Women parliamentarians and disability rights activists are calling for the government and other stakeholders to set the welfare of women and girls living with disabilities as a priority.
Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) and Women Challenged to Challenge (WCC) held a meeting in Nairobi to consult on how to collaborate and ensure that women and girls living with disabilities are at the centre of the development agenda.
Outgoing Principal Secretary for Sports and Heritage, Josephta Mukoba highlighted challenges unique to women and girls living with disabilities, different from those of men living with disabilities and able-bodied women.
Women and girls living with disabilities are ranked the poorest of the poor by the World Health Organisation. The situation gets even worse in the face of drought and recession.
“Disabled women and girls experience double marginalisation based on both their gender and impairment,” Mukoba said.
Mukoba added that women with disabilities are at a higher risk of sexual gender-based violence.
“A non-disabled woman stands a higher chance of escaping from an aggressor. What are the chances of a woman who is blind, or with mobility problems running fast from their abuser?” she posed.
Mukoba also highlighted a lack of sexual reproductive resources among women and girls with disabilities. “Most service providers in the healthcare industry are insensitive, especially towards pregnant women,” she said.
She spoke of incidents where nurses and healthcare workers have expressed plain coarseness. “I’ve had incidents where some of us have been asked how and why they got pregnant,” said Mukoba.
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She also noted that in many traditional societies, the social role of women and girls is primarily defined through motherhood and homemaking.
With fewer opportunities to fulfil those ideals, disabled women and girls often experience more discrimination than non-disabled peers.
“There are unique challenges women with disabilities face. In most African cultures, women inherit their husband’s property. In our case, it is unlikely that a woman with a disability will get married, given the stigma,” said Mukoba.
“When the parents pass on, women with disabilities are often left destitute,” she said
Currently, the government sets aside Sh200 million of its Sh3 trillion budget, an amount that legislators feel the government should increase.
“I would urge the current government to allocate more of the budget to PWDs,” said Lilian Gogo, member of parliament, Rangwe constituency.
Beatrice Elachi, MP, Dagoretti North constituency, said she would collaborate with WCC to ensure children living with disabilities are integrated into any school they go to and ensure placement of jobs.
“In the current appointments, PWDs have not been included, and I hope the president will appoint PWDs as directors and Chief Officers in state corporations,” she said.