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News From the Global Frontlines of Disability Justice

Gorret Namwanjje, a young Black woman with short dark hair, sits at a table outside.

Teen Pregnancy During Covid

Uganda has seen a surge in teen pregnancies since schools were shut down due to the pandemic. The lockdowns have deprived girls of the social protection schools offer, making them more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse. “During this COVID period, the teachers have been helping the parents to teach the children about sex education, but the fact that schools have been locked for a long time, it has been hard to educate the children on sex information,” says Gorret Namwanjje with TRIUMPH Uganda.  

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Dick Bugembe smiling at the camera, wearing a surgical mask down on his chin.

Leaving No One Behind

When Dick Bugembe was first diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 2009, he thought of it as a death sentence. “I lost hope because I thought I was the only one with HIV and at the same time living with a disability,” he says. “I thought I was about to die and perish very soon.” He went on to found the Masaka Association of Disabled Persons Living with HIV & AIDS (MADIPHA). Today, he is a powerful advocate in Uganda for equal access to HIV services and information.

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Solomon Okelola smiles at the camera.

“Success and Failure Are Born in the Same Cradle”

People who are DeafBlind can feel isolated, says Solomon Okelola, executive director of the Lionheart Ability Leaders International Foundation. In Okelola’s case, though, his solitude also gave him an opportunity to reflect on life and the ways people respond to challenges. “Success and failure are born in the same cradle – in your mind,” he says. “You can conceive whichever you desire.”

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Rose Umutesi during a radio interview

A Voice for Rwandans with Psychosocial Disabilities

Many Rwandans developed post-traumatic stress disorder after the genocide. That led Rose Umutesi to psychosocial disability rights advocacy: “What we should do is to love what we are doing, love what you are doing and focus on it. I know things will be … fully done.”

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Julie-Marie Chibekete plays basketball in a wheelchair.

Data Driven

In 2018, Julie Chibekete was involved in a car accident that resulted in a permanent spine injury and a broken vertebra. Her doctor referred her to the Spinal Injuries Association of Malawi (SIAM), where she connected with other spinal injury survivors. She’s hoping to learn more about data storytelling from her DJP mentor. “We’re trying to strategize so that we can support more people,” she says.

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Nissy Namuyomba, a young black woman with her hair pulled back, stares into the camera.

Promoting Inclusion Through Storytelling

Nissy Namuyomba’s identity is formed not just as a person with disability but also as a Muganda woman of the Ngabi clan, speaker of the Bantu language Luganda, young community leader, and family member. One of her greatest memories is presenting her poem about the Masaka Association of Persons with Disabilities (MADIPHA) at the coronation of the king of Buganda on live television.

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Claude Ngabo sits at a table.

“It was not an easy journey, but I made it”

Since graduating from the School of Law at the University of Rwanda-Huye Campus with academic distinction, Claude Ngabo has worked with many organizations, especially those supporting youth with disabilities. “It was not an easy journey but I made it,” he says. Since 2012, he has been a member of the Rwandan Union of the Blind, where he has been advocating for access to white canes for Rwandans with vision impairments.

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Meredith O'Brien smiles at the camera.

Raising Awareness of Chronic Illnesses

Disability Justice Project mentor Meredith O’Brien recently published Uncomfortably Numb, a memoir about being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2014. Educating people about chronic illnesses and invisible symptoms is important, she says. O’Brien herself has experienced harassment from those who didn’t understand her disease.

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Badmus works at her desk.

At the Intersection of Gender and Disability

For Oluwabukolami Omolara Badmus, growing up in Nigeria wasn’t easy. “There is no proper infrastructure put in place for people living with disability,” she says. Her passion for disability rights activism has endured over time, with a particular focus on women with disabilities: “My passion, the love, the smiles I see on people’s faces, that is what has been inspiring me.”

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Esther Suubi talking to young people at TRIUMPH.

Speaking Up About Mental Health

Esther Suubi found herself battling depression as an adolescent, and she connected with the organization she works for now – Triumph Uganda Mental Health Support and Recovery Program (TRIUMPH). “I decided to stand up and fight for my fellow girls and young women by speaking up so that we are heard,” she says.

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