The inclusion and diversity agenda is key in today’s evolving world. Running sustainable operations now calls for businesses to create shared value and promote social justice amongst their communities. The reality, however, is that Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) have historically missed out on opportunities to be part of the workforce due to erroneous perceptions, fear, myths, and prejudice that continue to limit understanding and acceptance of disability.
Myths abound such as PWDs are inefficient at work and that accommodating them in the workplace is expensive. It is such notions that employers must overcome in order to tap into the value that PWDs can add to every value chain.
According to the 2019 census, 2.2% of Kenyans (0.9 million people) live with some form of disability. The census indicated that 1.9% of men have a disability compared with 2.5% of women. It also showed that there are more people with disabilities living in rural than urban areas with residence prevalence rates of 2.6% (0.7 million) of people in rural areas and 1.4% (0.2 million) of people in urban areas.
Additionally, the 2019 Labor Market Assessment commissioned by Sightsavers revealed that unemployment and poverty are some of the major challenges facing PWDs in Kenya. It was estimated that PWDs constitute less than 2% of the workforce. In the same line, UN statistics show that in developing countries, 80% to 90% of persons with disabilities of working age are unemployed, whereas in industrialized countries the figure is between 50% and 70%.
As we celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), we must stress the importance of empowering people with disabilities since just like other persons, it is their human right to have a dignified and productive life. It is also time that we seriously reviewed our commitment to promote the full and equal participation of PWDs, especially as employers.
The inclusion of PWDs in employment provides them the opportunity for social and economic participation. We believe that diverse workgroups and talents are indeed key in developing better solutions to social, economic, and business challenges. This makes investing in systems and facilities for PWDs inclusion a responsibility for everyone and not the privilege of a small minority.
We must be actively involved in mapping out opportunities for disability-inclusive employment across our value chains in a bid to empower PWDs and improve their livelihoods. For our businesses to thrive and for us to realize our ambitions, we must engage in a diverse talent with a range of backgrounds, skills, and capabilities, making diversity and inclusion as a key enabler to business growth.
To achieve this ambition, Kenya Breweries Limited signed strategic partnerships with organisations that are trailblazers in building inclusive corporate organisations. They leverage these partnerships to share a progressive approach and encourage the participation of their partners and suppliers in the agenda.
In partnership with Sightsavers, an international development organisation working to support equality for people with disabilities, we launched a pilot programme in Homa Bay County. The programme is now in its second phase and we have 71 farmers with disabilities currently enrolled into the programme. Thirty one of these 71 farmers with disabilities are women. They continue to to empower and enable persons with disabilities to participate equally in society.
More businesses must remain open to working with more like-minded entities to make inclusion a reality for all persons with disabilities. It is their basic human right and we have the responsibility to respect and offer this to them.