Will you Be my Valentine? “Tips for an extra special day with your blind partner” Author Mugambi Paul

Friendship, love, and romance are in the air with Valentine’s Day in Nairobi..

Whether you’re on your first date, or it’s your tenth with your true love, planning the right date night, getting the right flowers, a gift, dinner reservations,
etc can be a bit stressful.

And you may imagine that going on a first date with someone who is blind or visually impaired can even be more awkward.

But in reality, going on a date with someone who is blind or low vision is no different than dating any other person.

Here are a few tips for sighted companions or partners to help make your date memorable.

#1 Sighted Guide

Consent is key! Once you’ve selected a place, made a reservation or planned an activity, don’t forget to brush up on your sighted guide technique.

There is an etiquette to offering sighted guide assistance to a blind person. Always ask first, don’t grab or push.

Now a days I combine my White cane experience with Sunu Band
to navigate indoor spaces like restaurants and cafes. Moreover, it has aided me with the line like at theaters, so I know when it’s my turn to move up in the queue.

The Sunu Band is also great for when you are doing a sighted guide as the blind or low vision person being guided retains awareness and more control.

#2 Be descriptive

But not overly so – allow your partner the chance to soak in the ambiance.

Now that you’ve arrived at that fancy, romantic restaurant or place, offer a lite description of where you are to your partner.

Allow your blind partner the chance to ask about his/or her surroundings.

#3 Don’t just read the menu

make it conversation instead of reading a list.
You know Nairobi hotels and restaurant do not offer braille, or large print menus, you have to check with your partner their preference.

If those aren’t available, you can start by asking what are they’re in the mood for drink and food? If it’s a place you know well, make a recommendation
or mention the specialty of the house.

But whatever you do, don’t order or speak for your blind or low vision partner. Especially, don’t allow waiters or staff to ask you to speak for your blind
partner.

In the event it happens, tell your waiter to direct the question or comment to your partner.

#4 Table manners are still king

And throw away the messy stereotypes. Enjoying a meal with someone who is blind or low vision is just like eating or drinking with anyone else. Again being
a little bit more descriptive is good.

When the meal arrives, you may offer a quick description of where things are on the table. For example, your wine glass is to your left or at your 9 O’clock.
Sometimes using the clock reference is helpful.

Remember, don’t overdo it and stress about the vision impairment. Just be yourself and enjoy each other’s company through great conversation, drinks, and
food. At the end of the date, the most important thing is that you both have fun.

Additionally, everyday should be a valentine.
You should even practise self-love.
Self-love means allowing yourself to be happy. Too often, we manipulate ourselves instead of increasing the amount of joy we bring to our lives.

So, every day, do things that make you feel good. Even 10 minutes of self-care can add up and make you feel much better in the long run. But you’re worth
more than 10 minutes. You are the most crucial person in your life. Act, accordingly, show love, and be open to receive love.
All in all, do things that fulfill your soul. Get rid of people who don’t make you feel good.
What others say or think about you has nothing to do with reality. It’s just their perception.

Sure, we’d all like to be around people who are kind and loving, but the harsh reality is that rudeness exists. Yet, it doesn’t need to affect you and
especially not your wellbeing.

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 cost of remaining mum on Kenyans living with disabilities and individuals with chronic illness Author Mugambi Paul

Research shows that most chronic illnesses can affect every single part of individuals life, but it doesn’t really look like it. Some chronic illnesses have constant pains and fatigue among individuals [WHO 2011].
On the other hand, I have engaged several individual in the social media platforms.
This has led me to learn several lessons
You might not know a person is suffering if you don’t communicate ]HI 2011].
I classify some of these individuals as having invisible disabilities.
This is to say invisible disabilities mean that often times,
people don’t believe that actually individuals can be sick. This leads to people saying common things that, despite usually having good intentions, can come off as rude,
dismissive, and ableist.

The one I’ve heard the most is something that has undoubtedly been said to every person with an invisible disability or illness – the dreaded ‘but you
don’t look disabled nor sick!’. This happens all too often as an offhand comment, but it’s also been followed by heartbreaking situations like eventually losing friends
who haven’t believed that chronic illness or having impairment was real because people don’t look or act sick in the way they think one should be?
So, to give you a bit of a crash course, here’s some examples of what NOT to say to people with chronic illness.

‘But you don’t look sick!’

Yep, I know – but I am. These five words reduce health down to appearance, which is not the case at all. You might be saying this with the best intentions
(hopefully shock, because someone look ~too stunning~ for someone who’s actually very ill) but what it actually does is hits on one of the biggest fears of chronically
ill people – that people don’t believe them.
Actually,
Personally, whenever someone says this, it just reminds me of the many times people haven’t believed I can’t see because I didn’t *look* Blind. You might mean it supportively,
but all I hear is doubt.
This is because am super in mobility and orientation especially in familiar territories.
Sometimes it’s an anxious moment for me when individuals with out disabilities just plainly discuss behind my back “look at him, he is just pretending, he is comfortable” not knowing I have to go an extra mile to orient myself, secondly he or she doesn’t know that I have to do it since I don’t have alternative.
Additionally, I note that Not all illnesses are visible.
I can guarantee you; every chronically ill person has tried absolutely everything they physically and financially can. I cannot think of one person who’s
simply said, ‘ah bugger, I’m chronically ill. I’m not going to bother trying things to feel better!’
Trust me, some have tried it all; all the doctors’ and specialists’ suggestions, and yes, a bunch of the tinfoil hat ones too (desperation and lack of medical
answers make for strange bedfellows).

Examples of suggestions of what my friends the blind community and other persons with disabilities have tried including: various supplements, Chinese herbs, marijuana, LSD, ketamine, essential
oils, drinking their own urine, crystals, B12 shots, spirulina, charcoal, detoxes and juice fasts, prayer and religion – the list goes on,
as a blind fellow you can guest which one of them, I have tried I’ll let you ponder on which).

And before you ask, yes
You have seen many disabled persons, the chronic ill persons going to work, or you saw a photo of one catching up with a friend on the weekend. That’s irrelevant to whether he or she look ‘okay’ to you now
He or she still remains ill, and he or she maintains his or her impairment since they do not disappear.
According to several studies they indicate the nature of chronic illness is, sadly, extremely can be unpredictable. One can have totally manageable levels of pain and fatigue one day, and barely able to
walk the next. Sometimes it’s because one accidentally overexerted himself and went over my limits, but sometimes symptoms flaring can be completely random.
If you find it annoying, just try to imagine how frustrating it is for individuals with chronic illnesses. Regardless, some have always sick and in pain – some days some are just able to manage
it (and hide it!) better than others.

‘You just need to snap out of it and push through.’

‘Pushing through’ actually makes someone, and many others with chronic pain and illness, worse.
In Kenya and other developing countries there is no particular policy framework addressing concerns of persons with chronic illnesses although a mention here and there on different framework.
Most families carry the burden of taking care of chronic ill individuals and this affects the economic and social wellbeing of the society at large. The resources used to trat could have been used for other functions [ILO 2017, undp 2016].
Its high time we have particular social protection measure to address persons who have chronic illnesses.
Moreover, one of the major experientials in the disability world and chronic illness which seems to be similar is the way the society expects us to push ourselves beyond our limits
Obviously its so great to push beyond limit but this doesn’t apply to all persons. What the society doesn’t understand persons with disabilities and individuals with chronic illnesses are not a homogenous group.
one is sick or disabled every single day, and know their body and their limits better than anyone – so telling one to ‘push through’ is actually
the worst possible advice. When you’re talking to someone with disability or a chronic illness, remember just because you’d be able to manage something, doesn’t mean
they can or should. Don’t assume someone’s health and limits for them. It totally removes their agency as a human being.
Besides having a disability some individuals might also be having chronic illnesses.
‘You’re too young to be sick!’ or sometimes for disabled persons they say woyee woyee how comes he is blind?

Yep! He or she is young! And sick or having a disability! It sucks. But sickness and chronic illness isn’t exclusively the domain of the elderly; people of all ages can get sick. The society needs to understand that Doesn’t
make their experiences less valid, or their identities abnormal. They just sick in a cool young person way, I guess. I don’t know – it’s a weird thing to
say, so just don’t.

‘If you stopped talking about it all the time and looked on the bright side, you’d feel better.’

I do! To be totally frank, as a blind fellow if I didn’t look on the optimistic side, I wouldn’t be alive right now. Being blind for 23 years now it’s not a walk in the park.
It takes strong will to be in this unjust society.
This also applies to other fellow disabled persons.
Needless to say,
Being chronically ill is also tough as hell, and many chronic
illnesses have strong ties to mental illness. One has to look on the bright side A LOT, otherwise their depression and just the daily battle of being sick
would drag one down and some can’t be able to get out of their beds.

All in all, people should be able to talk about their lived experience as much as they deem appropriate, and disability and chronic illness is not spoken about
enough. Let them vent, let us explain, let them talk about their day!

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.

Inside the Kenyan disability corridors of power Author Mugambi Paul

Over the past few years, the discourse agenda of many disabled Kenyans has been dominated by service delivery and public participation debate] Mugambi 2017] this is because both incredibly important issues. But amid these dominating subjects, have the voices of disabled Kenyans been hard?
Has Kenya improved its level of inclusiveness?
Globally, persons with disabilities are estimated to represent 15 per cent of the world’s population, but in many developing nations this percentage
can be significantly higher] world report 2011 UN enable 2011].
this is to say, population of 1.3 billion, disabled persons constitute an emerging market the size of China. Their Friends and Family add another 2.4 billion potential consumers who act on their emotional connection to PWD] Ilo 2017].
Together, PWD control over $8 trillion in annual disposable income] ILO 2016].
The aging Boomer population is adding to the number of the disabled daily. As Boomers’ physical realities change, their need and desire to remain active in society dovetails with the demands of PWD. This group controls a larger share of the national wealth than any previous generation. Does Kenya government know this?
Just like many developing nations Kenya is on automobile settings on matters disability inclusion.
Most public policies are well woven but poorly executed. This is quite evidenced by the rare and sometimes absence seen in leadership and decision-making roles, the visibility in
popular culture and media are low, absence of disabled representation in key policy decision organs and stakeholders, and recognition of the work as thought leaders and influencers is almost non-existent. What has been happening?
The Kenyan government has strongly concentrated on developing policies geared towards social safety nets. In other words, the Kenya government sees disabled persons as people who need care and do not deserve to contribute to the economy.
Debatably, if the Kenyan government could turn the coin, they would gain more tax collection from this single largest minority in Kenya.
This can be achieved once the government realizes and focusses on effective, first service and maximization of social assets] Whiteford 2018].
How will Kenya government meet the sustainable development goals 2030?
How will the vision 2030 be achieved?
How will the big 4 agenda be achieved?
The reality is disabled Kenyans have been left behind.
This has led to artist and disability activist to start to compose or entertain with the song “do not live us behind”
As evidenced in twitter tags and music.
Moreover, The work of the disability rights
movement often consists of them highlighting their absence from the public domain.
In other words, most regulations and legislation on disability are still shelved in the cabinet. this has led to continuous charity model of delivery of service with out clear roadmap towards right based approach. This is affirmed by the implementation of education policy practises etc
Needless to say, its popular for public and private organisations to claim that they are being inclusive, yet retention rates remain low for disabled people in most organisations, with very
few moving into positions of leadership or responsibility.

I observe, A key factor in understanding inclusion is that it lies in the eye of the beholder. Many organisations have good intentions on inclusion, yet their staff
members from minority groups don’t feel comfortable and leave within a short period. For other organisations inclusion is a reality, so long as everyone
fits in and conforms to company culture] eddy robber 1988].

It’s very easy to say you are being inclusive, it’s another matter to be viewed as being so by those who are the target for being included. I don’t want to sound like a broken glass “why should someone claim his or her organization, yet a disabled person can’t access a toilet?”
According to my findings Most people mean
well, but they forget their unconscious behaviours. Very few people are comfortable with stepping back to allow a person from a minority group (like a
disabled person) to take an opportunity over themselves. Even fewer seem comfortable with a disabled person being their supervisor.
Could this be one of the reasons of the low rate employment recorded by Kenyan public service report
in 2015?
There are those who consider inclusion to be not “seeing” a person’s difference. This isn’t inclusion, its assimilation.
There isn’t much point in having disabled employees to your team if they aren’t valued for their contribution. This seems like an unnecessary thing
to say, yet social media has heard many stories about disabled staff who are never sent the documents in a format they can read
and work on, or aren’t given time to hear what is happening via their interpreter, and even highly experienced employees who are never given the opportunity
to speak and share their views. They are, quite literally, token appointments.
As a public policy scholar and with lived experience on disability, I affirm that the focus must shift from charity model and have accommodation to a plan focused on specific actions to attract customers and talent in disabled persons markets.
Even the available market opportunities for the disabled are being snatched under our noses.
Why aren’t we represented in many government bodies?
Who is supposed to audit the leadership gaps in the disability sector?

All in all, many disabled people work in invisible ways, shifting ground from within existing business and government structures. This work is just as important, just
as necessary, as the work of those who use the public domain to challenge assumptions and perspectives on disabled people. Internal institutional barriers
need to be addressed as much as social assumptions and social policy. Without taking our place as 15% of Kenyan employment and leadership we won’t be in a position to
challenge the ableist structural barriers which deny an equitable disabled presence across the public and private domains.

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.

Untold success story of the Cash transfer programme in Kenya Author Mugambi Paul

Rising inequality isn’t a new concern. Many countries in the global are facing this phenomenon.
Oliver Stone’s movie “Wall Street,”
with its portrayal of a rising plutocracy insisting that greed is good, was released in 1987. But politicians, intimidated by cries of “class warfare,”
have shied away from making a major issue out of the ever-growing gap between the rich and the rest.
The best argument for putting inequality on the back burner is the depressed state of the economy. Isn’t it
more important
to restore economic growth than to worry about how the gains from growth are distributed?
I will look at the social protection aspects in Kenya and how it has contributed to changing the lives of most vulnerable persons in the society.
Secondly, I will strive to highlight the misgivings of the global commitments.
To begin, the 2019 to 2020 Kenyan Budget raised the issue of implementing a Single Registry for all social protection programmes. This will improve the coordination of social
protection programmes, which have been highly fragmented leading to numerous inefficiencies. According to the social assistance project the ministry of labour and social services will highly improve the outcomes of the social protection programme by having the 3 cash transfer programmes in one registry. This is a great move which will reduce the flows experienced in the systems.
However, the Registry should not only create a data base of
beneficiaries from all programmes but should also track beneficiaries until they are able to graduate. As a public scholar I recommend the Ministry of labour and social services and its partners should develop A strategy for non-labour
constrained households who have the potential to graduate to entrepreneurship and gainful employment. This will help in eliminating increased dependency
on social safety nets.
Secondly, the government of Kenya has scaled up the uptake of the universal health cover though not much has been discussed on the inclusivity of disabled persons to this well intended programme.
However, Today, the risk of childbearing related deaths has become rare among Kenyans mothers. Infant deaths have also declined significantly, while more children
can now live beyond their fifth birthdays than before. Although non-communicable diseases are emerging and threatening the health of many people, the health
system has grown stronger and more resilient to be able to eliminate this threat. The county and national government need to enhance the human resource capacity in the health sector and reduce the cost of health by also adapting a single registry in both public and private hospitals which all the medics can access under privacy laws of the clients with out incurring extra charges as in the current situation. another aspect of promoting well being of citizens is the availability of water supply.
Scaling up urban projects to improve water and sanitation
The state of water and sanitation in Kenya is worryingly poor. Urban areas are prone to water borne diseases that break out almost every year. Recently,
Kenya experienced a Cholera outbreak that claimed more than 56 people, with the majority being Zin Nairobi.
is December 2019 Kirinyaga county is adding to the statistics.
Accordingly, the allocation to water and sanitation in the 2019 budget allocation was increased. in 2019. This is the highest level in five years, and though the nation has fiscal limitations, the allocation is justifiable to address water issues and
prevent disease outbreaks in the country. Despite the usual concerns on disbursements from the national treasury to the counties, the 2019 budget shows improvements, as 45% of the approved budget
was disbursed as of October 2019, compared to 2018 financial year. With such improvements, Kenya will be able to address its water and sanitation
problems in 2020.
On the other hand, the floods experienced in Kenya in November 2019 could have saved Kenyan millions of shillings if the ministry of water and irrigation had proper mechanism of conserving the rainwater.
Instead of the havoc caused and 152 lives lost we would have seen more water reservoirs being put in place.
The more challenging factor on this is that a dry spell will be kicking off and more request for food donation will take place as evidenced by the support by United states of America
https://www.nation.co.ke/news/Kenya-receives-Sh340m-food-aid-from-US/1056-5396952-egea2j/index.html

additionally, Social protection programmes have led to Kenyan households being able to afford more than one meal a day, achieve more diet diversity, afford more shoes
and clothes for their children, attain some level of education, and empower small scale farmers. However, recently there have been concerns among stakeholders
regarding the administration of these programmes, which the Government should aim to adequately address. These efforts should help reinstate donor confidence
in the administration of these programmes.
All in all, the government of Kenya has highly enhanced the development of well-crafted legal frameworks which now need to be executed for the benefit of the most marginalized and vulnerable members of our society.

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.

Joy and pain of raising a child with cerebral palsy By a Guest author: SIMON MBURU

When Susan Nyambura’s son was diagnosed with a developmental disorder immediately after birth, her husband abandoned them. Six years later, she soldiers
on.

“My name is Suzan Nyambura. I am a mother of a six-and a half-year-old boy. I still remember how my then-husband and I had eagerly waited for the birth
of our son, Gabriel Kamonzo.

In fact, the sheer ecstasy that overwhelmed me when I first took a pregnancy test and got positive results in early 2012 is still deeply etched in my mind.

I had a smooth pregnancy up until I went into labour that September. I checked in at a private hospital in Mombasa for delivery.

By then, my water had already broken. I was immediately admitted to the hospital’s maternity wing. Over the next two days, I underwent an extensive and
excruciating labour process.

WORRY, PANIC

The doctors examined my birth canal and concluded that I had not dilated enough. At some point, I requested for a caesarean delivery. But my request was
turned down. The doctors said I was not an emergency case.

I seemed stuck in labour. Painful but unfruitful contractions kept coming and going. But eventually, on September 12, I gave birth to a bouncing baby boy.

Seeing my baby pop out erased all the pain, struggle and shame that the labour and delivery process had bestowed on me. Tears ran freely down my cheeks.
At long last, here was my beautiful God-given son!

This joy, though, did not last. In fact, it ended as soon as the doctors started to examine my son moments after birth.

Instead of a sigh of relief and congratulatory glances, I saw worry and panic on their faces. Their facial expressions betrayed their concern that something
had gone wrong.

EXAMINATION

Then it hit me like a thunderbolt. My son had not cried upon birth! Although I was a new mother, I had heard that newborns were supposed to cry once they
popped out.

Failing to cry was an indicator of a defective birth process. I desperately tried to inquire what was wrong. But I was reassured that all was well.

I was told to stay put and wait for my episiotomy stitches. This was really the least of my concerns.

Later on when I left the delivery room, I was informed that the doctors had taken my son to the nursery, where they were examining him.

They found out that Gabriel’s neck was abnormally weaker. This was compounded by his failure to breastfeed when they brought him to me.

Over the next one week, I fed him on glucose and warm water while the doctors sought for a diagnosis to his problem.

DIAGNOSIS

On October 7, 2012, I was transferred to Coast General Hospital. By then Gabriel was 10 days old.

The doctors recommended that we observe him over the next three months and see if his neck would firm up. But it didn’t.

By the third month, I took him to Kenyatta National Hospital, where he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. This is a medical condition that affects a child’s
muscle tone, movement or posture.

It is caused by brain damage that occurs before or during a baby’s birth, or during the first three to five years of a baby’s life. This diagnosis left
me utterly terrified and confused.

My baby was so tiny and helpless! Yet, the more I inquired about his condition the more scared for his life I became.

I was afraid that he would develop breathing problems, have no control of his bladder and bowel movement, and drool throughout the rest of his life.

ABANDONED

Perhaps I would not have worried too much if someone had held my hand and told me that it was all going to be okay.

But there was no such person I could have leaned on! Friends kept away, and some of those who reached out claimed that my baby was cursed, and that I needed
to take special prayers and cleansing to cast out whatever spell had befallen him.

The most disheartening of all was the abandonment by my baby daddy. He said Gabriel was not his son.

Although I had named my son after his father, he completely rejected him after the diagnosis.

He claimed that he could not have fathered a child with such a disability. Over the next few years, I tried to reach out to him because I wanted my son
to have a father in his life. But he shut us out completely.

#TOUGH TIMES

It is now six years since my son came into this world. We are still on the recovery journey, but raising him has not been easy at all.

There are some days when his condition becomes too overwhelming for me, especially when he is unwell.

I cry a lot and at times question God on why my little boy has had to suffer so much. It really breaks my heart when I see him struggle to meet basic development
milestones.

His growth is very slow. Today, he can’t sit on his own and relies on a wheelchair. He also can’t talk or even walk.

But perhaps the hardest and most tormenting moment is when I am unable to provide food because I am joblessness.

I remember that I had to start working as mama fua (laundry and cleaning lady) in order to fend for him a few weeks after his birth.

#HEALTHCARE

It was not easy. I was forced to go knocking door-to-door asking for home cleaning jobs with my ailing son strapped on my back.

A few weeks ago, I left my son behind in Nairobi and travelled to Mombasa, where I am currently looking for a job as a bouncer.

I have pegged my hope in God that something will show up and give me the much needed income so that I can sufficiently care for my child.

He is currently not undergoing any medication or therapy, and I would wish to enrol him in a corrective physical, occupational and speech therapies that
will help improve his life.

Above all, I have learnt to keep my head above the water by constantly reminding myself that this is my son, and God had a good purpose for giving him
to me.
Every day, I pray for him. I hope one day he will realise just how much I love him, and how much he means to me.”