Golden Boots Uganda
Golden Boots Uganda is one of the very few non-governmental organizations in the country that truly understands the power of sport as a transformative tool for people with disabilities. Our mission of pioneering new ways of improving young people through sport recognizes the ability of sport to transcend not only linguistic, cultural and social barriers, but also physical ones, through strategies of inclusion and adaptation.
In bid to achieve our mission, we discovered that people with disabilities often face societal barriers that see their sporting dreams die unnoticed. We learnt that disability evokes negative perceptions and discrimination in many societies. That’s why we use sport to bring about change amongst people with disability in an equally profound way. With this we are empowering young people with disabilities to realize their full potential and advocate for changes in society.
We organize sports tournaments and sports days, where groups of young people with disabilities are invited to participate in games like soccer, netball, board games and boxing, with our partner Zebra boxing club, in Bwaise slums, Kampala. In addition, we distribute sports kits like uniforms and balls to community sports groups, and specialized kits to individuals with physical disability. Such important projects and arrangements allow every athlete, even with disabilities, to achieve sporting excellence.
In the process of including persons with disabilities in sport, Golden Boots Uganda has had a number of hindrances that have, in most cases, taken quite some good time to overcome. We encountered issues like negative school experiences, low expectations from teachers, low physical education provision in schools, lack of information and expertise, lack of accessible facilities, as well as widespread negative perception about individuals with physical challenges.
Through sharing stories of great disabled sports men and women like Paralympians, we have managed to demonstrate to disabled young people what can be achieved when they test their body to its absolute limits. This has also served in the fight against negative perceptions. The idea of establishing specialized sporting equipment and facilities has seen us promote inclusion in our sports activities, no matter their physical condition.
Through projects like ‘Rise and Shine,’ where we created a platform for young women and people with disabilities to voice their issues, receive skills and knowledge through a one day sports gala; the Women and Disability Forum; and the practical exhibition workshops, Golden Boots Uganda has tried to enable people with disabilities to reach their potential through sports.
It is unfortunate, that people with disabilities are still largely excluded in many development programs. At Golden Boots Uganda, we hope to not leave anyone behind in our sports initiatives and development programs, including persons with disabilities. It is our pleasure to welcome other organizations to borrow ideas from our all- inclusive sports activities and programs that fully recognize the potential of every beneficiary, without considering their physicality.
We hope to encourage other organizations to develop an all-inclusive approach in their activities that will help change attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. Through all our projects, we urge our communities to desist from viewing persons with disabilities as objects of charity, medical treatment and social protection, but rather as capable subjects with rights, ability and potential to make decisions for their wellbeing and being active members of society.
Despite Uganda’s robust inclusive policies for persons with disabilities, the country’s biggest sporting federations are yet to embrace the potential of persons with disability. The Federation of Uganda Football Associations is arguably the most popular sports federation in the country; yet it remains uncertain when it will enact an all-inclusive approach to training footballers, including those who are physically challenged. Credit must be given to the Uganda Athletics Association for walking the talk. The federation promotes physical literacy, which outlines how sustainable development begins with healthy, safe, active and well nurtured citizens.
We highly acknowledge the potential of persons with disabilities to contribute to building of society like their able counterparts. Events like the Paralympics give the best opportunity to the disabled to prove their worth to the whole world. With our projects, there is hope that people with disabilities will find fulfilment in sport due do the diversity of sports disciplines therein.
Amuron Joyce Norah is the Communications Officer at Golden Boots Uganda