According to Global Disability Rights Now, there are 4.5 million persons with disabilities in Kenya.
Out of these, only 33 percent are employed, which translates to 1.48 million persons with disabilities in the job market out of a total workforce of about 18 million.
The resource centre provides information, tools and best practices to implement and enforce laws and policies to protect the rights of people with disabilities,
We have seen a lot of advocacy to advance the rights of persons with disabilities in employment. This includes catering for their rights in the Constitution where Article 54, Section II, states that, “The State shall ensure the progressive implementation of the principle that at least five percent of the members of the public in elective and appointive bodies are Persons with Disabilities”.
This is a great step towards ensuring diversity and inclusion, which is picking up well in both the private and public sectors. The time has now come for the conversation on diversity and inclusion to shift from just employment to grooming persons with disabilities for leadership.
This is aptly captured in the theme of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which was ‘promoting the participation of Persons with Disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda.
What this means is that we need to focus on the empowerment of persons with disabilities for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development as envisaged in the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development, which pledges to leave no one behind.
Employment should not be an end in itself. We should give persons with disabilities the necessary training and mentorship, as well as opportunities which will enable them assume key decision making roles in the public and private sectors.
Mentoring persons with disabilities and having them in key leadership positions makes an organisation attractive to potential employees with disabilities. This expands the talent pool within an organisation.
Additionally, empowering persons with disabilities to take over leadership positions creates a culture of respect and inclusion within an organisation. This creates a sense of strong loyalty towards the organisation because they know that they have a fair and equal chance of leading. This in turn increases productivity and output.
Again, grooming persons with disabilities to be decision-makers removes any kind of limitations which may exist among the staff who work in an organisation. Mentoring them for senior leadership levels removes any barriers that create frustration or self-doubt.
Empowering persons with disabilities to be leaders dispels the perception that persons with disabilities may be limited in performing certain duties or cannot handle the weight of expectations. A lot lies on perception and if they feel that they are part of the organisation’s long-term vision, it will break barriers for themselves, and by extent, for the organisation involved.
At Safaricom, we are dedicated to expanding the pool of persons with disabilities working with us from the current 2.3 percent, which is an increment from 1.8 percent three years ago, to 3.5 percent by 2021, which will no doubt create more opportunities for them to assume key leadership roles.
Beyond this, in July 2018, during the first Global Disability Summit held in London, Safaricom took on a leading role of bringing together a consortium of over 30 organisations from the public and private sectors, disability partner organisations and academia to have a coordinated and sustainable approach in delivering on commitments around eliminating discrimination and stigma, economic empowerment of persons with disability and facilitating the availability and affordability of assistive devices.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 8 and 12 speak to the need to integrate persons with disabilities for sustainable growth of our economies. SDG 8 addresses decent work and economic growth and SDG 12 addresses reducing inequalities.
For there to be meaningful growth in both our political and corporate arenas, the voices of persons with disabilities must be amplified. They can only be effectively amplified when we decide to groom and trust them to lead from the front.
We have the structures and legislations to ensure their empowerment, yet these cannot work unless life is breathed into them through action.
Time has come to let persons with disabilities lead.
Paul Kasimu Chief Human Resources Officer, Safaricom