PWDs inclusion in VUP improves as advocacy interventions intensify

Findings from the assessment from the qualitative study conducted on the inclusion of people with disabilities in Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP) suggest that more efforts are needed from different social protection umbrellas including Non-Governmental Organizations, government agencies and civil society, ensure people with disabilities benefit from different government programmes, especially VUP.

Findings from the assessment from the qualitative study conducted on the inclusion of people with disabilities in Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP) suggest that more efforts are needed from different social protection umbrellas including Non-Governmental Organizations, government agencies and civil society, ensure people with disabilities benefit from different government programmes, especially VUP.

The study was conducted under ‘Inclusive Rwanda for Persons with Disabilities’ (IRPWD) project, through ‘Ikiraro cy’ Iterambere’, a multi-donor programme funded by the Department for International Development (DFiD), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and Swiss.

The project was implemented under a partnership of the National Union of Disability Organisations of Rwanda (NUDOR) and the National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) with support from Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) Rwanda, with the aim to increase capacity in the disability movement at national and local level for representation and evidence generation, and the use of research and evidence by the disability movement for policy engagement.

This was a pilot project of one year (January-December 2017) to test new and improved approaches to collaborative evidence-generation for effective policy-influencing with the aim to strengthen internal and external ‘bridges’ of collaboration with and between NUDOR as civil society and NCPD as a government agency, as well as with the state at national and local levels.

Findings of the study

The study involved 789 participants including community members among them PWDs, local leaders at all levels (district to village officials) and experts from DFID, World Bank and Local Administrative Entities Development Agency (LODA) and some international organizations, members of Social Protection Sector working group (SPSWG). 

The aim of the study was to conduct an assessment describing the inclusion and participation of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in VUP basing on status, opportunities, challenges and lessons experienced by PWDs in order to contribute to the Government of Rwanda’s ambition for inclusive development.

The first part of the assessment was undertaken in June to September 2017 by NCPD and NUDOR, supported by VSO, to assess the participation of Persons with Disabilities in the Vision 2020 Umurenge Program (VUP) in two Districts, Musanze and Nyanza.

The participants in the workshop validated the findings, and requested the assessment team to extend the evidence generation to the two other provinces and the City of Kigali to ensure the results are representative of the situation in the whole country.

The second phase of the assessment was undertaken in December 2017 in three Districts, namely Gasabo in the City of Kigali, Gatsibo in Eastern Province and Rubavu in Western Province by the same team, using the same tools and methods to ensure the results are comparable.

The findings from the second assessment indicate that PWDs might be benefiting from VUP, but not always, while extra costs of PWDs are not covered by VUP and no disability fund has been designed.

In terms of payment of VUP benefits, there are delays in paying PWDs, a common case for most of VUP participants, and various amounts are deducted from payments.

Another issue identified is transparency and accountability which affect PWDs because of lack of knowledge and understanding of decisions which leaves them with no choice but rendering a feel of being victims because they have no possibility to influence against discrimination and corruption.

But when PWDs have had access to VUP, especially Direct Support, Public Works, and Financial Service, it has often had a positive impact, an indication that VUP has great potential for benefiting PWDs and their families if more PWDs can be included on its full range of components rather than the components that are considered ‘for’ PWDs and their families.

However, PWDs are largely represented in the Direct Support component of VUP. This limits access to other components of VUP (based on eligibility criteria) that many PWDs could have the capacity to benefit from (assuming these were made fully accessible e.g. vocational training sites).

Another aspect that came out from people with disabilities consulted, as well as local leaders and specialists is that many PWDs feel that their disability and extra cost of living is not sufficiently considered in the household vulnerability categorisation (Ubudehe) and they are not always able to fully participate in this process.

“We have the challenge that local leaders rarely care for us when we want to participate in VUP activities. When we try to participate in VUP activities, they can’t understand PWDs are able to perform VUP activities,” claimed a visually impaired Jean Marie Vianney Mukeshimana.

Meanwhile, Sauda Mukamazimpaka, a 26-year-old tailoring in Nyamirambo, despite her hearing impairment, says she has no idea if there are government programmes designed for persons with disabilities.

“I am in the first Ubudehe category but I have no idea whether there are other people with disability-oriented programs. What I only know is that they [local administration] give me health insurance,” she says.

Where PWDs are included in VUP, their additional needs may not always be sufficiently considered in assigning households to VUP while at the same time their ability to graduate from poverty may be underestimated, thus preventing them from being assigned to components of VUP targeted at people likely to be able to graduate based on their capacity.

Commenting on the findings on Tuesday, during the External Validation of findings and discussions on recommendations on the current report of both assessments, Jean Marie Vianney Mbarushimana, the project Manager, said there are big gaps among members of communities and local authorities on the inclusiveness of PWDs in VUP programmes.

“We figured out that there were a small number of persons with disabilities who benefit from the VUP programmes due to lack of access to information on the programmes and local authorities’ lack of understanding, hence reluctance in giving them chance to benefit from VUP’s paid activities while Access to finance is also a challenge for persons with disabilities who want to run their own businesses, “he said.

The study indicates that local leaders started to understand the importance of inclusiveness of persons with disabilities in VUP programmes while PWDs also got to appreciate their potentials towards self-reliance, began participating in VUP activities and improved their livelihoods.

However, Mbarushimana recommends that more efforts should be put in training people in sign language to ease communication which is, apparently, a major barrier.

Local leaders admitted there are gaps identified during the assessment on the inclusion of PWDs in VUP because of lack understanding but recommended that both grassroots leaders and PWDs should change their way of understanding to purge those gaps.

“I learn that not only us, local leaders, but also persons with disabilities should understand each other. We are going to put more efforts in boosting our understanding of VUP programmes to accelerate the momentum by improving PWDs not only in VUP but through other government programmes, towards overcoming poverty,” said Solange Umutesi, the Vice-Mayor in charge of Social Affairs in Nyanza District.

PWDs representatives were also trained in doing advocacy for them to be included in VUP and how they can develop small scale businesses to economically improve their livelihoods.

Local leaders at some point are changing their understanding on the inclusion of PWDs, but a crucial challenge raised is that some persons with disabilities find it difficult to attend VUP works allocated far away from their homes.

“Although we are being included in VUP programmes, VUP activities require energy and physical fitness, which is why we request local leaders to allocate activities near their [PWDs] families so they can be more competitive,”considers Donatien Nsengumuremyi, one of the PWDs reached during the study in Gasabo.

About access to information, Simon Pierre Muhire, the NCPD Coordinator of at Nduba Sector in Gasabo District said, “There should be improved collaboration between NCPD caseworkers and grassroots leaders to facilitate PWDs access information about VUP so they do not miss out on the opportunities.”

Thus with the joint collaboration between social protection actors from VSO, NUDOR and NCPD, People With Disabilities are getting more access to services and benefits from VUP; there is, generally, an accelerated momentum where local leaders do appreciate the importance of inclusion while the PWDs have, too, been sensitized and empowered on how they can strive and stand out to access VUP benefits. It is, however, important that such interventions are scaled countrywide so that no one is left behind in the national development process.

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