Uganda’s Special Needs: A Photovoice Study on Social Inclusion of Children with Special Needs in Uganda

Approximately 13% of Ugandan children are living with some form of disability. In order to ensure the protection of these 2.5 million children from violence, poverty and poor access to healthcare, international organizations, such as UNICEF, have stressed that it is indispensable to focus on social inclusion of children living with a disability in education, rehabilitation, cultural and recreational activities.

Twelve respondents were recruited from the parent’s support group of a non-governmental
organization (NGO) established to improve the quality of lives of children with special needs. The NGO is located in a densely populated area consisting predominantly of informal dwellings on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda. The parents documented the ways in which their children with a disability are included in society and the role of the family in this inclusion.

Results of this Photovoice research project indicate that family functioning, socio-economic status, and social capital are important factors in stimulating their child’s social inclusion. This research has the potential to plug a gap in the understanding of social inclusion of children with a disability and its barriers in resource limited settings.

Submitted by:
Caroline Masquillier

Akiki’s brother is helping him to keep up with his inclusive education homework

Promoting inclusive societies for children living with a disability has been recognized to be the cornerstone of Ugandan disability policies. However, previous research has demonstrated that when it comes to implementing such inclusive programs, Uganda lags behind. Akiki can benefit from inclusive education, which is slowly being implemented by local actors.

Photographer: Aisha Zalwanga

Abbo’s grandmother is teaching her personal hygiene, which is important for social inclusion

Abbo has a mental disability and is raised by Jajja, which means ‘grandmother’ in Luganda. Jajja not only takes care of her granddaughter, she also teaches Abbo to become independent and tries to create awareness in the village for Abbo’s wellbeing.

Photographer: Naome Kibiera

Miremba’s sister gives support and company to her at all times, in all circumstances – benefiting her social inclusion

The research project tells us many brothers and sisters of children with special needs are crucial caretakers of their siblings, often when they are still very young themselves. Furthermore, they tend to be important players in the social inclusion of their brothers and sisters.

Photographer: Gerevase Rubayombya

Namono likes playing with other children in the streets, but sometimes those children fear her because of her different behaviour –negatively impacting her social inclusion

Sylvia raises Namono and Dembe, two daughters with different disabilities. Sylvia’s daily life is tough. The stigmatising reactions of her former neighbours made her move away, and even though she found a new place to live and raise Namono and Dembe, her husband doesn’t participate in the upbringing of his daughters.

Photographer: Sylvia Turyahabwe

We are including Mukisa in our family, in our work

Mukisa’s mother works abroad as there are not enough jobs, and a lot of poverty in Uganda. Suzan, Mukisa’s aunt, takes care of the boy. Mustafa, a young man who works at Suzan’s chicken farm, helps to take care of Mukisa as well. Despite the difficult circumstances, this family makes the best of it, and Mukisa gets all the love he could wish for.
Photographer: Suzan Mugisha