Over the last few weeks most of my time has been spent on the back of a boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) running from one local government office to another. Gulu itself is both a municipality made up of four divisions and a District which is comprised of the four divisions and twelve sub-counties. Each of the divisions and sub-counties have their own local government offices, which are presided over by either the Municipal, which is autonomous, or District government. With both of the pilot projects we are implementing, (1. Ensuring access to public flush toilets at both the Bus Park and main market under construction; 2. Building an accessible toilet at one school and incorporating hygiene and disability education), the GDPU team spends a considerable amount of time creating partnerships at different levels of local government.
In the last two weeks the team has visited several different officers within both the District and Municipal Educational Officers, and the Municipal Engineering Department. Through several meetings with the educational officers I was able to get data on the number of children with disabilities and a further breakdown of disabilities at each of the schools within our target area. I also discussed our proposed pilot program and both the District and Municipal officers gave their support. With the data received the GDPU team is currently narrowing a list of key schools, where we will carry out a needs assessment to identify a pilot school.
The meetings with the engineering department conversely focused on ensuring access to public flush toilets. We were able to have the municipal engineer inspect our efforts at the bus park and allow us access to the main market to assess accessibility of their current facilities. At the bus park the engineer was able to point out some key areas of improvement. At the main market we were able to see clearly that accessibility was considered in the construction. We did, however, find that the doorways to the toilet were too narrow for the accessibility standards under Uganda National Action of Physical Disability. We will take these findings to the local council and hope that, as they are still constructing the doorways, they can be widened. The Municipal Engineer was extremely happy that the GDPU had the initiative to inspect the toilets, before the building was finished. He remarked “whether you like it or not disability will be there, we must cater for our people.”
Our goal in these visits are simple, AP and GDPU want sustainability and we will not accept anything less. Bringing local government on board both increases the chances of a program’s success, but also that our efforts to mainstream disability into water and sanitation service provision will continue past any project length. It’s surely not easy jumping through the hoops of bureaucracy in any country and certainly not in Gulu, but it is our belief that building these partnerships will lead, with time, to full accessibility in Gulu.
Posted By Kathryn Dutile (Uganda)
Posted Sep 16th, 2014