Public Transport in Nairobi

The matatu is many things. A magnificent chariot bedecked in wonder to some, a terrifying tin can which threatens life, limb and sanity to others they are the means of travelling through Nairobi. From Westland to East Leigh one has to use these great ships of the road to move about the city.

Visitors to this city find their carefree approach to driving, idiosyncratic designs, loud, fun music and cheap fairs thrilling, our social media intern included. For 50 shillings one can cross vast distances in sometimes surprsing speed, though more often in shocking sloth, in style if not comfort. This is the spirit of Nairobi made animate steel.

The pot holes of the roads transform the humble bus ride into a sea-voyage on a storm tossed ocean. It is perfectly normal to be thrown into the air. Nor is it unusal for the matatu to take a sudden, and frankly, startling lunge to port or starboard according to the whim of the road, driver or traffic. On the way in today our intern had a terrifiying moment where the bus kept going deeper and deeper and listing further and further into a worryingly large puddle.

This is not a means of transport suitable or even useable by all people. The steeps steps make the mere alighting impossible for those whose mobility is limitied. The rough driving would make for a frightening and dangerous ride for someone who is visually impaired. There is no space for wheelchairs. This creates a cruel cycle whereby those who are already limited in their movement are further hindered and so excluded further and further from interacting with the society around them.

This means that access  to jobs, employment or even shopping for basics  are severely restricted. Beyond this it means that meeting friends and family, or attending church or other organisations, things which support and enrich a life, is so much harder, if at all possible.

For these reasons WCC is looking into the available options to improve disability access, we hope to be able to report back with good news.

Economic Empowerment for Persons with Disability

The economic empowerment program was created in order support the women with micro financing loans. The idea behind it is to reduce the financial burden the women are facing. Other aspects behind this program is to educate entrepreneurial skills to the women as they put forward their business plan which will be reviewed by WCC before approving the loans. 

The loans are funded by the European Research Centre, from Geneva, with the aim of improving the lives of the women with disabilities and hopefully use this opportunity to escape poverty. One of the beneficiaries are the Embakasi Deaf Women Group who are made of up different types of businesses within the Embakasi Constituency in Nairobi County. WCC setup a meeting in order to ascertain ways to improve their projects and boost their businesses through the micro financing. 

Rosemary is one of the women who have benefited from the micro financing loan. She is a member of the Embakasi Deaf Woman Group and with the initial 10,000 KHS loan, she opened up a small store. As she progressed in expanding her business, she requested a new loan which she used to setup a photocopying business. From the micro financing plan supported by WCC and CERN, Rosemary now has financial security and has enhanced her standard of living.

Rosemary

Before this opportunity arose, Rosemary had difficulty in meeting her basic needs and her disability hindered her progress. When she was looking employment, her application was rejected as potential employers believed her disability would make her a liability. Not only did she face discrimination but had to deal with the harsh reality of society’s mentality.

Fortunately she is on her way becoming economically independent due to this program. Rosemary has become an inspiration to other members of the women group as she challenges them to take advantage of the economic empowerment program. Rosemary is one of many stories out in Kenya who have benefited from this and the women are repaying their loans in order request a new loan. This is to expand their initial business in order to generate an increase in revenue. Despite the challenges most of the women are determined and self disciplined in order to achieve financial security.

Embakasi Deaf Women Group

Embakasi Deaf Women Group

Scholarship Program for Persons with Disability

‘Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.’ These are the words said by a human rights activist, Malcolm X. Through education, can we hope to achieve social inclusion which Women Challenged to Challenge is an advocate of. One of the core values for WCC is promoting lives as well as bringing positive change to women and girls with disabilities. The scholarship program was initiated in order to bring awareness about disability as well as educate the generation on discrimination. Other reasons were to ease the burden on families who cannot support the children with disabilities. Leaving them behind would only stop the progress required for society to embrace disability and be open about the issues.

Sonia Scholarship Programme

The story of Sonia is only one of the children who have benefited from the scholarship program. She attends a school in Olkalau and is 8 years old. She was born with a rare case of severe flexion of the knees and club feet. Initially the hospital advised to amputate both legs after assessment. However, the reason her legs were saved was due to another condition called spinal bifida. The reason behind this is, the side effect which spinal bifida causes is impaired sensation; so the surgery would have made no positive impact on her lifestyle. The examination was conducted by Italian doctors who were volunteering.

This year the club feet were straightened and although the legs are not as straight as someone her age, she can have mobility unlike before. With the aid of crutches she can move and walk without assistance, at the same time the cast on her feet allowed better stability. The physiotherapist has been advising on her progress and the good news is that in time Sonia would be able to walk without crutches but with intensive physiotherapy. However, due to her condition her legs would not be proportional to her body as Sonia grows up.

Sonia & her Mum

Through the Olkalau rehabilitation centre did WCC discover Sonia and her story. The rehabilitation centre enables the children with disabilities to learn and provide a comfortable environment. The idea behind it is to achieve education whilst the children are recuperating from the surgeries. The centre are run by nuns, with parents able to bring children every September to alleviate the various conditions that the children have, through operation. However, the process requires an interview as well as an assessment from the Italian doctors. The examination allows the doctors to determine which children can be operated on. The following children who can be operated are contacted through their parents and thus the children are admitted.

In Sonia’s case, WCC paid for the school fees and the surgery was scheduled in Kinangop Catholic Hospital. This procedure was to straighten her legs out. After the procedure she is transferred to the rehabilitation centre to start attending classes as well as start the intensive physiotherapy. Once the child has completed the physiotherapy, they leave the rehabilitation centre to join another school. There are several reasons for this and one of them is to create room for other children who require surgery and needs a place to recuperate. The other important reason is to allow the child to go into a school where they can adapt and join a public school which would benefit them in fitting in with society.

Sonia & Maryann

In terms of her academic performance, Sonia is not detracted from her condition and from the teacher’s feedback she is very inquisitive. The school will also administer preparation to Sonia about Spinal bifida and the necessary bowel training required in future. This is to prepare for the time when she leaves the rehabilitation centre and be confident on handling her conditions.

This is one of many stories out in Kenya which the WCC have helped and would continue to do so. Providing education is a fundamental right for all beings and no child should be left behind due to their disability. Hopefully in time this issue would no longer exist in Kenya but there are still work to be done to achieve this goal.