Disability is a term that comes heavily associated with negative connotations in Kenya. This conception is as a result of the cultural beliefs that form the lens through which Kenyans first interact with disability, which is then perpetuated as a subconscious bias throughout their lives. Some of these cultural beliefs include the myth that disability comes about as a result of witchcraft, curses, and/or punishment from God for some sin committed among others.
The effect of this stereotype is the cause of the stigma, discrimination and eventually disenfranchisement that characterizes the lives of persons with disability. The net of injustice tightens even further for women with disabilities. Research has shown that they face “double discrimination” because of the intersection of their identities as both woman and disabled in a highly patriarchal and able-ist society.
The issues unique to young women with disabilities often fall through the cracks of mainstream women rights organizations as a result of the lack of inclusion and representation within those larger groups. Further, even in the instances when there is representation, the issues are not articulated as clearly because they exist in direct conflict. The conflict arises due to the apparent difference between disabled and non-disabled female bodies.
In a society driven by visual representations of narrow beauty standards, women with disabilities have been largely invisible. Value is placed on the bodies that most satisfy the socially constructed aesthetic, and because disabled bodies are culturally considered an aberration, they fall short and are therefore dismissed.
This dismissal escalates into outright erasure because the effect of not being considered valuable means that they are not represented, included or considered for anything. The media, for one, which is responsible for pushing messages that shape the consciousness of societies will always choose to play it safe by only aligning their messages to viewer expectations rather than challenging the norm that equates disabled women with asexuality.
This is only one aspect of the picture, it however informs all other sides of the balance because if a part of the demographic is missing from the picture considered representative of the whole society, there will appear to be no demand for tailored products, services and information.
The lack of demand in turn means no supply. A vicious cycle has been created in this way and young women with disabilities are trapped in it.
We believe it is important to provide tools for women with disabilities to tell their own stories and create visibility from an empowerment standpoint that contributes to educating the community and changing negative social norms. The stories of women with disabilities are a powerful way to advocate for their rights applying advocacy strategies on their lived experience. Additionally, recreating their own stories is also a way to heal and to empower themselves.
Document the lived realities of women and girls with disabilities from a human rights and gender standpoint and amplify their experiences to contribute national discourse, thereby changing social norms. Together, we utilize these productions across various social media campaigns, to develop strategic partnerships that support and facilitate safe spaces for interactions and dialogue on the rights of women and girls with disabilities.
A network of women with disabilities engaging in rights advocacy and promoting accountability and good governance.
Women with disabilities are skilled in storytelling, documentation, data collection and social media