DREAM OF DISABLED KENYANS. A speech on 3rd December to commemorate the international day of persons with disabilities in Kenya. Author Mugambi Paul

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As Lopita Nyong’o said “dreams are valid”

I am humbled and grateful as your Cabinet Secretary.
The Makueni governor,

My principle secretary,
NCPWD board and secretariat.,
The ministry of labor social services.
Distinguished disabled persons, wananchi hamjambo?

I’m preaching to the converted when I say that getting a job and having a job is an absolute game-changer in everybody’s life and that shouldn’t be any different for somebody who has a disability or somebody who lives without one.
The importance of the independence, the self-confidence, the skills and the connections to society and community that are created when you have a job are absolutely essential and not the least of which it means you have an income.
needless to say, we are committed as a Government around employment for all Kenyans but in my position as the Cabinet secretary for Labor and Social Services I’m very focussed on disability employment.
My one simple goal as the cabinet secretary responsible is to make sure we give Kenyans who have a disability access to the full suite of opportunities in the employment sector – whether it be self-employment, open employment, supported employment or other types of employment.
In other words, it is absolutely essential we continue to focus on that.
I want every Kenyan living with a disability who has the capacity to work to get a job.
In particular, I want to see more opportunities for every person who’s able to get into open employment, to actually be open employment.
I want to make sure that employers see employing a person with a disability as just a mainstream, everyday activity.
I want everybody who’s living with a disability to gain from the big for agenda plan by the president.

Furthermore, with respect to the world of work, Kenyans living with disabilities have historically faced serious challenges and barriers impeding their access to employment.
This represents a violation not only of their rights, but a loss for our societies and economies. Many persons with disabilities continue to face discrimination
with respect to opportunities and outcomes in the Kenya world of work.

According to Thorkil Sonne, Chairman of Denmark’s Council for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainable Development Goals (
“Results from many employers show that it makes good business sense to provide inclusive work environments for people with disabilities. You will get the
work done, and also harvest positive side-effects such as higher engagement, higher retention rate, joy of work, sense of purpose and improved management
skills in the workplace.”
Unfortunately, employment in Kenya does remain an issue for people with disability – I’m not telling you anything that you don’t know.its a proven fact that many employers in both public and private entities have continuously practiced marginalization and discriminatory tendencies [ILO 2017 Whiteford 2018]
For instance, some employers have failed to consult disable employees and thus arbitrarily transferring them.
This must stop since it causes mental distress and frustrate the employees with disabilities.
To make matters worse no provision of reasonable accommodation and measures are put into place.
As a government we shall take actions to ensure especially the public entities provide platform of consultation as envisaged in in the 2010 constitution. This is well supported by ensuring reasonable accommodation as enshrined in the UNCRPD and the public service disability mainstreaming regulations 2018.
My ministry will set the example by ensuring this is followed to the latter.
I also take note of Participation in the workforce for people with disability which is lower than those that live without a disability [daily nation 2015]
Participation rates for people without disability continues to improve in our workforce but participation rates for people with a disability hasn’t [Mugambi 2017[
In fact, at the moment there’s a 70-percentage point difference between the participation rate for people who are without disability and those with a disability.
Additionally, we are absolutely committed to make sure that we fix that problem and there is every reason that we can with the help of the people that are here in Makueni.
Improving employment outcomes is a high priority when it comes to disability and I’m sure that it’s absolutely the highest priority for Kenyan government.
But equally we understand that as Kenyan government there are things that we need to do, levers that we need to pull, policies that we need to put in place to ensure that we give you the best opportunity to deliver on behalf of the people in Kenya with disability.

Today, I wanted to talk about some of the key policy levers:
Social protection strategy.
NCPWD strategy
Persons with disability bill 2019.
Draft disability policy
National action plan on accessibility.
At the end of the day, my decisions are guided by what is best for the individual and that must be guided by the feedback that I get from individuals who live with disability and from people like you who engage on a day-to-day basis with the employment sector.
I hope the national employment authority, NCPWD, federation of Kenya employers and other stakeholders will be keen to realize this dream and vision of ensuring Kenyans with disabilities get to the job market.
Its clear in my mind employment of persons with disabilities is the most absolutely needful priority of all times.
We thank the NCPWD for the last 16 years for endeavoring to reach out to employers.
NCPWD through the disability mainstreaming have helped employers to get themselves up to speed in understanding what it is to employ somebody with a disability but, most importantly, to retain those people in the workforce.
Over the next 3 years, my ministry will collaborate with partners and ensure we commit to reducing the unemployment rate among Kenyans with disabilities.
This is through having substantial reforms which will ensure improved employment outcomes.

I am keen to hear back from you as to how you think things are going and what you would like to see us doing in the future so that we ensure that we maximize the opportunity for every Kenyan with a disability who wants to work to be able to get that job and keep it.
In other words, this will ensure disabled persons are at the co plans and get to participate in public policy reforms and implementation.
Moreover, A crucial element in all our efforts to increase the employment outcomes for people with disability is the attitude of employers.
It’s disappointing to see that whilst research points to the fact there is a desire for employers to employ people with disability, that desire doesn’t often translate into actual action.
A lack of confidence appears to remain in the wider employment sector about employing people with disability.
I want to work with you on how we encourage greater understanding in the employment sector about the huge benefits of employing somebody with a disability.
If we can just get the employers through the door, they will be able to understand that with the right support people with a disability can be some of the greatest employees that they will ever have.
I think that’s what we need to make sure to continue.
We can do better; we will do better and I’m sure working together that that outcome will actually be achieved.
We need to make sure we give people with disability access to the full suite of options for employment – be it self-employment, supported employment or mainstream private and public sector.
Lastly I promise Over the coming 12 months the Department will be working with all sectors, whether it be your sector, whether it be people with disability, whether it be the business community or county governments, to make sure that we develop a Disability Employment Strategy that starts to mainstream disability employment into everybody’s vocabulary.
Because clearly everybody benefits, absolutely everybody benefits, when more Kenyans are in working.
Lets all work towards achieving the global commitments we made in July 2018.
In conclusion can I just say thank you so much for the opportunity to be here today.
I hope you have a fantastic Christmas holiday.
Kindly do not drink and drive.
Kenya needs you more.
Happy new year 2020

The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy, diversity, inclusion and sustainability expert.