From being an outcast to recognition – Uganda

From being an outcast to recognition
Update from our member, LEV in Denmark about their work in Uganda

LEV, Denmark has worked closely together with Uganda Parents of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (UPPID) since 1998 by helping the organisation to enhance its work with and for persons with intellectual disabilities through advocacy training, organisational development and fundraising training.

Over the course of the last two years intellectually disabled people have gone from being outcasts to being recognized in Southern Uganda. Furthermore, they now are self-financing and do not need any more support.

dsc04437-uganda-2Nuliat is a woman of 25 years who spends the first part of her life locked up in a house, and she was secluded from the surrounding world because her family and especially her mother was ashamed of her. Nuliat has had wounds from stones, which were hurled at her, and she has been harassed and physically touched by different men who viewed her as worthless.

Today Nuliat makes jewelry that she sells on the local weekend marked. Her jewelry is renowned in the area, and it is used for birthdays and lavish weddings. Nuliat also owns cows, which she plans to sell when she can make enough money on them, and she was given education about her rights and has reported a man who tried to rape her. He is currently in prison for what he tried to do. The development of Nuliat has happened during the course of two years, through the support from UPPID.

From shame to pride

Hajati is the mother of Nuliat. She locked her daughter in the family home – which is normal practice in the area – until two years ago when Hajati made contact with UPPID. Hajati was having trouble accepting Nuliat, and she was ashamed every day by having a daughter, who didn’t look like the other children, and by the fact that she spoke in a weird manner.

When she met UPPID, she was introduced to a group of intellectually disabled children. That meeting helped her recognizing her daughter and she realized how many possibilities there are, as long as she supports her daughter. Today she knows how important it is to tell Nuliat how much she loves her. At the same time, Hajati supports other parents in the community, who also have intellectually disabled children.

A brighter tomorrow

Nuliat and her mother, Hajati, are optimistic today and happy for the help they have received, which they now use to help others in similar situations. Nuliat and Hajati support themselves and are able to fend for themselves without the aid from UPPID. Still there are many troubles in form of superstition and oppression of intellectually disabled children, which ought to be treated on equal terms as other people in Uganda are. The superstition is that the children are possessed by demons, which shall be driven out of them with fire, and this procedure often results in

Hajati and Nulait spoke on that subject on the local radio, to tell the community that being intellectually disabled does not mean that you are being possessed by some demon. Many listeners called the radio show with questions and positive remarks. Other parents also called, who have intellectually disabled children without knowing that they are disabled. This show strengthened focus on intellectual disability in the local community.

LEV works to secure, that intellectually disabled persons do not have to encounter similar things like Nuliat experienced in the first part of her life. Still many places around the world do not recognize the rights of intellectually disabled people. The example of Nuliat and Hajati and many other examples from LEV’s partners show that intellectually disabled people are approaching a brighter tomorrow. Like bubbles in a lake, the intellectually disabled people will co-create recognition in their local community.

For more information about LEV’s work contact Sune Barker