Skip to main content
Christine Oliver Dhikusooka stands in front of building outside.


Leading the Charge

Play audio version

DJP Fellow Christine Oliver Dhikusooka Mobilizes Ugandan Women with Disabilities

September 23, 2022

JINJA, Uganda – When it comes to Christine Oliver Dhikusooka’s disability advocacy, women with disabilities are at the center. Dhikusooka is a woman with a disability, too—becoming so after contracting polio when she was four years old. Two years after her bout with the illness, people started falsely speculating about the cause of her disability: “People started saying … ‘She was bewitched … that one, those are family issues.’ Of course, they didn’t know that people can get disabled. By that time, people were thinking those are culture things.” 

Today, Dhikusooka is a 47-year-old Disability Justice Project Fellow championing the rights of women with disabilities. She’s a local politician and co-founding executive director at One Voice Heard 4 Disability Uganda (OVH4DU), an organization based in Jinja, Uganda. OVH4DU advocates for “improved standards of living and rights through mobilization and inclusion of women with disability issues in mainstream development programs.” According to Dhikusooka, OVH4DU focuses on women with disabilities because “people don’t know their rights. Women don’t know their rights. Women’s rights are violated.”

Dhikusooka chats on Zoom about her life and work. Click here for descriptive transcript.

In Dhikusooka’s view, there’s more room for Ugandan women with disabilities to get involved: “Of course, we need to continue making groups, making associations, making organizations of women with disabilities. After forming them, we need to network,” Dhikusooka says. “I think if we go on collaborating, networking, hearing from each other, I think it will be good.”

In 2021, Dhikusooka—for the third time—ran for Jinja District local government unopposed, representing women with disabilities. Her journey to local politics began 22 years ago during her stint as an administrative assistant at the Jinja District Union of Persons with Disabilities, where she was persuaded to run for office. As a councilperson, she has worked with others to pass policies like prohibiting the exclusion of children with HIV/AIDS from schools. 

Recently, Dhikusooka merged activism and religion in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jinja, working as a second-time treasurer at her local Council for Persons with Disabilities. When a new bishop was appointed to the diocese five years ago, she says, “He brought people with disability on board,” instructing parishes that every church must have a council for persons with disabilities. The council at Dhikusooka’s church has been advocating for accessibility ever since. “One, they didn’t know that … on the church building, we need accessibility. So now…we have accessible entrance on the church doors. … At my church, because of my presence in that council, I told my … parish priest in the council that, ‘Do you see, there’s no ramp here?’ And they constructed the ramp.”

Click here for descriptive transcript.

Now, Dhikusooka’s learning to highlight her advocacy work with digital storytelling at the Disability Justice Project. Earlier this month, the second cohort of fellows from African countries began the 12-week workshop, and so far, she finds classes interesting. With the DJP, she’s eager to capture “catchy” stories focusing on women with disabilities that will attract audiences and make them more attentive.

Dhikusooka is building on the legacy of past DJP fellows; she recently watched “One Voice,” 2021 DJP Fellow Esther Suubi’s latest film on Ugandan women with psychosocial disabilities. “I liked it, I watched it, and I saw how [Suubi] was talking to her fellow women,” says Dhikusooka. “I’ve admired the way she works, and that’s where I want … to be.” 

Michelle Faulkner (she/her) is a Sierra Leonean media advocate who has lived in several countries throughout the world. @2022 DJP. All rights reserved.

News From the Global Frontlines of Disability Justice

Oluwabukolami Omolara Badmus takes a selfie. In the background is a camera pointed toward a group of people attending a meeting.

‘A View From Somewhere’

DJP staff, partners, and fellows reflect on two years of “taking back the narrative” on disability. “Through the DJP, I was able to advance my advocacy level … for women with disabilities, most especially people with DeafBlindness,” says disability rights activist Oluwabukolami Omolara Badmus, an inaugural DJP fellow from Nigeria.

Read more about ‘A View From Somewhere’

Oyewole holds up her permanent voters card in front of her polling station.

I Voted

DJP Fellow Benedicta Oyèdayọ̀ Oyèwọlé chronicles the challenges she and other Nigerians with disabilities faced voting in her country’s February elections, from faraway polling places to no assistive materials like magnifying glasses. She urges more inclusion in the House of Assembly and gubernatorial elections on March 18.

Read more about I Voted

Illustration of Lidia Lebang and her different identities - writing in a notebook, getting ideas, and advocating for disability rights. In another identity people are pointing fingers at her. Text reads, "More than a name."

More Than A Name

Lidia Lebang, a mental health advocate and author, says she is more than her name: “I am a woman – a gender often seen in Indonesia’s patriarchal society as a second, or inferior, gender. I come from a working-class family. I live with bipolar disorder, which makes me a person with a disability. These are parts of my identity that make me who I am now.”

Read more about More Than A Name

A step stool underneath a bed in a health center in Rwanda.

Toward Equitable Health Care

Rwandans with disabilities face significant barriers to accessing health care. For those with short stature, this includes hospital beds and reception windows that are too high. “Sometimes we are served after others or choose to stay home,” says one advocate for more inclusive services and infrastructure.

Read more about Toward Equitable Health Care

Sri Sukarni sits in a motorbike sidecar, looking at the camera.

‘I Never Imagined I Could Do This’

Dissatisfied by the way local news portrays people with disabilities, DJP Fellow Sri Sukarni is determined to use her new video skills to share issues important to her community. At the top of her agenda is the lack of accessible public service buildings. “This is what I want to convey to the media, to the government,” she says.

Read more about ‘I Never Imagined I Could Do This’

Benedicta Oyedayo Oyewole sits in a chair, looking at the camera.

‘You Can’t Legislate Attitudes’

When DJP Fellow Benedicta Oyèdayọ̀ Oyèwọlé was a child, a pastor laid hands on her to “cast out the demons” and blamed her disability on witches. Today, Oyèwọlé is working as an advocate for Nigerians with disabilities to end discrimination: “It’s people’s attitudes that need to be transformed. You can’t legislate attitudes.” 

Read more about ‘You Can’t Legislate Attitudes’