UWEZO Youth Empowerment

UWEZO Youth Empowerment (‘Ability’ in Swahili) is a Disabled Persons Organisation (DPO), established by and for young people with disabilities to take charge of their own lives in Rwanda.

UWEZO’s mission is to enable children and youth with disabilities to regain their self-confidence and actively participate in society through developing skills and social integration. UWEZO, which means “ability” in Swahili, was founded in 2010 by Bahati Satir Omar, who identified the need for a youth-led disability organisation working at a national level.

They advocate and raise awareness of equal rights and opportunities for children and youth with disabilities within Rwanda. Key areas of focus include skills and ICT training, peer support and mentoring, internship programme, education and advocacy.

UWEZO became partners with AbleChildAfrica in October 2016. Our first project together involved successfully piloting a mentoring model where young people with disabilities mentored children with disabilities to tackle poor educational outcomes for children with disabilities in Rwanda. As outlined in our Partnership Model, we are supporting UWEZO with their organisational development and capacity building alongside the projects we deliver together.

In Rwanda, children with disabilities comprise only 0.7% of all primary school students, and this rate drops further at secondary and university levels. It is estimated that 41% of people with disabilities in Rwanda are under 35, and only 33% of young people with disabilities that UWEZO surveyed in 2014 were in formal or informal employment, whilst 91% fell below the national poverty line.

Whilst Rwanda has a good track record of inclusive policies, such as mainstreaming disability in the national economic plan, many children with disabilities are still unable to access basic services and face stigma and discrimination.

AbleChildAfrica has previously worked with UWEZO Youth Empowerment on the following project.

Youth-Led Mentoring Raising Aspirations Project

With funding from British & Foreign Schools Society, AbleChildAfrica and UWEZO ran a project in Muzanze, a rural district in the Northern Province, to raise the aspirations of children with disabilities in the community and support them in accessing education. The project also worked with teachers and community members to raise their expectations of what children with disabilities can achieve. The project used an innovative mentoring approach where 30 youth with disabilities each mentor a child with a disability (aged 7-16 years) who were either not attending school regularly or at all. The mentors provided 1-2-1 support for children to help with their school work and also to build communications skills and self-confidence. All 30 children were successfully enrolled into schools through the project and 30 mentors have formed a network and continue to work together to promote disability inclusion in Musanze.

AbleChildAfrica is currently working with UWEZO in the following area:

Youth-Led Advocacy raising Aspirations Project

With funding from the UK Government (DFID), this project will contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) aspiration to ‘leave no one behind’ in Rwanda by empowering children and young people with disabilities to demand inclusion in the SDGs. This project will use a youth-led model whereby youth with disabilities will be trained to mentor children with disabilities and be the main drivers for inclusion at community and government level through activities as designed and driven by youth with disabilities themselves. The project aims to find youth-led solutions for meaningful inclusion and will create mechanisms whereby youth with disabilities can communicate evidence of best practice to policy makers to ensure children and young people are included in policy development and implementation in Rwanda.

Inclusive Female WASH Project

With funding from Jersey Overseas Aid, this youth-led project will advance the inclusion of girls with disabilities in education through inclusive WASH in Musanze, a rural area of northern Rwanda. Training and guidance, some of which will be facilitated by UWEZO’s Disability Youth Network from the DFID project, provided to female youth with disability mentors recruited through the project will empower them with the skills and knowledge to produce a baseline situational analysis report to inform their activity design and strategy. Fundamentally, the trained female mentors will design and implement a twofold peer to peer mentoring programme. Drawing on learnings from the previous mentoring project, girls with disabilities not attending school identified by the mentors will receive individual mentoring at their homes to build confidence in a familiar environment and be invited to inclusive WASH group mentoring sessions that take place in schools with enrolled girls with and without disabilities to promote inclusion and break down stigma. The project will also facilitate schools modifications for more accessible WASH services, provide girls with disabilities with hygiene kits, train teachers on inclusive participatory methodologies, engage government structures and include a community awareness campaign including the formations of parent group meetings.

Together, AbleChildAfrica and UWEZO Youth Empowerment have identified key areas for capacity building and AbleChildAfrica is working with UWEZO to seek match funding to implement additional activities to further develop our existing WASH and youth-led advocacy projects to reach more children with disabilities and their families.

If you would like to learn more about, get involved with or feel you may be in a position to provide funding for any of our projects, please contact Alice Ford, Programmes Officer, at alice@ablechildafrica.org.uk.

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