In Kenya, good progress has been made in regards to disability mainstreaming in different sectors of the economy. The government of Kenya has a National Action Plan for Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which includes a commitment to include disability in the development agenda. The ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD); and the launch of the ‘Big Four Agenda’ (food security, affordable housing, manufacturing growth, and healthcare) by the current Kenyan president provides tremendous opportunities in ensuring prosperity for all.
Regrettably, there continues to be a gap between agendas and laws on the one hand, and policies and practice on the other. This has furthered the marginalisation of minority groups, including persons with disabilities. The majority of people with disabilities continue to live in poverty, have limited opportunities for accessing education, health services, suitable housing, and employment opportunities.
‘Multi-stakeholder partnerships, such as the Disability Advocacy Coalition, are an important vehicle for mobilising and sharing knowledge, technologies, and financial resources’
To help push for change, AbleChildAfrica (ACA) and Action Network for the Disabled (ANDY) formed a Disability Advocacy Coalition in Kenya in 2017 to share best practices and design, coordinate, and implement a campaign to raise public awareness on the rights of children and youth with disabilities and hold government to account on their obligations. The coalition involves 10 civil society organisations (CSOs), 10 disabled person’s organisations (DPOs), and 15 disabled person’s groups (DPGs) from 8 districts in Kenya: Machakos, Kwale, Kisumu, Kirinyaga, Siaya, Kiambu, Embu, and Nairobi. Mutual trust and respect, open communication, and understanding between stakeholders regarding each other’s strengths and weaknesses are critical for nurturing the working relationships within the coalition.
Multi-stakeholder partnerships, such as the Disability Advocacy Coalition, are an important vehicle for mobilising and sharing knowledge, technologies, and financial resources and are recognised in Sustainable Development Goal 17–‘Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development’–to support the achievement of the SDGs in all countries. Multi-stakeholder partnerships are also critical to effective implementation of the CRPD. Article 32 stipulates international cooperation in support of national efforts to implement treaty obligations. More generally, the need for engagement of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations in the implementation and monitoring of the CRPD is a key element of the convention.
‘…the achievement of real results for persons with disabilities is aided by the involvement of international actors.’
So far, the coalition’s work has led to the design of a strategy and action plan that will help coalition members ensure access to employment, education, and health services for children and young persons with disabilities. Our efforts have also resulted in the enactment of the Built Environment and Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities Bill in Machakos County by the Governor. Coalition members in Machakos district pushed through the enactment of the bill via engagements with the Disability Directorate and the County Department of Social Protection. The coalition has also pushed for the delivery of the Kirinyaga Persons with Disability Act to the County Assembly of Kirinyaga. The bill is currently awaiting approval from lawmakers.
Support from the Commonwealth Foundation to UK-based AbleChildAfrica, who subsequently supported Action Network for the Disabled in Kenya, enhanced collaboration and the zeal to advance awareness on rights of children and young persons with disabilities in Kenya. Indeed, the achievement of real results for persons with disabilities is aided by the involvement of international actors. This, in combination with an understanding of the day-to-day experience of disability from local disabled person’s groups and organisations, provides a strong basis for informed policy change.
Ngao Mwavuna is an advocacy officer at Action Network for the Disabled, Kenya.