The Australian High Commission and This-Ability Consulting hosted a breakfast roundtable on Thursday at the Intercontinental Hotel, Nairobi.
In consultation with the International Labour Organization Global Business and Disability Network, the four hour roundtable included discussions on pertinent issues on disability inclusion in the private sector.
Present were Australian high commissioner John Feakes, Devolution, Planning and Gender Development chair Gloria Ndekei, This-Ability Consullting CEO Lizzie Kiama, AAR Health Services director Maryjka Beckman.
, LONDON, United Kingdom Jul 24 – The first ever global disability summit attracting participants from governments, the civil society, the private sector, donor agencies and charities has kicked off in London.
Kenya’s delegation is headed by the Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani.
Addressing a civil society forum on Monday, the Cabinet Secretary said Kenya was honoured to co-host the summit with the government of the UK.
“We expect to get the best out this unique event and the people gathered here are in leadership positions that are crucial for the implementation of the outcomes of the event,” he said.
The civil society forum was a pre-cursor to the main summit that takes place today.
Yatani said Kenya takes the summit seriously and is a willing partner in the improvement of the welfare of persons with disabilities.
“I am bringing you greetings from our president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and the people of the republic of Kenya,” he told the gathering of participants from across the world.
The summit, which is taking place at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London, is anchored on four key themes; Stigma and discrimination, inclusive education, economic empowerment and, innovation and technology.
In her welcome remarks via video link, the British Secretary of State for international development Penny Mordaunt said she was delighted to host the summit together with the government of Kenya and the International Disability Alliance.
She said, “I look forward to deliberations that will galvanise moment and commitments to deliver real and lasting change for people with disabilities.”
Five Kenyan legislators, living with disabilities, from the Senate and National Assembly are among the delegates at the summit.
Nominated Senator Dr. Gertrude Musuruve said she looks forward to commitments that will boost economic empowerment of persons with disabilities.
“Persons with disabilities should not be seen a burden to the society. If empowered, they can stand on their own and contribute to economic development,” she said.
Kajiado County Woman Representative Janet Teiyaa said Kenya lags behind when it comes to making public transport disability friendly. “I hope Kenya can implement what I have seen in London. The public transport system was designed with persons with disabilities in mind,’ she noted. “For example, there are ramps for wheel chairs into buses as well priority seats for PWDs in buses.”
Makueni County Woman Representative Rose Museo said she was looking forward to seeing stronger partnerships that yield better visibility and opportunities for persons with disabilities.
Anderson Gitonga, the Executive Director of the United Disabled Persons of Kenya said, “We are very hopeful that the governments and development partners will come together to make practical and tangible commitments that can be translated into real programmes and interventions that can change lives of persons with disabilities.”
Lizzie Kiama from This Ability Consulting and a champion of the rights of women living with disabilities said Kenyans have not invested in learning on disability issues. “We rely on our personal experience with disability which is problematic because it comes from a medical and charity model and we need to change approach,” she observed.
It is estimated that globally about 1 billion people have some form of disability and they continue to face appalling levels of stigma, discrimination and abuse.[This article was authored by Alex Chamwada of Chams Media]
Lizzie Kiama founded the Women & Wheels Project to open up wheelchair sports to women and girls both with and without disabilities in Nairobi, Kenya. Through her own experiences as a differently-abled woman, she has great experience working to develop disability-inclusion strategies for organizations. In addition to the wheelchair sports, the project will also incorporate interactive workshops on gender-based violence, sexual & reproductive rights, leadership and empowerment.
Lizzie was first introduced to wheelchair rugby in the United States by Mobility International USA through a program called Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD). Using what she gained from WILD, plus her experience in the disability field, Lizzie created a successful workshop that integrated both standard and differently-abled women in this unique sport. The hunger for this subject is strong in Kenya, as adaptive sports are rarely available, and when they are, they are generally reserved for men. She is already planning her next workshop in March, and has collaborated with the Ministry of Sports in Kenya, Blaze Sports America and a team of experts that are happy to volunteer their skills to the participants.
“I believe this project will give both disabled and non-disabled women and girls the motivation and drive to pursue their rights” says Kiama, “while also enabling access to opportunities that have been reserved for more able bodies and more often male members of the community.”
The funds from The Pollination Project will be used to expand the project and their ability to reach more people.
GRANT AWARD DATE: DECEMBER 11, 2013
Lizzie Kiama, Director of Gender and Disability at This-Ability Consulting
LMG: What does “break barriers, open doors to realize an inclusive society for all” mean to you?
Lizzie Kiama: The statement to me means removing all obstacles that prevent access to opportunities for self-development of particularly persons with disabilities. Accessing education, healthcare, employment, infrastructure such as transport and technology, and other basic human rights such as food, shelter and security. In my opinion, the biggest barrier to accessing opportunities is attitude; negative cultural attitudes towards disability in a particular society are the main reason children with disabilities are kept hidden, they then do not have access to basic education and healthcare, they grow up and become adults with disabilities who cannot fend for themselves, becoming beggars or hawkers and doing menial jobs.
I also believe ones attitude has the ability to change ones circumstance, despite being born with a disability or having acquired a disability later in life, I believe we all have the power within ourselves to make life better for ourselves and our families. Although, it is important to note that it is much harder for the uneducated disabled person in rural Kenya to live a dignified life, only because they live a life of exclusion and discrimination. “Break barriers, open doors to realize an inclusive society for all” for me, only means that there remains a lot to be done. Development organizations working in rural areas on issues such as Education, Health and Economic Empowerment are in a position of power, they can make a difference in many disabled peoples lives if they choose to make a conscious effort at inclusion. If I could address them, I would say to approach the communities they work with and focus on practical, sustainable, inclusive methods. Make sure the disabled children are going to school; invest in informal learning for the adults too. There are a many projects that can also serve to stimulate an individual’s intelligence.
LMG: What is the most important progress you have witnessed in implementing disability-sensitive policies and/or promoting public awareness?
Kiama: I have realized people are not inherently evil; everyone wants everyone else to live a good life, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their lives. With Disability policies, I find that it is a very personal experience, and if you come at it from a human perspective, I have found people to always be receptive, and they are often shocked at how little they know about the Disability world. My approach to Disability issues is that they are dynamic and can impact you in one-way or another. For example, my Women & Wheels Project is a wheelchair rugby development workshop that incorporates sessions on gender-based violence, health, sexual and reproductive rights targets women and girls of different abilities. It has captured a lot of attention because (I think) by not focusing on Disability issues but on issues that generally affect all women and girls; we are actually tackling issues of Disability in a roundabout way. We are practicing inclusion, and as the women interact and have fun, they are not disabled. They are all women.
LMG: From your perspective, what remaining challenges or obstacles are of highest priority?
Kiama: Personally, I feel access to education for children with disabilities is of highest priority. It is my opinion that tackling issues from the root is the only to ensure we are not always chasing our tails. I also think we need to change our laws to be more inclusive of people with disabilities. After countries that ratified the UNCRPD and enacted it into their laws, we were all hopeful that things would change for the disabled people. In Kenya, for example we have a very progressive Disability Act but there is no enforcement. I think for a law to be passed, there should be penalties that follow, should the said law be broken. The Disability Act for example has a requirement that all organizations reserve 5% employment positions for people with disabilities, this has been in effect for almost 5 years, and yet you can count the number of disabled people in meaningful employment positions. Some organizations remain oblivious to this law yet they are supposed to up to date with the current labor laws. I think if we borrowed a leaf from the American Disability Act, we would see more changes in our society.
LMG: As we approach the post-2015 time period, what actions do you recommend for leaders like yourself to take to encourage support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities and to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life?
Kiama: I would recommend when one is working towards the integration of persons with disabilities, it is important to remember that the ultimate goal is to have a fully inclusive society, this means that we all want people with different abilities to live together and to support each other in accessing opportunities. Political, social, economic and cultural life does not exist in a bubble; we all contribute to each other’s well-being and we should all find a way to exist together. As leaders in the Disability world, we need to find ways of including non-disabled people to further our cause for equality, dignity and justice, we all need to bring our individual talents to the table which can only ensure results and make our work efficient, sustainable and truly inclusive.