“When you hear the word ‘disabled’, people immediately think about people who can’t walk or talk or do everything that people take for granted. Now, I take nothing for granted. But I find the real disability is people who can’t find joy in life and are bitter”, says Terri Garr, a motivational speaker.
When I heard Terry speak, I asked myself, WHO IS THE DISABLED? WHAT ARE HIS OR HER HUMAN RIGHTS? HOW YOUNG ARE THEY? DOES THE CONSTITUTION DEFINE RESTRAINS OVER THE SAME? As for Kenya, the Human Rights commission defines the disabled as the naturally challenged beings whose daily livelihood does not follow the norms of normalcy, but rather struggles through the corridors of life to make ends meet.In Kenyan law, Human Rights are the fundamental rights of dignity and life as realized when the constitution was promulgated in the year 2010. Chapter four of the constitution is very clear on this, especially on the protection and consideration of persons with disability. It explicitly spells out that the disabled, when it comes to political leadership, are mandated to run for the same offices are the rest of the citizens.
Seventy per cent of the disabled population in Kenya is the young people. Yet, in spite of the constitutional provisions that the authorities speak so beautifully about today, they still suffer the wrath of slingshots and arrows of discrimination, marginalization, stigmatization and economic disparity. When a child is born or develops a disability, his or her family and community often see it as a tragic event. In many communities, there are certain traditional beliefs associated with the causes of disability, such as curses and contagion, which results in these children and their mothers being shunned and isolated. Moreover, families tend not to prioritize the needs of children with disabilities, which are shown by higher levels of malnutrition, lower rates of immunization, and higher rates of infection and communicable disease among children with disabilities.
All of the issues that affect young people, such as access to education, employment, health care and social services, also affect youth with disabilities, but in a far more complex way. Attitudes and discrimination linked to disability make it much more difficult for them to go to school, to find work or to participate in local activities. In many communities, both rural and urban, the environment is immensely challenging with physical and communication barriers that make it hard for them to participate in social life. For instance crossing the road for the blind and the wheel-chaired, going up the stairs within offices among others. To a worse extent, some – if not most – are turned away during job interviews.
There is a significant dearth of research on the prevalence and consequences of disabilities among youth. The data that does exist shows that young people with disabilities face many more challenges than their non-disabled peers. In addition, they may also have to cope with challenges linked to gender, poverty, ethnicity or sexuality.
Yet as we condemn them in their status, the disabled youth have strived to endeavor the betterment of Kenya as a nation. Many have gone to colleges and the universities, and in the end some have fought their ways into the economic bulwarks of our country. A case in point is the albino Judge by the name Mumbi Ngugi who stars at the high court day in day out. In the political circles we have a nominated member of parliament by the name Mwaura whose quest for equity and equality has been trending ever since he joined parliament. The blind expert, Dr. Okii Ombaka, though deceased, always advocated for the constitutional change, yet the able citizens just sat back! In sports, we have Henry Wanyoike, whose credentials in both academics and athletics can only be matched internationally. In Kisumu County, we have the Kibos School for the blind, which the country relies on when it comes to entertainment and role models in the society. The list is endless… Nonetheless, the government officials still give the disabled a very wide berth!
As a concerned activist and Kenyan citizen at heart, I advise to go forward; topping on the budgetary allocation should be the plight and rescue of the disabled in Kenya. The Kenyan government should ensure that the disabled have access to the mainstream policy system and services for instance health and well-being, economic and social security and education.
Specific programs and services for people with disabilities should be enhanced. Such concerns as the rehabilitation that include the hearing aid, white cane for the blind, wheel chair that inclusively will improve functioning, independence and productivity so to speak.
A national disability strategy and plan of action has to be adopted. This will set out a comprehensive and long-term vision for improving the well-being of persons with disabilities. The development, implementation and monitoring of the national strategy should include stakeholders such as government ministries, non-governmental organizations, professionals, the disabled and their organizations.
The disabled should be involved in day-to-day activities of the government. They do have unique insights about their disability and situation for example in formulation of policies, laws and services they should be involved and or consulted. This will enhance their capacity within their organizations.
Above all, the government should ensure adequate funding to the disabled organizations so as to expand health care centers and social services.
The government and the communities at large must henceforth translate the recommendations into action. In order to do this, stronger and stringent commitment and action is required from a broad range of stakeholders. Kenya must revisit its stand, not only in blue print, but the practical part of it. Failure to which, Cicero’s analogy that “Freedom suppressed and then regained, bites with keener fangs than freedom endangered”, will come to haunt vehemently!
Latest posts by David Aluodo (see all)
- Domestic Workers or Slaves? A Question for Kenya - 7 September 2014
- The Status of Refugees in Kenya - 9 August 2014
- The Situation of Human Rights of Disabled Youth in Kenya - 11 July 2014