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Assessment of Batwa and persons with disabilities’ access to education and health services in Uganda

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This briefing summarizes the findings of an assessment carried out to study the level of access to education and health care services among Batwa and persons with disabilities (PWDs) in south-western Uganda, in the districts of Bundibugyo, Kabale, Kanungu, Kisoro and Rubanda, as well as Kampala. It also explores the factors that hinder their access to these services and the measures that have been or could be undertaken to improve their situation.

The study was carried out by Minority Rights Group International (MRG) in partnership with Africa International Christian Ministries (AICM), Action for Batwa Empowerment Group (ABEG) and Action for Youth with Disabilities in Uganda (AYDU) with financial support from Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland within the scope of the project, ‘From Disparity to Dignity: Realizing Indigenous and Minority Rights in Development’.

Uganda’s indigenous Batwa are one of the most vulnerable communities in the world and have limited access to basic services and other means to meet their needs, such as for health care, education, clean water, clothing, employment, food and security. They live in the south-western part of the country in the districts of Bundibugyo, Kabale, Kanungu, Kisoro and Rubanda. They initially lived in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest until they were evicted in 1991, causing them to become conservation refugees, with no home and dependent on the Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Conservation Trust (MBIFCT). They are now undergoing a drastic transition from forest dwellers to agriculturalists.

According to Article 1 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ‘Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.’

While the government of Uganda has adopted a number of laws and policies pertaining to special interest groups, including PWDs and Batwa, such as their right to productive and decent work and basic services, in practice this has remained on paper with minimal implementation. Generally, Batwa and PWDs face various barriers ranging from discrimination in accessing basic services and negative societal attitudes to inaccessible physical environments and the absence of information and communication technologies (ICTs), among others. These result in unequal access to services in education, employment, health care, transportation, political participation and justice in communities. Most public schools and health centres are not fully accessible for PWDs, thus limiting their participation and benefit from service delivery. This is especially true of PWDs who belong to the Batwa community. Therefore, coordinated efforts by government stakeholders, civil society and communities are needed to improve the health and education status of Batwa and PWDs.

Photo: Portrait of a Batwa woman, Uganda. Credit: Bella Falk/Alamy.

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