The National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) is calling on National and County Governments to develop innovative programs that directly protect persons with disabilities from the adverse effects of COVID-19 as the country prepares to observe the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Thursday.
Commission’s chairperson Dr. Joyce Mutinda says the effects and impacts of the pandemic remain disproportionately harsh amongst most vulnerable groups. Those who will bear the brunt according to Mutinda includes women with disabilities, older members of society with disabilities, children with disabilities, PWDs living in the informal and unplanned settlements, and PWDs without any form of income or social protection.
Mutinda says the vulnerable groups remain disadvantaged largely due to attitudinal, environmental and institutional barriers that are reproduced in the COVID-19 responses with many PWDs having pre-existing health conditions that make them more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus disease. “The Commission notes that there is need for the development of an attitudinal change behavioural communications program targeting different segments of the population including children, youth, transport sector, public service to inculcate a culture of tolerance for the inclusion of disability. Such a program will reverse attitudes held by the general population about PWDs and promote greater acceptance of their roles and responsibilities in the society.” notes Mutinda.
While appreciating the government’s response to PWDs affected by COVID-19 pandemic, specifically, the provision of direct cash transfers to more than 33,000 PWDs who are not in any form of social protection program since May 2020, Mutinda says the pandemic has the potential of affecting the mental health of many vulnerable Kenyans.
Mutinda says the National Gender and Equality Commission remains committed to protecting the rights of PWDs, promoting their freedom from discrimination, and holding duty bearers to account for measures put in place to improve their wellbeing.
Kenya has in the past two decades put in place legal and policy frameworks to progressively support poor and vulnerable populations, including PWDs. Article 21 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 presents the Government’s commitment to the realization of the rights of all Kenyans. Article 43 on Economic and Social Rights, explicitly guarantees the right to the highest standard of health care and services, education, accessible and adequate housing, food security, access to clean water, and social security with an emphasis on persons unable to support themselves or their dependents. Article 54 provide for the specific rights of PWDs. Article 7 (3)(b) recognizes sign language, braille and other communication accessible to PWDs as part of the official languages. Kenya is a signatory to the UN Convention of the Rights 0f Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which reaffirms that person’s disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including social protection.
The annual observance of the IDPWD was proclaimed in 1992 by United Nations General Assembly under Resolution 47/3. The day seeks to promote the full and equal participation of PWDs and urge the Member States to take action for the inclusion of PWDs in all aspects of society and development. The 2020 IDPWD theme is “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 World”.”
Globally, there are over one (1) billion PWDs. In Kenya, it is estimated that 2.2% (0.9 million people) live with some form of disability (Kenya Population and Housing Census, 2019).