changemakers driving progress in their communities, building back stronger for all, including women, boys, and men.

Changing Perceptions with Contemporary Dance

Maureen Kalungi giving a powertalk at the Brave Girls Festival

Maureen Kalungi is a 31-year-old contemporary dancer with a physical disability. The discrimination of women with disabilities in the art industry and the overall unemployment motivated her to pursue a career in contemporary dance with Splash dance company.

Through the company and its many workshops, Maureen is slowly changing the negative perceptions towards women with disabilities in the art industry and people within the community. The dance workshops in various schools of children with and without disabilities have helped her identify the untapped talents of younger children, provided hope and support in nurturing their talent. As a performer with a disability who has performed for prestigious events and festivals such as the British Council, Tuzine Festival, Unseen Dreams Festival and Buganda kingdom, Maureen has contributed to mindset change, employment for dancers with disabilities and bridged the gap between the art industry and people with disabilities in her community.

Girls need equal opportunities like the boys amidst cultural and social norms. When a girl child is given an opportunity, she can do wonderful change in her community. This has been seen in the changes we have made in our communities through various advocacy work.

Maureeen Kalungi

Growing up without seeing a person with a disability in the performance arts industry coupled with an invitation to attend a dance workshop in 2018 influenced Maureen’s decision to join the performing arts. Since then, Maureen is employed, has created networks with different people in the industry and brought more women with disabilities into a space that was mainly populated by men. The gendered divide between men and women in the performing arts inspired her to initiate a group of 10 women with disabilities which she called “Women of Power”. In 2021, the group was granted UGX 5M from the KUONYESHA Art Fund to make a dance production which realised the dreams of the young women with disabilities involved.

Having a thriving career in the performance arts industry revealed to Maureen that art can be a source of employment to many young people with disabilities amidst the increased unemployment rates in the country.

To the young women and girls with disabilities, engage in important activities of the community as a benchmark for learning and mindset change. Embrace any opportunity that knocks on your doors to develop your talents.

Zero Skin Cancer among Young People with Albinism

Brenda Boonabaana

Brenda Boonabaana is a 28-year-old woman with albinism. Witnessing the many challenges encountered by persons with albinism such as the prevalence of skin cancer, poverty, and dependence due to the unemployment rate and less economic empowerment, motivated her to establish an annual campaign titled “Zero Skin Cancer Among Young People with Albinism” whose support go to availing free sunscreen and protective wear to young people with albinism in her community with the support from both individuals and organisations.

Your disability doesn’t determine where you can go; it merely determines where you start.

Brenda Boonabaana

This annual campaign is also an advocacy platform for education on the dangers of unprotected sun exposure to persons with albinism to reduce on the high deathrates as a result of skin cancer.

Overseeing a fundraising campaign in the past two years has taught her that there is need for innovation in persons with albinism. They need to learn how to make provisional sunscreen from the available resources on account of their cost and dependence on donations.

To the young women and girls with disabilities, please have the courage to rise and shine amidst the challenges.

Digital Delivery of Sexual and Reproductive Health Information

Shakirah Nabakooza

Shakirah Nabakooza is a 26 year old young woman with a hearing impairment who
provides Sexual and Reproductive Health Information to young girls with hearing
impairment in her community via WhatsApp. This has increased access to
reproductive information and service provision for young women with disabilities who
are often left behind.

Barriers such as access to SRHR information and service provision, communication
access at the health facilities, lack of sign language interpreters at service provision
points and the long distances to health centres played a key role in her digital
solution.

It was clear that there are so many girls and women like me who would like to have freedom when it comes to accessing SRH information and service but are unable to.

Shakirah Nabakooza

Being a young woman in reproductive age who has encountered some of the
barriers in accessing SRH related information and services in the community,
Shakira was motivated to start a WhatsApp group where her and a few of her friends
who have access to SRH information disseminate this information to their peers in
the community.

Running a digital solution that has supported the access to SRH information and
service provision for young women with hearing impairment in her community has
taught her that there are intersectional disadvantages around disability such as being
a girl, a refugee and social class which impact the experience of disability differently.
It is important to put into consideration the different disability types and meet their
unique needs separately.

To all young women with disabilities, be yourself, do not base on other people’s
perspective about you but focus on the potential you have and unleash it.

Advocacy for Sign Language Through Peer Education

Luyinda Hindu Gloria

Luyinda Hindu Gloria is a 24 year old young woman with a hearing impairment
working as a peer educator at Reach a Hand Uganda. Besides her advocacy
for the human right to Sign Language through training Doctors and Nurses to
ably communicate with persons with hearing impairments, she loves to share Sexual and Reproductive Health information to fellow youth with disabilities especially the Deaf so that they have expansive knowledge about Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights and access to services.

It is not a bad thing to fight for our rights.

Luyinda Hindu Gloria

Her passion in advocacy for gender and disability rights coupled with the insufficient
provision of Sign Language interpreters at health facilities to ease access to SRHR
information for young women with hearing impairments motivated her to teach Sign
Language to health service providers in her community.

To all girls and young women with disabilities, speak up in case there is something
bothering you. Silence is deadly.

Supporting Access to Services for Children with Disabilities

Mwesigwa Elizabeth at the Badminton Confederation Africa

Mwesigwa Elizabeth is a 29 year old young woman with a physical disability
providing children with disabilities access to education, health, rehabilitation and
recreational facilities.

As someone challenged with the inaccessible physical environment due to the
nature of her disability, the lack of accessible classrooms, assistive equipment and
being witness to the troubles of access to latrines, school and markets on rainy days
experienced by children with disabilities motivated her to start up a school for
children with disabilities.

When girls are given opportunities, and safe spaces to learn and express their learnt skills, they gain self-esteem, courage and leadership skills.

Elizabeth Mwesigwa

In this school and with the support of partners, children with disabilities are given
assistive equipment such as wheelchairs and knee caps. This has helped children
with disabilities in her community to move easily, be of value to their parents and
combated the negative stereotypes against gender and disability.

To all girls and young women with disabilities; believe in yourselves and never be
discouraged by negative public opinion.

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