New county governor in Kajiado is keen to work with Young Voices

In March 2013 the first county governor of Kajiado county, Kenya, was sworn in at a ceremony in Kajiado showground witnessed by thousands of members of the local community. The new Governor has agreed to meet with Young Voices campaigners and give them the opportunity to discuss their issues and concerns, and help him to implement what they want as people with disabilities in Kajiado.

The voices of young disabled people were prominent in the celebrations – Young Voices members performed songs, poems and gave speeches on issues for people with disabilities. Young Voices members in Kajiado have done a great deal of awareness raising about communication barriers within the county; as a result a sign language interpreter was present at the event.

Against all odds: Kenya’s effort to ensure disabled people are active in the upcoming general election

by Hannah Wanja Maina, Young Voices campaigner

“The true mark of a strong society is measured by how it treats minority groups and vulnerable people,” so Mahatma Gandhi once said.

With today’s historic elections in Kenya – the first since the announcement of the new constitution in August 2010 – I was interested to find out if the country had endeavoured to hold true to this aspiration. Has the Kenyan government taken steps to make sure that disabled people are included in this election?

Many people will remember the violence that broke out at the last election in 2007/2008, which left more than 1,000 people dead and 600,000 homeless. Disabled people were hardest hit – many not only lost their homes, but also their independence and livelihoods. It is therefore understandable that people with disabilities say they are feeling nervous.

The government has pledged that it is ready to provide security to all. But in Nairobi, one disabled resident told me that the upcoming election had left her with a sense of worry and uncertainty. If there is violence, people are concerned that they will not be able to defend themselves and there will be no one to defend them.
In the past, voter transportation has also been an issue, where vulnerable people have been offered transport by parties, and have then felt under pressure to vote for them.

I went to a public lecture at a Nairobi university to see what the IEBC commissioner, Mr Bwire, had to say. As well as emphasizing that disabled and elderly people should be supported to access the polling stations if they need it, he also stressed that those who need support to vote would be helped by an impartial assistant to vote for their chosen candidate. I was delighted to hear that voter transportation has now been made illegal.

Mr Bwire also said that the IEBC have taken all the profiles of citizens who are registered as visually impaired to make sure support is available on the day. During the voter registration and during the election day there will be papers in Braille format.

I spoke to Trizah Machariah, a Returning Officer working in Nairobi’s Roysambu constituency who has been working during the elections for the past 15 years. She said that disabled people would be given first priority in the queues and maintained they would be treated with dignity and privacy as required.

What has impressed me throughout the build up to the election is that disabled people have been very visible in all the advertising material, a task overseen by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). In one advert, a young girl with a hearing impairment calls for peace in sign language. Another features a young man with albinism.

In a country where violent attacks on disabled people, in particular on those with albinism, are still happening, this has been a positive step forward. I myself have faced discrimination, especially when I was in school and had to walk with the aid of calipers.I hope this campaign has had the effect of challenging people’s perceptions of disability, which are still so steeped in superstition and fear.

I hope this shows how far we have come as a state, from the dark days where disabled people were hidden in houses, exposed to abuse, not taken to school and deprived of their basic human rights. I hope we are entering a new age, where they are active and valued members of society involved in all spheres of live, including politics.

Today will be the first time I have voted in a general election and I feel very happy and ready to be involved, just like any other Kenyan.

Cash transfers to people with disabilities started thanks to Young Voices campaign

The Nyanza Young Voices group has successfully campaigned for the deputy district gender and social development officer to assist people with severe disabilities. 20 eligible people Kisumu East District will now get financial assistance of Kshs 2,000 (approximately UK £14.50) per month. This is part of the Young Voices group’s overall campaign on the implementation of the UNCRPD.

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Deaflympics athlete wins in Canada

David Ogogo wearing his Deaflympics medalDavid Ogogo a hearing impaired member of the Nyanza Young Voices group in Kenya joined the Kenya Deaflympics team and travel to Toronto, Canada for the World Deaf Athletics Championships. He won a 200 metre race and will receive a cash prize of around Ksh. 60,000 (approximately UK £435) from the Kenyan Government.

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Kenya Young Voices Member Speaks at High Level Panel Youth Event

Young Voices member, entrepreneur, university student and charity founder Hannah Wanja Maina lives in Kenya and campaigns on a wide range of disability and human rights topics. Now Hannah will raise disability as a development issue at the highest levels – a youth event held alongside the High Level Panel on what should replace the Millennium Development Goals. UK Prime Minister David Cameron will co-chair the panel in London from 1–2 November, and Hannah will represent young people with disabilities at the youth event attended by the UK Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening. The Millennium Development Goals are a set of targets to reduce global poverty and improve living standards that run until 2015. Disability was not originally included in these goals, and Hannah and others are campaigning for disability to be central to any post-2015 development framework.

Documentary yields results for children with hearing impairments

The Young Voices group in Kajiado, Kenya, joined a campaigning forum on inclusive education for children with hearing impairments. Together they came up with a documentary called ‘Breaking the Silence’, which led to children with hearing impairment in Kajiado now being able to enrol in Bissel primary school. The event was covered by Kenyan broadcasters KISS TV, KBC and Citizen TV.

Accessible new houses and highways thanks to Nairobi Young Voices

All new buildings in Kenya will be built in an accessible way thanks to a decision by MPs at a conference on the new housing bill attended by Young Voices. The Young Voices members contributed to the review of the bill, which helped lead to this positive result in improving access for people with disabilities.

Young Voices members also attended a meeting with representatives of the ministry of roads regarding road safety, especially along the Thika Road superhighway. As a result of their input, accessible flyovers will be built along Thika Road.

Young Voices campaigners give recommendations to Commonwealth heads of government

Ruth Javati from Young Voices Papua New Guinea and Richard Mbugua from Young Voices Kenya had the once in a lifetime opportunity to represent youths with disabilities at the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) Meeting Youth Forum in Australia in October. With the 163 other youth delegates, they produced a communiqué that was circulated at CHOGM and was presented to the Commonwealth Secretariat.

‘The whole event… was really fantastic and well organised’, Richard said. ‘It gave us all an opportunity to experience what brilliant young minds can achieve and also made a great step in building a better future for youths in the Commonwealth. It showed that if youth are given a chance they can rise to the occasion and become great leaders.’

The Young Voices’ participation followed two years of lobbying by the Leonard Cheshire Disability International Policy and Campaigns team. Leonard Cheshire Disability has also been included in the steering group finalising the Commonwealth Strategic Plan on Young People to ensure that youth with disabilities are included.

Ruth added, ‘it was exciting to know that both disabled and non-disabled youths can come together as one and give our recommendations to the Commonwealth Heads of Government who, if they act upon them, will enable us to live a satisfied life’.

Talented Kenya Young Voices members to produce their own music

Sting, Adele, Young Voices… What these musicians have in common is that they have worked with top UK music producer Robin Millar and his team. During the first week of December Robin led an intensive week-long studio training seminar in Zambia for musically talented Young Voices members from Kenya, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Zambia. Using professional equipment, they learned how to produce their own songs, which will be released globally via Itunes and Amazon.

The music training project was launched in response to Young Voices members’ own desire to express themselves and their campaigning messages through music. Many Young Voices groups have already recorded songs and music videos, and we plan to roll out the music project across Africa and Asia starting in 2012.

At the same time, other Young Voices members from across Africa honed their campaigning skills at the Africa regional workshop. Speaking of his experience, Sierra Leone Young Voices member John Conteh said, ‘since joining Young Voices, I have had hope and freedom after total neglect. Young Voices has sent me to a studio, which I had never expected to visit… I long to share the experience I will gain from the workshop with the Sierra Leone group when I return. I hope to become an international superstar for Sierra Leone Young Voices.’

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