HOW TO INCLUDE PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES IN POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC MATTERS

 

It is no secret that persons with disabilities are the most left out in matters economics and political participation. It is a systematic challenge arising from various quarters starting from the cultural perspective of disability and leadership as well as the governance structures at the moment not being very welcome to disability participation. There may be a few acts of disability involvement and participation but within the group in itself. Political aspirants with disabilities have decried the harsh environment they have to operate in from harassment to mobility and communication challenges and the ever perennial view of persons with disabilities as motivation and not as candidates who can vie and deliver to the electorates.

 The situation is further exacerbated by political parties who cluster persons with disabilities into leagues with no clear functions or voice in the party. Even if they have a voice, the voice is mainly to pacify the leadership and not to engage in meaningful activities of mutual benefit. The end result is that instead of the powers that be offering sustainable solutions to challenges bedeviling persons with disabilities, they end up maintaining the same structures that perpetuate the same hurdles year in year out. It would be unfair to judge them since primarily, they do not know the system is broken and those who ought to tell them the system is broken are too afraid to do so. As a result, persons with disabilities are left as spectators in economic development because systems are not accommodative to them for them to voice their contribution and solutions.

 

As the country looks forward to the elections, the tension and excitement is palpable. Tension because elections in this country are a do or die affair in most cases, and excitement because the two frontrunners believe they will win without a doubt. To do away with all this, Macharia Gaitho, a prominent journalist of long standing, suggested the use of opinion polls instead of secret ballot voting. To support his argument, he cited the availability of experts and technology to effectively do the job in the likes of opinion poll companies like Infotrack, TIFA and Ipsos Synovate, who could do a credible opinion poll ‘election’ at a fraction of the cost of the real election. In my opinion, to avoid a case of bribery and compromise in such an undertaking, the opinion poll companies ought to come together and do the opinion poll ‘election’ together, just like the media has come together to do the Nairobi Gubernatorial, Deputy President and the Presidential debates respectively. Such arrangements occur even in business circles like insurance, where several companies insure the same thing to share the risk amongst themselves to make it less of a burden should the risk occur. The insurance of the JKIA fire tragedy for instance was financed by several insurance companies, both local and international.

 

Within the disability community, it would be very much possible for persons with disability to agitate for their issues to be addressed devoid of the representative democracy we are accustomed to. This is because the structures are already in place, so it's only a matter of new usage of the same thing. Organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) use questionnaires to gather data from persons with disabilities or their caregivers. From the data they can get a clear sense of ‘things on the ground’ in their purest sense without any undue influence. With the use of mobile phones, whether smartphones or the USSD format, it has become even easier to do the questionnaires. The data gathered informs the course of action for the OPDs.

 

By using opinion polls in matters of disability, the political parties would be able to get the views of a huge number of persons with disabilities on many issues freely because their personal details would be kept anonymous. Persons with disabilities would be able to poll themselves on the most pressing issues, like the fast tracking of the 5% provision of positions in public institutions. The findings of these polls can then be presented to the party disability leagues for lobbying members of the Senate or the National Assembly for legislation if need be, or the persons with disabilities can present it to the government through the relevant Ministry (State Department) or Ministry officials such as the Principal Secretaries. Such an arrangement would be a version of the elusive disability representation process where persons with disabilities choose their own representative instead of someone else choosing for them. It would also stop the green washing of persons with disabilities within the political and economic class, and compel those representing persons with disabilities to be accountable and truthful to them, instead of just praising the leaders.

 

The end result is that there would be political goodwill and willingness of the political leaders to implement disability friendly programmes or at least facilitate a conducive environment for persons with disabilities to run their own show, with the knowledge that if you don't perform you will lose your seat as the disability representative in either of the Houses (National Assembly and the Senate) and in the party. The indirect effect is that there will be more participation of persons with disabilities in Political, social and economic matters. Otherwise for now, mambo kwa ground ni different.

 

By

Murithi Ndiritu