Minority and marginalised groups in Nakuru County claim discrimination

George Otieno represented persons living wth disability at the community forum organised by AWCFS for minority and marginalised groups [Photo: George Ngesa]
George Otieno represented persons living wth disability at the community forum organised by AWCFS for minority and marginalised groups [Photo: George Ngesa]

People with disabilities in Nakuru County are not a happy lot as far as the implementation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 is concerned.

According to George Otieno, a leader for persons living with disability in Nakuru County, their lot has been given a raw deal as far as getting employment and or winning Government tenders as per the affirmative clause in the Constitution is concerned.

Says Otieno: “They always say they have employed persons with disability and awarded others with tenders, but I have no idea where they are because I have not seen them.”

Otieno was speaking at a community forum organised by African Woman and Child Feature Service (AWCFS) to discuss issues and concerns of marginalised and minority communities including women in Nakuru County.

In the meeting convened at the Menengai Social Hall, Otieno who represented the Nakuru County Persons with Disability Group lamented that they had been excluded from accessing the socio-economic resources of the well-endowed County in Central Rift Valley region.

“There must be someone accountable to follow up and find out whom among the persons with disability has benefitted so that we are not told imaginary stories,” said Otieno.

He was referring to the 30 percent affirmative action procurement rule that at least a third of tenders should be awarded to women, youth and persons living with disability.

At the same forum, representatives of the youth accused the County government of discrimination in allocation of employment opportunities.

“You will always find outsiders taking up positions in a certain area where the local youth could easily fit it,” noted Jacinta Maara, who represented the youth from Rongai sub-county.

Maara, who also heads Amani Kenya project initiated by the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru to advocate for peace, accused the executive of being inaccessible making it frustrating to raise their concerns.

The meeting was held from the perspective that the Constitution of Kenya 2010 has given far reaching rights to women, youth, people living with disability as well as minorities and the marginalised groups. However, it’s noted that these rights are just in theory and not being put into effect as massive resources are not benefitting these critical groups.

The meeting was held as an intervention designed in empowering communities so that they can become champions of their destinies in demanding for good governance as well as increasing visibility of issues and concerns of marginalised and minority communities to a level that policy and decisions makers as well as communities can take note.

Speakers at the meeting also took issue with Nakuru County leaders for promoting nepotism and tribalism which continues disenfranchise the marginalised and minority.

“Our leaders do not care at all about fairness. They are only interested in fixing jobs for their brothers, sisters, friends and those who come from their tribe,” observed Callen Kwamboka, national chairperson of the Kenya National Alliance of Street Vendors and Informal Traders (KENASVIT). She added: “It hurts so much that there are youth, women and persons with disability suffering because due to selfishness of our leaders.”

Kwamboka further appealed to the leaders to have a human face when offering employment and tenders to the public for the sake of good and transparent leadership.

However, in their differences, some of the leaders present called for a collaborative approach to address the issues, grievances and concerns that had been raised at the forum.

Wesley Kipng’ok, Director Social Services Nakuru County, concurred with the marginalised that they have a right to apply for tenders and jobs.

“You have the right to demand to know the criteria used in awarding tenders and recruiting staff but you cannot blame the County government or the relevant bodies for not considering the marginalized and the minority communities if they have not taken the initiative to apply,” Kipng’ok informed the representatives.

Following establishment of departments and sub-county administration offices, Kipng’ok advised interested individuals seeking assistance to capitalise on availability of the officers instead of targeting the executive at the county headquarters.

According to Kipng’ok, the department of social services has proposed establishment of a Women Empowerment Centre in Njoro to nurture women’s capabilities. However, consultations regarding its financing are still in progress.

On tapping youth talent, Abel Mungai, an officer from the County’s Department of Education, Youth, Culture and Social Services, said they were already renovating the Players Theatre in Nakuru town to meet their needs.

Mungai also revealed that the County had established gender based violence sub-cluster committees to curb the incidents and help victims access medical and counselling facilities as well as services.

“We are also in the process of drafting a policy on gender based violence so that the issue can be addressed at all levels,” said Mungai.

Further, the Nakuru County Government is engaging private partners in promoting vocational training for the youth to help them succeed in their studies for those who have not been able to get admissions into colleges or universities.

“We are involving donors in equipping our polytechnics across the county. We are seeking to have a polytechnic in each ward,” said Josephine Wanjiru, a representative from the Directorate of Youth and Vocational Training.

Currently, 119 polytechnic instructors are on contract to train the youth who have enrolled for the technical courses. However, Wanjiru urged the youth to apply for the polytechnic training since the skills are crucial in managing companies and this would also propel them to win in tender applications.

The meeting was also attended by Members of the County Assembly who would ensure to pass bills that target improving lives of minorities and marginalised groups.

While the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) expressed interest in championing the rights of the special groups, they also asked members of the special groups to be active participants in pushing for the recognition of their needs.

On her part, Mariashoni MCA, Agnes Jerotich, said she had introduced a Minority and Marginalized Bill whose approval could pave way for renewed recognition of women, youth and persons with disability in sharing of the available county resources.

“When you are a minority, you equally become marginalised and, therefore, it would require legislations to guard against any discrimination,” reiterated Jerotich.

She noted: “The proposed Bill will make it mandatory for the County government to reserve a percentage of all tenders to women, youth and persons with disability in each financial year.”

Beatrice Nyawira, a nominated MCA, said they are lobbying for civic education at the grassroots to educate women on how to contribute towards the budget so that their priorities are considered.

Nyawira was concerned that the rigid traditions   among communities prevented women from raising their concerns during the public budget-making forums.

“We have seven women in the budget committee who are pushing for the interests of women, children, youth and persons with disability but we have a problem when we go to the grassroots to collect views because women are not allowed to talk and it becomes difficult to know what their priorities are,” observed Nyawira.

However, Grace Kibuku, national chairperson of the Women Grassroots Empowerment and Gender Equity Kenya (GRESK) urged leaders to be passionate about addressing issues affecting the marginalised and minority groups in the County.

“This is a cosmopolitan County and we cannot ignore any person, community or tribe in the development agenda. Issues regarding women, the youth and persons with disability must be looked at critically,” said Kibuku.

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