Portrait of Hilda holding her broom.
Portrait of Hilda holding her broom.

Photo © Tommy Trenchard


“I felt so happy when I knew that I would start working. The life of my son will change”

I started primary 1 [in Uganda] when I was seven, and I finished in Senior 2 when I was 14 because my dad told me there was no money to push me forward.

I wanted to stay on – I felt so angry and cried. My dad is a primary teacher, but he said there was no money. When you don’t get a certificate [of education], there’s no job you can get.

Some of my brothers and sisters are still at school; they are helped by my uncle. But only some of my sisters were picked by my uncle. People get different chances – someone might pick any of his favourites and he leaves you and you can’t stop him doing that.

I heard that a hotel was looking for people willing to work as caterers. I started to work – I worked for three months, but it ended after that. We got basic skills training: housekeeping, how to cook food for different people. But I left because my mother became sick and there was no one to help her, no one to get water.

Hilda stood between two kitchen appliances.

Hilda on her first day of her catering course.

Photo © Tommy Trenchard

She was taken to Kampala in January to be admitted to hospital, she’s still there now. I haven’t seen her since she went. I thought about going back to work when my mum went to Kampala, but there is no vacancy now – it’s full.

During the day here I go to the garden, come back, fetch water, cook food and eat. The garden is two miles away. I leave at 7am and get there at 8am. When it reaches 10am I come back. I go by foot. I grow cassava and maize – it’s just for us to eat. Sometimes we have enough food, but sometimes we don’t. I don’t have any other job other than digging. There’s no one who earns money here.

People in Uganda look at people with disabilities as having no use: they joke, they come up with bad words, they say they are no use, they can’t help. I see it in a different way – a person with a disability wasn’t created for no reason, I know he or she has different plans for how God created him or her.

To change this attitude, if someone with a disability is taken to school, then that person starts working, is employed and is employing someone, the community will see someone with a disability can also work.

They will stop looking at someone with a disability as no use.

Hilda and her son.

Hilda and her three year old son, John.

Photo ©

I met my son’s father in this village. He told me if we had a child he’d take me to his house, but after we had a son he left me here. He is at home now – he lives nearby.

He sees our son. He wanted to take me to his house, but I didn’t have the requirements that my family wanted [they wanted a dowry from the husband’s family]. My husband’s family said: ‘You are bringing that wife, she will not do the work we want.’ They told him: ‘We don’t want you to bring a wife that will fail to carry water and do other work at home.’

I am capable of carrying water and doing other work, but they thought I wouldn’t do any work for them because of the weakness I have, and the disability. I feel so sad when I hear that message. I think after I go for the training and I am successful and start working, my husband’s family will be happy.

The European Commission has funded the economic empowerment programme since 2012, and additional funding was awarded in August 2017 by the Big Lottery Fund. This generous support has helped to transform the lives of hundreds of young people with disabilities in Uganda.


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