It’s impressive listening to the 29-year-old talk with unshakeable confidence about becoming a leader in his community – especially considering that 10 years ago he thought his future would only involve sitting at home, unable to support himself or find a career.
“I was the last born in my family of three girls and three boys,” he says. “My disability came as a result of polio. On a day-to-day basis it affects me a lot – when it’s muddy I can’t afford to move around much, I can’t jump, I can’t go anywhere in a hurry. It takes a long time to go to places.”
Rajab dropped out after his senior six year as his mother, a farmer, couldn’t continue to pay the fees for further education. “When I finished school, I sat there for something like three years. I was just at home. I tried to find work but didn’t have qualifications, there was nothing I could do.”
Sightsavers’ Connecting the Dots programme offered him a year’s study at a vocational institute, which showed Rajab that he could find a fulfilling career and build on his interests by gaining computer qualifications. He’d already had some casual experience helping out at his brother’s photography studio, but wanted something on paper to prove to potential employers that he was capable.
“I wanted to get skills in editing, sending photos via email to other people… Now I can sell [images] on memory or on CD. I can give them to a person in soft copy or hard copy. Where do you want your photographs and what size do you want? I love it; this is a work that is not tiresome.”
Rajab didn’t stop at just gaining skills for himself – he became one of the programme’s most vocal ambassadors. He’s joined his brother’s business taking and processing photos, but also works voluntarily alongside Godfrey to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities in Kiryandongo district where he lives.
“I am the youth chairperson,” he tells us, and it’s evident how proud he is of that. The role, he says, involves “sensitising our fellow youth not to ignore themselves… Let them out of the village, let them be in the community. There are people who say disability is a curse, it’s a curse, it’s a curse. They mistreat [people with] disabilities. Some parents won’t take their children to institutes like schools; they’ll say, “I’m wasting my time here with this one.”
The European Commission has funded the economic empowerment programme since 2012, and additional funding was awarded in August 2017 by the National Lottery Community Fund. This generous support has helped to transform the lives of hundreds of young people with disabilities in Uganda.