The lock down in Gulu is being eased slowly. Public transport started up again on June 4, shops have reopened and Government is enforcing the use of face masks in public. The World Health Authority reported 808 Corona virus cases in Uganda on 12 June, but no death has been registered so far. As Ojok Patrick Co-ordinator of Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) says: “still not as bad as we hear in your case and other countries”.
However, Gulu hospital has about 65 Corona cases, mainly truck drivers from neighbouring countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Eritrea, Somali and DRC. There are very few subsequent cases yet in people who had contact with them. The infection is certainly increasing in other parts of Africa, we can only hope that Uganda has done enough to be spared.
Schools are scheduled to open from the beginning of July. The Government plan is to organise testing machines for all schools so that students all get tested right at the start, and this testing should continue after every two weeks. Everyone hopes it works out well.
Life is getting back to normal again in Gulu, though with lots of hardship as many have lost their jobs because of the lock down. Ojok Patrick: “That is the situation here and hopefully, if infection doesn’t increase, we are sure most public places will open including schools.”
In particular, the gaps in generator repair at Koch Goma and the pre-vocational skills training in Acet for the deaf. (Please see this post for the background to the extra training).
Emma and Faruk (the project officers) are doing the groundwork to make it successful and safe. They shall provide the members taking part with face masks and hand sanitizers. The masks are made by Mama Cave and the Gulu Disabled Person Knitting Workshop based at GDPU. For the great work under the new ‘Mama Masks’ name and other initiatives please see this post: Pushing on well: new initiatives after Lockdown at GDPU
In Acet, they will use the same sign language interpreter, a teacher at Laroo primary school, that we used before. She will be riding her personal motorbike to reach Acet twice a week, so that she doesn’t have to use public transport. Emma consulted with Lillan, the leader of Nyeko Rach hairdressing group in Acet, who agreed that the number of members is small enough for the training to take place.
The steps made by this group of deaf students have really begun to change their lives for the better. This last round of training is to prepare them for vocational training, so that they can learn new skills and earn a proper living for themselves; good luck to all involved.
The level of Corona Virus infection in Gulu is, so far, low compared for example to the UK. The World Health Authority reported a total of 808 Corona virus cases in Uganda on 12 June,and 60-70 in Gulu itself and apparently no deaths. But, the lockdown has caused severe hardship for those who had no safety net to begin with: total loss of income; serious food shortages and high price rises.
Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) is working very hard to ensure that their beneficiaries are not badly hit by the related effects of COVID-19.
Advocacy Project and ‘Mama Mask’
GDPU together with The Advocacy Project have started an initiative called MAMA MASK. As Faruk the GDPU Guidance Counsellor and ETC@GDPU Project Officer says: “It is a contribution from the disability family, more especially from our women, as a way to respond to COVID-19”.
The Advocacy Project donated $800 towards production of 4500 face masks to be sold at a cost of 2000 Ugandan Shillings between June and September. The profit from the masks sold will support GDPU activities and utility bills, and pay the women for the work done. Mama Cave, the Sweater Weaving Instructor for the ETC@GDPU project, is working with the team at Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Workshop to produce the masks:
They have so far produced 800 face masks, and all are marked with the GDPU logo.
They have sold 100+ face mask at the moment.
Two organisations of students from Gulu who are studying abroad, Gulu Development and Friends of Gulu, came together to support people with disabilities in the Acholi Sub-region, Gulu and Kitgum District. They have so far supported 200 people with disabilities in Gulu Municipality alone. They distributed 5kg of beans, bars of soap, 10kg of Maize flour and salt.
GDPU mobilized the most vulnerable people with disabilities in the community, the food relief was channelled through Gulu District task force. And of course, they ensured that everyone maintained a social distance of 2-4 metres and everyone was able to wash their hands with soap.
GDPU’s NEXT PLAN: Soap
Over 500 women with disabilities in Gulu and the surrounding districts, working in the informal sector, have been affected by the lockdown. In such crises you rely on your family, but commonly, women with disabilities are not supported by their relatives, parents and friends because of attitudes, discrimination and stigma. The government and well-wishers are giving some food relief, and they are very grateful but it is not sustainable and these women want to work for themselves.
GDPU have developed a concept to increase income to vulnerable women with disabilities who are badly affected by COVID-19 government lockdown measures. GDPU are fundraising from friends, well-wishers and development agencies to train 40 women with disabilities in the production of soap and liquid soap to boost their income; there is a high demand for these products now and in the future.
Musema Faruk, GDPU Guidance Counsellor: “There is a saying in our community, when you empower a woman you empower a whole community. A productive woman will help feed a family of 5-10 people; strong and healthy families make strong and healthy communities and all will contribute to social well-being.”
GDPU want to target women and girls with disabilities whose businesses were affected by COVID- 19 lock down measures. Their proposed project seeks to create self-employment to tackle the unemployment which is so deeply rooted in our communities.
They plan to train 40 girls and women with disabilities from four districts of Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya and Omoro, because they are the most vulnerable and deeply affected by the lock down. The 40 women will be trained as trainers of trainers in soap making; liquid soap production so that they can go back to their respective districts and villages to train others to start producing soap, liquid soap or face masks.
They will sell those items at lowest cost to their community, compared to existing products on the market. The profit they get will help them with the basic needs such food and medical treatments etc
Summary of GDPU Soap Making Project proposal:
40 women with disabilities trained in making soaps, liquid soap and protective face masks.
The 40 women are trained to train other women with disabilities in the skills they have received. GDPU anticipate that each trainer will be in position to train at least 5 other women; the approach is a snow ball method.
Certificate of completion awarded to 40 women with disabilities.
Increased income level for our women with disabilities with their households.
Improved level of living for our women with disabilities
Reduced level of domestic violence.
Reduced stigma and discrimination
Strengthen the community
If you want to help GDPU in this proposal or want to find out more, here are the contact details:
ETC of PWD can also pass on any donations you might want to make through our Donations Page, just make the cause clear in the comment section in the donation process. Or you can contact ETC of PWD via our contacts page if you prefer.
We have been in contact with Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) during the lockdown. Although GDPU has been closed for most of the time, it is now starting to reopen. What follows is from the emails and messages we have had from them so far.
As Ojok Patrick GDPU co-ordinator said at the start: “The time is extremely strange as we wake up everyday and you see news of people dying in large number because of the strange diseases that has attacked the world. We are all indeed trying to keep ourselves safe by staying home and not allowing neighbours and relatives to visit. Our experience with Ebola, which affected Gulu more than any part of Uganda, makes us more alert than any part of Uganda.
Some effects of the lockdown for them:
Prices of essential commodities are extremely high, partly due to supply problems and partly due to the usual profiteering.
In Gulu the government distributed food to those who only earn from hand to mouth and the most vulnerable, once. Well-wishers are also supporting people. The government advised people to go back to their villages because giving food stuffs is not the solution but farming can also help
The Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Group have been making masks, taught by their teacher Mama Cave, and selling them in town. It is from such entrepreneurship that people survive.
We hope to have more news of how the other ETC@GDPU business groups are doing as soon as it comes in.
As Faruk, the GDPU Guidance Counsellor and ETC @GDPU Project Officer said recently: “The government of Uganda is planning to ease the lock down starting on the 26th of this month, businesses will open, transport will be allowed with half of the capacity, school will open on the 4th of June with only finalist or candidates are expected to resume. But we are all fairing with no salaries, it’s not easy for now, hopefully if business comes back to normal then will be fine.”
ETC@GDPU was a support project for youth with disability who have already had some vocational training. So, the obvious next question is: what about the young people with similar needs in Gulu and surrounding area who have not been trained? The aim of the annual ETCof PWD trustees trip to Gulu and Gulu Disabled Persons Union was to pull together the last threads of that project and see what might come next.
ETCof PWD applied to DFID last year under their Small Charities Grant, although we do not have high hopes. But, as we all sat together in the GDPU board room looking at that bid, we began to put together a Plan B, a no-grant bare bones vocational training programme financed by ETCof PWD on what might raise in the UK.
GDPU ran vocational training for people with disability before, they are very keen to do so again. They have the expertise and the space. We finalised on five vocational training courses that are flexible enough to allow trainees to set up a wide range of possible sources of income:
MCR (motorcycle repair). But a mixed course including generator/ mowing machine/ small engine repair, and some training on gas welding.
Knitting (ie Sweater Weaving) handicrafts/ tailoring. The knitting machines are the problem here. If Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Workshop can become a centre for mending them then the problem might be solved; after extra training a number of them can now repair machines if they have the parts. Sweater weaving is seasonal, GDPKW have shown that making clothes from strips of cloth for sale ready-made can work well. Ocira Brenda from the group has recently been trained in Mpigi on handicraft skills, another a possible income stream,
Design and Decoration. making posters and signboards in Gulu is a good business and often carried out by the deaf. A DaD course could include design for banners/ posters/ signposts, taught by different instructors. This DaD course could be a really exciting innovation for GDPU and PWDs (persons with disabilities), but see below re. computers.
Hairdressing and Salon. The DFID bid had some expensive requirements for this course, but GDPU have some equipment in stock that might bring down the price a little. And it always a good business as we have seen in Acet
Electronics. Phone repair of course, but also all small electronic machine repair. As Akera Robert has demonstrated there is a good market for this sort of business. The growing use of smartphones means that trainees will need to be able to mend broken screens and sockets (which are apparently the major repairs). But, this raises problems.
With a computer element the DaD course could move into desktop publishing, the electronics group into smart phone repair, other trainees into basic PC use and for the long held plan for a business hub/ association for past GDPU trainees/ now business people? But that begs some important questions:
Funding for a computer suite?
Where to be put?
What about power outages?
Post Training Support and computers
Post Training, what access would these young businesses have to a PC? Would training on a PC only set them up to fail at the first step. Would the business hub solve this problem?
Post Training Support
As ETC@GDPU proved, it is the Post Training support that is the key to sustainable success, including Life Skills/ Literacy and Numeracy/ Health and Sanitation/ Guidance Counselling/ Sport. These elements are probably more important than core skills training for subsequent personal development and business success. The work on extra literacy for ex-Youth Development Programme trainees in Acet for example has made a real difference.
Musema Faruk talked about running a physical literacy programme: ‘which game can you play best?’ as a way of extending the physical and therefore mental confidence of PWDs; to be included in the future programme.
As well as the usual elements of Dance/Music/ Drama and Debate. Given that many of the ETC@GDPU trainees are now looking to politics to improve their lot and that of their fellows, some teaching about governance etc would be useful. All of these inclusions have cost and timing implications for any course structure.
Exciting possibilities and some very big questions to answer, mostly solved with finance which begs the most important question of all: how will we pay for all this?
The ETC@GDPU project is drawing to a close. It was set up to give support to young people with disability who had already received some vocational training and had started their own business. As we all know, in any context, those first years of running your own business, earning your own living are hard, you need support, be it extra core skills training, maybe literacy or numeracy training or even just advice. That’s what this project gave, via project officers from Gulu Disabled Persons Union, where all the trainees gained their initial vocational training under the DFID sponsored Youth Development Programme some years ago.
The final evaluations and assessments are just getting going, but visiting the groups and individuals on the annual trustees visit to Gulu made certain things clear. Three headings: Consultation; Flexibility; Sustainability.
Consultation: different people in different situations have different needs to get their business going. Asking people what they need rather than telling them what they’re going to get, well that’s always a good idea isn’t it?
Flexibility: from the consultation you find out things like, motorbike repairers outside the town could have a range of options for other small machines to mend, adding significantly to income. We subsequently organised training in repairing generators/ strimmers/ etc. Talking to groups in Cwero and Koch Goma this year, we found that they were now building up a good business repairing small machines.
Sweater weaving work is seasonal, based around the start of the school year, learning other forms of making, ready made dresses for children for example brings income at other times.
The machines break easily, we have paid for Mama Cave, an instructor, to train up sweater weavers in basic machine repair so that their production does not stop at key times.
Hairdressers out of town need to know what the new styles will be, and how to make them. All small steps, but important ones.
Sustainability: once you establish that free cash and materials are out of the question, trainees know that their efforts must keep them afloat. In the jargon, they become ‘empowered’ and the ETC@GDPU project officers will support and train that ‘empowerment’. So many previous development programmes in Gulu have not lasted because people, based on past experience, become serial beneficiaries. Waiting for the next programme to give you money and more materials, which you can sell as you wait for the next, and so on. “Our people must not be beggars” we are told often by other PWDs.
What has been noticeable this year, is that many of the people in this programme have built on their own self confidence to become politically active, getting elected and involved in improving their own lot and that of their fellows; true empowerment.
We still haven’t got trainees to keep record books, or planning on paper. But look at the success of someone like Akera Robert. Last year he told us that he would move away from working on a veranda on the street, and yes, he has; so many congratulations to him. He has a shop, a house, his child is at one of the best schools – all through his own efforts – and he helps other trainees when they get stuck with technical issues; a star.
Or look at the team at Tam Anyim. the combination of motorbike and small machine repair and taking in students of their own means that Jokene (one of the two that runs the group) can now send his own child to school – a very important measure of success here. They also think they can put up a new building behind their existing workshop to expand the business; equally impressive and all plans kept in his head of course.
Through the ETC@GDPU project everyone has learnt a great deal about how to develop post training support that works and will last. Now that this project is ending, how can we use all this knowledge? See the next newsletter to find out. We welcome individual donations, please visit our donations page.