Put disabled at centre of BBB initiatives

People living with disability during an inclusion summit in Nairobi on May 24, 2018. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

The pandemic has exposed the many inequalities not only among countries, but even within them.

The line ‘we are the last to be hired and the first to be fired’ has been shared by many persons with disabilities (PWDs) during the Covid-19 pandemic at gatherings and meetings.

The phrase shows the challenges PWDs face in accessing decent work. Now more than ever, amid talk of Building Back Better (BBB) after the pandemic, their voices and requirements in work and employment must take centre stage.

The pandemic has exposed the many inequalities not only among countries, but even within them.

It has been possible to document how marginalised communities, including PWDs, have been further pushed to the margin with fears that the dream of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, of Leaving No one Behind, will take much longer to be realised. This is worrying.

In April, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights indicated that, while the pandemic threatens all, persons with disabilities are disproportionately affected due to attitudinal, environmental and institutional barriers.

Working in national advocacy and with continuous engagement with communities of persons with disabilities, loss of livelihoods and sources of income are realities that many of them face.

Research by UKAid (DfID)-funded Innovation to Inclusion (i2i) project in Kenya, which aims to improve access to employment in the private sector for PWDs, noted that over 92 per cent of those whom they interviewed on the impact of Covid-19 said their daily lives had been affected, pinpointing factors such as limited transport; restricted movement; lack of necessities; lack of contact with others at school, church and social functions; reduced income; and loss of jobs or income. Many had employment and job insecurity and were concerned about their finances.

Political commitment

Whereas we are increasingly seeing initiatives around the area of work and employment for persons with disabilities, including another DfID-funded project, ‘Inclusion Works’ , which is aimed at promoting the inclusion of women and men with disabilities in formal employment, much more needs to be done in terms of political commitment to ensure they benefit from both disability-specific and mainstream programmes.

Additionally, public discourse around disability must continue. In recent weeks for example, the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis held a conference whose theme was on enhancing inclusivity through empowering persons with disabilities. A critical component of the conference was the depth to which they had persons with disabilities at the centre of the discussions. This must be embraced by the private and public sectors in BBB discussions.

Communities that embrace diversity are more likely to emerge out of crisis better and stronger.

Ms Ombati is a disability rights advocate. [email protected]