In Uganda, promoting the rights of children with disabilities on the Day of the African Child
By Proscovia Nakibuuka
KAMPALA, Uganda, 15 June 2012 – Children with disabilities are the most marginalized and vulnerable group in Uganda. They are often abused, exploited and excluded by society, denying them of their right to health, protection and education.
This year’s Day of the African Child – which takes place annually on 16 June – will be commemorated under the theme ‘The Rights of Children with Disabilities: The Duty to Protect, Respect, Promote and Fulfill’, a theme chosen to highlight the plight of children with disabilities. In Uganda, the day provides an occasion for all actors to renew their commitments towards improving the plight of marginalized and vulnerable children by organizing activities aimed at including these specific children.
“There is a lot of stigma within communities towards homes with children with disabilities. The public needs to know that they can be useful citizens in the future and also contribute towards the development of the country,” said James Kabogozza, the assistant commissioner for youth and children in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.
Because of the continued stigma, parents often hide their children and deny them their rights, thinking they are totally helpless. But this is clearly not the case for Denis Komakech, a 17-year old-pupil from Gulu District.
“I am a living example that the disabled can do a lot. A blind person can use a computer even though he or she cannot see,” Denis said as he comfortably used his computer, which is enabled with Braille. Denis is very good with his computer since he does most of his work on it.
Born with sight, Denis became blind when he was 2 years old after a bout of measles. Despite the marginalization and challenges children with disabilities face in their daily lives, Denis has remained determined to succeed, driven by his dream of becoming a lawyer.
Disability is not inability
According to Mr. Kabogozza, “Most facilities, schools, public places and hospitals are not friendly to children with disabilities.” However, Denis is fortunate because his school, Gulu High School, is an inclusive school with a special needs annex for students who are blind. UNICEF, through the district, supports the school with financial assistance and teacher training.
And Denis is just one example. Once given a chance, children with disabilities can thrive, succeed and reach their full potential.
“I am moving together with the world because disability is not inability,” he said with a smile.