“The challenges faced by people with disabilities to access education in Uganda in particular, and the world over are very significant and alarming.”
Naava Hairat (pictured left) is from Uganda and joined the Disabled Leaders Network after previously applying for a Snowdon Scholarship. In this blog, Naava writes about her journey to access education in Uganda as a woman with a disability and how she wants to use her developed knowledge, skills and experience towards positive change.
“I am the third born of my mother. I became physically disabled at the age of about 4 years and soon after, my parents separated. Although my father kept on blaming my mom for my disability (which I believe was not the fault of my mom) I cannot say that their separation was because of my disability. I lived with my mother, and I was at a later age taken to stay with my father and stepmom in order to access education.
The story of my childhood is long and painful. I realise, on reflection, that I was like an intruder and a disgrace in the family, it was desired that I keep myself away at a time when visitors came. I was loaded with home chores, and never appreciated even when I do my best. Although my mom and maternal relatives loved me, it was more like a sin to visit them even once in a while.
Stigma nearly cost me my education, and I am grateful that some people came to my life to counsel and support me to complete my studies.
Nahava is my friend, to whom I once shared my living situation and challenges that I always faced at home. When my father chased me from his home and also abandoned paying for my education, Nahava started paying half of my tuition. The remaining half was paid by my brother, Isma. I am very grateful to both of them for their contributions, my mother Prossy, my grandmother Joyce and all others not mentioned here.
I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration specializing in marketing at the University. The knowledge, information and skills that I achieve in studying the course is an important asset that has positively molded my personality, developed business principles and integral soft skills – like communication and decision making.
The course has provided me with flexibility in different fields like marketing, human resource management, accounting and finance hence transforming me into an invaluable asset to any business or organization.
Leadership opportunities have helped shape my skills and develop my inner self. At University, I was blessed to win an election as the Female Guild Representative Counselor for students with disability at Makerere university business school. As a result I was involved in several leadership activities. I had the chance to network with a variety of people, meet new individuals and develop relationships with the local community. I gained practical experience but also developed relevant skills in communication, interpersonal relationships, and self-actualization that are, without doubt, key in carrying on to my professional career.
Access to education gave me the opportunity to discover and know more about my inner self, what I love and how I might build a career focused on my interests. I hence formed a community-based organisation known as ‘BUYUKI VALIANTS DISABILITY GROUP’ that supports persons with disabilities in the village. Furthermore, I was exposed to different people with disabilities and got to know more about their different challenges, walks of life and how best solutions can be developed.
In summary, my leadership experience at University has equipped me with knowledge and skills, I am a better communicator, an informed leader and a strong learner. I have learned a great deal about myself and how I adapt to different situations, giving me a better sense of my current role in my community and the role I would like to play as I grow older.
After I graduate, I want to use my personal experiences and leadership skills to strengthen the services of the Community Based Organisation that I formed and build the capacities of its leaders and members for sustainability. I want to extend my services to reach out to more people in a wider area by either starting up an Non-Government Organisation (NGO) that supports and advocates for persons with disabilities or working with any other existing NGO’s with similar objectives.
I am really passionate about advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities and seeing them living a decent life irrespective of their disabilities.”