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Changing the working landscape in Kenya

Photo: a group of deaf young people at the factory

Providing an ‘accessible future’ for all is the theme to support International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPWD) with the belief that everyone with a health impairment has access to a brighter future in which they can participate in society.  IDPWD work to identify barriers and to work alongside other organisations to help overcome them.

 Here at Deaf Child Worldwide, our approach is similar. We work through local partnerships with small and national NGOs, community based organisations and charities to overcome the hurdles that prevent deaf people from realising their rights to an education, information, health and economic opportunity.

In Kenya, we’ve been working with our partner, Deaf Empowerment Kenya (DEK) to increase deaf young people's opportunity to develop skills and experience to help deaf young people find fulfilling jobs and careers.

We also work with employers to build up understanding about deafness, so that organisations fully commit to supporting deaf young people in the workplace and provide an environment in which deaf young people have the opportunity to succeed in their job role.

This type of work takes time as deaf youths wanting to get a foot up on the job ladder or into further education face many obstacles. There are no college or university scholarships for deaf students and government bursaries are very hard to come by.

Deaf young people that enter into the job market can often face discrimination. In Kenya, like most of East Africa, deafness is misunderstood. Many outdated prejudices still exist and deaf employees often struggle to succeed in jobs without any support in place to help them do their jobs to their fullest potential.

DEK and DCW wanted to change this and in September 2018 started to work on an initiative specifically with deaf young people between the ages of 15 to 24. The initiative works by utilising the services offered through 11 vocational colleges in Nairobi and also deaf schools in local communities in Nairobi county, Bondo country and Migori county. 

The project helps deaf young people to acquire technical skills in carpentry, mechanical and automotive services, electrical services, plumbing, accountancy, hospitality, beauty and fashion design. The aim of the initiative is to upskill the students to help them to stand out to employers but also to give them the confidence to consider their own business ventures.

Additionally DEK organise monthly training workshops alongside to equip the deaf youths with skills such as communication skills, problem solving skills, work ethic, CV writing, negotiation skills, conflict management and entrepreneurships as well as talking to different employers about the skills and attributes these young people can bring to different jobs.

From the onset of the first year (September 2018 to September 2019), 56 deaf youths have had access to employment with companies such as Coca Cola, Export Processing Zones, Pallet Café, Boma Inn and the Kenya Youth Employment opportunities project (KYEOP) funded by the Kenyan Government.

Four deaf youths have started their own business ventures from setting up shops to opening salons. All four of the deaf youths are now helping on the initiative to offer first-hand experience of setting up a business to others, sharing the challenges and successes.