Gender and Disability Mainstreaming experts have urged learning institutions in the country to dismantle institutional, environmental and attitudinal barriers that unfairly limit the potential of people with disability (PWDs) from exploiting their full potential.
According to the experts, these barriers can be removed by making the physical environment more accessible, providing information in a variety of accessible formats, and challenging attitudes, objectification and making biases about PWDs.
The experts were speaking at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) during the gender and disability mainstreaming sensitization of departmental coordinators held on Tuesday, February 16, 2021.
The meeting was organized by the Gender Directorate headed by Prof. Wanjiru Wanyoike, to advocate for equal opportunities for everyone, including people with disabilities to obtain decent and productive work environment based on the principles of freedom, equity, security and human dignity.
Light for the World(LTWD) Programme Officer, Jane Waithera who was one of the facilitators said, in order to level the playing field for everyone, it is important to advocate for disability perspectives in all aspects of policy and labour legislation, effect implementation and enforce existing disability laws and policies.
Ms. Waithera urged learning institutions to enforce disability inclusion strategies and support reasonable accommodations to ensure that students with disabilities access barrier free services within the learning institutions.
“Persons with disabilities only have impairments but when barriers are added it becomes a disability.”
She further stated that “impairment plus accessible environment equals to inclusion.”
In conclusion, Ms. Waithera said LFTW is committed to supporting disability inclusion by working with supportive partners like JKUAT, Standard chartered bank among others .
Another speaker, Ms. Salome Muigai who is a Social Development Consultant and a Commissioner in the Constitutional Review Commission, made an eye-opening presentation on “Gender diversity and inclusion and handling sexual harassment at the work place.”
Ms. Muigai reiterated that sexual harassment assessment should be part of staff performance appraisals to stop individuals with sexual harassment backgrounds from attaining leadership positions.
In order to stop sexual harassment at the workplace, Ms. Muigai urged learning institutions to set up confidential channels for reporting cases while remaining anonymous. She added that this will pave way for fair investigations.
She advised parents to be mindful of who they leave their children with while away from home, because everyone is susceptible to sexual harassment including young boys and girls.
Prof. Wanyoike challenged the coordinators to immediately start sensitization in respective departments while also working on removing existing barriers.
She urged Heads of Departments to take the responsibility of implementation of existing policies, urging the coordinators who were present to be agents of change and to take the individual responsibility of pushing for change and inclusion in their departments.
During a brainstorming session at the end of sensitization meeting, participants identified areas that require attention within the university to create and enhance the level of inclusivity for PLWDs.
The coordinators suggested more special facilities inside the university, need to avail information such as timetables in various formats, allocation of modified rooms and availability of transport inside the university among others.
The forum is one of the university activities that are being implemented as part of an employable program which is a pilot program by Light for The World funded by the Standard Chartered Bank. Its main objective is to build employability capacity among students in universities.