A graduate of Sightsavers’ innovative inclusive training programme Connecting the Dots is standing for election as a local council chairperson at sub-county level in Masindi district, Uganda.
Atugonza Milton Isaac, who studied computing through Sightsavers’ programme and went on to support other young people with disabilities to gain training, is campaigning for the election. The primary round will take place in Masindi on 16 September.
Sightsavers’ campaign manager, Tessa Murphy, said: “It’s wonderful to see a graduate of Sightsavers’ training and employment programme go on to develop their career and be able to pursue their dreams. Over the past few years Atugonza has been a vocal supporter of our Equal World campaign for disability rights, and we wish him every success in the elections.”
The groundbreaking Connecting the Dots programme has been funded by the European Union since 2012, with additional funding from the National Lottery Community Fund since 2017. The programme has supported hundreds of young people with disabilities gain training in fields as diverse as mechanics, tailoring, catering, hospitality, hairdressing, teaching and knitting. It has also contributed to changing attitudes in the community, by showcasing students’ work at employment fairs to convince local employers to give workers with disabilities the opportunity to find jobs.
Speaking about his past experience of disability discrimination and the impact of the programme, Atugonza said: “When I started school, I was the only younger boy with a disability. It was around 2001. All the boys were nicknaming me ‘Butcherman’, ‘limping’, ‘disabled’… So I grew up like this. But in life you need a challenge, you need to use it as a stepping stone. I had that feeling in my heart: If others can do it, why not me? Why not a person with a disability? Since the programme, my life has changed completely.”
He continued: “Through the employment project, I learned that I have that capability and leadership. People do value that – they now see me as a hardworking person, a trustworthy guy. When you believe in yourself, people give you respect.”