Local media urged to enhance coverage of PWDs

AMURIA– National Union of Women with Disability [NUWODU] has appealed to the media in Uganda to bolster the coverage of persons with disabilities [PWDs] but also report positively on this segment of the population.

May Nanziri, the NUWODU Programme Officer Amuria Cluster, said the media coverage of PWDs has not been impressive and has misrepresented the PWDs in some instances.

She explained that increasing media coverage on disability issues and use of a positive non-discriminatory language when reporting on PWDs, is a good step toward changing the narrative of derogatory, stigmatisation and discrimination against PWDs.

Nanziri made the statement this week during training of 40 selected journalists from different media houses in Teso sub-region on inclusive reporting held at Petua Gardens in Katakwi district.

The training follows continued discriminatory language being used by a section of the public in describing PWDs and mental health conditions.

The participants were sensitised on topics such as; Understanding the disability situation in Uganda, Models of Disabilities and Needs, and rights of people with disabilities.

According to Nanziri, language, religion and culture remained the topmost factors influencing stigmatization and discrimination, which had a huge impact on self-esteem, adding that the media had a major role to play in those areas.

She said that sometimes disability is a perspective and that persons with disabilities should be addressed by their personality and not by their condition.

Nanziri urged journalists to be the agenda setters by ensuring that laws around disability were functioning as stated in the Constitution as this can help break the barrier and build an all-inclusive system.

Nanziri observed that many great stories about disability go unpublished, yet such challenges, woes, and stories of PWDs need to be heard.

He pointed out that there is need for the media to allow PWDs to speak for themselves other than allowing their guardians to speak for them. “They have a story to tell. Some of the stories are very revealing,” she said.

Kenneth W. Massa, the facilitator of the training educated the participants on the need for a paradigm shift in reporting disability issues, particularly where persons with hearing impairment are called the “Dumb”.

He stressed that the negative language is fueling the stigma and discrimination against such persons.

“Treat adult PWDs as adults, ask them how they want to communicate, don’t just assume. Be patient with them and understand their position as PWDs, don’t even offer to help when they have not asked for it,” Massa advised.”

Massa implored participants to set the agenda of positive language and the promotion of the success stories of persons living with disability, rather than dwelling on their challenges to make headlines.

Meanwhile, Sarah Aguti, the Programme Officer NUWODU Katakwi district, stated that society would continue to look down on PWDs because of the negative way in which the media describes them.

She urged the media to focus on the positives of the disability community, citing the example of PWDs who have made it in life; for instance, in the academic circles where some of them had attained the highest levels of education.

Aguti also regretted that PWDs do not have access to some government buildings as they lack disability-friendly structures such as elevators, which said is a complete violation of PWDs’ fundamental rights.

Martha Aanyu, the Programme Manager at Kyoga Veritas (KVR) Radio in Soroti City said most journalists do not know the right words to use while writing stories involving PWDs.

“I’m sure that with the knowledge we have attained in this training today, there will be a paradigm shift in reporting disability issues in our respective media houses,” she said while speaking on behalf of journalists.

NUWODU is implementing a five-year AWESOME project in Katakwi and Amuria districts.

The project focuses on strengthening the women’s movement in Uganda to be more representative of diverse groups of women with collaboration advocacy voices that challenge social norms and influence policies and key decisions affecting them.

https://thecooperator.news/uganda-kenya-border-pwds-agree-to-work-together/

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Refugees demand for inclusion in govt programmes

LAMWO– Refugees settled in the three settlement centres in Lamwo district want to benefit from government programmes such as; Uganda Women Entrepreneurship program, (UWEP) and Youth Livelihood Fund, which are geared toward improving household incomes.

They argue that they are also needy just like the host communities.

Chairperson of refugees in Lamwo settlement, John Pasquale asked the government to include them in the programmes aimed at improving the lives of the natives, saying most donor funds received were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Many of the funds from the donors were affected due to the prolonged Covid 19 pandemic and many benefits have been cut off, something that is impacting on us negatively,’’ he said

There are several government programmes running in various districts where we took refuge, if such categories like us are taken on board, we shall all improve on household income at the same pace, Pasquale said.

However, the deputy Resident Commissioner Oswin Oguti when contacted to comment on the matter said refugees should not compete with the natives, what is allocated to them by the development partners is enough to kick-start their lives.

“Most development partners allocate 70 percent of the aid to refugees and 30, percent goes to the host communities,’’ he advised, adding that the aid received by refugees can help them sustain their lives.

A total of 70,000 refugees are settled in the three settlement centres of Palabek- Kal, Palabek- Gem and Palabek- Ogiri all in Lamwo district.

In 2016, the government launched the UWEP programme at a tune of Shs 53 billion, to support women through the provision of interest-free credit and technical advice.

Government earmarked Shs265b to empower poor and unemployed youth countrywide in 2013. The Livelihood Programme targets unemployed youth.

https://thecooperator.news/refugees-host-communities-scramble-for-access-to-agricultural-land-in-obongi-district/

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Lira land board secretary in trouble over corruption

LIRA– The acting secretary for Lira district land board, Pastor Francis Okello Olwa is in trouble again for illegally processing a land title for Mayor’s Gardens in Lira City and allocating part of the land to a top businessman in the city.

According to a source at Lira City Council, Okello Olwa was processing the title without notifying the council yet the board was suspended by the Lands minister two months ago.

“It raised a lot of queries because the district land board was suspended and secondly the City council didn’t discuss anything pertaining to the processing title for Lira mayor’s garden,” a source who declined to be quoted said.

“We have also learned that part of the land neighboring Shell fuel station was allocated to a businessman in the City,” he added.

Okello Olwa after he was arrested (Photo by Patrick O. Adupa)

Olwa who is a senior pastor at Truth Fountain West in Lira City was arrested in April 2022 while ferrying a heap of land-related documents in his car at night. He was released on police bond pending investigation.

But a few days later, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Judith Nabakooba, suspended the district land board.

“The purpose of this letter is to suspend the officials of the board to pave way for investigation into the allegation,” she added.

Among those that were supposed to be kicked out as per the minister’s letter were; Okello Olwa, Paul Cankoma (chairperson) and four others.

However, the district Chairperson, Richard Coxson Okello Orik has since turned down the minister`s directive to suspend the board members, saying he had not seen any crime committed by the board, therefore they could not leave office.

A team from State House Anti-corruption Unit, stormed the district and re-arrested Okello Olwa, and whisked him to Kampala.

Samuel Arinatwe, an investigating officer in the case said the suspect hid key documents in relation to fraudulent land transactions but they are still tracing.

“We managed to recover one among the many documents we are still demanding,” he added.

https://thecooperator.news/lira-lc5-turns-down-ministers-letter-to-suspend-land-board/

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Serere district disburses Shs 90m to quack journalists.

SERERE – Serere district Members of Parliament have raised a red flag over the criteria the district officials used to disburse Shs 90m to quack journalists under the presidential initiative on wealth and job creation dubbed as Emyooga.

Statistics from the office of the District Commercial Officer, Simon Opolot, indicates that Serere district received Shs1,680,000,000 which was distributed to various SACCOs across the three counties of Kasilo, Serere and Pingire.

During the meeting between the Members of Parliament, district leaders and the Chairpersons of Emyooga SACCOs, to review and evaluate the progress of Emyooga program, it was found out that the district erroneously appropriated Shs 90m to quacks who disguised themselves as journalists.

Opolot said, of more than 180 registered SACCOs in the district, 3 were journalists’ SACCOs.

The SACCOs include; Pingire Journalists SACCO, Kasilo Journalists SACCO and Serere Journalists SACCO which received Shs 30m each and shared it amongst their respective associations established at parish level.

The revelation left the Members of Parliament wondering how Serere district was able to form journalists SACCO per county yet the number of practicing journalists in the district has been less than 10 journalists.

This report was presented to the Members of Parliament who included; the Minister of State for Fisheries, Hellen Adoa, who also doubles as Serere district Woman MP, Patrick Okabe (MP Serere County), Fred Opolot (Pingire County) and Kasilo Member of Parliament Elijah Okupa.

The Kasilo Member of Parliament, Elijah Okupa who was the team leader of the Members of Parliament cited a lot of irregularities in the report presented by the District Commercial Officer, Simon Opolot.

He said that the report didn’t reflect the amount of funds disbursed to the SACCOs and the date they received it.

https://thecooperator.news/re-allocate-emyooga-funds-to-local-government-accounts-systems/

In her submission, Hellen Adoa, the Minister of State for Fisheries said that she carried out an on-ground independent investigation prior to the meeting and found out that a number of members in the SACCOs and associations across the district are ghosts.

“During the visit, most associations were there but as it is, with many situations, there are bad apples. Some of the groups are not among the intended beneficiaries.

According to Adoa, Shs 30m which the district appropriated to Pingire County Journalists SACCO ended in the hands of masquerades totalling to Shs 90m.

Speaking in a tough tone, Adoa said, three of the SACCOs were composed of non-journalists disguising themselves as journalists while the purported performing artist’s SACCO was also made up of non-artists.

“I personally made calls to some of the members purported to be journalists in these respective SACCOs, unfortunately they denied being in any journalists SACCO,” she said.

The Member of Parliament for Serere County Patrick Okabe, blamed the district technocrats for disbursing funds to wrong beneficiaries without verifying.

“It’s sickening to learn that the district went ahead to disburse money to wrong members without verification. The Money has gone into the wrong hands. How can a small constituency of Pingire have 43 Journalists? It’s unbelievable but needs further probing,” Okabe questioned.

He suspected that some of the members in the journalists’ SACCOs disguising themselves as journalists are relatives of the sub-county or district technical staffs.

Okabe said that he has received a series of complaints from the public saying the fund intended to fight unemployment among the masses, is mismanaged to benefit a few who are not even in the targeted groups.

According to him, the saboteurs are doing so by forming and giving money to ghost groups and by asking for a 10% kickback, which he describes as not only being criminal but also undermining the president’s objective of introducing the initiative.

Meanwhile, the Pingire County Member of Parliament Fred Opolot attributed the mess to lack of proper sensitisation of the public about the program guidelines.

He said, had the Ministry of Finance drilled the beneficiaries on how they are supposed to benefit from the program, such shameful mistakes would not have happened.

Beneficiaries speak out

The Chairperson, Kasilo County Journalists SACCO, a correspondent of one of the radio stations in Soroti City based in Serere district, consented that many of his SACCO members are not journalists.

Out of seventeen registered members, only five are journalists while the rest are just citizen journalists, radio callers and agents.

The Chairperson, Serere County Journalists SACCO, Samson Adongu, faults the district technocrats and Minister of Finance for issuing contradictory guidelines about the program. Serere County Journalists SACCO, has three associations with less than 10 registered members.

“During the training conducted by the Ministry of Finance in February, 2020 at Soroti University, the Minister Haruna Kasolo described radio callers and agents as part of journalists, which every person who attended the training took as a gospel truth,” said Adongu.

Commercial Officer’s comments.

In his defense, the Serere District Commercial Officer, Simon Opolot said the blame should go to Microfinance Support Center for misleading the technocrats on who is a journalist and who is not.

He allayed fears that the district won’t recover that money from the masquerading journalists, saying that they will follow them to the dot till they repay back the money.

“The money is seed capital given in form of a revolving loan, so they must be informed that the money has to be paid within a period of four months as per the guidelines. Those who will not pay will be arrested,” warned Opolot.

The on-ground investigation taken by theCooperator reveals that Serere district alone has less than 20 professional journalists who mostly practice their journalism in Soroti City and other major towns in Uganda.

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