UNAB Human Rights Project.

The UNAB Human Rights project is part of the Regional Human Rights Project, (HR) which seeks to address the denial of human rights of the visually impaired persons in Uganda. It aims to legitimise the needs of the visually impaired as rights holders as declared in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities hereinafter referred to as The CRPD. The rights and dignity of the visually impaired persons have been eroded over the years by the historical use of the medical and charity models in services provision and the perpetration of negative society attitudes and cultural practices. The project uses the CRPD as the tool for advocacy to ensure human rights of the visually impaired are recognised in Uganda with specific reference to three articles. These relate to article 24 on Education, articles 28 on Adequate Standards of Living and article 28 on Work and Employment. The 2007 CRPD reaffirmed the fundamental application of international human rights to people with disabilities (PWDs) and established standards upon which these rights would be measured to ensure full and equal enjoyment of human rights by the people with disabilities and in this case the visually impaired.

The project was inspired by the conviction that implementation of CRPD is the key to changing the desperate state of the visually impaired. Anecdotal reports show increased cases of human rights violations involving the visually impaired in African countries. The research on "Monitoring the State of Disabled People's Right" in Kenya and Cameroon which was carried out by African Union of the Blind (AFUB) in 2007, documented systematic human rights abuses on PWDs. Further In 2009, AFUB investigated the state of human rights of the visually impaired persons in many African countries including Uganda, in preparation for this project which revealed existing and continued neglect, mistreatment, discrimination and exclusion of the visually impaired.

The situation was worse for women and girls who faced double discrimination where most ended up with no education, healthcare and as single mothers, living in impoverished conditions in the periphery of the general life in society. The majority of young people with visual impairment had little education, no training or employment or sources of income often ending up as beggars. Children were not spared as many were not in school even as enrolment in education improved and have been known to be malnourished. There was also evidence of persistent exclusion of the visually impaired in participation and decision making processes at all levels in the home, the community, and in the government. In addition the public displayed lack of awareness ignorance and poor attitude towards the needs of the visually impaired which were often viewed as secondary to those of the non disabled population.

There was also a general lack of knowledge on CRPD among the visually impaired persons and their organisations, in the civil society and in the government. The needs of the visually impaired continued to be seen from a "helping position" and often catered for by donors, charitable and religious organisations. The provision of basic equipment such as Braille machines, low vision equipment, white canes do not feature in government items of school equipment and are often left to charitable organisations to provide. The needs of the visually impaired therefore remain outside the mainstream in all ministries. It is surprising that this situation looms in the international levels where disability was excluded from the Millennium Development Goals.

Uganda has signed and ratified the Convention and has over the recent years developed disability laws and policies. In Uganda there is a Disability Persons Act 2006 and other related policies such as the Education Act and Inclusive Education Policy. However these policies and laws together with the growth of the disability organisations and stakeholders support have not impacted on the implementation of disability programmes and the lives of the visually impaired persons.

The project therefore employs the use of the CRPD so as to add impetus to the intervention process given targeted and sustained advocacy. It also advocates for a new paradigm where the government officials come to the level of recognising their role and responsibility as duty-holders and hence bound by the convention not only to be conversant with the articles, but also to institute the necessary mechanisms for the implementation of CRPD to enable intervention and realisation of rights. The visually impaired persons on the other hand need to recognise their position as right-holders and must therefore develop the capacity and be empowered to use CRPD as a tool to make demands on the policy makers so that they may enjoy their human rights and enhanced quality of life. This underlines the need for increased capacity in UNAB and their branches at Apac and Lira districts in Northern Uganda, Masaka and Kayunga districts in Central Uganda to be more effective in their advocacy and awareness creation among their members and the community.

Coalition building with stakeholders is a requisite part of advocacy and expanding opportunities for implementation of CRPD. UNAB aims at closing the knowledge gap on CRPD in the civil society organisations and the government. Society ignorance, negative attitudes and practices have potential to undermine inclusive efforts for people with visual impairment and hence the need to carry out awareness creation on the Convention and the rights of the visually impaired persons at the national level and in districts and local levels of the target districts. AFUB will in its part share the lessons and good practices achieved through this project to the larger visually impaired organisations as part of its regional role to enhance the visually impaired movement in the region.

It is precisely for the purpose of intervening on these factors that the Swedish Association of the Visually Impaired (SRF) have the objective of contributing to the realisation of human rights of the visually impaired, by facilitating AFUB to build the capacity of UNAB to use CRPD as a tool for advocacy. It is expected that the project will result in;

a.) Increased knowledge and use of the Convention as a tool for advocacy, planning and implementation by the government, organisations of the visually impaired and the civil society.
b.) Governments greater response in the review of disability policies in conformity with CRPD, with specific reference to the target articles 24, 27 and 28.
c.) Strengthening of the structures and systems for the implementation of the Convention within the targeted ministries in Uganda.
d.) Greater awareness and support in promoting participation and inclusion of the visually impaired within the target areas by the communities and the public.
e.) The visually impaired understand their needs as rights and advocate from this perspective.
f.) Documentation of best practices and lessons learned for replication across the region to support implementation of CRPD through AFUB.

1) The main beneficiaries of this project are the visually impaired men, women and the children.
2) The project is in its first of the two-year period of implimentation.