Norah Nabatanzi, 26, is blind. She is a 2018 graduate of Kyambogo University with a Bachelor’s in Guidance and Counseling.
Since her graduation, she has never been employed, not because she is incompetent but because employers wave her away as soon as they learn about her disability.
Nabatanzi says that’s the ultimate price she is paying for being disabled.
“Employers despise me yet I am even better than those that can see. I also dream of having my job one day…. I have desires in life, I studied, I am professional,” she said.
“Employers see me as a vulnerable person who cannot do anything, they think I won’t deliver or I will fail their organization and even if I ask them to give me a chance to volunteer, they still turn me down.”
Nabatanzi has attended several workshops organised by NGOs on job inclusion for People Living with Disabilities “but all this yields nothing as employers are still skeptical about having disabled workers”.
“Employers who attend such workshops speak very well here but when you go to their offices, they change. They despise us yet we know what we are doing. The only problem is disability but the brain is okay, for example, my major problem is the eyes, the rest is okay,” she lamented.
Nabatanzi is not alone.
Tony Achol is physically impaired, he moves in a wheel chair. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Government Studies and Masters in Business Administration all attained from Makerere University.
Achol secured a job after his graduation in 2011 but unfortunately it was a short term contract which ran for two years.
“Since then, getting a job has become difficult for me. I now run my own business in Kawempe dealing in Computers and Research since I am a developer and a financial specialist,” he said.
“We find a lot of challenges to get jobs because access to some work stations is very hard and then there is discrimination by most of the employers,” he added.
Nabatanzi and Achol are among over 100 PWDs who attended the career fair for PWDs organised by light for the world in partnership with Uganda Business band Disability Network (UBDN) and the Federation of Uganda Employers (FUE) at Hotel Africana.
All the PWDs who interacted with ChimpReports decried discrimination in the job seeking process “because most employers look at your physicality before asking what you can offer.”
The career fair was organised in commemoration of the International Day of People Living with Disabilities which is annually held on December 3.
The 2016 Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) Census indicated that 4.5 million Ugandans (12.4%) live with some form of disability.
Silvester Kasozi, the Country Director of Light for the World said that only 15% of this population is employed which poses a big risk to the country.
“This increases the cycle of poverty because without employment, there is no income and this means you cannot take care of your family, self esteem is low, and if children don’t go to school they also become like you, employment and having income can solve a lot of things,” he said.
Adding: “Of at least 2.6 million youth with disabilities in Uganda, only about 15% are employed. Inequities in education and vocational training, negative attitudes about disability and self-exclusion all impact the employment options available to people with disabilities. This career fair shows our organisation’s commitment to contributing towards bridging that employment gap.”
Kasozi noted that government should step up and support employers in the private sector to encourage them bring on board PWDs while recruiting.
“The government has very good policies but little is done to entice employers to bring on board PWDs for example, we would have had tax holidays for persons that employ these PWDs and this would encourage them to bring more on board. We have the policies but implementation is lacking,” he said.
Achol backed Kasozi on the issue of government intervention.
“The government should take an affirmative action first, for example, they should start reserving some positions for PWDs like 10% of magistrates reserved for PWDs, out of the 2000 teachers being recruited, 200 positions can be reserved for PWDs and this would help especially in such periods when the covod-19 pandemic has hit us hard,” Achol said.
This maiden career fair aims at connecting job seekers with disabilities with companies that are committed to disability inclusion for jobs, work-experience placement, entrepreneurship and skills development opportunities.
“Job seekers with disabilities have the opportunity to expand their professional network and networking skills, which is crucial to their competitiveness on the job market,” Kasozi said,
Some employers in different companies and government parasatals like the National Water and Sewerage Corporation among others interacted with PWDs.
Douglas Oplo, the FUE Executive Director said that this Career Fair is part of their on-going solutions to curbing unemployment among the PWDs community.
“We work with UBDN members towards creating a workplace and company culture that is respectful and inclusive towards persons with disabilities, promoting the hiring, retention and professional development of persons with disabilities,” he said.
Speaking to ChimpReports at the sidelines of the career fair, Mustapha Fagayo, HR specialist at FUE partly blamed PWDs for their unemployment saying some have become comfortable with receiving than than working for money.
“Initially, the society in Uganda believed that PWDs are actually vulnerable people and should be helped. Unfortunately some of these people took that as something that they could take on. The society believes that a PWD is vulnerable and weak and should just be given,” he said.
This, he said, is part of the reasons for their (PWDs’) unemployment “because up to now, in addition to those that are on streets begging, some companies have a separate budget for Corporate Social Responsibility where they give people in need who majority are PWDs.”