Joseph Owino: A Disability Inclusion Champion

Youth Alive! Kenya - August 29, 2022 - 0 comments

Who is Joseph Owino?

I’m a 23-year-old young leader pursuing a degree in Economics and Statistics at Mount Kenya University (MKU) currently in my fourth year of study. I’ve been privileged to serve as the Vice Chair and Chairperson of Mount Kenya University Special Needs Association (group of students with disabilities at MKU) for a cumulative three-year period. Through this opportunity, I’ve got the privilege to unearth my undying motivation and profound purpose to advocate for the welfare and interests of students and youth with disabilities. This is in key domains including education, empowerment through skills and talent development and governance engagements as well as promoting disability awareness and angling for their full inclusion.

I’ve also gotten the opportunity to work together with fellow student leaders from other campuses working on the same domain to have a national caucus for students with disabilities, namely Universities and Colleges Students with Special Needs Association of Kenya (UCSSNAK) where I serve as the Chairperson.

The Universities and Colleges Students with Special Needs Association of Kenya (UCSSNAK) which is in its final stages of formal registration. This is a group geared towards bringing together the voices of students with disabilities from all the higher educational institutions in this country.

You were a participant of the PARTICIPATE National Conference, what was your experience like?

Getting this opportunity was a blessing of its own kind. I was privileged to learn from the lived experiences of my fellow participants for they are paragons of patriotism, humanity and dedication. They are truly what scholars should focus on to aid in solving societal ills. Besides, I got to share about disability inclusion during our discussions.

With this experience, I hope that the International Conference will also come in handy to help exchange ideas with my fellows from the globe on disability inclusion. I am looking forward to a thrilling conversation with my fellows to cross-check and examine how their governments have implemented what the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Rights of Persons with disabilities in Africa and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities(UNCRPD)  mandates the state parties to implement in their respective countries to support the welfare and development of Persons with disabilities in different settings and factors.

What challenges have you faced in this work as a disability inclusion Champion?

There is a lack of goodwill from different actors who see issues of disability inclusion as non-issues and some only pay attention to them when documented on paper but not put into full practice.

There is utter and distasteful discrimination against participation of certain people based on their disabilities to access forums or even information since they may need extra resources which bear more costs which is seen as a burden.

Persons with disabilities are most often viewed as after-thought even when engagements revolve around special interest groups where preference is given to the youth and women while leaving them out.

What are your proudest achievements as a disability inclusion champion?

Alongside a team, I delivered the first ever Disability Awareness Day in Mount Kenya University in 2021 while serving as the MKU-SNA Chairperson.

It’s been a self-fulfilling adventure. I have been getting responses from different quarters that I’m doing a wonderful job. Therefore, it’s a venture I would want to fully delve into after my studies.

Fully registering a self-help group predominantly for persons with disabilities in my rural locality made me to reflect on the old adage that indeed charity begins at home and inclusion agenda should also begin from our local set-up.

Getting media appearances has been a major boost since they play a catalytic role in enhancing disability awareness and building the inclusion agenda. I have appeared on TV47, KTN News and Ramogi TV.

Parting shot?

I want to quote the famous German Poet and theologian Martin Niemoller, who says” First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me-and there was no one left to speak for me.” 

This is why I will stand for inclusion of Persons with disabilities and I’ll do it even if I’ll be the last general standing.

Stephen Hawking also says that, “My advice to other persons with disabilities would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.”

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