Young Voices at Number 10
21 May 2014
Josephine Namirimu, a disabled campaigner from Uganda, went to a reception with Samantha Cameron at 10 Downing Street this week.
This reception was held to celebrate the work of Leonard Cheshire Disability and the global contribution of disabled people to enterprise. Over the past year, the charity has built on its experience in supporting thousands of disabled people at home and abroad to develop new skills, to find jobs, and to start their own businesses.
The 25-year-old was joined by fellow Young Voices campaigner Tongai Dana from Zimbabwe. Together they had the opportunity to mingle with MPs and high profile guests, as well as share their experiences of campaigning with a group of disabled people from the charity’s Can Do project. The UK-based Can Do initiative provides opportunities to 16- to 35-year-old disabled people in their community.
Josephine said: ‘Visiting Downing Street and hearing Samantha Cameron give a speech was incredible. I got the chance to meet some really inspirational people, including young disabled people from the UK. It was really interesting to share our stories and experiences of campaigning.’
Young Voices around the world
Our Young Voices project works with more than 1,200 young disabled people aged 16-25 in over 20 countries around the world. Through the project, Josephine has learned about the UN Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities and the constitution of Uganda. She has used her knowledge on many occasions doing self-advocacy, lobbying and campaigning for disability inclusion.
Josephine’s father died when she was young, leaving her mother to look after her and her six siblings. The family had to survive with very little money and buying a wheelchair was not an option. This left her mother no choice but to carry her daughter to school for two years.
Despite facing daily discrimination and accessibility issues and being denied a place at school, when this determined young girl was finally offered the opportunity she had fought for, she had to pull herself up several flights of stairs to get to her class. Now 25 years old, Josephine is currently fulfilling her lifelong ambition to be at university and is studying for a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Josephine regularly leads discussions at Young Voices meetings which builds her confidence and helps other Young Voices members understand their rights. She is currently employed by a partner of the charity, the Cheshire Services Uganda, as an administrative assistant on an inclusive education project.
Josephine said: ‘Women are very vulnerable and may be considered a greater burden for the family in my home country. With few education or job opportunities, many are forced to be dependent on others. This can leave them open to exploitation.’