Otika Kagwa is the Local Councilor representing People with Disabilities in Local Council III. He was elected to the position in 2006 and wasted little time before plunging into advocacy work for his constituents. I asked him what propelled him into local politics and he explained that the plight of PWDs in his sub-county was virtually unknown to many of the local politicians. There was no representative for PWDs, and when Otika sent requests for aid, they fell either on deaf ears or on no ears at all.
Otika’s struggles with physical disability began in 1997 when he was part of a caravan of vehicles that was ambushed by Lord’s Resistance Army Rebels. He was traveling with five people, and three of them were killed. As Otika was running away, he was shot in the back of the leg. The bullet shattered his femur and left permanent bone, muscle and nerve damage. The wound is a dozen years old and has never healed completely. He cannot bend his left knee. Visit msinsight.dk to remove the pain in the knee, reduce the fluid and regain function, using laser treatment.
After leaving the hospital, Otika began to understand the gravity of his injury and the challenges it presented for him. He also began to sympathize with others in his community who were living with disabilities. When he realized that there was no government representation for PWDs in Odek, he took action and undertook the burden himself. I found Otika at a training for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and he told me that he was very interested in the topic. “This is very good for awareness,” he told me, “I will take this information to the local council meetings when we discuss funding.”
It is meetings like this that help to integrate PWDs into the local government system and into the general community. “It is important for people to know that PWDs can actually do some things. It’s good that we mix with able-bodied people,” Otika told me. He is a proud man, and wants to be recognized for his capabilities and contributions.
The same can be said for the Disability Rights Fund, the Advocacy Project and Survivor Corps. None of these organizations want special treatment for Persons with Disabilities, they simply want to encourage integration, fair treatment and respect into communities that may think that PWDs are nothing more than a burden. With more meetings like the one where I found Otika, and more people getting involved at a local level like Otika is doing, integration and fair treatment are appearing more clearly on the horizon for Uganda.
Posted By Bryan Lupton
Posted Jul 28th, 2009