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

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.

The two Sleeping blind giants in Kenya: author Mugambi Paul

Reading the annual general meeting invite by the Kenya society for the blind gives a familiar script.
The process and conduct of doing things seem to be usual.
No logical or pragmatic turnaround of event.
The Kenya Society for the Blind is a statutory charitable organization established in 1956 by an Act of Parliament this institution is meant to guide, offer technical support to matters Blindness and vision impaired to the government and stakeholders.
Has Kenya society for the Blind lived to its promises envisaged in the 1956 at?
What is the role of government in ensuring the Blind and vision impaired persons live to exploit their potentials?
Did the government escape duty and obligation to the blind and vision impaired persons?
When shall we have the updated Kenya society for the blind act to meet the current issues faced by the blind and vision impaired persons?
The act needs to be aligned with the Kenyan constitution 2010, UNCRPD, Public ethics act and public participations act.

This is not to say that nothing is happening.
As a matter of fact,
Kenya society for the blind has held several charity activities geared towards education of the blind pupils.
Additionally, there are many grey areas on matters Blindness and vision impairment in Kenya.
Its either the Kenya Blindness sector has decided to be dormant or the system has refused to change.
For instance, in matters governance even with known lawyers we aren’t able to differentiate the roles played by board members and staff.
This is totally uncalled for and review needs to be done urgently.

This seems to be a common practice among the disabled persons organization in
Kenya. With this notwithstanding, in matters programming several issues can be raised.
What are the pros and cons of having car garages in the premises?
How many blind and vision impaired persons have gainfully been absorbed by the new ventures?

Several studies and social media posts have continuously demonstrated this behavior.

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secondly on face value the Kenya union of the blind is supposed to be the voice of blind and vision impaired in Kenya.
theoretically, Kenya union of the blind is mandated to be bold and grant the self and systemic advocacy initiatives among the blind and vision impaired persons.
It’s an institution where the blind and vision impaired persons can be able to become self-advocate.
It is also a platform
For engagement with government and stakeholders.
Can we claim the blind and vision impaired persons are self-advocates?
Is there a mentorship and leadership practice?
Where is the status implementation of marekesh treaty??
In matters governance Kenya union of the blind stand to be condemned for its status.
Am not surprised that the largest blindness organization in Kenya has the same chairperson for the last 30 years.

To make the matters worse
The chairperson was appointed as a commissioner in a state organ which is also supposed to play an oversight role on disability matters in the country.
This is a true example of conflict of public interests!
This discussion is held in low tones in the disability sector.
Am not flabbergasted when the Kenyan blindness sector has not experienced significant reforms for its current and future generations.
The barriers faced by blind and vision impaired persons have been compounded by the sleeping advocacy organ.
It seems the mediocre practises are in the Kenyan DNA.
Several researches have shown how many blind and vision impaired persons have low esteem combined with the restrictive environment they have lived.
This affirms why most individuals with disabilities are not able to advocate for themselves.
On the other hand, the disabled persons who seem to advocate for themselves are treated as riles or individuals who are outcasts.
Its high time the Kenyan blindness sector arose from slumbered and demonstrate with collective and unifying voice life will be better for present and future generation of the Blind and vision impaired persons. A clarion call is be stalled upon individuals to show the light.
As Martin Niemöller a prominent Lutheran pastor in reference to the Nazi regime, once said;
“First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out; because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out; because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out; because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Furthermore, there has been rise of new entrants in the Kenyan blindness sector.
In other words, the new kids on the block in the blindness and vision impaired sector need to take lessons from the 2 sleeping giants.
This will aid effective engagement and bring the blind and vision impaired persons to their rightful place.
The Kenyan government needs to establish an oversight agency to ensure the Blind and vision impaired persons do not become vulnerable under this circumstance.
Its clearly known that there are no support mechanisms in place to support blind and vision impaired persons.
The 98 % of the blind and vision impaired individuals are just survivors in Kenya.

some recommendations to the Kenya society for the blind and Kenya union of the blind.
1. Put the house in order by reviewing the ACT of 1956. By public participation and engaging policy makers.
2. Review the governance and regulation policies.
3. Conduct a self-surgery before the reforms take place. To demonstrate this, we Kenya used to have telephone booths later on Mobile took over. We used to have tined cooking oil now we have rapped and plastic cooking oils.to bring matters to perspective, Kenya society for the Blind used to advocate for persons with albinism. Things changed drastically and now persons with albinism left the Blind and vision impaired wagon for better tides.
All in all, the future is bright for the blind and vision impaired persons.
As a public policy scholar on diversity and inclusion I will strive to contribute by rearing many more disabled persons to be their own best advocate
I have recognized that as a blind person, if you know the laws and understand your rights you are the most authentic spokesperson for yourself. Thus, much of my work is now cut out
It doesn’t matter the time, but we are heading there.
Advocacy is one of the most important reasons for me to connect with disabled people and their families. When I do, I will teach them that they are not alone,
I will empower them with the tools to raise their own expectations, and I will connect them with an unparalleled network that will be a lifelong resource for them
to continue to be strong advocates for themselves.

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