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Persons with disabilities marginalised in politics

Kenya has been a multi-party system since 1992, with regular elections and the political party system being fairly well regulated in legislation. Currently there are 20 different parties represented in the Parliament. Kenya’s constitution (2010) requires, among other things, that a person with any disability is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect and that state shall ensure the progressive implementation of the principle that at least five percent of the members of the public in elective and appointive bodies are persons with disabilities (PWDs). Kenya has also signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The country’s national disability legislation is also moderately comprehensive. Despite this, the role of PWDs, both as voters and as representatives, in politics is often much weaker than the rest of the population. Many of the political parties have not had the will nor the expertise to support the civil and political rights of PWDs. As a result, PWDs are often marginalised in politics. In addition to these challenges, the connections of Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) to political parties are limited and therefore their skills and experience have not been utilised. 

General elections will take place in Kenya in August 2022. It has been estimated that there are around 3.5 million persons with disabilities in the country who have the opportunity to vote and stand for election in terms of their age. Much work was done in 2020–2021 to promote the civil and political rights of PWDs.

Our work in Kenya

In August 2020, Demo Finland started to support, through its partner organisation Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), the capacity building of Kenyan political parties in the inclusion of persons with disabilities and to strengthen the civil and political rights of PWDs.

The project activities include trainings to representatives of 13 political parties in Kenya on the involvement and importance of the participation of PWDs in democracy and also raise awareness on the challenges faced by PWDs in politics. Parties will also be supported during the project on mainstreaming disability inclusion in policy issues. In addition, the project will support civil society organisations and DPOs to better engage and advocate to political parties and other duty bearers for the inclusion of PWDs in politics.

Results of our work

  • 9 parties have founded disability leagues/caucuses, 8 parties have nominated PWDs as candidates in their central committees, and 10 parties have reviewed their party documents and structures and put in place new measures to improve inclusion.
  • Together with civil society, political parties jointly drafted 10 minimum standards of inclusion for political parties in Kenya.
  • The political parties jointly developed and presented memoranda to the Parliament on proposed amendments to the Political Parties Act, the Political Parties Primaries Bill, and the Persons with Disabilities Bill in order to enhance disability inclusion.
  • CSOs organised eight advocacy forums on the inclusion of PWDs with political parties, three of which were also attended by state actors.
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