About a week ago the governor of my city commissioned a youth Advisory Board to offer him advise and concrete measures of how he can support the youth agenda.I was competitively appointed as a youth with a disability to represent the interests of youths who are marginalized and mostly left at the periphery of development. We are new in the office and still doing some in house planning but all I know is that the major problem facing my fellow problems are three.1.Jobs 2.Jobs 3.Jobs.
I have run out of fingers counting the number of youths in my city with college degrees, diplomas and polytechnic certificates. Some have qualified with very good grades but most are jobless and are finding it very hard to sustain their lives. Could this be a issue of unemployment or is there a systematic denial of jobs for youths with disabilities?
At any given day I obtain emails and messages to get fellow youths jobs. Others with desperation undertones ask for “any jobs available”..AnyJob. Last week I received a particular email that moved me to tears. It read:
I hereby apply for the position of Accountant in your company, My Resume is attached for your consideration. Best Regards(I read through the c.v,and I was impressed. I was alarmed by the fact that the sender had indicated that she has a physical disability).
And I replied..
Hello?Received your c.v and I am more than willing to help you if need be and if and when I hear of something. I was wondering if it is necessary to put that you have a “physical disability”. Knowing our country, don’t you think that predisposes you to stereotype? Just asking. Good luck
The sender Replied..
Hey,Thanks for acknowledging receipt of my CV.Feel free to forward it to any potential employer should there be an opportunity.I was advised sometimes back that it is important to state that I have a physical disability in my CV.I agree that it increases the chances of stereotypes towards me,Personally I think it is better to be dismissed on that point rather than going for an interview and be dismissed upon discovering that I have a physical disability,it saves me the pain. All in all,your advice on that will be highly appreciated.
That was the moving part. A young person, who is a Certified Public Accountant with a prestigious degree on top, knows very well that the way she walks is the reason why she is unemployed. Where did the word meritocracy go? Where one gets a job for what they can do rather than how they walk?
80% of world’s disabled people are found in developing countries. In most parts of the world including Kenya, they are denied basic amenities including education. For those who have attained higher level of academic knowledge, the story of their struggles is moving. From crawling to school, to being bullied in school and even being unable to play with rest. Going through all those barriers, it becomes very hurting when such a person undergoes discrimination even in a work place setting.
Our constitution together with the disability Act calls for 5% progressive employment of staff in a workforce. Very few employers have implemented this directive.There have been other initiatives like the Kenya Youth Employment Projects and many others where youths with disabilities are rarely featured.
Disabled people are not objects to benefit from charity as most people view them. They are human beings who are driven by very many things eg enabling environment, job satisfaction, career development and many more. That said it is therefore important for employers to understand that employees with a disability are assets to an organisation other than a liability. There should be will power as well to employ them and reward them competitively.
Until then disability will be inability to secure meaningful employment in My country Kenya, and more so in My city.