In an inspiring gathering organized by County Governance Watch, on August 28, 2023, stakeholders from Juja, Ruiru, and Kiambu Sub counties came together to address an issue that has long been neglected – the inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the democratic processes of Kiambu County. Under the Kenya Electoral Conflict Mitigation and Civic/Voter Education Support (ECCES) Program, this event aimed to shed light on the challenges faced by PWDs and devise strategies to ensure their active participation in governance. Let’s dive into the key takeaways from this significant gathering.

Challenges Faced by PWDs

One prominent issue discussed was the lack of accessibility during the electoral period. Visually impaired voters, for example, struggled with the absence of braille materials, preventing them from exercising their right to vote independently. The secrecy of the ballot further complicated matters, leaving PWDs unsure if their aides accurately represented their voting intentions. Even those PWDs with sound mental faculties found themselves marginalized during the voting phase.

Government Initiatives

The government, through the National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD), has established policies and frameworks to address these challenges. The NCPWD, a state corporation formed under the Persons with Disabilities Act No. 14 of 2003, works tirelessly to champion equal opportunity and human rights for PWDs, enabling them to lead dignified lives. Their mandate includes ensuring access to essential services like education, healthcare, and employment while advocating for PWDs’ involvement in decision-making processes and combating societal discrimination.

Call for Greater Accessibility

During the dialogue, it became apparent that more needed to be done in terms of awareness-building and advocacy. An important issue raised was the inaccessibility of the Kiambu County NCPWD offices located in Thika, making it difficult for many PWDs to access their services. To address this, a practical recommendation emerged: the establishment of disability desks distributed across sub-counties, an initiative set to be advanced through the proposed Disability Bill.

Upcoming Registration Campaign

On a positive note, the NCPWD had already conducted significant registration initiatives, with the most recent one taking place in Ruiru sub-county on August 27, 2023. Furthermore, the National Government had plans for a nationwide registration campaign starting on September 1, 2023. Attendees at the gathering pledged to mobilize fellow PWDs for participation, emphasizing the need for disability desks at the sub-county level to facilitate streamlined access to NCPWD services and assistance.

Advocating for Inclusivity

Participants at the event made urgent appeals for the establishment of an overarching body dedicated to spearheading inclusivity in democratic processes and addressing relevant county matters. They also strongly advocated for the inclusion of all PWDs in cash transfer programs, recognizing the importance of economic empowerment.

A Proactive Approach

The gathering concluded on a proactive note, with participants agreeing to explore creative ways to commemorate the International Day of Disability on December 3, 2023. The goal is to showcase the unique talents and capabilities of PWDs and invite broader segments of society to join in raising awareness.

In Kiambu County, the journey towards inclusivity and the full participation of PWDs in governance has begun. With the government’s support and the determination of stakeholders, barriers will be broken down, and the voices of PWDs will continue to shape the democratic future of Kiambu County. Together, we can truly achieve inclusivity for all!