Wednesday, 31 December 2014 10:19

Mrs Josephine Sinyo, Kenyan activist for the rights of Persons with Disabilities

Josephine Sinyo speaking at SymposiumMrs Josephine Sinyo, Kenyan activist for the rights of Persons with Disabilities, meet with us on the sidelines of the"Symposium on Children with disabilities in Africa: Breaking barriers carving the road ahead" (2-3 December 2014, AA, Ethiopia),where she was a guest-speaker. She tells us about her own experience growing up as a child suffering from blindness in Kenya and what she thinks is needed to give a better life to the new generation of children with disabilities in Africa.

InfoHub: Mrs Josephine Sinyo, you have just given a presentation on Child protection services for children with disabilities in Kenya. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us in the midst of a tightly scheduled 2 days of discussions and deliberations.

Can you give us briefly your life course story?

Josephine Sinyo: I lost sight at the age of 3, after suffering from measles. Fortunately, the school for the blind in Kenya that was only available for adults had just begun taking children in, so I was able to get an education immediately after becoming blind. My parents left me at the school; in fact I was abandoned for quite a while, not knowing where my parents came from because it had been a relief for them to leave me in a school where blind people could live together. But with time they were located and I was able to join my other siblings. I enjoyed going to the school for the blind with all its privileges and the missionary style of education I received in it. And that’s how I’ve learned to put God first in everything I do.

Another thing I have appreciated is that my blindness has opened doors for me. While somebody would think blindness would make me miserable and bitter, but for me blindness has been a blessing. I have lost sight but I haven’t lost vision and dreams and even higher expectations of what life has in store for me.

I was able to pursue my education to the university level and I even have a master’s degree in law. Meanwhile I haven’t backed away from doing my PhD, even though its proving a bit difficult when you are self funding. Through everything God is my providence; and I know I will acquire my doctorate degree in the end.

 

InfoHub: What are your thoughts on the deliberations during these two days?

Josephine Sinyo: I personally want to convey my gratitude to ACPF for having invited me to this symposium. I have enjoyed and learnt from it tremendously. But as I alluded to in my presentation I think we have come of age where by now all the all the policies and legislations that respective countries have come up with should be implemented to enable children with disabilities to actually reap the benefits of the work done by those who lived before them. Like I am being now a mentor and role model for children with visual impairments, I want to see the other children with disabilities to have more people they would want to emulate because they had “made it”.

Another point that I would want us to consider after this symposium is that we link our findings and recommendations to the AU Disability desk, and that we also come up with a follow-up meeting bringing on board more partners so that whatever we have discussed can have a follow up. Many a time people get excited in a forum like but it ends when they part. I believe ACPF will be able to have follow-up and even bring more partners on board.

Finally what I take from this Forum is that I feel re-energised. I will go to my organisation, the National Council for Persons with Disabilities in Kenya, and make sure that we indeed have a program for children with disabilities, especially concentrating on reaching children in rural areas who are even less privileged than those in urban areas.

 

InfoHub: As an advocate for the rights of children with disabilities – what would your three key messages would be to the African Union?

Josephine Sinyo: For one, that there has been a lot of emphasis of engendering processes even making budgets gender-sensitive but we now would want the AU to refocus and ensure that budgets, policies and programs are disability-sensitive; so that when our Protocol comes into effect, we will have an environment that is disability friendly.

Another consideration to be taken is that women with disability are more often than not disadvantaged compared to men with disabilities. In that regard, the AU has to also consider the link between gender and disability when targeting the disability sector.

We should also listen to the concerns of older persons with disabilities. Being a woman with a disability already exposes you to discrimination and stigmatisation because in our cultures women with a disability would not be married and are seen as valueless , imagine how much more difficult it is to become an older woman with a disability. Of course the issues facing vulnerable groups like the mentally challenged, women with disabilities facing old age and children with disabilities should equally be addressed; and so disability itself needs a greater attention by the AU.

 

InfoHub: What do you think ACPF should do to contribute more meaningfully to the improvement of the lives of children with disabilities in Africa?

Josephine Sinyo: I would want ACPF to follow the issues of children with disability to full completion so that they will see they have brought change to the lives of children with disabilities and be an organisation that people esteem highly on its achievements pertaining to addressing the concerns of children with disabilities in the region. Let it not be a lip-service approach but an approach whereby you follow up countries which have set policies and legislation and you make them commit to implementing them in their programmes and national plan of actions. We need to, as ACPF, ensure that our heads of governments, the DPOs and individuals we are working with make an impact from where they come from. For example, now that I have been here I have an assignment that when I go back I can give a feedback and say “as a result of my interaction with ACPF, with the people I have met in Ethiopia this is what the focal persons on disabilities have come up with in regards to children with disabilities”.

InfoHub: Thank you very much, Mrs Sinyo, for answering our questions!

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