We join the rest of the World in marking this important day in the history of Women`s movement globally. It is one of those days the spotlight is shone on uncelebrated heroines who make important sacrifices in various spheres of life globally to #Make it Happen for all of us!
As a country, we have come a long way to secure a place on the table of decision making through various legislations including the constitutional 2/3 gender rule that is pushing the bar higher in ensuring the representation of women in various leadership roles and employment in the country.
While important milestones are being made in respect to gender issues and more particularly, the place of a woman in society; there is another group of women who it seems are being left behind both within the women movement and the disability movement, these are women with disabilities.
Issues of women with disabilities seem not to elicit equal consideration and importance even within the mainstream women movement. In Kenya, we now have women representatives from each county (47) as part of the constitutional requirement and provision for the nomination of a woman with a disability both at the senate and national assembly and county assemblies alongside male counterparts.
It is however discouraging to note that women with disabilities are being discriminated against by their fellow women and often told that they cannot participate in the slots earmarked for women since there are slots for persons with disabilities which they should focus on. We all know that slots for persons with disabilities are very limited and this argument brings to the fore the fact that women with disabilities are not considered “women enough” to vie for or be nominated on the slots allocated for women across the country.
We believe that it is now the moment to Make it Happen for women with disabilities for them to have the same considerations alongside other women since they are women first and disability is just but a second attribute in their lives. As we discuss the 2/3 gender rule in Kenya, women with disabilities should be given space to participate alongside their peers with a view of capturing their varied needs for incorporation, we cannot afford to perpetuate double-discrimination against women with disabilities within the mainstream women movement both in Kenya and globally.
Secondly, there is little participation of women with disabilities within mainstream disability movement both in Kenya and globally. We cannot claim to be working on disability rights if we leave behind women with disabilities both within the movement and leadership of the movement globally. It is time now to reconsider a radical shift and provide for an environment that facilitates the growth of organizations led by women with disabilities to champion issues that affect them directly but more importantly, ensure that women with disabilities have an opportunity to lead the various disabled persons organization either at the national, regional and global level.
We must Make it Happen for young women with disabilities by supporting them to form representative organizations and provide mentorship opportunities within the mainstream disability movement for them to gain leadership experiences and take on the mantle of leadership going forward. The disability movement must walk the talk and adhere to strict gender representation within its ranks given the diversity amongst us.
We cannot afford to continue perpetuating the discrimination of women with disabilities within the disability movement and when we give them roles, it is roles that make them appear as “flower girls” instead of being on the decision making table within movement.
It is a great time for reflection within the women movement and disability movement globally in respect to issues of women with disabilities; we must play out part in making it happen for this group of our constituent that is often left behind. We owe it to ourselves and prosperity to include women with disabilities because it matters the most.
At Action Network for the Disabled, we are happy to launch a new four year project in partnership with Handicap International that targets maternal and child health, nutrition and family planning services in urban slums in Kenya that will solely focus on women with disabilities as a constituent that has been left behind within our health system. We are committed to making it happen for women with disabilities in maternal health and increasing their health care uptake including issues of infrastructural accessibility.
We also commit ourselves to working in partnerships with other stakeholders to ensure that issues of women with disabilities are at the core of our work and do not leave the mainstream agenda of both the disability movement and women movement in Kenya.
We pride ourselves for launching an inclusive sport for children with disabilities project together with our partners AbleChildAfrica, this project allows children with disabilities of both genders to have an opportunity to participate in sports as part of a child`s development journey and an opportunity to nurture talents from a younger age while making it possible for both children with disabilities and those without to explore common sporting interests and play together.
We do request everyone to join us in this important journey of Making it Happen for women with disabilities in Kenya.
Fredrick Ouko, Director, Action Network for the Disabled