To know where we are, we must first know where we came from. To this effect UNAD secretariat is compiling a documentary of the 40 year long struggle from 1973 todate in order to detail and capture the major millstones in our history.
This will not only enrich our information bank but also serve as an inspiration especially for the younger generation who may be tempted to believe that we are what we are today just because of good luck and not some kind of real struggle and hard work in a country where the average life expectancy is approximately 50years, 40 years is not a short period of time.
So, what have we done during these 40 years?? In brief, in its 40 years of the struggle for freedom and Liberation of Deaf citizens, UNAD has accomplished the following.
- Raised awareness on potentials of Deaf persons; there by over coming stigma and negative attitudes from a point where deaf people, had no status in the socio, economic and political Organization of society to a point where deaf people are clearly and relatively visible and respected in all of these sectors.
40 years ago, no deaf person would own business or participate in social activities like sports, prayers, social gatherings, marriages etc.Today, the situation has changed as more and more deaf people are active in small businesses and also visible in social activities.
Our people are also active in politics as councilors and leaders in civil society Organizations. Our people are also active in religious activities. Churches have been established and we have several reverends and church ministers all over the Country.
- The Educational system that was 40years ago exclusive of Deaf persons has undergone fundamental transformations to the extent that we now have deaf person’spersuing Education up to University undergraduate and post graduate levels.
In addition to the several Educational institutions established in the country so far, there are 2 government supported special Secondary Schools for the Deaf and specific University programmes specializing in deafness as a field of study.
- Sign Language which was once viewed as the “animal – style” of communication is now entrenched in the constitution of Uganda and other laws and policies. UNAD has trained Tens of Thousands of people in Sign Language as trainers. These have in turn trained many more in a multiplier effect strategy.
Sign Language is now on Televisions, used in parliament, Local Councils, Schools, Universities, homes and work places in many urban parts of Uganda. UNAD was the first Organization in Uganda to document Uganda Sign Language by producing the first manual of Uganda Sign Language in the 1970’s.
UNAD later on inspired and partnered with Kyambogo University to produce the first ever dictionary of Uganda Sign Language currently in use.
- UNAD has not only been active in promotion of the cause of deaf people as a single disability category but also been deeply involved in building the wider disability and human rights movement in the whole Country and world wide. UNAD is a founding member of NUDIPU. The sons and daughters of UNAD have served in high profile leadership positions in NUDIPU Board and Secretariat.
UNAD’s children have been involved in activities of several civil Society and government bodies working actively to promote human rights of all people in Uganda, in neighboring countries and at international level. The first ever World Federation of the Deaf Board meeting in the south of Sahara was also hosted by UNAD. UNAD has also been represented on WFD and its expert net works.
- Realizing that the era of Uganda being a donor dependent Country is slowly but gradually becoming history, UNAD is now devising strategies to eventually wean itself off donors. The process has started with the completion of our own storied resource center in Mukono and will continue until UNAD is financially independent.
Of course the process will take time due to the high level of poverty amongst our membership. However, the fact that deaf persons have mobilized themselves into more than one hundred social and geographical grouping or association, implies that the determination to succeed exist and we will surely eventually win.
There are many more achievements and we are grateful to the so many individuals and Organizations who have worked harder and tirelessly to contribute to these achievements. Your efforts have promoted the welfare, respect and dignity of a vulnerable and marginalized segment of our population that was forty years ago dismissed as hopeless "kasirus"
We have come along way but a lot more still needs to be done. There are still many challengesfaced by deaf persons in this Country. We need to build from what has so far been achieved to do more to address these challenges and make our country a better place for deaf citizens.
This means that all of us in the Board, secretariat, member Organizations, sports and religious groups, and individual deaf persons must double efforts in securing implementation of our action plans to realize tangible results that will bring about a positive change in lives of poor deaf Ugandans.
Our current students,(who unlike previous generations) have got an opportunity to go to school, should read hard and seriously to secure good grades to enable them compete favorably for jobs in a competitive labour market. Our staffs who for the first time in our history are fortunate to operate from unrented premises should double efforts in the service of our members.
Deaf business men and women benefiting from our small income generation grants and government special grants should do all it takes to show the world that we can also do business/ trade. Our councilors and deaf persons in leadership positions should take their jobs seriously, excel so that we show the world that "Deaf People Can".
Our hearing partner’se.g. Sign Language interpreters and teachers and our parents should also do the same by providing high quality services and guidance to our community so that together we can cause positive transformation.
Turning on Governance and Management issues, in December of last year a successful Annual General Meeting was held in which I was given a five year term as a volunteer chair of the Board. The Board recently held 2 successful meetings. The secretariat headed by Mr. Ambrose Murangira has been performing a noble and excellent job despite its small size relative to the volume of work it handles.
We are aware that whereas some member associations have been carrying out useful activities to benefit their members, some have got problems that need to be attended to by us at the national level or by other partners at the district level.
The philosophy of UNAD is that of encouraging deaf people at respective local levels to try their level best to handle issues at that level before resorting to our secretariat for guidance. However, our secretariat is always on standby to do what is possible within the context of limited resources.
Last but not least, the board has initiated the process of reviewing the constitution (articles and memorandum of association) to make it more relevant to the changing times and realities and to capture changing aspirations of the membership. Resources allowing, as many members as possible will be involved in this important process that will shape the future of our dear Organization.
As you can see, a major lesson from our history is that development is a gradual process. Some of the achieved targets take time and lots of efforts to achieve. However, with determination, patience and perseverance, a lot can be done.
The situation of current generation of deaf persons is certainly much better because our older brothers and sisters worked extremely hard to see us where we are now. It is now our duty to double our efforts to make sure that the situation of the next generation is much better than ours.