By Stella Tiyoy (YES 2012-2013, Kenya, placed by Greenheart in Fayetteville, NC)
I, Stella Tiyoy, and John Laton (YES 2012-2013, Kenya, placed by World Link in Reedley, CA), are young people living with disabilities in Kenya.
During my YES year, I learned about disability rights in the United States and was inspired to work with John on an initiative to address the existing accessibility gaps in our home country. My passion to advocate for accessibility rights for people with disabilities was further intensified when I was searching for colleges but could not find a school that fully catered to my accessibility needs. The schools I visited lacked ramps and elevators or accessible restrooms.
As a result, John and I applied for and received a YES Alumni Grant for the Accessible Kenya Campaign, an initiative that seeks to ensure accessibility for people with mobility needs and that this population is taken into consideration in all aspects of social and economic development.
The Accessible Kenya Campaign’s trainings, facilitated by special needs educator Francis Mwayonga and Michael Muigwa, an advocate of the high court and a person with disabilities, sought to engage young people with disabilities by sharing skills needed to be better disability advocates.
Participants learned about the rights of persons with disabilities as stipulated in Kenya’s Persons with Disability Act (No. 14 of 2003) as well as in other international treaties, like the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This session informed trainees of their rights and the steps to take in case these rights are violated. Participants also learned about the Sustainable Development Goals that relate to disabilities and how these SDGs hold a deeper promise for persons with disabilities worldwide.
The sessions also guided the participants through types of disability advocacy and the importance of disability advocacy in the community today, including the skills needed to become effective disability advocates and ways in which perceptions and models of thinking can be shifted.
Many thanks and appreciation to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Kennedy-Lugar YES program for the alumni grant opportunities that empower YES alumni to implement meaningful projects to tackle major challenges in our communities. I am grateful to my partner, John Laton Ngatia, AFS Kenya, and our facilitators and trainees for their passion for disability advocacy. We look forward to carrying out more advocacy trainings and creating a better environment for persons with disabilities in Kenya.