The launch of Education Sector Policy for Learners and Trainees with Disabilities by President Uhuru Kenyatta on the May 2018, was a strong statement on the government’s commitments to persons with disabilities as Kenya prepared to Co- Host the Global Disability Summit with the UK government on 24th July 2018 in London.
In his speech, the President tasked the Ministries of Education and the National Treasury to develop a marshal plan that would establish an optimal number of institutions across the country to effectively cater for persons with disabilities.
This was a very exciting step by the Head of State, as it fomented the words of the American Civil Rights Activist Whitney M. Young Jr. that it’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.
During the Pre-Global Disability Summit which was held at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) on 24th May 2018, I happened to be in a break away session where both the success stories and gaps of economic empowerment were being discussed and a contributor who was a Person with Disability (PWD) mentioned something that caught my attention.
She mentioned that the education system and affirmative action in Kenya had become so robust and favorable towards PWDs and going forward it was resulting to persons with disabilities on the streets begging and yet they have form four or even college certificates because the market place is unprepared for them.
She further exclaimed that if their counterparts without disabilities were having challenges getting opportunities then as PWDs their status may make it even worse.
This sounded an alarm bells and I tried to explore how this situation can be mitigated.
In most cases the people who have first-hand experiences in dealing with issues disabilities are the NGO’s working hand in hand with Disabled Persons Organizations (DPOs) and Community Based Organizations (CBOs).
However this organizations rely heavily on donations from either the Kenyan corporates or from foreign donors; either governments or international aid agencies.
To commit funding to some of this projects the donations have relied on the previous good economic performances in their mother countries and profitability in the case of Kenyan corporates.
But since the economic meltdown brought about by the COVID 19 uncertainties, the commitments have either dried up or withdrawn altogether and this has seriously impacted on some of the projects that assist persons with disabilities.
But all is not lost a closer look at home, the Red Cross as the proprietor of the Boma Hotel has given us a good insight on how the NGOs, CBOs and DPOs can sustain their programs in the long run even if the funding dried up through a SOCIAL ENTERPRISING MODEL this is where an organization or business uses commercial strategies for the benefit of society and the environment or simply put using business ideas to solve problems affecting society.
In this case the profits generated by the social venture are totally ploughed back to continue with the humanitarian and environmental work in the various parts of the country.
A look at our various laws governing incorporation of businesses in our country shows that there is a glaring gap if we are to bring on board various small scale SOCIAL ENTERPRENUERS. As a business in Kenya you are either a profit making or non- profit.
The ongoing 3rd annual regional conference being held virtually by the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis themed ‘Enhancing Inclusivity through Empowering Persons with Disabilities that started on 28 July 2020 and set to conclude on 30 July 2020 should explore how a policy framework towards the formation of social enterprises in Kenya would benefit PWDs.
A policy towards different tax regime will make it possible for the CBOs, NGOs and DPOs to come up with innovative ventures that will be sustainable, negotiate with potential investors for scaling up because an investor will always look at the Return on Investment (ROI) and also uptake loans from the local financial markets.
This will also encourage innovations at the grass roots level because they will be looking at sustainability as a serious consideration for survival.
Finally, bearing in mind that these organizations have had a first-hand experience on working with PWDs either in advocacy or rehabilitation, their social ventures stand a better chance to offer massive job opportunities and give them a livelihood.
By: Luke Kizito Ojiambo Muleka.
The writer is the Managing Director of Signs TV, a station broadcasting in Sign Language.