TORORO DISTRICT, Uganda - In 2019, Rose Christine Adikini, 56, took part in Spotlight Initiative-supported leadership training run by the National Union of Women with Disabilities of Uganda (NUWODU). Covering confidence, leadership, self-esteem and public speaking, these sessions equip women and girls with disabilities with essential knowledge about their rights and entitlements, as well as the skills to advocate for those rights. This training is critical given women with disabilities are at greater risk of violence and discrimination due to social exclusion, limited mobility, a lack of support structures and communication barriers.

"I have always acted as a voice for women with disabilities in my community." - Rose Christine Adikini, Councillor

Today, Ms. Adikini is Lead Councillor of Persons Living with Disabilities in Tororo District. In this role, she serves as a central point of contact for women and girls with and without disabilities to report violence. She also represents the interests of her peers at community engagements and consultations. In fact, her advocacy has led to the installation of ramps in buildings across Tororo and surrounding sub-counties, improving accessibility for people with disabilities. 

Below, she discusses how to improve the participation of all women and girls in social and political life.

Rose Christine Adikini is now Lead Councillor of Persons Living with Disabilities in her district. Photo: Eva Noma Sibanda/UN Women

What are some of the challenges faced by women and girls with disabilities in your community?

As a woman with a disability, life has not been so easy, but I had people with positive attitudes around me who would encourage and stand with me. The most challenging thing is that there is a lot of discrimination and stigmatization in communities, some people would look at me as hopeless. But I kept standing firm and as time went on, the community discovered that disability is not inability. They realized my leadership potential. I acquired experience and the community trusted me because I am hard working.

What did you learn at NUWODU leadership training?

Through the NUWODU training, I acquired knowledge on how to lead effectively and counsel other women going through violence. I am equipped to receive and work on cases of violence against women with disabilities. As a leader, I am proud because my fellow women with disabilities are living happily.

I have always acted as a voice for women with disabilities in my community by reporting cases of violence to the police and I always make sure that the issues of women and girls with disabilities are brought to the forefront during council meetings.

What must happen to ensure the equal participation of all women in society and decision-making?

There must be more emphasis on income-generating activities for women with disabilities - activities like poultry keeping, knitting, tailoring, hairdressing and crafts. This will empower women and girls with disabilities economically.

Secondly, we must ensure that activities reach the grassroots level because there are many women with disabilities that have not yet been reached.

So far, Spotlight Initiative has supported NUWODU and UN Women to train 161 Ugandan women and girls with disabilities on human rights principles, violence against women, gender equality, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. It has supported mentoring on leadership and political participation for 194 women and girls with disabilities. More than 70 of those women subsequently ran for political positions in general elections.

By Eva Noma Sibanda and Pretty Nalubega