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Updated: Fri, 07/12/2024 - 12:16

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Alerte de McGill. Le campus du centre-ville restera partiellement fermé jusqu’au lundi 15 juillet, en soirée. Complément d’information : Direction de la protection et de la prévention

‘I am like a garden that flourishes and grows’: Women with disabilities in conflict and post-conflict settings

For two weeks in May 2023, Masters of Public Policy and Global Affairs student Liliane Umuhoza and School of Public Policy and Global Affairs Associate Professor Erin Baines at the University of British Columbia joined a Ugandan research team led by human rights advocate Dorcus Atyeno and law students Alice Lakwech and Fatuma Abiya to carry out research on the impact of war and displacement on women with disabilities in post-conflict northern Uganda.

For two weeks in May 2023, Masters of Public Policy and Global Affairs student Liliane Umuhoza and School of Public Policy and Global Affairs Associate Professor Erin Baines at the University of British Columbia joined a Ugandan research team led by human rights advocate Dorcus Atyeno and law students Alice Lakwech and Fatuma Abiya to carry out research on the impact of war and displacement on women with disabilities in post-conflict northern Uganda. Students received training and hands-on experience regarding ethics and consent, qualitative methods, and community and arts-based approaches to research before conducting 30 interviews with women disabled as the result of landmines, displacement and poor access to medical care during the more than two-decade war in northern Uganda. Long after the guns went silent in the region, participants in the study said they continue to struggle with stigma, discrimination, poverty, and poor access to public services while raising children as a single parent, attending secondary and vocational schools, and running small businesses.

 

Group of people smiling

 

In a one-day workshop at the ‘Through Arts Keep Smiling’ (TAKs) Centre, five women with disabilities who were community-leaders drew 'body maps’, an artistic research method, to discuss how war shaped their life histories, including their most painful and happiest moments in life, the communities they are a part of and excluded from, and the messages they wish to send to the world. 'Women with disabilities can do anything' said Irene, who plays on an award-winning basketball team for women with disabilities and is a respected business woman in the Gulu central market. 'I like to describe my personality as a garden that flourishes and continues to grow no matter the environment, providing nourishment to all her surroundings,' said Florence, who left home as a young girl to protect her family fleeing the war in the Eastern part of the country, concerned her disability would slow them down as they tried to avoid being caught in the crossfire. As a journalist, artist and performer, Flavia argued it was important that women with disabilities challenge discriminatory practices that exclude her: ‘We are capable of so many things. I can dance. I can do arts. I have friends. I live a normal life, like anybody else. I simply have a different kind of ability.’

 

florence_modo_poses_with_her_body_map

 

Continuing to live with painful but invisible disabilities related her abduction and forced marriage in the armed group, the Lord's Resistance Army, Santa finds strength and peace as part of the peer support group the Women's Advocacy Network, a collective of war-affected women seeking reintegration, reconciliation and justice who partnered with UBC in the research. Mama Cave, an active voice and business woman in Uganda reflects on what peace means to her: ‘I feel safe when I am able to meet my basic needs like shelter and medical care’, underscoring the importance of socio-economic rights. At the end of the body-mapping workshop, the women requested the art supplies to continue to practice their art. ‘I will never forget this experience,’ said Santa, who found new expression in paint and canvas.

 

Presenting

 

The study is part of a larger Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada Partnership Grant, led by Principal Investigator Deborah Stienstra (University of Guelph), Engendering Disability Inclusive Development (EDID) with research teams in Canada, Haiti, South Africa and Vietnam. It was also supported by and will feed into the Canadian Research Network on Women, Peace and Security (RN-WPS) co-directed by Professors Erin Baines (UBC), Jennifer Welsh (McGill University) and Yolande Bouka (Queen's University) and funded by MINDS-Canada (Mobilizing Insights in Defence and Security) research network grant in the Department of National Defence of Canada. The Ugandan study adds a unique perspective to EDID partnership and RN-WPS on the impacts of conflict and post-conflict environments on women with disabilities. The study will develop policy recommendations for dissemination to Parliamentarians and NGOs in Uganda led by participants in the study, inform EDID research outcomes and feed into policy debates about the future of the United Nation's Women, Peace and Security Agenda.

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