Alumni Stories: Bernadette Muyomi and Beyond the PFP in Kenya

I am a Spring 2018 Professional Fellows alumna, social entrepreneur, and social justice advocate. Based on this, I have founded two organizations, African Grassroots (an NGO) and Green Agri Ventures (a social enterprise). My participation in the PFP-IDE Fellowship has greatly inspired my work in disability inclusion.

As a proponent of disability inclusion, I have been able to demonstrate clearly that inclusive employment works in my locality (Busia County, western Kenya) as I lead a team with many members who are persons with disabilities. At African Grassroots, which focuses on fighting poverty through advocacy, economic empowerment and human rights, my team and I have steered a number of policies to promote inclusion in Kenya. In 2019, we worked on an inclusive employment policy to enable Kenya’s county governments (which are akin to states) to be more inclusive of persons with disabilities. We have also contributed to key legislation by submitting memoranda to the National Parliament to ensure that disability rights are embedded within public policy as much as possible.

At Green Agri Ventures, we provide credit services and financial literacy training to informal rural entrepreneurs in western Kenya. Persons with disabilities are key targets of our work because they are financially secluded due to the barriers they face. Through our program, we have trained and supported 123 persons living with disabilities (92 women and 31 men) in entrepreneurship groups. We are currently working on making our programs more inclusive by broadening accommodations and incorporating more assistive technology in an application we are using in our work.

To increase my individual capacity to be a better disability rights scholar, I enrolled in the inaugural Master’s Program on Disability Rights in Africa at the University of Pretoria Centre for Human Rights in 2019. This has enabled me to get a deeper understanding of disability inclusion globally, and how to contextualize these to disability rights discussions that are happening in my community and across Africa. I conducted research entitled “Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship of Persons with Disabilities in Kenya: Exploring the Use of the Government’s Affirmative Action Funds to Promote the Right to Work through Self-Employment”. The insights gained and the new relationships developed through the program enable me to be a better disability rights advocate.

Most recently, my organizations have supported caregivers of persons with disabilities and enabled them to access counseling services and Personal Protective Equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am also currently mentoring 2020 Professional Fellows and find it fulfilling to contribute to discourses on disability inclusion.