Women with disabilities continue to rightfully claim their space in leadership in a society that mostly fails to recognise their contribution.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises that women and girls with disabilities are often at greater risk, at home and outside, of violence, injury or abuse, neglect, negligent treatment, maltreatment and exploitation. Being subject to multiple discrimination, governments must ensure the empowerment of these women to exercise and enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Due to the many barriers, they don’t have the spaces to exercise leadership. Indeed, they lament that their voices and issues more often than not fall within the cracks of both the women’s and disability rights movements. They are relegated to the margins and are hardly present at the decision-making table, even in spaces and issues that concern them.
Unless there are role models who are women with disabilities, then a chance is lost to mentor girls with disabilities who would grow up not seeing such a woman in leadership. That would be a chance lost to bring up a generation of strong leaders who are women with disabilities.
There a few examples of women with disabilities who are top leaders, shattering the glass ceiling in politics, civil service and the private sector.
For instance, Josephta Mukobe has a solid public service career that spans many years. Lucy Mulombi, a grassroots woman leader in Kakamega, was recently elected to represent teachers with disabilities in the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut).
But there must be intentional efforts to reach out to them and ensure their voice is heard.
It is, therefore, no surprise that the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, which was marked on Monday, was “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 World”.
Ms Ombati, a disability rights advocate, is a member of the Kenya Network of Women with Disabilities. lizombati@ hotmail.com.