There are about 18 million people with disabilities in the East African Community, President Uhuru Kenyatta has told a conference in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
In a speech read on his behalf by Labour Cabinet Secretary Kazungu Kambi over the weekend, the president said that such persons are largely to be found among the poorest strata in society.
“It is estimated that on average, less than 2 per cent of persons with disability in Africa enjoy primary school education and that there are no real opportunities for rehabilitation.”
As a consequence, the president said, people with disabilities are invariably marginalized and excluded from both the formal and informal job markets. At the same time, he added, women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to gender based violence.
President Kenyatta further said that the EAC had placed the issue of empowering persons with disabilities high on the integration agenda.
“This conference underpins the critical role that partner states and governments must play in providing leadership through the establishment at national levels of enabling environments to allow for people with disabilities to contribute as effective and full participating members of societies.”
In his own speech, Kambi told the two-day conference that Kenya was among nations that had ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“A wide range of legislative harmonization, policy frameworks, intervention programmes and social processes have been and continue to be put in place to ensure that persons with disability receive appropriate health care, educational and rehabilitative services within environments that best suit them.”
The Second EAC Conference on Persons with Disabilities was also addressed by Kenya’s Principal Secretary for East African Affairs, Mwanamaka Mabruki, who said that the global post-2015 partnership will be based on shared responsibilities that include guaranteeing the rights of persons with disabilities to benefit from economic and social development and participate fully in it.
“Upholding the rights of persons with disabilities must be seen as a priority for national and regional policies and should aim at guaranteeing equal access to social services and to job markets for all, Mabruki said.
The overall objective of the conference is to ensure that the disability concerns are mainstreamed in laws and policies at both the regional and national levels.
The theme of the conference is, “Empowerment: The disability concern in the EAC regional integration agenda.” Participants are drawn from politicians, academicians and civil society, among others, from all the partner states.
Specifically, the conference aims to review the existing national employment policies on how they cater for empowerment of disabled persons; assess how far the partner states have gone with the implementation of the UN Convention of the rights of persons with disabilities; and assess how the partner states have attained the Millennium Development Goals in relation to people with disability and participation in the post-2015 agenda.
The meeting will further explore opportunities for ensuring accessibility for and inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of development and giving due consideration to all persons with disabilities in the emerging post-2015 United Nations development agenda.
In addition, the meeting will be expected to assess the adoption of rights for people with disabilities as indicated in Agenda 2063 by the partner states; devise means on how people with disability can be empowered in relation to Agenda 2063; and assess the extent to which the disability concern has been mainstreamed in policies, strategies and practice at national and regional levels.
The EAC policy on persons with disability is based on the provisions of Article 120 (c) of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community, under which the partner states undertook to closely co-operate among themselves in the field of social welfare.
This is with respect to, among others, the development and adoption of a common approach towards disadvantaged and marginalized groups, including children, the youth, the elderly, and persons with disabilities through rehabilitation and provision of, among others, foster homes, healthcare, education and training.