Dhieu: the DG who lost his sight but not his dream to inspire

Dhieu: the DG who lost his sight but not his dream to inspire

“I became blind while I was doing my PhD program. This was the last thing on my mind. I did not see it coming,” says Dr Stephen Dhieu Kuach, the Director General for Disability Affairs in the office of Vice President for Gender and Youth Cluster, Rebecca Nyandeng.

Dhieu, 32, was born in Kowach Pigi County, in Jonglei State without any sign of disability and later traversed the world in an effort to be an academician -in Uganda, Kenya, the USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

He chased his dream of being an academic giant and was awarded six degrees and a diploma. He currently holds bachelor’s’ degrees in law, social work, social administration, and international and humanitarian action.

He was also awarded two master’s degrees in law and psychology, a diploma in international humanitarian diplomacy, and a PhD in law (Jurist Doctorate) in the United Kingdom.

In an exclusive interview with the City Review, Dr Stephen revealed that his visual impairment started while pursuing his Jurist Doctorate in 2017. ”It became worse in 2018, but in 2019, he became completely blind.

“It started in 2017, but it got worse in 2018, and completely in 2019. So, the appropriate year, maybe 2019. Regarding my studies, I am a graduate with two bachelors in law and in social work and social administration,” Dr Dhieu explained his accomplishments. 

“I also have a degree in international and humanitarian action, I also have a diploma in international humanitarian diplomacy, I also do have master’s in law and in psychology, and I do also have now my PhD in law.”

Unmoved

Disability did not change his vision to contribute towards nation building. Dhieu left the United Kingdom in 2020 and came to South Sudan where he started advocating for the rights of people with disabilities.

He worked with IGAD and the Danish Refugee Council, after which he was appointed to the Directorate for Disability Affairs, in the office of vice president for gender and youth cluster, Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior.

“By that time, I came and advocated for a lot of disability rights, and I have been writing a lot in Juba Monitor before it was closed down. I met a lot of politicians and a lot of government officials, that’s why I ended up here,” he explained.

He is unmarried and currently searching for a wife, although he says he is not serious in his search for a wife.

Dr Dhieu has vowed not to give up his political vision of serving the country under the umbrella of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

“I am SPLM Man, I was conceived as SPLM, I was born as SPLM, I was raised up as SPLM, and hopefully, I will even leave the earth as SPLM. My father is SPLM man, mother SPLM woman,” he explained with a smiley face.

He is hopeful to vie for a seat in parliament when time comes for elections on December 22, 2024. However, he appreciated the efforts of VP Rebecca Nyandeng for including the directorate of disability affairs in her offices and encouraging unheard voices through representation.

He therefore noted that the constitution should have inclusion of persons with disability in parliament, so that they could also contribute to nation building since they make 13 percent of the total population.

He reiterated that the worse thing was war which he said was increasing the number of persons with disability.

Dr Dhieu is currently the chairperson of the committee for ratification of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD).

Last month the document for ratification of UNCRPD was reported to have gotten lost in the parliament. But he later struggled and found the document after coordinating with the librarian in the parliament and the specialized committee members.

He stated that there was a funding gap in running affairs of persons with disabilities including poor logistics to reach out to states and administrative areas to advocate for the rights of disables.

One of the major challenges Dr Dhieu stated that he faced was lack of proper logistics to facilitate his movement from his office and to various states to advocate for the rights of persons with disability.

“Persons with disability working class have the challenge of lack of devices to access information and the government has no budget on that. Also, we do have problem of accessible environment like the offices, hotels, and logistical support like for example, my office has no car which makes it very hard for me to lobby and to run the issues of disabilities across the government circle,” he explained.

He stressed that disabled people who are educated are discriminated against not because they do not have skills but just judged according to their disability.

“The second group suffering are those that are educated and living with disability but cannot find a job because organizations and government do not have the clue of the information on how these people are capable of working or doing an absolute job. Also, when applying, they are not very inclusive to application process and when it comes to interviews also, they first see your disability not your capability and qualifications,” Dhieu added.

The director for disability affairs further stated that UN organizations and governments that receive funding from doors and UN agencies intentionally ignore some UN conventions that call for equality.

“Also in the interviews, there are also those opportunities where people who are visually impaired can write properly, but there are no devices. And large print documents are not available. That hinders their efforts as persons with disabilities, and I am alarmed of it because, this has been intentionally done by organizations and governments that do receive donations and UN agencies’ funds,” Dr Dhieu continued.

“And yet there are articles and conventions on disability that do stipulate respect and equally and inclusive environment for all, yet they violate that.”

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