Kupenda’s Pastor Child Advocates to Rally Support from People with Disabilities for a New Disability Bill in Kenya
Posted on September 9, 2021
By, Lucky Mahenzo, Kuhenza’s Child Protection Officer
The Constitution of Kenya 2010 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability guarantees persons with disabilities the right to participate in political and public life. However, in Kenya, persons with disabilities and their families and organizations have been left out of policy making processes both at the national and county level. Shockingly, they have been left out even in the formulation of legislations and policies intended for, or directly affecting, persons with disabilities.
Disability Bill Development without People with Disabilities
According to WHO estimates, between 217,500 and 290,000 people (15-20% of the population) in Kilifi, Kenya are living with a disability. Despite this high prevalence, the Kilifi County government has continuously failed to consult persons with disabilities when developing and refining their new Disability Bill. Some of the reasons for this exclusion include:
- Lack of government sensitization activities related to the Disability Bill for low-literacy persons with disabilities and their families
- Communication about the dates and locations of the Disability Bill public meetings in written publications only, which are inaccessible to most low-literacy persons with disabilities and their families
- Absence of formal government communication inviting persons with disabilities and their families and organizations to attend public meetings regarding the Disability Bill
Kupenda’s Trained Pastors Mobilize People with Disabilities
Fortunately, for the past 10 years, Kupenda for the Children and its affiliate organization, Kuhenza for the Children, have been training influential local leaders in Kilifi, Kenya (i.e., pastors, traditional leaders, government officials) as disability advocates who now provide counselling, care and referrals to thousands of children with disabilities each year.
In July and August 2021, Kuhenza and 7 of these trained pastors held 9 sensitization meetings for 400 persons with disabilities to help them understand the content of the Disability Bill and how each clause was intended to guarantee rights for persons with disabilities. Facilitators included leaders from local Disability Persons Organizations and the Kilifi County Disability Umbrella. The sensitization sessions helped constituents understand every clause of the bill and their implications for persons with disabilities.
Pastors Offer Churches to Host Public Disability Bill Meetings
During this time, the Kilifi Government announced that they’d decided to receive public feedback and recommendations on the Disability Bill through written memorandums only, due to the fact that they lacked funding to host the public participation meetings. Because the majority of people living with disabilities and their caregivers have lower levels of literacy and education, this written format would have prohibited most from participating. In response, Kuhenza called upon the 7 pastors again and requested their support in securing venues for the public participation meetings. Within weeks pastors were able to secure free churches to host the meetings in all 7 of Kilifi’s sub-counties.
Pastors Rally Attendance Disability Bill Meetings
For 2 months Kuhenza’s staff and the pastors also made calls and visits to persons with disabilities and their families and organizations, informing them of the dates, locations and agenda of the Disability Bill public participation meetings.
Kuhenza’s pastor engagement in sensitization sessions, venue solicitation, and communications activities mobilized hundreds of persons with disabilities and their families and organizations in all 7 sub-counties within Kilifi County to actively participate in the County’s Disability Bill public meetings and air informed, substantive views and recommendations to help shape the Bill’s content and implementation strategy.
An Informed Disability Bill Will Support Justice for People with Disabilities
Kuhenza sensitization meetings enabled persons with disabilities to present their rich perspective about the realities of living with a disability in Kenya, a viewpoint that even the authors of the Bill lack. For example, during several meetings, people with disabilities recommended that the Bill include financial support for caregivers who provide home-based care for people with disabilities, a component entirely lacking in the original Bill draft.
In the end, Kuhenza and the 7 pastors helped to ensure that 400 persons with disabilities and their families and organizations attended the Disability Bill public participation meetings in all 7 sub-counties and expressed their recommendations clearly and effectively. These participants made important contributions to the Bill that will improve its ability to address the true challenges they face and support policies that put into effect realistic solutions.
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