This is a story of how a youth with disability thrived amid adversity;
“Falling down is part of life, getting back is living,” Anonymous.
In the year 2018, Millicent Juma relocated from Nairobi County after receiving great news of her nomination by Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party as Member of County Assembly (MCA) to represent Youth and Persons with Disabilities in Siaya County. “I was happy to see my name in the nomination list in the local dailies. That was a dream come true!” exclaimed Millicent.
She packed all her belonging with the zeal of starting afresh in Siaya County not knowing of the predicament lying ahead of her. The D-day for her swearing in came, and as fate would have it her name was mysteriously missing in that final nomination list.
“Up to now I am still trying to figure out what happened, though the position is still vacant in the County Assembly. I was so devastated and had to go to court to bar the nomination process as well as inquire on what happened between shortlisting and swearing in. Let’s not dwell so much on that since the matter is still in jury,” agonized Millicent.
The young lady who has physical disability had to recollect herself and move on with her daily life. Being talented in art and craft, she resorted to resume her art and craft business in Siaya County, a venture she began 3-years earlier while living in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. It was at this time that she bumped into Mr. Charles Juma, ANDY’s program officer who welcomed her into the Deepening Democracy program project Connecting the Dots.
“I love art. Engaging in it was the only thing that could give me comfort after that traumatizing happening,” she said.
Millicent said during the project trainings she was apprenticed on governance processes as well as how to access affirmative action funds, employment and market opportunities by capitalizing on the existing policies.
Connecting the dots project is a UKAID funded implemented under the Deepening Democracy Programme (DDP) in Siaya County. This project aims at effective engagement of youth with disabilities in governance processes and economic opportunities in the 6 sub-counties; Alego Usonga, Ugenya, Ugunja, Gem, Bondo and Rarieda sub-counties of Siaya County.
According to Millicent, the facilitator of the training told them that in order to access affirmative action fund (the 30% AGPO) and bid for tenders, they ought to have registered groups. In that regard, Melacraft agency and Siaya Disabled Group business names were born.
“Melacraft Agency specializes in craftwork. According to her, the group members assemble crafting materials from rural parts of Siaya and use them to customize sisal products including baskets, ropes, mats and also for decorations of other items for their clients who majority hails from Nairobi,” added Millicent.
The young lady who doubles up as mentor also trains youth with disability interested in craftwork at her workshop for free while she charges a small fee for any other interested party. “The servant leader is a servant first and in all capacities whether as a MCA or just as a ‘hustler’, I will serve my people in my own capacity. We have to uplift each other especially us youth with disabilities in order thrive,” She said.
In late December, Millicent was a participant in the Entrepreneurship Training at Triple A Lounge hotel. “After the training, my friends and I came together to form Nyadala-self-help group. Majority of us, youth with disability, fails to thrive because of lack of access to information. “Show me how to do something and I will do it. Give us a fishhook and you will be surprised how our boats will be filled,” said a determined Millicent.
Nyadala self-help group comprises of 80% youth with disabilities and 20% without. “We always fight to be included and there is no way we can preach water and drink wine. We have to lead by example by incorporating those without disabilities in our team,” added Millicent.
According to Millicent, Nyadala self-help group will focus on Luo traditional cuisine. “We are losing our identity and our culinary expertise when it comes to the preparation Luo indigenous dishes e.g. tilapia, dagaa (omena), mrenda, ugali. Nyalada will be a one-stop hotel that will restore Luo’s culinary identity,” emphasized Millicent.