UDPK is involved in Inclusive Futures employment programme in Kenya, which is working to ensure everyone has the same opportunities to work through formal and informal employment.
Here, he shares his personal story, his work in advocacy and what drives him to be involved in the programme.
I started advocating for myself when I was at school in Western Kenya. Out of a thousand students, I was the only person with albinism.
I was asked all kinds of strange questions about my skin condition and I was often exempted from manual work due to unfounded worries about my health. There were a lot of misconceptions about me and I found myself becoming excluded.
So, I took it upon myself to ask the school administration to give me space to speak, which they agreed to. One morning, I gathered everyone together – teachers, pupils and support staff – and told them about myself and my disability. Then they were able to ask questions, as weird as they liked.
It worked. After the meeting I felt that everyone understood me better and my abilities were recognised. I soon found myself in leadership positions at the school, all because I spoke out for myself.
This experience showed me that if people with disabilities are given the right space and are included, they can give their best.
No matter how many barriers I faced, if I could speak for myself, I could be understood much better than if someone spoke for me.
This kind of openness can dramatically change people’s lives, and in some cases even save them, as I discovered when I worked for the Albinism Society of Kenya at a time when ritual killings of people with albinism was at its peak. By influencing a positive change in how albinism was perceived by the general public, we saw a reduction in killings.
In major towns and cities there are good levels of awareness, but the situation in rural and resource-poor communities is very different. People with disabilities are marginalised and some are still in hiding in rural homes due to community stigma.
There are many highly educated jobseekers with disabilities finding themselves thrown into a job market that is hostile to them, and employers who don’t understand their abilities or think they will require too much support.
I know so many stories of people with disabilities being forced to resign or being sacked because they face harsh working environments that won’t accommodate them. This is why we need to influence employers to create inclusive working spaces, through advocacy and with the support of the private sector and the government.
Recently, the government launched an initiative to bring unity in Kenya. However, people with disabilities were not mentioned widely across the report. I feel the Kenyan Constitution is quite inclusive – it’s only the practicability of it that is lacking.