Facing barriers from the outset
When I was first offered a position at Standard Chartered 10 years ago, as a team assistant, I was working for the National Association of the Blind. I had graduated from university with a good degree, but had struggled to find full-time work. I felt I could only get a job in the disability sector, so spent a lot of time applying for jobs with disabled people’s organisations, and didn’t get much traction. After a couple of years of short-term contracts, I realised my greatest barrier was my own mindset – I was limiting myself. So I decided to start applying on the open market.
When I was offered my entry-level job at Standard Chartered, I reached out to some friends with disabilities for their opinion on whether I should accept it. A number of them discouraged me, saying: “You will be going into a different environment where people don’t understand your disability.” It frightened me.
But I weighed up my options and decided to be bold. It was the right decision. I set myself the ambition to be in a senior management position by the time I left.
Finding work as a person with a disability
For people with disabilities in Uganda, entering formal employment is a big challenge. Many people with disabilities go to school, go to universities and attain the qualifications to do the job. But the rate at which we access employment is not good. That is in large part because unemployment is very high in Uganda, not only for people with disabilities.
But it’s clearly worse for people with disabilities. Why? Because there are a number of barriers: some at the individual level and others at the organisational level. My compatriots with disabilities who have struggled so hard to find employment: are we prepared for the open market? Are we really prepared?
A strong support network
When I first started at the Standard Chartered offices, I had great support from a network of staff all around the building: my manager at the time encouraged them to become my ambassadors. He was very kind. From my first day, he took me to the washrooms and introduced me to the neighbouring coffee area. For an entire month he guided me to facilities, introducing me to other colleagues.
But I would also make extra effort. I would come in on weekends, meet as many staff as I could, and ask them a lot of questions. I really wanted to be independent, so I had to put in more effort to familiarise myself with the place.
Being an international company, Standard Chartered is really open-minded, and knows about the support available for people with disabilities. The organisation is fully aware of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
But the most important thing is the culture. The bank strongly believes in diversity and inclusion, and has great policies underpinning that. It’s a warm culture and people are receptive.