Racheal’s resolve: Championing disability rights in Uganda

Franck Kuwonu: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 January 2024:

Racheal Kalinaki sees herself as a voice for the young and disabled in Uganda. Her journey, marked by personal struggles and triumphs, reflects an unwavering commitment she says, to advocating for those who, like her, have been sidelined by society because of their disabilities. She envisions a world where everything we do is inclusive of young people with disabilities.

From early childhood, “I faced discrimination within my family and at school.” Describing her early experiences, she said: “I was seen as a misfortune.”

The discrimination was not just an obstacle for her; it was her motivation to seek and create change — not only for herself but for all young people facing similar discrimination.

Platforms for empowering peers

In Integrated Disabled Women Activities, she found a platform to address the unique challenges of young girls and women with disabilities. There, she worked on developing programmes that empowered them all, ensuring their voices were heard.

As an advocate of She Leads, she spearheaded initiatives that focused on developing skills and raising awareness of rights.

“In one of our key projects, we educated young women with disabilities about their sexual and reproductive rights, an important step towards empowering them to take control of their lives.”

Joining the youth advisory group of the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, gave her, she added, the opportunity to bring their local issues to a global stage. “The neglected issues of disabled youth in Uganda are now reaching the UN through her as a member of this group.”

Strategies for rooting out bias

For Rachael (Photo), confronting the deep-rooted misconceptions about disabilities in Uganda requires a comprehensive approach.

Through peer education and public engagement via radio talk shows, she works to combat stereotypes and inform others of their rights and capabilities.

One of her achievements, she mentioned, was addressing discrimination in her university. Following an incident where someone discriminated against her, she said, she led a campaign that prompted the administration to act.

Her efforts resulted in improved policies and sensitivity training for students and faculty.

“My story is more than an individual’s fight against prejudice; it is about influencing change at every level. I envision a world where everything we do is inclusive of young people with disabilities, and where we all treat each other equally.”

She is convinced that her impact “stands as a testament to the power of resilience and advocacy, and as inspiration for others to join the fight for a more inclusive world.”

Africa Renewal

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