Global estimates indicate that more than half of the world’s population is below the age of 25 years and nearly one third is between the ages of 10 and 24 years. Throughout the world, youth are dropping out of school and being excluded from the economy. UNESCO estimates that 98% of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school and 99% of girls with disabilities are illiterate. Additionally, Youth with disabilities face dual disadvantages as individuals with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty.
Uganda has the world’s highest youth unemployment, in addition to having the youngest population in the world. Unemployed youth aged between 15 to 24 constitute to 83% of the unemployed population in Uganda (World Bank report: African Development indicators 2008/09). Ugandan youth demographically make up over half of the total workforce, and some times as much as 80%. However, they are disproportionately affected by high unemployment rates, which have been 92% males and 77% females for the age group 20-24 years.
Youth with disabilities in Uganda commonly face more discrimination and severe social, economic, and civic disparities as compared with those without disabilities. For many young people with disabilities, exclusion, isolation, and abuse, as well as lack of educational and economic opportunities are daily experiences. Youth with disabilities are amongst the most marginalized and poorest in Uganda, whose basic rights are not well met and for whom full societal acceptance is often out of reach. In addition, many youth with disabilities are not given education opportunities and thus luck relevant skills for gainful employment. They often lack access to labour market services undermining their ability to secure decent and productive work. This state of affairs is worsened by the Negative cultural attitudes and practices towards them.
In the above light, it is important to note that young people with disability do not constitute a single homogeneous category. Rather, this category is shaped by other dimensions of difference, such as gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status and HIV/AIDS. For instance, a young woman with disabilities is likely to have a range of different social experiences in comparison to a young man with disabilities, because of the gendered expectations in a society. Furthermore, young girls with disability living in villages are more likely to face different life experiences and opportunities than those from a financially well to do household living in the urban areas. Recognition of these differences though seemingly obvious, gets overlooked by the general populace including policy makers and yet it is crucial to consider their views when responding to their needs especially the country looks for the best alternatives to curtail unemployment among the youth. There is therefore a need to critically examine the nature of employment and challenges encountered by the youth with disabilities in accessing employment opportunities and also get their views on how best they can be helped in accessing such services and this can only be realized when they are consulted.
Written by Kaviri Ali
Bachelors of Community Based Rehabilitation Student Kyambogo University/Founding member Young Leaders Think Tank for Policy Alternatives/ /member FOWODE young leaders.