Access to education is more limited for girls than boys with disabilities in all the countries in the African region. School buildings are not always accessible and lack of accessible and gender-disaggregated sanitation facilities lead to higher rates of exclusion from mainstream education. Sexual abuse and forced sterilisations are not unknown in special boarding schools for children with disabilities where these violations occur frequently as a result of predators taking advantage of the vulnerabilities caused by a lack of education and awareness, lack of individualised attention due to overcrowded and under-resourced facilities. Persons with disabilities remain less likely to attend school and complete primary education and more likely to be illiterate than persons without disabilities.
Discrimination of girls and women with disabilities starts at home and can in extreme cases lead to infanticide, chaining up or caging children, denying them food or hiding them. Having a child with a disability is often seen as a shame or curse and often leads to abandonment of the child and his/her mother by the father. According to UNICEF, there is a higher percentage of children with disabilities aged 14 and younger (6.4%) in sub-Saharan Africa compared to the rest of the world, while approximately 58 million school aged children with disabilities are estimated to be out of school worldwide, with more than half of this number living in sub-Saharan Africa.
Article 54 of the Kenyan Constitution particularly targets persons with disabilities and provides that persons with disabilities have a right to access educational institutions and facilities that are integrated into society to the extent compatible with their interests and needs (GOK, 2010). Despite this being clearly outlined in our Kenyan constitution, realities on the ground paint a very different picture. Most schools and learning institutions are not accessible to women and girls with disabilities, there are numerous barriers: physical, communication, attitudinal, institutional; existing curricula do not prepare learners with disabilities for success.
There is still a lot of cultural stigma around women and girls with disabilities, as a result, the literacy rate for women and girls with disabilities is extremely low (less than 1.5%). Out of an already low number of women and girls with disabilities that are enrolled in school, an even lower number are likely to see it to completion. These rates are even more extreme in regard to digital literacy. These facts contribute to the marginalization of women and girls with disabilities.
Women with disabilities in Kenya face numerous challenges and are often left out of key activities, one of which is access to quality, convenient, accessible education. Due to this, they lack the skills to be competitive in the job market as they are denied equal access to education. Eventually they are not exposed to the same opportunities that women and girls without disabilities have access to. This catalyzes the cycle of poverty.
Our SKILLS platform was developed from an inclusive and accessible approach, the platform was built with the needs of women with different disabilities at the core. SKILLS allows participants to access content, interact with each other as well as interact with administrators for any assistance that may be needed. As SKILLS is entirely virtual, it offers a unique opportunity to be able to expand it to include various other disciplines. Course content can also be changed on the go. The platform offers a text to speech function, grey scale text and text enlargement function for persons with visual and hearing impairments. Constant quality control to ensure the platform has the relevant functioning content is conducted. A live test run is periodically undertaken to establish suitability, bugs and challenges when using the platform.
The platform can be extended to include any topic as one of its advantages is that the participants can access content from their unique geographical locations at any time of the day.
A needs assessment is conducted to establish areas of interest, disability accommodations to take into consideration to ensure equity, as well as software and hardware gaps that need to be addressed for participants to be able to effectively utilize the platform.
After the needs analysis, an orientation schedule is drawn out to guide each participant based on their unique disability and effectively train them on how to navigate the platform, access content and download and complete tasks and assignments.
This Ability Trust would like to work with various stakeholders to expand the SKILLS platform to include other disciplines that would appeal to the training needs of women and girls with disabilities in various counties.
To increase opportunities for learning and development for various stakeholders working to advance the rights of women and girls with disabilities in Kenya.