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11 reasons to celebrate in 2023

Teresa laughs outside, with 8 of her friends standing behind her. She sits in a wheelchair and holds her schoolbags and pencils.
Teresa Jordão is 15 years old and lives in Mafarinha in Mozambique. Physical rehabilitation, supported by Light for the World, has greatly improved Teresa’s mobility. Her father, Jordão Vinte, believes that it is truly important to invest in and ensure an inclusive environment at school, so that all children with disabilities can learn equally.
  • Disability Rights
  • Economic Empowerment
  • Eye Health
  • Gender
  • Humanitarian Action
  • Inclusive Education

From supporting people with disabilities into work, to facilitating access to education in emergencies, here are some positive news stories from Light for the World’s work. 

For many people, 2023 has been a year filled with challenges.  

Conflicts across the world have taken lives and negatively transformed others. The climate crisis has increased in intensity, with those in lower-income countries hit hardest. 

But, despite these global challenges, there are positive news stories and successes worth celebrating. In 2023, Light for the World has reached countless people to promote disability rights, inclusive education and economic empowerment, including in emergencies, and access to eye health. 

Working hand-in-hand with communities and people with disabilities and their organisations, we aim for sustainable systems change – and mainstreaming of climate justice and gender equality in our work.  

“These achievements are just a glimpse of the positive impact Light for the World — working alongside our expert partners — has made in 2023,” says Marion Lieser, CEO at Light for the World International. 

“This year we began work on our Strategy 2030 and look forward to sharing it in 2024. This strategy will guide us through the years to come, as we work towards a just world where every person can live without poverty and discrimination.” 

Here are 11 positive news stories from 2023. 

1. South Sudan signed for disability rights 

After years of advocacy by Light for the World and our partners, South Sudan signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in February. 

This historic step forward for disability inclusion commits the South Sudanese government to legally respect, protect and fulfil the rights of people with disabilities in South Sudan. 

It is an example of how our patient but persistent advocacy in all our programme countries, alongside our partners, can produce significant results and lasting impact. 

Two South Sudanese pupils smile as they pose for a photo outside their school. South Sudan signing the UNCRPD was one of the positive news stories of 2023.
Akoi (right), a student with severe arthritis, wants to become a lawyer to fight for the rights of people with disabilities in South Sudan. © Light for the World

2. We Can Work 

In partnership with Mastercard Foundation and the African Disability Forum, this year we kicked off We Can Work, a landmark new programme, to enhance access to employment for young Africans with disabilities.

With organisations of people with disabilities (OPDs) at the heart of the programme, We Can Work is implemented in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Uganda. 

Four people sit around a table laughing and smiling. One of them is holding an illustration. There are bottles and papers on the table.
During the “inspiration week” in Kenya, We Can Work team members – including United Disabled Persons of Kenya – take part in a game-based learning activity to experience some of the methodologies that will be used to amplify learning and change mindsets on inclusion and diversity.

In April 2023, the programme kickstarted with a “co-creation” year to ensure multi-stakeholder participation and ownership. Aimed at tailoring the approach to each country’s context, we engaged relevant system actors in programme design.

3. Improving eye health 

Our comprehensive, disability-inclusive approach to improving eye health saved the sight of children and adults and helped reinforce health systems in 2023.  

We highlighted the game-changing work of Dr Isac Vasco da Gama — Mozambique’s first paediatric ophthalmologist — and continued to train other health professionals under our innovative 1,2,3 I can see! programme. 

Our programmes screened 136,500 schoolchildren for eye problems from January to June, and we demonstrated the transformative power of glasses for pupils like Nigest. 

Image of Nigest Unche, standing and smiling in front of a blackboard in a school classroom. Nigest attends Sikela Primary School in Arba Minch, Ethiopia. She received glasses through 1, 2, 3 I can see! a school child eye health programme of Light for the World. ©Genaye Eshetu
Nigest Unche attends Sikela Primary School in Arba Minch, Ethiopia. She received glasses through 1, 2, 3 I can see! a school child eye health programme of Light for the World. © Genaye Eshetu / Light for the World.

We contributed to systems change in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Uganda, including strengthening data collection in Mozambique and supporting specialised training of 16 eye health professionals in Burkina Faso. 

4. Disability Inclusion Academy launched in Ethiopia 

Another positive news story for 2023 was the launch of a first-of-its-kind Disability Inclusion Academy in Addis Ababa to facilitate disability inclusion in the public and private sectors. 

Young people with disabilities in Ethiopia will be trained to become Disability Inclusion Facilitators (DIFs) at the academy, run by Light for the World. 

Our innovative approach to training DIFs and Disability Inclusion Advisors – prototyped in 2019 – went from strength to strength in 2023, helping to foster inclusion in public, private and non-governmental organisations across our programme countries and beyond.

5. Proud to partner 

In 2023, we worked with a wide range of international expert partner organisations to maximise our collective impact.  

They include RED NOSES International clowns, who joined our InPower programme in Mozambique, which is funded by the Austrian Development Agency. Using humour and art, we worked together to break down gender and disability stereotypes and provide psychosocial support to people with disabilities. 

Representing one of the good news stories of 2023, four people dressed as clowns, smiling and singing, are performing in front of a crowd. Working to break down stereotypes.
RED NOSES International clowns perform a clown show in Mozambique. © Craig Russell

We continued to work closely with OPDs, including sharing their expert insights on disability rights for International Day of People with Disabilities. As well as networks, who led our advocacy efforts, including International Disability Alliance and International Disability and Development Consortium.

Working with great partners, we know our impact can last. This year saw the successful phase out our work in Bolivia and north-east India and evaluation of the long-term effects and structural adjustments of our work with implementing partners.

6. Equal access to education 

All children have the right to an education. At Light for the World, we facilitate equal access to inclusive education and accessible technology for learners with disabilities — even in humanitarian emergencies. 

In Burkina Faso, where more than one in five schools has closed due to the presence of armed groups, we offered girls and boys with and without disabilities the chance to continue learning

Working with OCADES (Caritas) Nouna, we provided emergency humanitarian aid and educational opportunities for internally displaced pupils in Nouna, in the north-west province of Kossi. 

Our advocacy also saw the government in Burkina Faso establish specific measures for pupils with disabilities to use assistive devices during school exams and adaptation of educational resources. 

A classroom of learners sitting together on a carpet on the floor of a community nursery class in an IDP camp in Juba, South Sudan, whilst their teacher stands in front of them, signing. The teacher has her back to the camera and raises both her hands, which the children are copying her sign language.
Disability Inclusion Facilitator, Esther Piro, teaches sign language to a classroom of children with and without disabilities in a camp for internally displaced people in Juba, South Sudan. © Bullen Chol / Light for the World.

7. Supporting students, entrepreneurs and workers with disabilities 

Our economic empowerment programmes continued to support people with disabilities into fulfilling work and to start their own businesses. 

In Kenya, we provided business training to micro-entrepreneurs with disabilities under the InBusiness project, which is part of the Inclusive Futures consortium, led by Sightsavers. They included Lylian Adhiambo, who nearly tripled profits at her bakery. 


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We also offered students with disabilities employment training to help them prepare for the future workforce

In Uganda, under the We Are Able! project, we launched EnableMe. The resource enables organisations to connect, support and empower people with disabilities in Uganda through improving access to information about disability inclusion, economic empowerment and community services. 

We also promoted inclusion in agriculture as a member of the SPARK consortium, an IFAD partnership with Light for the World, ILO and Procasur. The AgriLab process, which sees farmers with disabilities co-design and create inclusive agricultural tools, took place in Burkina Faso and Mozambique. Farmers in Mozambique produced sturdy and accessible storage containers designed to withstand climate shocks

8. Spotlight on expert colleagues 

Our talented colleagues represented Light for the World at influential international events in 2023. 

Including Ambrose Murangira, Technical Director for Disability Inclusion at Light for the World, who spoke about climate justice and making the green transition inclusive of people with disabilities at COP28.

Geoffrey Wabulembo, our Medical Director for Eye Health and Neglected Tropical Diseases, shared learnings from Light for the World’s surgical audits in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Mozambique thanks to IAPB at 2030 In Sight Live in Singapore. 

Nafisa Baboo, our Director of Inclusive Education, gave evidence to the Canadian Parliament’s study into international disability-inclusive education. 

Marion Lieser and David Whedbee, President of Light for the World USA, attended COSP16, alongside global disability advocates, to learn from and connect with national, regional and international experts, organisations and UN entities.

Ambrose Murangira stands smiling in front of a Light for the World sign
Ambrose Murangira spoke at COP28 about making the green transition inclusive of people with disabilities. © Light for the World.

Mathilde Umuraza, our Expert on Gender and Gender Based Violence, presented on advancing a disability-inclusive feminist movement at the Women Deliver Conference 2023 in Kigali. 

Our Expert on Rehabilitation and Child Safety, Marieke Boersma, took part in the WHO World Rehabilitation Meeting 2023, where we became a founding member of the World Rehabilitation Alliance. 

9. Promoting disability inclusion and eye health in emergencies 

When hundreds of thousands fled the conflict in Sudan, we supported South Sudanese returnees and refugees with disabilities.  

We advocated with humanitarian partners for an inclusive response and organised medical referrals for children with disabilities, including Nyakhan James. 

Image of Nyakhan James, a one-year-old refugee with hydrocephalus, being held by her aunt Elizabeth Nyaper.
Light for the World organised medical referrals and rehabilitation for South Sudanese returnees like Nyakhan James, held here by aunt Elizabeth Nyaper. © Light for the World.

In November in Tigray, Ethiopia, we held a Mass Drug Administration (MDA) of treatment for trachoma, our first since the end of the conflict there. 

Light for the World’s advocacy efforts materialised in the first ever “Strategy of Humanitarian Aid of Austria”. Adopted by the Austrian government, it contains a commitment to involving people with disabilities in humanitarian assistance. 

10. When You Become Me 

Light for the World Uganda and Reach A Hand Uganda co-produced When You Become Me, a ground-breaking movie focused on promoting disability inclusion. 


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The first Ugandan feature film about the barriers people with disabilities face struck a chord with audiences and critics, earning a host of award nominations

Telling real stories of discrimination, the film stars two Light for the World Uganda Disability Inclusion Facilitators — Doreck Ankunda, who plays a writer with a speech impediment, and Musa Mwambu, who plays a blind accountant.   

The success of When You Become Me was covered by several media outlets in Uganda, including New Vision

11. Media attention around the world  

Our good news in 2023 was covered by international media, raising valuable awareness of our projects and programmes. 

The launch of South Sudan’s blind football league, supported by Light for the World, was highlighted by Forbes and Radio France Internationale (RFI)

Forbes covered one of the positive news stories of 2023 – the launch of the South Sudan blind football league.

Deutsche Welle asked Ambrose and Sophia Mohammed, Country Director for Light for the World in South Sudan, why Deaf Africans still struggle to access their rights. 

Lucy Murage, Head of Programmes at Light for the World Kenya, wrote about the economic and societal benefits of inclusion in entrepreneurship for The Star newspaper.

And our work on child eye health in Mozambique was reported in extensive articles in Austria’s largest newspaper, Kronen Zeitung, and Die Presse am Sonntag. 

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