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SUNY/CID's Agile and Harmonized Assistance for Devolved Institutions (AHADI) project in Kenya is working with local communities and organizations to improve inclusion for people with disabilities by increasing their access to information and allowing them to have a voice in local planning.

For Lucy Nkatha, Coordinator of the Kiengu Disability Community-Based Organization in Meru County, Kenya’s Access to Information Act 2016 meant that persons with disabilities (PWDs) could finally have an opportunity to participate in local political decision-making processes. As a PWD, or differently abled person (DAP) herself, Lucy has been ostracized and shunned by members of her community, and to some extent the government, all her life.

"Having lived with a disability and experienced the stigma associated with physical disability all my life, I did not think the government was sensitive to the issues of DAPs like myself," said Lucy. "In fact, political decisions have largely been made for us and I have felt excluded from participating in public fora. I believed that society holds the same view of DAPs across all leadership levels."

Kenya's Constitution and a series of progressive laws aim to ensure that citizens are actively engaged in decisions affecting their lives.

The Access to Information Act passed in 2016 guarantees the rights of all citizens to access government information. With the new law, citizens of Meru County, like Lucy and other PWDs, are entitled access to information held by the county government in the budgeting and planning cycles. In Meru, previous county plans and budgets did not include any initiatives to address challenges affecting people with disabilities, and county government did not publish or disseminate information about local planning, budgeting, and auditing. All too often, government offices for services and venues for meetings have no disability ramps or elevators. Without information and access, citizens could not shape the county’s priorities, discuss trade-offs with their representatives in the county assemblies, and track whether the county budget is delivering on what was agreed to during public consultations.

SUNY/CID's Agile and Harmonized Assistance for Devolved Institutions (AHADI) project in Kenya is working with local communities and organizations to improve inclusion for people with disabilities by increasing their access to information and allowing them to have a voice in local planning. In the case of Meru County, the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), a civil society organization which works with communities to build their capacity to engage with governments, sought grant funding from the AHADI project. Through this grant, ALIN worked with other local groups to use innovative information and communication technologies to get information to people with disabilities and to support them in participating in Meru County planning.

ALIN created a database of nearly 50,000 Meru County residents, then crafted simple messages with updates about Meru County’s Annual Development Plan and sent these messages by SMS to all the residents in the database. ALIN also joined forces with a network of 83 local associations to further disseminate information about Meru County Government’s plans and budgets, and established a Citizen’s Service Center facility to receive and transmit requests from citizens to government through a toll-free telephone line, SMS, and social media. The center provides timely access to information, data, documents, and information on policy formulation, implementation, and oversight.

ALIN assisted Lucy and other PWDs to articulate their challenges, and to work with various stakeholders in the county to package information required by people with special needs. Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Department for International Development's (DFID) funded project, citizen PWDs are now part of the planning process and can make meaningful contributions to help the county plan.

"We prepared and submitted a concept paper highlighting our challenges and required interventions, and outlined reasons why disability issues need to be captured in the County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) 2018-2022," said Lucy. "We then met and presented our document to the County Director for Planning and the County Director for Gender and Social Development. We were pleasantly surprised; our concept was well received with the county team promising to involve us in the development of the current CIDP. More than 10 DAPs participated in various Sector Working Groups at the forums. We raised our issues with the respective sectors, and even now, not only are disability issues captured in the CIDP, we have started to see results. We have a new ramp at the Meru referral hospital, put up by the administration, as well as lifts at the county offices," Lucy added, smiling.

Lucy Nkatha, Coordinator of the Kiengu Disability Community- Based Organization, participates in reviewing proposals for consideration in county planning.
Provided by SUNY/CID

Read more about SUNY/CID's projects at cid.suny.edu


The State University of New York’s Center for International Development is a university-wide institution that designs and implements international technical assistance and training projects, conducts policy-oriented research, and contributes to both the theory and the practice of international development. Through its in-country development projects, and its conferences, publications, research, and outreach activities, the Center works to enhance the capacity of developing nations to meet critical challenges.

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