Parenting is a full time engagement that takes resources, patience, intentionality, and constant personal growth to support children who lean on parents for physical, emotional, and spiritual support. Parenting children with disabilities has added challenges: understanding the child’s additional needs, providing accommodations, and emotional and social support for parents and caretakers. During the pandemic, isolation and reduced resources posed new difficulties for parents of children with disabilities. Mary Mwisaaka Mawa from Global Peace Women Uganda joined Youths and Persons with Disabilities Integrated Development Association (YOPDIDA) to provide support for families in Kaguya, Uganda with adolescent children (ages 13-25) with disabilities. The program included sensitization, income generation skills training, reproductive health awareness and cultivating social supports and connections.
The sensitization program helped parents reframe their children’s disabilities, not as inabilities but different capabilities. Parents were encouraged to expand their learnings and start support groups to exchange ideas and information to better support their children. A total of twenty parents were chosen from five sub counties to take part in the program and be agents of change in their community. They were sensitized on the rights, individual needs and talents of children with disabilities. They were also taught the basics of sign language and connected to YOPDIDA for future volunteer opportunities and support for their children.
For the children, sessions teaching income generation skills like making donuts, daddies and chapattis were held, in addition to a session on reproductive health, which was hosted by a senior woman counselor. Sports were introduced as a way to improve social interactions and connection with their community in August. Children were excited to participate. Parents also expressed that the program was helpful. Sheikh Kabali, thanked GPW for the opportunity to “develop ourselves and improve on how to take care of children with disabilities”. GPW Uganda also contributed thread and cloth to a tailoring center providing tailoring classes to girls with disabilities.
Mary said that the project enhanced her leadership and helped her develop communication, team work and empathy while making her more open-minded. While Covid19 lockdowns posed a major challenge, limiting team meetings and the number of parents and speakers who were engaged. Mary’s project strengthened the support for parents in raising children with disabilities in a warm and loving family environment. The project not only helped families get stronger together but also made the children with disabilities aware about their rights and realize their potential. GPW is happy to have supported Mary’s efforts through the GWD grant, a joint initiative with GPW and Service for Peace Korea.