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People living with disability are often presumed to be helpless and unable to care for themselves. As a woman living with a disability, 32-year-old Beruchan Janet often felt stigmatized when it came to accessing different development opportunities. Her lifelong desire was to benefit from government programs such as the Bonnabagagawale and the Women’s Livelihood Fund. Unfortunately, these were not inclusive of women living with disability. In 2021, Janet’s group, Pakanyi United PWD group was selected to benefit from the Advancing Women’s Engagement; Strengthening Opportunities to Mobilize for Equality (AWESOME) project by FOWODE in Masindi district.
AWESOME focuses on strengthening groups such as women living with disability to achieve a stronger collective voice to challenge harmful social norms and influence policies and key decisions affecting women. Janet attests that as a group, their understanding of SGBV improved as a result of the training received under the AWESOME project. They were able to appreciate that as women living with disability, they are at an increased risk of experiencing violence. As a means of mitigating violence, Pakanyi United PWD group opened up a savings group to enable them to accumulate seed capital to start individual and collective business ventures.
To join this savings scheme, Janet implored the support of her husband, Charles Onenchan, because she did not even have money to save. She enlightened him on the relevance of her economic empowerment and that of other women and girls. Following this discussion, her husband gave her capital of ugx. 100,000 to aid her start a business and also save profits. According to her, improved incomes have reduced the occurrence of SGBV in her family due to financially triggered conflicts.
“These days we can budget together for our family’s expenditure and then share costs based on our earnings. This has greatly improved our marriage. We no longer fight over petty cash.” Janet Beruchan
Having benefited from the AWESOME training, Janet says this is a dream come true for her. She has acquired essential leadership skills and also positions herself as an advocate against SGBV in her community. She had lost hope as a woman living with disability but now, she stands as a model leader and entrepreneur in her group.