Deaf women in Uganda were missing out on so much in life that I was inspired to set up the United Deaf Women's Organisation (UDEWO), in 2002. As executive director, I've been working to support and empower women ever since - I want to see a society where we are treated as equals. There were more than 126,000 deaf people in Uganda in 2002, and many of those are women.
Here in Uganda, the general attitude towards people living with a disability is negative. They are called "'Kateyemba'", meaning 'The Unable One', suggesting they can't help themselves. It's a nickname that instils a sense of hopelessness in a person. In the African culture, if you bear a child with disability it seems like a curse. Parents ask, "What did I do to deserve such a child?"
In a world of increased polarisation between cultures, anything that lowers barriers is important. I joined VSO as chief executive in March of this year and in that time I have seen enough to convince me that there has never been a more important time to encourage people to volunteer internationally.
In Kenya and Uganda children who are both deaf and blind face huge challenges. Many are literally hidden away from the world around them, as parents struggle to understand what is wrong with their child or how to communicate with them while dealing with the social stigma of raising a disabled child.
I'm in New York this week to engage in the Post 2015 development process first hand. I know I'm not alone when I say that the process to agree a new agenda for the fight on global poverty is confusing and impenetrable. This week's focus is on financing and implementation. It's the "who's-going-to-pay?" and "how's-it-going-to-happen?" parts of the puzzle.
Comic Relief's Operation Health project, the focus of this year's Red Nose Day campaign, will completely renovate a dilapidated health centre in Iyolwa, Uganda. Operation Health is at the centre of a fundraising drive to improve healthcare across Africa by showing how money well spent can be used to improve health systems.
This is all the motivation I needed to become a member of the volunteer health team. I work closely with Iyolwa Clinic to make sure pregnant women in the community are identified early and all possible precautions are taken to ensure a safe delivery. I make sure the women attend their prenatal appointments, get regular check-ups and take their medication.
It was late last year when I heard about Operation Health for Comic Relief. Putting aside the obvious question "How on Earth did they get my number?" I was immediately paralysed by the size and the timescales of the project. Renovating a dilapidated health centre in rural Uganda in just nine weeks sounded ambitious, but I was immediately sold and knew I had to be a part of it.
Simply put - the clinic is not fit for humans. We have rats on the floor, bats in the ceiling and nowhere near enough space for the 1,400 patients that seek our help each month. Consultations on the floor or in the corridor are common practice and with no space to exercise quarantine controls, the risk of cross-contamination amongst patients is high...