ESSEX, United Kingdom — Between 2016 and 2017, 21.4% of Ugandan citizens were living under the poverty line. Poverty disproportionately affects disabled people. In 2018, 45% of people from low-income households were not disabled. In contrast to this, 57% of disabled people came from low-income households. Discrimination in the employment sector results in fewer job prospects for disabled people, prompting rising poverty rates.
However, in 2017, Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) Uganda collaborated with Humanity and Inclusion (HI), the National Union of Women with Disabilities of Uganda (NUWODU), BRAC U.K. and BRAC UPGI, to integrate its Disability Inclusive Graduation Program in Uganda.
Disability in Uganda
According to a 2020 report, employers view disabled people as “less reliable and stable than those of people without disabilities.” However, some employers who previously hired disabled employees described them as “loyal and hard-working.”
Many disabled people lack education and skills training, making it difficult to find employment. Moreover, subsistence farming makes up most of Uganda’s economy, further narrowing down employment prospects.
What is BRAC?
BRAC is an international non-governmental organization founded in Bangladesh in 1972. It equips individuals from low-income households with the right tools to actively contribute to the economy.
It creates opportunities for people living in poverty. The organization acknowledges that there is no single cause of poverty. This is why its comprehensive approach uses innovative tools such as microfinance, education, health care, legal services and community empowerment to improve the lives of people living in poverty, its microfinance program has expanded to include small enterprise developments, seizing control of the multiplier effects of job opportunities.
At the heart of BRAC is its community empowerment. It strengthens the voices of the poor, providing a platform for the government and citizens to effectively communicate. BRAC renovates and provides communities with new technologies to ensure access to safe water and sanitation facilities. It provides education to children left behind from the formal education sector because of poverty-related issues.
BRAC’s Graduation Approach
In 2017, BRAC Uganda, HI and the National Union of Women with Disabilities of Uganda implemented the disability-inclusive graduation program (DIG) in Uganda, in four districts: Oyam, Nwoya, Kiryandongo and Gulu. The graduation approach is a holistic, versatile and context-specific initiative designed to address the different needs and vulnerabilities of people living in dire poverty circumstances.
The “four pillars of graduation” are:
- Social protection: Participants are provided with food, money access to health, WASH services and educational opportunities for their children and money.
- Income generation: Participants are given asset transfers- equipment or livestock- to help them maintain sustainable incomes and improve their technical skills.
- Financial support and savings: Trains participants on financial management and how to save money in unprecedented circumstances.
- Social empowerment: Participants learn new life skills through mentoring and coaching, giving them the confidence to become more immersed within their communities.
Participants have reached the “graduation” stage when they demonstrate economic and social empowerment. For instance, if the participant owns livestock and has various incomes, then they have achieved resilience through income-related activities.
Impact of BRAC’s Disability Inclusive Graduation Program
The Disability Inclusive Graduation program is structured to fulfill the four pillars of the graduation approach. In the timeframe of two years, participants have to improve their current living standards, through learning how to create sustainable income, adopting a balanced nutritional diet, accessing health care as well as integrating themselves in community projects.
In 2020, BRAC Uganda chose 2,700 households, including 554 disabled people, to achieve the long-term needs of disabled people living in poverty. All participants received a designated coach, life skills, financial intelligence training and resources for income generation. The coach visited disabled participants to empower them to develop social and technical skills. This provided them with the tools to manage enterprises and increase the monetary value of assets. Coaches also empowered participants’ mindsets through positive affirmations.
HI formulated methods so disabled people engage in income-generated activities. In 2020, 151 women and 138 men “underwent a comprehensive assessment to determine their rehabilitation and psychosocial support (PSS) needs.” From the results of the test, 226 participants received occupational therapy and 217 received physiotherapy
Overall, BRAC’s initiatives have created measurable and sustainable results in alleviating poverty. Its graduation approach is the stepping stone in galvanizing disabled people to become autonomous, self-sufficient individuals. This is because it contextualizes its graduation approach to the unique challenges a specific group of people is experiencing. In doing so, participants are confident and hopeful about escaping poverty.
– Dami Kalejaiye