Interviewing Anderson Gitonga
12 March 2018
Anderson Gitonga is the CEO of United Disabled Persons of Kenya and a co-investigator of the Bridging the Gap research project.
He is a community development practitioner who has successfully led multi-disciplinary teams in implementing community focussed programmes for the last twenty years, focusing on vulnerable and marginalised groups, particularly persons with various disabilities in Kenya.
Can you tell us how you were involved in the research behind Bridging the Gap?
United Disabled Persons of Kenya (UDPK) was a critical organization to be involved in the research for Bridging the Gap, because it is such a strong voice in the disability sector in Kenya.
UDPK is made up of close to 80 disabled people’s organizations and it hosts a network of disability organizations. It was exciting to get involved in the research and we plan to use it in our ongoing advocacy work.
Can you describe how the research has further informed what you already saw as a ‘disability and development gap’ in Kenya?
A lot of the time when people refer to disability, they are likely to quote research from 10 or so years ago, which informs us on trends for persons with disabilities. This new research, spanning a period of three years, brings to light new insights surrounding disability and development.
For example, anecdotally we know that persons with disabilities are disproportionately represented among the resource poor. The new research offers key stakeholders a current picture of this, as well as projections of what needs to be done to bridge the gap between disability and development.
Can you tell us a little about how you have worked with the Kenyan government in terms of advising on disability policy?
We’ve been working closely with the government of Kenya to ensure that its policy framework is in line with the Constitution of Kenya and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). UDPK has been involved in several policy developments, including the development of the National Disability Policy and review of the Persons with Disabilities Act 2003.
This research has informed the recently launched policy on provision of Education and Training for Learners and Trainees with Disabilities. Disabled people’s organisations were involved in the entire process.
The research has also informed our lobby work with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the agency that is coordinating the planned 2019 National Census. The tool developed has incorporated the Washington Group Set of questions in collecting disability data.
How will this research guide future policy decisions in Kenya?
Research and data are important components towards the development of inclusive policies. However, there is a dearth of knowledge when it comes to persons with disabilities.
This research shall play a very crucial role in providing evidence that will support the development of disability inclusive policies in the four key areas of education, health, social protection and labour markets.
This will go a long way in also supporting monitoring on the implementation of the SDGs and the involvement of persons with disabilities.
Is there any particular area in Kenya that’s further ahead in terms of policies for persons with disabilities?
Kenya has the very progressive Persons with Disability Act of 2003, a comprehensive Bill of Rights in the constitution and an article which specifically addresses the rights of persons with disabilities.
Moreover, the country has developed a national action plan on accessibility and disability rights and an action plan on the implementation of the concluding observations of the CRPD Committee of Experts.
One of the key principles of the constitution is public participation, which has ensured that persons with disabilities are consulted through their representative organizations when domestic policy frameworks are being aligned with the constitution.
How does devolution complicate policy-making for persons with disabilities in Kenya?
Often you hear county governments say that disability policy is not devolved — that it is a function of national government. But if counties don’t consider issues of disability, their laws and policies may not promote equality and ensure non-discrimination of people with disability.
At the county level, there is no clear framework of consulting representative organizations of persons with disabilities. This means they can be left out in both policy and development decision-making processes.
We maintain that disability is a cross-cutting issue. As long as counties are not willing to look at disability this way, disability mainstreaming is not likely to be enforced.
Including persons with disabilities in development could be greatly hampered if counties continue to say that disability is not a devolved function.