Paul’s Journey as Mpofu Namba 1
As the first blind humanitarian worker, it has not been easy. There have been ups and downs against the common disability of the mind set. Refugees with disabilities are a great motivation to him. Their faith, spirit and hope are the major driving force for Mugambi since he joined the humanitarian service.
According to the PWDs who have interacted with him, Paul is viewed as one of the greatest inspirations around the Dadaab refugee camp and Kenya at large. He is a creative go getter and will stop at nothing to ensure the representation of the marginalized groups.
Having served in various positions in the Kenyan disability movement, he’s brought invaluable experience, which has led to great change in perception and enhancement of disability mainstreaming.
His Experience in the Field at a Glance
About the Community in Dadaab
98% of the refugees are from Somali and they are all Muslims. They are very conservative. It’s important to note that earlier, it was very difficult for persons with disabilities to just walk on the streets or say anything to “normal people”. PWDs in the camps had no place. He witnessed children chained, or hidden from the outside world. Even worse, persons with disabilities were regarded as a curse from Allah or punishment to parents who had wronged God. These myths have been ingrained for so many years.
Turning around the Somali community to appreciate and recognize persons with disabilities has not been an easy task .Paul together with his team have achieved the impossible. Some of the achievements include:
Through his efforts most Organizations have embraced building new structures accessible to all e.g. Handicap International, Save the children, World food programme, among others have build rumps and pavements to ensure PWDs are accessing basic services. Provision of Braille materials to visually impaired persons. Previously information was read to them verbally by sighted persons.
Most agencies have started to embrace employment of refugees with disabilities. E.g. Lutheran world federation, World food programme, Care International as teachers, food scoopers, outreach workers etc. Currently Care international have brought national citizens and refugee staff with disabilities.
Leadership Participation and Involvement:
Paul has strengthened the Disabled Persons Organization in the camps through capacity building. He has created linkages with agencies in Dadaab to provide better services to refugees with disabilities. Through this, the disability coordination forums have been enhanced. The refugees with disabilities voices are now heard, and they have been directly elected as block leaders and section leaders. Persons with disabilities have greatly shown that they can participate in elective posts rather than being nominated to vie for them. It Empowers refugees with disabilities to be their own advocates.
Below, Click to listen to Paul’s farewell speech during his last day at Dadaab
In 2011, 116 refugees with Disabilities were elected to very senior leadership positions in the camps. This was the moment that took us by surprise. The roles that Paul Mugambi and his team have played in Dadaab include:-
• First Blind Humanitarian working with Handicap International in Dadaab.
• Introducing theatre concept and formation of the Mainstreaming awareness group from 2010.
• Spearheading the Dadaab Disabled Persons Organizations.
• Representing Handicap International in different forums.
• Advocating for cross impairment in accessibility of different services.
Sports and recreation:
Through his experience in sports he has spearheaded development of inclusive and adaptive sports at the Dadaab refugee camps. Before the insecurity engulfed the camps, refugees with disabilities participated in different disciplines [Goal ball, sitting volley ball] right now is minimal.
He has a musical talent, and he has released songs specifically on peace to Somalia titled “Stop the war in Somalia”. He has also recorded a song titled “Never Give Up” which encourages persons with disabilities to work hard and fight for their rights. You can watch the video to this song by following this link.
Enrolment in School:
Paul has immensely contributed in education through his advocacy in child protection, education forums and motivating children with disabilities to attend and be retained in school. Most of the child friendly spaces have enhanced the physical access.
Training of Agencies and Community Structures
Paul has immensely contributed towards training, preparing training material for different target groups. This has enhanced the reduction of barriers of services which were in existence.
Paul has served in different thematic areas at the Dadaab and national level where several major decisions are made. He has contributed to the review of several standard operating procedures including the Child protection, SGBV procedures, Best Interest Determination, Education Strategy Refugee Policy, the Constitutional Review Process, Disability Bill, Social Protection Policy, Youth Policy and Bill, and many more.
He has used the United Nations Convention for persons with disabilities as a tool for advocacy and support implementation.
He was a key informant in the development of the Guidance note on the forced displacement of persons with disabilities by UNHCR and handicap international of 2011.
He has also contributed to the first Kenyan state shadow report on the implementation and monitoring of the UNCRPD 2012. This ensures mobility aids are issued as per who guidelines. Paul has been vocal and supporting development of tools on issuance of mobility aids. He has stood firm to advocate for proper issuance by respecting the rights of persons with disabilities which at most times is ignored.