Edith is the manager of Connecting the Dots, a training and employment programme funded by Sightsavers and the European Commission,. She loves it when gender stereotypes are broken down, and she’s sure Monica can make a good living from plumbing. Monica, who’s 24 and has a physical disability, is also keen to disprove stereotypes.
“There is a lot of discrimination against people with disabilities in Uganda,” she says. “It’s thought a disabled person cannot work.”
Fighting against misconceptions is just one reason Monica’s excited about joining Connecting the Dots: she’s also determined to use the skills she gains to earn an income. Monica is one of seven children and there are numerous cousins and other family members living with them; all are reliant on farming to survive.
They sell some of their produce but they don’t have sufficient land to make much of a living. Unable to join in with digging, Monica is desperate to do something else to help support the family. She had managed to find some work as a teaching assistant, but with no qualifications she was earning very little.
Monica’s parents are supportive, which is not always the case for people with disabilities in Uganda, and they find it hard to see her despondent when she’s so ambitious. “Monica wants to better herself, she likes hard work,” her mother says. “People say, ‘Ah, that one is disabled, she can’t get married, she can’t do anything, she is just nothing in the community.’ I feel a lot of sorrow when I hear that.”
The opportunity to join the Connecting the Dots programme came just when Monica was starting to despair about her future. “I didn’t have any hopes of getting any opportunity of any person or organisation, other than my parents taking me for a course, [and they] couldn’t raise the money for that,” she says. “I felt so happy when I was given a course to do.”
She’s thrilled with her unusual choice of job, and pleased to be breaking barriers for women as well as people with disabilities – she claps her hands laughing when she thinks about being the first female plumber in the area.