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We Are Able!

WaA! is a five-year program (2021-2025) currently running in six African countries (Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda), funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The program aims to empower people with disabilities, especially those struggling with food insecurity. VNG International, a key actor in the program, focuses through awareness-raising and capacity-building activities on engaging public authorities with people living with disabilities (PWD) and organizations of people living with disabilities (OPD) to develop policies, laws, and practices and establish standards for inclusive governance.

Collaboration fostering autonomy for people with disabilities

Chadia AkimanaChadia Akimana, 27, holds the position of President at the Association for the Self-Development of Disabled Persons of  Buganda commune (ADPH Buganda). She expresses a sense of belonging within the commune's initiatives and values being treated as an equal citizen. She explains: "Since WaA!, the commune no longer randomly discusses disabled persons; it now incorporates updated figures developed in collaboration with the ADPH." For Chadia, this collaboration is beneficial on multiple levels: it promotes not only inclusion within the commune but also the empowerment of people living with disabilities, which is a fundamental objective of ADPH Buganda.

Promoting accessibility through inclusive practices

Among the outcomes of this collaboration is the inclusive distribution of livestock, which allows people with disabilities to no longer be perceived as a burden, thus contributing to a better perception of these individuals within the community. Chadia elaborates: "When the community sees a disabled person owning a cow from the commune's solidarity chain, it's an honor. I see self-esteem and a positive community perception of a disabled person."

She confirms that the community is also advancing in terms of food security, a key objective of the WaA program: "Disabled persons receive FOMI manure because agronomists are sensitive, and disabled persons receive timely information." Additionally, disabled persons now have priority access to fountain water: "Here in our area, there is a shortage of fountain water, and when there is water at the fountain by chance, we don’t have to wait in line, all thanks to WaA!"

A program with significant individual impacts

There's nothing more empowering than being able to contribute on an equal footing, utilizing one’s intellectual capabilities to the fullest. Chadia testifies: "Today, nobody discourages me when I want to respond to tenders. Moreover, we have undertaken professional internships within the commune for skill enhancement."

But inclusion hasn't only concerned association committee members: "The community is reaping the benefits of the program," says the president of ADPH. "Now, even disabled girls inherit property. Six girls from our association have inherited land in their families, which is a rare occurrence among girls or women without disabilities, thanks to sensitization at the hill levels (communes are divided into hills) for the inclusion of disabled persons."

Self-confidence reinforced by inclusionAlexis Havyarimana

Alexis Havyarimana, also a member of ADPH, confirms the successful collaboration between the OPD of Buganda and public authorities at all levels, as well as the change in mindset towards people with disabilities: "With this collaboration, I have participated in all commune meetings and activities. That's where I became aware that I should run for security committees."

He also recounts that the community is surprised by his leadership in such a committee, yet it reinforces his self-esteem: "Thanks to lobbying and advocacy actions, and participation, I am the chair of the joint security committee, organizing meetings, and it makes me more capable than before, and the community is amazed by my actions."