22 August 2017

Rwanda: Visually Impaired Appeal for Equal Job Opportunities

Photo: Michel Nkurunziza/New Times
Patrick Suubi addresses journalists in Kigali.

There is need for more advocacy to ensure people with visual impairment are not discriminated in the labour market and social protection programmes for them to avoid begging culture.

The appeal was made at a news conference organised by Rwanda Union of Blind in Kigali, last week.

Dr Patrick Suubi, legal representative of the Union, said employers need to give a chance to visually impaired people to demonstrate their ability.

"Employers ignore applications from the blind. But they should give us jobs to prove our potential. We have also experienced cases of institutions refusing to provide internship opportunities to the visually impaired," he said.

He called on government to increase efforts to ensure social protection programmes benefit all visually impaired people, including the illiterates.

"The blind have potential. Some have acquired technical skills, others are working in private sector. We have teachers, lawyers, livestock keepers and others. This is a sign of our capacity and therefore, we should not be discriminated in job placement. All this will eradicate begging culture," he said.

He, however, said there are no statistics of unemployed visually impaired people yet it is necessary for planning purposes.

Dr Betty Mukarwego, a visually impaired teacher at the University of Rwanda, said, unlike today discrimination was rampant in schools previously.

Until 2008 there was no student with visual impairment at University in Rwanda, she said.

She, however, said most of them remain without jobs due to poor attitudes of employers.

She noted that without education many people with visual impairment resort to begging.

Julienne Ugiriwabo became blind after completing her university studies and spent a whole year in hospital but didn't regain her sight.

Being an orphan, she has lived alone for the past four years in rented premises. She earns income from different businesses in Kigali city.

Cracking down on beggars

Police last week warned that fines could be imposed on beggars.

In a statement, Police described begging as a bad culture which constitutes a crime.

Police say beggars seen across the country include young children pretending to be orphans and poor, disabled persons, among others.

Police argue that some disabled persons, such as blind people turn to begging despite having skills that could be put to use to develop themselves under different social protection programmes established by government.

Begging, besides undermining Rwandan values, could derail national development by discouraging self-reliance spirit, and encouraging prostitution, theft and robbery, it said.

Begging is punishable under the Penal Code attracting punishment from eight days to below six months in jail while those posing as vulnerable people to beg could be punished with a jail term between six months to one year on conviction. Under the penal code whoever entices a child to beg risks imprisonment of between one and two years.


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