By Hisayo Katsui:
I had the great opportunity to visit Uganda for about five weeks. I would like to make a small travel report about my stay.
Hisayo and Edson in front of the Makerere University -->
First of all, Ugandan disability activists use "Person with Disability (PWD)" rather than "disabled people" to put person first. Similarly, "Woman with Disability (WWD)" was preferred to "disabled woman". As I took my Master's Degree in England, I had followed the English terminology of "disabled people" to politicise the disability first before my visit to Uganda. However, now that I would like to study more about Uganda, I also start using PWD and WWD to respect their priority and thinking.
I tried to experience the lives of Ugandan PWDs, particularly those of WWD, by homestaying in one WWD's house and having another WWD as my research assistant. I cooked local food with the host family and moved around with public transportation means with my assistant. I could observe how people react to different situations to my assistant and listen to the stories of both of these WWDs, which enriched my insights towards disability very much.
As many of you might already know, the development of disability movement in Uganda has been so dynamic and interesting. On the one hand, I had the chance to meet the State Minister for the Elderly and Disability Affairs, Sulaiman Madada, and 6 (3 women and 3 men) Members of Parliament who are PWDs. On the other hand, I enjoyed meeting with deaf women and WWDs on the ground including those living in the internally displaced people's camps in the war torn areas in the Northern part of Uganda. Consequently, I could observe and understand the existence of some gaps among people at different levels. For instance, human rights-based approach is well incorporated in the constitution and laws, while WWDs on the ground did not even know the word, "Human Rights". That is, many preconditions for self-determination seemed to be missing particularly among those on the ground.
However, I could also observe many positive things both in the political space and social space. In the political space, it is famous that PWDs have political representation even at a village level. This has its own challenges, but this representation seems to have changed many things. Those disability councilors at local levels politically negotiate for the benefit of their constituencies of PWDs. For instance, PWDs were given good spots in the market area near the "New Park" (of public mini buses called "taxies") so that they could easily access the working place and also be visible for others to learn that PWDs can work. There were surprisingly few beggars on the streets. I saw many PWDs working but very few begging money. There could be many more PWDs hidden at their homes, too, as many told me so. However, superficial observation dipict different picture of PWDs in this country, particularly compared with Central Asian countries that I know from my PhD study.
When it comes to development cooperation activities, Denmark has been very active for a long time. Unlike other donor/Northern countries, Denmark tends to send development workers for a local organisation for more than one year. To my surprise, there are two PWDs from Denmark who has been there for more than ten years. They represent DPOD, former DSI. This modality seems to have both positive and negative effects according to my research participants/interviewees, which will be scrutinised further in my future writings. Almost all Ugandan DPOs depend on external fundings, which make them vulnerable to external change of trends and funding decisions.
Lastly let me use some space for briefly introducing two Ugandan people who also play important roles in our project.
Dr. Rukooko is the supervisor of Edson and our contact person at Makerere University.
Hisayo and Dr. Rukooko -->
Dr. Wamala is also our new contact person. We had several meetings during my stay and share many interests among us. We are organising a workshop on Human Rights-Based Approach and Disability in the beginnig of 2010. I am very happy to have such understanding partners.
Hisayo and Dr. Wamala -->
After my visit, I am even more excited about our research project! I hope that our findings would be useful and usable to the Ugandan disability stakeholders as well as many others.