The guest of honour,
Hon Ministers and MPs,
The Chairperson and Hon. Members of Kabarole District Council.
The Resident District Commissioner,
All protocol observed,
Ladies and gentle men.
Guest of Honour, allow me on behalf of Uganda National Association of the Deaf (UNAD) to begin by thanking the leadership and the great people of Kabarole for accepting to host us on this important international event here today. We salute you the Chairman of the district Council, the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) and the technical team lead by the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for not only hosting us but also for your enormous contribution that have made this day a great success.
We are equally grateful to Kabarole Association of the Deaf for taking the initiative to have Kabarole host the day in the Spirit of raising awareness to unlock the hidden potentials of our people. Thank you too the Kabarole District Union of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) for actively participating in the preparation to host this day. We are equally thankful to all development partners who have in one way or another supported this day.
Am also aware that a number of Deaf persons have come from all corners of Uganda some as far as Karamoja, Kisoro and West Nile to come and celebrate with us. Thank you for coming to celebrate with us today and may the spirit of this day continue to light in all of us as we struggle to promote destiny of deaf persons. In Uganda and beyond.
On behalf of UNAD Board and Secretariat, I warmly welcome you to Fort portal for this year’s Deaf week celebrations. The traditional purpose of the week long event is to join the rest of the world to raise awareness on problems and challenges faced by Deaf persons and what the State and Society can do to address these challenges and problems.
The event also highlights opportunities as well as the value and benefits of empowering Deaf persons. Here in Western Uganda, you are discovering oil, I also hope we use this day to discover potentials of Deaf persons and together take action to realize these potentials.
Guest of Honour, the state of affair among deaf and hearing impaired citizens of this country estimated at over one million is characterized by
- Limited access to educational opportunities mainly due to negative attitudes of parents, community and State officials who are reluctant to take an extra step to help Deaf people access the few existing educational provisions in the country.
We appeal to you to join us change these attitudes as all human changes starts in the mindset. Members of the press, also joinin this struggle.We believe you can break those attitudes towards the Deaf persons by highlighting them/exposing them.
- Our National Constitution obliges the state to promote Sign Language ( cultural objective xxiv (c ) in Educational institutions and service provision. In spite of good and commendable steps taken by NRM government, Sign Language is still a privilege of the few/educated Deaf in urban centers.
We appeal to the government/ through Ministry of Gender or Education to make Sign Language development a priority in all development programmes. For us Deaf people, there can be no development without a language and communication.
We appeal to the State to make the constitutional provision real to the majority of deaf Ugandans by supporting Sign Language activities.
- We are pleased to report that in line with implementation of the policy of affirmative action in admission to public Universities, a good number of Deaf persons have acquired Education. However, no deliberate efforts are in place to enable them get Jobs. We appeal to Ministry of Public Service to set up an employment strategy for qualified Deaf Persons.
- The government is through the Ministry of Gender and Local Government implementing a number of measures to uplift the livelihood of PWDs in this Country. These include the Special Grant for PWDs. However, not so many Deaf people have so far benefited from the special grant due to communication barriers and the fact that the total national annual allocation has remind at 3billion only for the last five years.
We appeal to government to increase the grant to at least 10billion Shillings a year. We did make this appeal some years ago when the finance Minister presided over Nebbi Celebration just 2years ago and the Minister was positive and promised to take action. However, the government has not yet implemented this pledge. Today we renew this pledge through you the guest of honour.
- Guest of Honour despite advances in Sign Language and training of professional Sign Language interpreters at Kyambogo University many Deaf people are unable to access sign language interpretation in courts of law, hospitals, schools, interaction with police, etc.
We call on the government to recognize sign language interpreting as a profession (as it is done in many other countries of the world). We also call on the government to employ Sign Language Interpreters in strategic institutions e.g. courts, referral hospitals and universities to enable Deaf Persons access Information and services like other citizens of this Country.
- Guest of Honou, the Deaf persons in our community are still the poorest of the poor. UNAD working with some Nordic development partners has successfully implemented a pilot economic empowerment project in the districts of Mpigi, Mukono, Kampala and Wakiso.
The project is closing soon due to funding constraints. We appeal to the government to team up with UNAD to roll out this project in other districts of Uganda. This can be done along the line of the the youth empowerment/ livelihood project in the Ministry of Gender. Why not empower Deaf youth???
- Guest of Honour, Organizations of PWDs like UNAD do a lot of work to supplement efforts of the state in terms of empowerment of vulnerable populations and for promotion of social protection. We believe this is the time for the state to partner with Organizations like UNAD to generate synergies and together do much more for the benefit of our people.
Several modern countries of the world do allocate financial resources to Non Government Organizations of PWDs as they are aware of the important work these organizations do. Today we appeal to the government to allocate funds for the work of Disabled Peoples Organizations (DPOs) starting with UNAD.
- Guest of Honour, UNAD has been working with other partners in the disability community to review the PWDs Act of 2006 in order to make it more relevant and to bring it in line with provisions of the convention on the rights of PWDs which Uganda ratified in 2008.
We are grateful to note that the Minister of Gender has tabled the bill in parliament. However, the bill has so many gaps and we appeal for maximum cooperation and attention as we articulate these gaps and bring them to the attention of the government and parliament. We need a good law that will stand the test of time and actually help our people as we they face real challenges similar to these we are witnessing today.
We have experienced disability ourselves and we have the expertise to help government make a good law. Please support us to help government and parliament make a good law.
As we are happy celebrating from here in Kabarole, we note that the district has done a lot to empower PWDs in general and deaf persons I particular. We challenge other districts in Uganda to emulate this good and positive example. However, there are still so many gaps in the Education, social and economic spheres in the district.
We appeal to the leadership in Kabarole to seize todays initiative and dialogue with PWDs and Deaf in the district to make sure that the district annual development plan budget are deaf-disability friendly in all aspects.
I wish you all a wonderful celebration and hope that one day we meet again and you are able to tell me, “look here, this initiative came from Kabarole celebrations and it is changing lives”.
We need to have a nice celebration but also make sure it changes our lives and the way we do things for the betterment of our Deaf brothers, sisters and Society in general