NAIROBI, Kenya — In Kenya, there is a misconception that people with disabilities do not need to work because they are supported by family or the government. However, this notion fails to recognize that people with disabilities are often barred from the workplace despite career ambitions and qualifications. Frederick Ouko seeks to dismantle this prejudice and help job seekers with disabilities find employment in Kenya.
Ouko founded Riziki Source, an online platform that benefits job seekers and employers. Its mission is to allow people with disabilities to exercise their capabilities and share their qualifications, and also extends its help to employers looking to diversify their workforce. Riziki Source seeks to educate employers about the benefits of workplace diversification and dispel the false notions about employing people with disabilities. Ouko himself suffered polio as a child, leaving him with weak legs and difficulty in finding employment.
People with disabilities are often in the poorest demographic, according to the 2011 World Disability Report. Disabilities are linked to an inability to find formal employment. In order to increase employment and reduce poverty among this population, empowerment is key.
In Kenya, estimates of the number of people with disabilities range from three to six million. Inclusion is explicitly defined as a human right in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but a stigma still persists. The country’s 2003 Persons with Disabilities Act and 2008 ratification of the U.N. convention imply a commitment to empowering people with disabilities, but there is still much progress to be made.
The 2003 Act requires that five percent of jobs in Kenya be reserved for people with disabilities, but in reality this measure is not enforced. Despite the lack of political will and monitoring, Ouko is hopeful that Riziki Source will improve and diversify employment Kenya. “There is all this unexplored talent you (as an employer) may be missing by not employing a person with a disability,” Ouko said.
Workplaces and societies alike benefit from diversification, inclusion and the empowerment of different demographics. When people with disabilities are financially independent, national productivity rises. Subsequently, GDP and tax revenues can rise and the nation as a whole prospers.
Since its launch in October 2015, Riziki Source has received great recognition. The platform was named a nominee for the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa prize engineering innovation. The Kenyan Department of Labor has provided Riziki Source with the equivalent of $30,000 in funding. Ouko was also named one of six finalists at the 2016 E4 Impact Challenge, which recognizes East African innovators.
Riziki Source’s current goal is to reach 30 percent of Kenyans with disabilities. Ouko also has aspirations beyond Kenya and hopes to turn a profit within two years to allow expansion to more African countries. Through innovation and empowerment, Ouko and Riziki Source are transforming employment in Kenya and expanding opportunities for people with disabilities.
– McKenna Lux