Kenya can do better to improve lives of people with disability

Nominated MP Dennitah Gati (left) in a chat with people living disability at Jomo Kenyatta Sports Ground in Kisumu on April 08,2018. [File, Standard]
Economic growth punctuated with increasing inequality has continued to define Kenya’s socio-economic narrative. 

Having played a critical role in steering the development of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are driven by the principle “leave no one behind”, the Government has another golden opportunity to demonstrate leadership to the world as it co-hosts the Global Disability Summit in July with the UK government in London.

Like in many other areas, Kenya has put in place progressive policy and legal frameworks with the intention of improving lives of Persons with Disability (PWD).

These for instance include Persons with Disabilities Act of 2003 that among other provisions require; adjustments to public buildings to make them accessible, public transport to be made accessible and infrastructure in general to be more accommodating.

There is also the 5 per cent quarter in employment, public appointment and/or election of persons with disabilities provided for both in the Act and the Constitution.

Implementation of these and many other policy and legal frameworks, however, have been weak.

Disability Summit

What, then, is the scale of need? As stakeholders working on disability and the Government convened for the national disability summit on May 22, 2018 ahead of the Global Disability Summit in London, it is now time for us as a country to do some introspection and ask important questions.

Do we really know the number of Kenyan’s living with disability? Do we know where they are?

Are we doing enough to address issues of stigma and discrimination?

What do we need to do to improve implementation of policy and legal frameworks to improve the lives of our fellow citizens living with disability?

To answer all the questions, we must be able to answer the first one. 

It is clear that Kenya lacks current and credible data on disability. The 2009 Census estimated the population of persons with disabilities to be 3.5 per cent of the then national population (1.33 million).

An earlier report by the National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) estimated the number at 4.6 of the population in 2007.

In both cases, the figures are much lower than the 15 percent global estimates by the World Health Organization and the World Bank in 2011.

It is notable that the Ministry of Education in collaboration with Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE) conducted a survey in 2017 that indicates that 1, 901, 943 children with disabilities are in the school system.

The report pegs the number of those out of school and needing to be in school at 587,289. 

Information system

Kenya really needs to do more to improve the lives of PWDs. 

At the very minimum, the government and relevant agencies must put in place a reliable, timely and appropriate data and information system that can guarantee regular updates of data on PWD to inform policy formulation, development planning, service delivery and participation of PWDs (including Children with Disabilities) in national development. 

Second, the Government must focus on ensuring effective implementation of policy and legal frameworks that aim at improving lives of those with disabilities.

These require adequate resourcing to support implementation as well as investment in social protection mechanisms for people with disabilities.

Third, for the Government to truly achieve the aspirations for Free Primary Education and Free Day Secondary Education and demonstrate commitment to the right to education for all citizens as envisioned in Article 43 of the Constitution, it must ensure that children with disability enjoy equal rights to education.

Education is key to ensuring that persons with disabilities realise their full human potential and enjoy other rights such as the right to work and employment.

Lastly, all stakeholders must put concerted efforts to fight and overcome widespread stigma and discrimination that affect PWDs differently.

Stigma and discrimination lead to humiliating stereotypes and prejudices.

Mr Aluoka works with Save the Children International

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