Wednesday, May 22, 2024

CREATE(ing) Africa

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By Richard Griffiths

This weekend my daughter came to visit me in the Netherlands. Two years ago she finished her qualifications as a special-needs worker in the UK, but instead of reaching for the career boosts that awaited her, she cashed her savings, packed her bags and went to Kenya to work with special needs children there. I gave her my column for this month….

The 2007 study on the ‘State of Disabled Peoples Rights in Kenya’ estimates the total number of people with disabilities in Kenya to be at 3,280,000. This number represents 10% of the Kenyan population and reflects the UN recognized global disability average. The study also found that Kenya does not have a welfare system to support sectors of the population that are less advantaged, in particular those who have disabilities.

80% of the people with disabilities interviewed during the study claimed having experienced segregation, isolation and lack of support for their needs on the grounds of their disability. The discrimination they face appears to have social roots, and originates from stereotypes that portray people with disabilities as burdens, useless, good for nothing and curses.

There is a need to promote equal enjoyment of human rights for people with disabilities and to respond to their economic, socio-cultural and political needs through various mechanisms. These include the mainstreaming of people with disabilities in public programmes, promoting the equal participation of people with disabilities in the development of national legislation and policy, and offering opportunities for them to freely participate in social and cultural life.

It is obvious that the social, emotional and psychological needs of people with disabilities living in low income slum areas are neither addressed nor met. They are therefore unable to freely express themselves, to build up their communication skills, self-esteem and independence and lack direct access to a much needed support network within their local communities. This will have a detrimental effect not only on their self-perception, their freedom to choose and their ability to live their lives to their fullest potential, but also on the perception and attitude the local community has towards them.

This was one of the reasons that prompted myself, Nicola Griffiths (Disability Project Manager) and my colleagues, MariaGrazia Pellegrino (Art Therapist) and Abdul Yunus (Logistics Coordinator) to found CREATE, a Nairobi based NGO which advocates social change and the empowerment, inclusion and rehabilitation of vulnerable communities and individuals through its core principles of Creativity, Recreation, Education, Art Therapy and Expression.

The main objective of the organisation is to offer psycho-social support and services to isolated and stigmatised  groups and individuals regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, needs, abilities and economic situation by running diverse social-creative projects tailored to meet individual and community needs.

One of our projects is the specifically disability focused Jitokeze (Kiswahili for Show Yourself). The Jitokeze Project  aims to address the social, emotional and psychological challenges around disability through our psycho-social support services and programs which focus on social inclusion and integration, art therapy, training and education,  awareness and family support.

As the participants progress in the Jitokeze program, their renewed awareness and self-confidence are carried with them into their daily lives, their family relationships, school setting and community, helping them become accepted and active members of their communities breaking the perpetual cycle of poverty, isolation and exclusion.

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