James Mang’erere who is confined to a wheelchair has been selling sweets in Nairobi for years. He starts his day early so that he is not caught up in the morning hour mad rush for transport. With the little money he makes he has to make sure that he feeds his children, pay rent and any other monthly expenses that may arise. When we met Mang’erere on Saturday at the finishing line of the Longonot Gate charity marathon in Naivasha town after covering a 21 kilometres dusty stretch his face was beaming with pride after he won Sh20,000.
Mang’erere together with 11 other disabled paralympians were not there to seek hand-outs but were participating in the event to raise cash for a growing community of street children in Naivasha town. “The money I won is a small amount compared with the hurdles that we go through, but at least, it will enable me increase the stock in my sweets business,” he told Development Agenda.
Sylvester Barasa who came second says people with disability can also contribute to the economic growth of the country and the government should not look at them as a necessary burden. “We don’t want aid, instead they should give us money through sports like it happens abroad. This will encourage us to work more hard in the sports,” said Barasa. In Kenya a majority of the seven million people with disabilities are leaving in squalor, despite the fact that they could contribute to economic development.
In fact it was not until 2007 that the government decided to carry out a census for people living with disabilities. The survey conducted by the National Coordinating Agency for Population and Development and Kenya National Bureau of Statistics revealed that 4.6 per cent of the population were people living with various impairments.
It is not only Kenya that appears to have ignored the contribution that disabled people can make to economic development, last year, people living with disabilities across the country raised concern that the Millennium Development Goals drafted in 2000 by 189 nations had failed to take into account the one billion people across the world living with disabilities.
Kenya and other nations could be failing to make use of a resource at their disposal. Studies conducted by United Nation shows that the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the labour market causes countries to lose up to seven per cent of Gross Domestic Product. Henry Wanyoike, a nominated Member of Kiambu County Assembly and Goodwill Ambassador for International Paralympic Committee (IPC) calls on the government to observe all the provisions of the law in regards to people living with disabilities.
The Persons with Disabilities Act, 2003, is a comprehensive law covering rights, rehabilitation and equal opportiunities for people with disabilities. The Act aims to ensure that people with disabilities are mainstreamed in the economic development of the nation. “Since there is nothing that can happen without our involvement, we are demanding to be included in everything; decision making, in all committees- political, social and economic – so that we can talk about our condition,” Wanyoike told Development Agenda.
Developed nations like the United States and Canada are some of the nations Kenya can borrow useful lessons from. In Canada for instance, Government offers various programmes and services for PWDs with a total funding of more than Sh400 billion (US$5 billion) a year. And now Harun Otuoma, a Kenyan living in Canada, wants to come back into the country and replicate a similar programme on a smaller scale.
He intends to fly back soon to launch a foundation to rehabilitate PWDs in the country. “The purpose of the fund we are establishing is to purchase wheel transit vehicles for PWDs in Kenya; wheelchairs and start up self-sustainable income projects,” Otuoma told Development Agenda recently. He intends to build homes for the PWDs, complete with education facilities- both vocational and conventional. Otuoma, a former civil servant says he intends to carry a pilot project similar to what is done in the Canadian system here in Kenya and believes that if raises the necessary funds, the PWDs will own income generating businesses.
His project will be located in all the 47 counties and he is targeting to raise Sh725 million for the project. “When one visits some of these facilities including hospitals for mentally challenged people, buildings and other infrastructure including public transport systems one realises that there are not friendly,” he said. The reason for this, he said is because the government does not have a caregiver programme for the disabled.
He has written a proposal to the Ministry of Health requesting for facilities to train caregivers. His vision is to create at least one million jobs by providing internationally accredited training. These will allow care givers to work professionally, locally and internationally with skills to handle people leaving with disability be they seniors, women, girls, the youth and the homeless. – By GEORGE KEBASO