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Human Rights Defender of the month: Apollo Mukasa

Apollo Mukasa’s journey into activism is deeply rooted in his commitment to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities (PWDs). As the Executive Director of Uganda National Action on Physical Disability (UNAPD), Apollo is a driving force behind initiatives aimed at combating discrimination among PWDs. UNAPD was established in 1998 as a platform for voicing concerns of persons with physical disabilities to realise a barrier free environment where they can enjoy their rights to the fullest.

Born with a physical disability further compounded by a disadvantaged background, Apollo faced numerous obstacles in accessing education due to financial constraints. However, his determination to transcend these barriers fueled him to champion the cause of disability rights. 

"I come from a humble background where financial limitations posed significant challenges to accessing education. Despite these hurdles, I refused to be defined by my circumstances. Instead, I was driven by a deep-seated determination to advocate for change and empower individuals facing similar struggles." .

In 2008, after pursuing his bachelor’s degree at Makerere University Kampala, Together with UNAPD, Apollo launched a campaign “Accessibility Advocacy for PWDs”. The campaign gained significant momentum and led to the development of Accessibility Standards (manual for construction of accessible buildings) ultimately resulting in legislative reforms and the enactment of a Building Control Act in 2013 with adoption of the standards as part of the Act.

"We cannot overlook the fact that buildings serve as gateways to essential services. If persons with disabilities are barred from accessing these spaces, they are effectively denied their rights to health, education, and more," he emphasizes.

After his bachelor’s degree, Apollo joined UNAPD as a volunteer, eager to contribute his expertise and passion to the organisation’s cause. “My journey with UNAPD began as a volunteer, but through dedication and perseverance, I ascended to other management positions where I could effect meaningful change,” he says. His exemplary dedication and leadership qualities quickly elevated him to the leadership position of Executive Director within the organisation. 

"At UNAPD, I found a platform to address the systemic barriers hindering the inclusion of PWDs. My advocacy efforts were driven by a belief in dignity and rights of every individual, regardless of their physical abilities"

Through his tireless advocacy, Apollo has achieved significant milestones in advancing disability rights in Uganda. His instrumental role in shaping legislative frameworks, such as advocating for accessible buildings in the construction industry, has contributed to tangible improvements in the lives of PWDs. 

"I take pride in the transformative impact of our initiatives at UNAPD. By empowering thousands of PWDs to assert their rights and participate in decision-making processes, we have cultivated a culture of inclusivity and empowerment within our community."

Despite this progress, he acknowledges the persistent challenges confronting PWDs, including barriers to employment and limited funding for disability organisations. However, he remains steadfast in his commitment to advocating for change and fostering greater societal inclusion. 

"While we have made strides in advancing disability rights, there are still challenges that demand our attention. By forging partnerships with mainstream stakeholders and advocating for disability programming in donor priorities, we can address these issues and create a more equitable society for all."

Looking ahead, Apollo envisions a future where persons with disabilities are fully integrated into society, where accessibility is the norm, and where their rights are upheld without question. His unwavering dedication to this vision serves as a beacon of hope for individuals with disabilities across Uganda. 

"As we continue our journey towards inclusivity, let us remain steadfast in our commitment to create a society where every individual, regardless of their physical abilities, can thrive and contribute meaningfully. Together, we can build a future where inclusion is not just a goal, but a lived reality for all."

In case of more information about UNAPD, visit their social media platforms: website: www.unapd.org, twitter:@unapd, Facebook: Unapd, YouTube: UNAPDUganda.

See more HRDs of the Month

Human Rights Defender of the month: Apollo Mukasa

Apollo Mukasa’s journey into activism is deeply rooted in his commitment to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities (PWDs). As the Executive Director of Uganda National Action on Physical Disability (UNAPD), Apollo is a driving force behind initiatives aimed at combating discrimination among PWDs. UNAPD was established in 1998 as a platform for voicing concerns of persons with physical disabilities to realise a barrier free environment where they can enjoy their rights to the fullest.

Human Rights Defender of the month: Leon Ntakiyiruta

As a child, Leon wanted to be a magistrate – whom he saw as agents of justice. Born in 1983 in Burundi’s Southern province, he came of age at a time of great social and political upheaval in the East African country. In 1993 when Leon was barely 10, Burundi was besieged by a civil war that would last for the next 12 years until 2005, characterized by indiscriminate violence and gross human rights abuses in which over 300,000 people are estimated to have died.In 2012, still struggling to find her footing in Kampala, Aida was introduced to DefendDefenders, where she was introduced to the organisation’s resource center, and assured, it (the center) would be at her disposal whenever she needed to use it.

Human Rights Defender of the month: Aida Musa

In August 2011, Aida crossed into Uganda, pregnant, and barely able to communicate in another language other than Arabic. The transition was a difficult one, she says: “It was my first-time outside Sudan, and yet I did not know any other language. The first months were very difficult.”
In 2012, still struggling to find her footing in Kampala, Aida was introduced to DefendDefenders, where she was introduced to the organisation’s resource center, and assured, it (the center) would be at her disposal whenever she needed to use it.

Human Rights Defender of the month: Pamela Angwench Judith

For most of her life, Pamela Angwech’s existence has always been a defiant and simultaneous act of survival and resistance. In 1976 when she was born, the anti-Amin movement was gathering pace, and her family was one of the earliest victims of the then dictatorship’s reprisals in Northern Uganda. Her father, a passionate educationist in Kitgum district was one of the most vocal critics of the dictatorship’s human rights excesses, which made him an obvious target of the state’s marauding vigilantes.

Human Rights Defender of the month: Joseph Oleshangay

As a human rights lawyer and advocate with the High Court of the United Republic of Tanzania, Joseph Moses Oleshangay spends most of his time crossing from one court to another, litigating human rights cases, some with life-altering implications for ordinary people. It is a monumental responsibility, one he never envisaged growing up.

As a young boy born into a Maasai household in northern Tanzania, his entire childhood revolved around cattle: “Our entire livelihood revolved around cattle. As a child, the main preoccupation was to tend to cows, and my formative years were spent grazing cattle around Endulen. It a simple lifestyle,” he says.

Human Rights Defender of the month: Julia Onyoti

The situation of South Sudan’s women and girls remains one of those enduring blights on the country’s conscience. The country retains the unenviable reputation of having the world’s highest maternal mortality rate, and at 51.5%, one of the highest cases of child marriages. It is even worse with gender-based violence(GBV): A 2019 study by UNICEF found that one in every two South Sudan women have experienced intimate partner violence, while a recent UN study, alarmed at the widespread nature of conflict-related sexual violence in the country, in which women are tread as “spoils of war” described it as “a hellish existence for women and girls.

Human Rights Defender of the month:SHIMA BHARE

Shima Bhare Abdalla has never known the luxury and comfort of a stable and safe existence inside her country’s borders. When she was 11, her village was attacked and razed to the ground, sending her family and entire neighborhood scattering into an internally displaced People’s Camp, at the start of the Darfur civil war.

That was in 2002. Shima and her family relocated into Kalma refugee camp in Southern Darfur, where, alongside over 100,000 other displaced persons, they had to forge out a living, under the watch and benevolence of the United Nations – African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur, known as UNAMID. It is here that Shima’s human rights consciousness came to life. She enthusiastically embraced whatever little education she could access under the auspices of the humanitarian agencies operating in the camp, to be able to tell the story of her people’s plight.

Human Rights Defender of the month: Martial Pa’nucci

Martial Pa’nucci is a child of what is fondly known as Africa’s second liberation. In 1990 when he was born, the Republic of Congo, like many other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, was undergoing a transition from one-party rule to multi-party democracy, following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Yet developments in ordinary people’s lives were not as optimistic. Pa’nucci was born in one of Brazzaville’s ghettos to a polygamous family of two mothers and 19 siblings, where survival was a daily exercise in courage. When he was two, his father died, followed in quick succession by many of his siblings. Pa’nucci did not start school until he was nine, and he had to do odd jobs – from barbering to plumbing to earn his stay there, lest he dropped out like many of his peers.

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