Give PWDs job opportunities to serve country
According to the 2019 census, 2.2pc of Kenyans (translating to 0.9 million people) live with some form of disability. The truth of the matter is that in life you are either a person living with disability or a person who interacts with people living with disability on a regular basis.
As the world marked World Disability Day on December 3, it is important to reflect on the long journey we have had to trek and the journey ahead that we still have to go.
The Persons with Disabilities Act was assented into law in 2003 by retired President Kibaki – becoming the first law in Kenya’s history governing matters pertaining to disability. This landmark enactment was followed by a process of reviewing the laws to ensure they conformed with the 2010 Constitution began in 2014 through various stakeholders’ engagements.
The Amendment Bill gives special focus on the human rights approach towards realization of the rights of persons with disabilities in Kenya by giving effect to Article 54 of the Constitution. It also seeks to grant the National Council for Persons With Disabilities (NCPWD) more powers to carry out inspections and recommend prosecution on those who violate the rights of persons with disabilities. The Bill was passed by the National Assembly and is currently at the Senate. Despite the progress made, we still have a long way to go as far as improving the socio-economic status of PWDs.
We need increased infrastructural and personnel support in schools so that students with disabilities can be well accommodated and perform better. NCPWD offers educational support to students with disabilities but the demand is overwhelming. We need more financial support offered to students with disabilities to enhance retention and transition of students with disabilities. The Kenya Kwanza manifesto pledged to have 15pc of public-funded bursaries going to support students with disabilities. We need this implemented as soon as possible.
The recently introduced Hustler Fund offers hope to PWDs and will enable them to acquire requisite tools of trade to improve their economic conditions. A quota of this fund should be dedicated specifically to PWDs.
Medical bills have been a strain to our community for years. We call for the government to be intentional in onboarding PWDs to the NHIF scheme to cushion them from economic strains that comes with catering for their occasional medical issues. As PWDs, we call for the enactment of legislation that accords persons with permanent disabilities permanent tax exemption to avoid the pain and embarrassment of having their applications reviewed every five years.
The NCPWD is doing a splendid job in addressing the needs of PWDs. However, the Council’s budget falls short of this ballooning demand. For instance, estimated development budget is Sh200 million which is intended to serve all persons with disabilities in issuing assistive devices, education, economic empowerment etc. To put it in context, the development budget the Council receives is equivalent to what two constituencies used to get under the constituency development fund.
A great challenge experienced by persons with disabilities is the lack of financial products tailored to their unique status which they can access to process the tenders awarded to them. NCPWD has a new LPO Financing programme in partnership with KCB Bank, which provides zero-interest loans to businesses owned by persons with disabilities. There is need for more funds to assist more clients, and sensitization to institutions on the ability of persons with disabilities to do a good job when given a chance. What PWDs need is not pity but equity. The Constitution allocates five percent of employment slots to persons with disabilities. Despite this, persons with disabilities continue to be excluded from the workplace. We call on the government to take a keener look into this to grant persons with disabilities job opportunities to serve.
Daddy Owen is a musician and founder, Malaika Disability Foundation