Bernard Sabiti: “Our role is to help stakeholders understand gaps in data and what to do about them”

July 2020

Bernard Sabiti is a senior strategic partnerships and engagement manager based in Uganda.

He works at Development Initiatives – an Inclusive Futures partner. Here, he shares why access to clear, accurate data on disability is so important to inform policies and development programmes that make sure no one is left behind.

Bernard’s story

I started off my career as a reporter in Uganda, writing for a number of newspapers. As a journalist, I used data and evidence to follow important human-interest stories. I think that’s the genesis of my obsession with the importance of data and evidence – the central focus is you ask your questions – you ask as many as you can in order to understand. Also, the context in which you operate informs the different approaches you take.

Development Initiatives’ role in Inclusive Futures is to help key stakeholders understand gaps in data and what to do about them. My role has been to facilitate collaboration with those producing the data with the users, and all those stakeholders that fall in between. The data landscape is a kind of ecosystem where interaction between different elements of it is very important to have a good end product.

Data supports public policy, politics, as well as governance issues. And so, it’s very important to understand the different contexts in which data is produced, how it’s used and the different stakeholders involved in those processes. In many cases, the disability data landscape is not that great; there are a lot of gaps. Even more worrying is the fact that few people understand the scale of the problem.”

The importance of disability data and evidence

“Development Initiatives has been looking at official and non-official statistics and that has given us an idea of what the situation is in the countries where we work. The Inclusive Futures initiative is facilitating discussion around the importance of disability data and evidence. That’s how we got involved in the project, because we know that for people with disabilities, especially, it’s very important that any decisions made by policy makers – whether in education, health care, livelihood, or programming – are inclusive.

“We find those that have the least voice are the most vulnerable, and in this case are people with disabilities. They tend to be forgotten when it comes to developing good policies. We believe that by understanding, first of all, what the problem is around the disability data, then we will be in a better position to offer expertise on the right approaches to employ to find disability data and the evidence; and also who to engage to make the best sense of it.

“That’s an important skill to bring to Inclusive Futures, because when you try to understand, for example, the key gaps in disability data in different countries, you have got to understand who produces the data, and what resources are available for the production of that data. And then you need to examine the technical capacities of the users of disability data.

One of the things we want to see at the end of this project is that people with disabilities are included within the economy. Here in Uganda, we are building a critical mass of disability data and evidence. At the end of the project, if there is data on disability in terms of the economy, education, and health, and the data is available and accessible to every person that needs it – whether they’re programme managers, disability organisations, hiring managers in companies or in government agencies – having data (a click away) on their desks on these issues that affect people with disabilities, would be a fascinating outcome for Development Initiatives’ contribution to this project.”

Consortium working

I have worked with different colleagues and teams in various partner organisations, and it has been rather humbling to see that inclusion is on everyone’s mind. This initiative is one of the very few that I have seen that lives its mission. The fact that people with disabilities have to be included both in the inception and implementation, for me, is really something to be proud of, because in many cases when people talk about inclusion, it’s just that: talk. But I think the Inclusive Futures initiative goes beyond that and lives out the talk.

From Development Initiatives, our expertise is in data and working with the folks that have been in the trenches of the global disability movement for so many years. It has really been enjoyable because we have a lot to learn as well, and everyone has been willing to share their learning and expertise.

The willingness of everyone involved to help out the other partner, I mean, it’s really been the kind of camaraderie, the partnership and the keenness of everyone that could be helpful and was willing to work together on this project that has made it so good. The cooperation and the inclusionary part of the project has really been fascinating to see.”

Learning from COVID-19

“From what we have seen, working in Uganda and Kenya, the impact of COVID-19 has been devastating on people with disabilities.

“It is very important that we examine how the pandemic has affected people with disabilities. It’s not just about the health impact, but also how the containment measures against this pandemic have affected people with disabilities in comparison to the rest of the population. We are looking at what data is being used to determine the response, and how we can create evidence out of this.”

A man talking into a microphone.

Bernard Sabiti

Senior strategic partnerships and engagement manager, Development Initiatives.

Interested in delivering inclusive development?

Download our resources