Including people with disabilities in Kenyan political parties on the road to 2022 elections
Democracy calls for the participation and inclusion of all people. However, persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Kenya face systemic exclusion from mainstream governance. This is despite the requirement by the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 to have PWDs occupy at least 5% of the elective and appointive positions. For instance, only 5 out of the 349 members of the Kenyan National Assembly are PWDs – with only one being an elected member while 4 are nominated by political parties.
Social, structural, and economic barriers exclude PWDS from political participation. They include: stigma, negative stereotypes, discrimination, and negative attitudes towards PWDs; the absence of political party policies and laws that fully consider and make provisions for PWDs; the discriminatory high cost of politics in Kenya; and the low level of understanding of disability amongst decision-makers at all levels.
Political parties have a key role to play in addressing some of the long-standing barriers facing PWDs. To support political parties to be more inclusive, WFD Kenya facilitated the review of 11 political parties’ documents – including policies and manifestos – to identify the areas where the documents promote or inhibit the inclusion of PWDs in political party activities, practices, and processes.
After a month of reviewing the political parties’ documents, WFD convened political parties to present the findings of the review on 26th February 2021.
The review indicates that:
- Most political parties lack unique leagues for PWDs in party organs, therefore making it difficult to mainstream disability.
- Due to the levels of vulnerability and unique needs of PWDs, the political parties do not have deliberate strategies to promote inclusion of PWDs, for examples incentives like waivers or subsidies to encourage PWDs’ active engagement in parties’ affairs.
- For political parties with strategic plans, the indicators in the strategic plans are not disability responsive.
- The parties did not have elaborate communication, training, education, and awareness-raising strategies that are focused on disability inclusion.
- The parties lack internal guidelines on enabling access for PWDs.
The report provides recommendations for how to address these gaps. For instance:
- All parties should strive to institutionalize disability inclusion through establishment of disability leagues;
- Parties should develop communication, training, education and awareness raising policies that address the disability needs and concerns of PWDs;
- Parties should review their constitutions, policies, strategic plans, and manifestos as well as human resources and policies so as to comply with the provision of the available legal frameworks of disability inclusion in Kenya.
One of the parties – Narc-Kenya – has already fulfilled one of the recommendations in the report by launching its disability league.
In his speech during the launch, Narc-Kenya Secretary General Michael Orwa urged PWDs with political ambitions to join political parties and register as a way of strategic positioning. “If you are serious about actively and meaningfully participating in politics, democracy and especially inclusion of PWDs, it is paramount to join a political party.” He said.
Currently, WFD is supporting the technical capacities of each of the 11 political parties to incorporate the recommendations of the report ahead of the 2022 general elections in Kenya.