Wilma Khamisa and her colleagues training in the computer lab. Photo: IOM/Jale Richard Santos 

Juba, 25 Oct  2021  – Twenty-eight-year-old Wilma Khamisa leans on her walking stick, her aid to get around after a childhood medical condition left her with a life-long impairment. 

It is not just her physical disability Wilma has to cope with – barriers such as discriminatory prejudice, stigma in society and exclusion from full social and economic activities have hindered employment opportunities. 

Nevertheless, acquiring basic computer skills would increase her chances of getting a job, and a course through the Skills for Change project, funded by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in South Sudan, will help. 

“The barriers that persons with disabilities face negatively affect their livelihoods in their adult life,” says Muneyi Muchanyuka, IOM Protection Officer. “Vocational trainings help bridge that gap by enhancing the resilience and ultimately reducing the vulnerability of persons with disabilities.”

Wilma says without computer skills, she would have little hope of finding work.

“In today’s world, if you apply for a job without any computer knowledge, it means you won’t get the job. Even if you get a job, everything you do at the workplace is on a computer, and that’s why I am interested in learning about computers.” 

After a few weeks into three months of training at a vocational skills centre in Juba, Wilma now knows about some of the most-used software and has learned how to create spreadsheets and publications.

She is one of 54 people with different disabilities learning about tailoring, electrical work or computers so that they can become self-reliant.

 According to the World Bank, 15 per cent of the world’s population is living with disabilities, and South Sudan is estimated to have more than 1.2 million.  One of them is Mary Izkia Rajab, a member of the Wheelchair Basketball Association of South Sudan. 

Women, many with a hearing impairment, are shown how to sew clothes. Photo: IOM/Jale Richard Santos

“I joined this training in tailoring because I wanted to get the capacity to improve my economic situation,” she says. “Things like sewing machines are very expensive but if I get support to buy one, I will start a business of my own. There are many people with disabilities who are unemployed, and when we get such opportunities, we take them seriously because through these opportunities our lives can change.”

Just outside the computer lab and tailoring class is a group of men connecting wires to bulbs. Most in the class learning about electricity have a hearing impairment.

Sign language helped this class learn about electricity.  Photo: IOM/Jale Richard Santos

Their trainer, Yoasa Pitia Alessandro, uses sign language to communicate with them. 

“We are giving them the skills to go and work on their own because some people discriminate against them because they can’t hear well,” Yoasa says.  

The training runs for three months and ends with a graduation ceremony where Mary and the other trainees will be awarded certificates recognized by South Sudan’s Ministry of Education. 

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) promotes the full integration of persons with disabilities in societies. The vocational training is a crucial element of IOM South Sudan’s gender and inclusion programming, in line with the 2019 Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action.

This story was written by Jale Richard Santos, IOM South Sudan Media and Communications Assistant, Email: jasantos@iom.int