In Rwanda, Handicap International’s goal is to support the policies and initiatives of public authorities and civil society to advance the rights of vulnerable people, particularly people with disabilities. The organization employs 73 national staff and three expatriates to carry out its mission.
Handicap International launched its operations in Rwanda following the genocide of 1994. Nearly 20 years after the genocide, many individuals still suffer from extreme mental trauma as well as physical disabilities. Despite recent strong economic growth, the government lacks the resources to implement disability policies, civil society is weak, and deeply held cultural beliefs about disability, including epilepsy, make life very challenging for people with disabilities.
- Mental Health and Violence Prevention
- Inclusive Education
- Community-Based Rehabilitation
- Supporting Disabled People's Organizations
This project enables people with epilepsy to access quality health care and live normal lives within their families and communities. It also aims to raise awareness in the general Rwandan population about the condition to dispel stigma and encourage those with epilepsy or their guardians to seek appropriate health care.
Mental Health and Violence Prevention
More than twenty years after the genocide, the country still suffers from the highest level of post-traumatic stress disorder in the region. Handicap International strengthens community-based approaches to mental health care to better support Rwandans suffering from psychological trauma. In addition, it aims to develop community-based action focused on the prevention of gender-based violence. Through this project Handicap International does local and national advocacy to add mental health and sexual violence issues to the political agenda. These actions complement a second project that carries out awareness-raising and advocates for the strengthening of child protection processes in Rwanda, with the aim of protecting children from sexual violence.
Handicap International supports the efforts of the Ministry of Education to develop its educational system so that it provides all children with an inclusive learning environment. Staff members train authorities and teachers, identify children with special needs not currently attending school and encourage parents to enroll them, and work to improve the accessibility of schools.
To promote the inclusion of people with disabilities, Handicap International helps the government implement rehabilitation policies and trains health professionals and community health workers in disability issues. The organization also works to introduce occupational therapy as a rehabilitation profession. Handicap International accomplishes this primarily by providing financial and technical support to the College of Medicine and Health Sciences (CMHS) so it can provide the necessary training.
Supporting Disabled People's Organizations
Handicap International promotes the inclusion of Rwandan people with disabilities in society, in particular at community level. The organization offers support to disabled people’s organizations, providing them with technical and financial assistance. This enables these groups to pursue actions to promote the rights and civic participation of people with disabilities.