Tuesday’s Tribe talks with Lizzie Kiama, founder of This-Ability Consulting, Kenya

Tell us about yourself and This-Ability

I established This-Ability in 2012 as the result of the frustration I felt myself when trying to secure employment as a disabled woman. While both private and public organisations in Kenya are required to employ people with disabilities (5% of total staff), the reality is that it is not enforced. There is no strategic engagement on disability inclusion for private entities. As a result very few people with disabilities are employed in the country.

I set up This-Ability as a multi-disciplinary development consultancy focusing on Disability Rights and Inclusion. Our team combines business strategy and social entrepreneurship with a passion for disability rights. We work to provide technical support and assistance to strengthen disability rights and inclusion in Kenya. We also work on inclusive supply and demand approaches to design and implement strategies and innovative business approaches that are profitable, scalable and eradicate the challenges faced by women and girls with disabilities in mainstream development. We position ourselves as being “at the intersection of Business and Disability.”

How has the organisation evolved over time?

Our initial focus was employment, but over time we have broadened our reach to take a more holistic approach to inclusion.  We started to promote the business case for disability inclusion, focusing on increasing employment for persons with disabilities but discovered that many people with disabilities in Kenya don’t have the equal access to inclusive education, and as a result, were unable to secure good employment opportunities and also because Kenya’s social protection policies are weak, there is not much incentive for businesses to pay attention as  persons with disabilities didn’t have enough purchasing power to be a significant market segment. The situation is particularly difficult for women, so we target our work around women and girls with disabilities.

Has the situation improved over the years?

Yes it has, but we still have a long way to go.  There are still very negative perceptions of disability in Kenya; we need to change the narrative. We need the Government to enforce regulations for private and public businesses. We need better social protection policies. We need people with disabilities to have equal access to inclusive education and employment, and be equally represented in media and advertising.  We need to continue to educate business around the advantages of disability inclusion and we need more positive case studies to highlight success in this area.

Would you like to share with us any particular highlights?

One of our particularly successful initiatives was Huu’Wezo. With support from the Australian High Commission (DFAT) in Nairobi This-Ability commissioned a series of photographs to create visibility for young women with disabilities in an effort to challenge stereotypes around gender, sexuality and disability. It was very well received internationally, allowed us to engage with some businesses on the topic of strategic business inclusion and, above all, it gave a huge boost to the confidence of young women with disabilities, and has contributed to national movement building of women with disabilities in Kenya. We hope to run another series later this year.

How can #valuable support your mission?

We are keen to engage with any global platforms that will amplify our work.  We would specifically like to see the #valuable conversation localized for underdeveloped markets such as ours and to learn from other countries that have successfully engaged business on the topic of inclusion.  It’s a particularly strategic time as the Guide for Business on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – developed by the UN Global Compact and ILO – is now available. It’s a good time for us to begin localizing the conversation.

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