By Our Reporter
Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) have been urged to acquire more skills and increase their competence if they are to become more competitive in the job market. This was during the virtual Share 101 conference held on Wednesday.
Held under the theme, “Disability inclusion and work: Addressing youth unemployment”, it brought together different young people with disabilities, stakeholders, and civil society actors to share and discuss the numerous challenges, ideas, and information related to inclusion and work for young people, with a focus on people with disabilities.
Speaking during a panel discussion, Martin Lubwama, the Business Development and PR officer at Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum said that Persons with Disabilities should desist from the mentality of handouts and playing the sympathy card, and instead focus on becoming ambassadors of change in society by fronting their varied capabilities and the value they bring to the table.
“We need to try and step away from the charity mentality that society has created overtime and look at empowering ourselves first. When we go out there to express ourselves or present our credentials, we should not front being different abled first thinking it will earn us sympathy or special access.” Martin Lubwama said.
“It should not be about your physical being, but the value you bring to the table. This why we need to build our capacity and skills by leveraging every opportunity available.” He added.
This was reemphasized by Sander Schot, the Head of Strategic Partnerships and Grants at Light for the World International who noted that employers are looking for individuals who are reliable, capable and committed to their work.
“Let’s get rid of this charity approach, bit from the employer side; the NGO side; or the PWDs side. What we want is employers looking at recruiting PWDs as core to their mandate, not as a side effect or like a CSR issue because you will always suffer first if there is decline in the demand for the company’s services and they have to cut costs.” Sander Schot noted.
Although Uganda has a rich policy and legislative framework for disability inclusion, research has shown that People with disabilities are routinely discriminated against in the recruitment and selection process and are liable to exploitation at work, often earning less than other employees without disabilities.
It further indicates that barriers for formal employment of persons with disabilities include stigmatization, the actual and perceived skills and education levels of persons with disabilities as well as low self-esteem and self-confidence of people with disabilities, among others.
According to Urban Kumwesiga, the Finance Officer at Child’s I Foundation and a beneficiary of the Make 12.4 % work internship program, inclusive partnerships are the key to changing employee’s mentality and attitudes towards Persons with Disabilities.
He says the inclusive internships provide the much-needed opportunity for Persons with Disabilities to showcase their capabilities, skills and technical know-how. This in turn also helps build a sense of belonging and increases confidence of PWDs as they advance in the world of employment.
Other interventions to foster disability inclusion at work, according to Henry Sabah form the Federation of Uganda Employers, says they are building strategic partnerships with key stakeholders and employers who are involved in developing policy framework for inclusion and have also created a secretariat for Uganda businesses and disability network which is an employer-led body that works towards promoting disability inclusion at work places.
The virtual Share 101 conference was organized by Reach A Hand Uganda, in collaboration with Light for the World.