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During the past two years, I have had the opportunity to partner with the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in Nairobi in initiating two activities on disability and inclusion. One was #DrawDisability, an activity that aimed at educating children with and without disabilities on disability and inclusion through the use of visual arts or drawings. And the second one was Inclusive Sports which focused on fostering inclusion among children with and without disabilities through play and sports.
The responses from the participants as well as from the Embassy have been overwhelmingly positive. The need for more activities of the same nature have been constantly expressed and sought for. I remember one participant said, ‘I have learned a lot about disability from these activities and I hope there is more to come’.
So this year, I was thrilled to initiate an activity to commemorate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. I thought of engaging the diplomatic community in Kenya by raising their awareness and understanding on the rights of persons with disabilities. Hence, a Panel Discussion on Disability Rights came into fruition. The Panel, which took place on 5 December 2018, was conducted in partnership with the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in Nairobi and the Global Observatory for Inclusion (GLOBI). The Panel aimed to collectively answer the question, ‘How can the diplomatic community promote disability and inclusion’? Participants were from the embassies of Australia, Colombia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Philippines, as well as from some of the agencies of the United Nations.
The Panel aimed to collectively answer the question, ‘How can the diplomatic community promote disability and inclusion’?
I moderated the Panel Discussion and Dr. Omega Garibay, the spouse of Hon. Uriel Norman Garibay (the Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines in Kenya) delivered the Welcome Address focusing on the importance of empathy and compassion in moving towards inclusion. The Panel was composed of:
Millicent Palo, Board Member of Special Olympics Kenya and a mother of two persons with disabilities
Maria Omare, Founding Executive Director of The Action Foundation
Kendi Oketch, Founding Executive Director of Talk Dyslexia and a dyslexic person herself
The Panel raised critical points during the sharing of their experiences:
One panelist shared how the society still has the tendency to see disability as something that needs ‘fixing’, as subject of pity and charity. Negative attitudes towards disability remains a challenge. Therefore, there is a need to shift people’s paradigm. There is a need to address environmental barriers to ensure the full participation of persons with disabilities in the society.
Capacity and accessibility
Since the participants were from the diplomatic community in Kenya, the Panel highlighted the need to increase the capacities of the people in the community in accommodating persons with disabilities, as well as the need to establish physical accessibility. Can we communicate if a Deaf client comes to our office to process his or her passport? Do we have accommodations for people with intellectual disabilities especially in dealing with paper works for travel? Are our chanceries accessible to those with physical or mobility limitations?
It was consistently stressed that in order for the diplomatic community to be engaged on disability and inclusion, they need to talk about the issue more and more. This implies the need to conduct more initiatives geared towards raising awareness about the rights of persons with disabilities.
The Panel Discussion ended by hearing the impressions from the participants. Building on the point on Advocacy, the participants suggested to conduct more activities of the same nature.
I was happy that the event not only encouraged awareness raising, but also networking among participants. I realized that the Panel Discussion brought people, passionate about diversity and inclusion in general, together.
the Panel Discussion brought people, passionate about diversity and inclusion in general, together.
Definitely, there is more to come. And my aim is to continue encouraging the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in Kenya to take the lead in further promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. After all, the Philippines signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a critical document considered as one of the bases of the annual commemoration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities.