Breaking barriers: how political parties can foster democracy through disability inclusion

sensitisation training for Kenya disability parliamentary association
Authors

Henry Benjamin Awino - Programme Coordinator, Kenya

Location
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Breaking barriers: how political parties can foster democracy through disability inclusion

The active participation of persons with disabilities in political parties is crucial for promoting social inclusion, strengthening democracy, fostering economic development, and protecting human rights.

WFD and Demo Finland are implementing the Kenya Inclusive Political Parties Programme (KIPP), aiming to improve the capacity of political parties and stakeholders, including Kenya Disability Parliamentary Association (KEDIPA), Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and state actors, to promote disability inclusion in Kenya. The programme facilitates dialogues and consultations among various stakeholders. 

2.2% of the Kenya population has a disability, according to the 2019 census. Despite the Kenyan constitution stipulating that persons with disabilities should hold at least 5% of elective and appointive positions, very few of Kenya’s more than 90 registered political parties are actively recruiting and engaging them in politics. In the 2022 general elections, only six persons with disabilities were registered as candidates, as most aspirants did not advance beyond the party nomination stage. 

Following WFD’s programmes in Kenya, Kenyan political parties are now working on creating a more inclusive political agenda, manifestos, and policy formulation. To ensure success, they have established disability leagues, which act as a bridge between political parties and persons with disabilities. These leagues have played a crucial role in fostering an inclusive agenda, developing inclusive communication, sensitization, education, and awareness initiatives, and ensuring the inclusion of persons with disabilities in party frameworks, policies, and procedures. 

Partners handing over the memorandym of understanding to KEDIPA
Sensitisation training for Kenya Disability Parliamentary Association (KEDIPA).

To further strengthen inclusive politics, WFD, in partnership with the Kenya Disability Parliamentary Association (KEDIPA) and Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs), recently organised a retreat to discuss strategies for enhancing disability inclusion through policy and legislative frameworks. The retreat aimed to: 

a) Sensitise KEDIPA members on the legal and policy frameworks for disability inclusion in politics at the global, regional, and national levels. 

b) Provide a platform for engagement between KEDIPA members and OPDs participating in the KIPP program. 

c) Offer proposals and recommendations to KEDIPA members on the proposed PWDs Bills, 2023, focusing on strengthening provisions for the political inclusion of PWDs. 

KEDIPA members received training on disability inclusion legal frameworks, enhancing their political inclusion skills. They also received a memorandum from KIPP OPDs representatives outlining key policy agendas for Parliament prioritization. Further proposals on draft PWDs Bills were presented, emphasising strengthening political inclusion. 

Hon. Maurice Kakai Bisau, MP for Kiminini Constituency and member of KEDIPA, urged the fostering of an inclusive environment promoting unity and diversity of PWDs.  

WFD will monitor KEDIPA and Parliament's policy priorities on disability inclusion, including recruitment and engagement by political parties. 

Political parties must create an inclusive environment for people with disabilities to actively participate in politics and contribute positively to policy decisions. This can be achieved by reserving seats or posts at top party organs, offering accessible accommodations, and considering their opinions in decision-making processes. Joint engagement, collaboration, and experience sharing are essential for promoting political participation, thereby creating a more inclusive and representative political environment. WFD will continue to support Kenyan political parties on their journey to put these measures in place.