BY FAITH ESTHER
Today, I am proud to be female. I am proud to be a Kenyan woman. I am proud to be like most women, who are strong, ambitious and kind. I am proud to be part of a gender that is able to adapt to its environment and find a way with situations and challenges of life. However, I feel that there is a group of women that seems to vaporize into existence. My heart reaches out to these women today because if something is not done, the situation will only get worse.
Oftentimes we have heard different issues, topics and campaigns, aimed at creating awareness towards women empowerment. Several rallies have happened to promote gender equality. All this is good but I feel there is a need to amplify the needs and challenges faced by women with disability. This is because they belong to a special group, that has more specifically defined needs and challenges.
It is important to note that the fifth goal among the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The UN has played a key role in efforts to promote gender equality, specifically through the establishment of the Commission on the Status of Women: this is the main global intergovernmental body, that is dedicated to promoting gender equality and empowerment of women. There have been various key agreements that have been adopted, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women(CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
An article by the World Health Organization provides three dimensions of disability: Activity Limitation, Impairment of body structure or functions, or mental functioning as well as participation restrictions in the coordination of normal daily activities.
According to the Kenya Disability Resource article on Disability overview, different disabilities affect people differently: physical impairment will impact a person’s body movement and/or physical appearance, sensory impairment that affects the different five senses and physical balance, intellectual impairment; which affects the cognitive behaviour and functioning, mental illnesses which affect the ability and capacity to cope with life and lastly neurological impairment; which affects the nervous system, vision, muscles, motor skills, speech, among others.
Following findings of the 2019 Census, 2.5% of women are living with disability, as compared to 1.9% of the population forming men. There are more people living with disability in rural areas as compared to those in urban areas. Further analysis revealed that the most common difficulty experienced is mobility, followed by sight, hearing, cognition, self-care and communication. Albinism formed 0.02% of Kenya’s population. There is therefore a need to focus on this significant group of people. Women living with disability in Kenya face so many challenges. Apart from their condition, they still fall victim to other challenges facing women as well.
During the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, that happened in Beijing, a few measures were brought to the limelight, as critical areas of concern. Among these areas were: inequalities and inadequacies and unequal access to education, training, healthcare and related services, violence against women, inequality in economic structures and policies, inequality between men and women in power-sharing and decision-making at all levels, effects of armed or other kinds of conflict on women, lack of respect for and inadequate promotion and protection of the human rights of women, stereotyping, among others. The above challenges are compounded with disability, making the situation much worse for these women.
Society seems to have a disease of the mind that naturally prompts people to view persons with disability in an indifferent manner. People seem to naturally sideline persons with disability. Women living with disability are often mocked, humiliated or disregarded, even for minor efforts and achievements. This must stop! This beautiful lady is somebody’s daughter, sister, mother or wife. She is a neighbour and a friend. She, too, is human.
It is high time a lot of changes in society are made. More has to be done to improve the lives of these women. We need to raise our voices in their place. There is a need to give more to them. We need to adjust our society to accommodate their plight. As a people of Kenya, we need to make sure that these women participate more in our growth as a country. The media can uplift these women by telling their stories more often. Iconic women like Josephata Wekobe (a Principal Secretary) and Dennitah Ghati (a Member of Parliament) should be on the lips of Kenyans more repetitively. Perhaps a creative Kenyan could come up with more aesthetic and customized assistive tools for persons with disability. Organisations and institutions could give back by buying essential tools for women with disability.
As I sign out, Jane Goodall once said: “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” It all starts with you. Have a good one!