MA in Public Advocacy and Activism, NUI Galway
Michael, a local government Senior Community Development Officer, was supported by Irish Aid to study for a 2014-15 Masters award at NUI Galway. During the course, he explained his background and goals and what he is gaining from his studies.
My name is Miiro Michael, I am from Uganda. I work with Masaka District Local Government, as a Senior Community Development officer in charge of persons with disabilities (PWDs) and older persons at a community level. My major role is to ensure that their rights are promoted and to make sure that issues of disability and older persons are incorporated into government development plans and policies.
I applied for the Irish Aid Fellowship because I felt I needed to expand my knowledge. I wanted to see how other countries fair in issues of disability and ageing, so as to bring that knowledge back to my home country. After reading the course content of the MA in Public Advocacy and Activism, I saw it was in the area of promoting human rights. Human rights, disability and ageing are still a problem in my country – people see the disability first and not the person. So I felt like if I could have another picture to show the people, it might make a difference.
There are twelve students in my class and they are all very supportive. We work as a team. I think this is very important to me because I am learning so many different approaches that people are applying. I am also trying as much as possible to open my mind, expand my views and learn from other groups that are experiencing discrimination.
Everything I do and experience here I reflect on the situation back home and see how I can apply it to make a difference. I plan to empower individuals – to teach people to speak for themselves and feel empowered to voice their concerns – to say something – because if they don’t say something, nothing will be done.
The best thing about Ireland is the accessibility. There are many old buildings but they have tried to make them as accessible as possible for wheelchair users. One other thing that I am going to bring back to my Municipal Council is that the cars and motorcycles popularly known as “Bodabodas” wait for the people to cross the road – that does not happen at home. The system of waste management here is also very impressive. I hope to meet the Local City Councils here to see how they do this work – and also to convince them to come to my area and create partnerships.
One possible topic for my research will be an examination of the CRPD (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability). The CRPD is a key tool that is being used all over the world to see that the rights of people with disabilities are being implemented; it’s also a key instrument that is used in public advocacy and activism. Uganda signed the CRPD in 2008. I want to look at it in such a way to see - how it has empowered local PWD leaders to understand it and also use it as an advocacy tool for the rights of PWDs. I want to go back home and interview some of the district leaders to see if they understand it and if so, how do they use it.
When I return to Uganda I will do the best I can to apply what I have learnt. But I aim high for the future. I want to come from being a community development officer to a higher level in the government ministry level to where policies are made.
Lastly, I wish to thank all the Irish people, through their government for this life changing opportunity that they have given me, my lecturers and fellow students at NUI Galway for all the support and Masaka District Local Government for allowing me take up this course.