Deaf Empowerment Society of Kenya(DESK)

Deaf Empowerment Society of Kenya(DESK)

Embu, KenyaEmbu, Kenya
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Deaf Empowerment Society of Kenya (DESK) narrows the gap between skilled Deaf people and employment opportunities in Kenya by enabling qualified  Deaf individuals to gain work experience and find employment relevant to their skills through matching and mentoring.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if Kenya Employers could make the necessary adjustments to accommodate the needs of Deaf people in workplace?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Disability Survey 2007 indicates there are 600,000 Deaf people in Kenya. As some of the most marginalized people in communities, their biggest challenge is a lack of access to education, training or employment. As a result their economic well being and livelihood are greatly impacted. However there are a small number of deaf people who have gained qualifications or are in training now. Yet, obtaining employment is still a challenge

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

DESK links qualified Deaf individuals to employers for work placements and/or employment opportunities. DESK raises awareness on skills and capabilities of Deaf people in Kenya.DESK notes many jobs in Kenya are a result of work placements or personal connections, thus disadvantaging Deaf people who experience discrimination and do not have these connections-DESK therefore works alongside Kenya employers to raise greater awareness on disability so that employers' recruitment policies incorporate changes in order to employ Deaf people. DESK also focuses on lobbying National and County governments to include Deaf people in employment programmes, as well as creating a more favorable environment for companies to employ qualified Deaf people.


The Nippon Foundation World Deaf Leadership(Japan) Philips Livable Cities Award Finalist( Netherlands), Be The Change Competition Finalist Award- Peace Child International(Turkey)
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Njeri ,27, graduated with a degree in accounting. Unemployed and living with her mother in Embu, she was so frustrated with her situation. Like many Kenya Deaf youth, she was unable to find a job, citing companies won’t consider her application not because she lacks the qualification, but merely because she has a hearing impairment. She joined DESK. Through DESK’s support, she received access to work placement. With job experience, within 6 months she was able to secure a job as an Accountant with a Company. This job has led to her economic empowerment. As a role model, Njeri mentors other Deaf youth, encouraging them to work hard, stay motivated and hope for a better future, as well as encouraging other employers to join the scheme.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

DESK has been legally registered as a not-for-profit entity in 2013. Over 15 employers have received disability equality and knowledge on the skills and capabilities of Deaf people in Embu County. Over 5 employers have committed to recruiting Deaf youth. DESK has created awareness of disability and employment with 7 Government Departments. DESK has gathered information on 73 deaf youth with a qualification to be employed and created more than 30 jobs in Embu County. This job experience instills confidence and offers Deaf youth hope for a future of economic empowerment. DESK aims to scale to 42 Counties throughout Kenya, gathering information of qualified Deaf individuals to inform advocacy and enable matching of Deaf people with placements/employment opportunities, creating over 10000 jobs and training over 2000 employers on equality, skills and capabilities of Deaf people by 2030.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

DESK plans to carry out a countywide research to map qualified Deaf persons searching for employment. We plan to develop stronger partnerships with employers and training providers and thus facilitate the matching of qualified individuals with work placements and employment opportunities. We also plan to carry out advocacy with Kenya employers, including the National and County governments, to commit to having a quota of Deaf people on the staff in meaningful roles. Every year we anticipate to aide over 200 qualified Deaf individuals to successfully progress into work placements /employment

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

DESK annually charges membership fees from members. DESK runs some entertaining events at a fee. And members of the public pay to participate in the events. DESK has a sustainable training program that trains the public on sign language skills and students pay tuition fees to take classes. A portion of the revenue is invested into DESK to sustain its current activities. Additional sources being pursued are grants and service-in-kind.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Handicap International, for example, has focused on skills training and access to micro-finance but does not engage with training institutions and employers to develop relationships. The Government approach is led by Labor Ministry and is tasked at linking training institutions with employers but is currently under-resourced and lacks both disability expertise and an accessible office. Working with DESK, employers increase their understanding of hiring deaf persons. DESK advocates for greater inclusion of Deaf youth in employment programmes while developing direct relationships with employers

Founding Story

After a lifetime of overcoming challenge after challenge as a deaf person in Kenya, I witnessed firsthand the blind eye that the public and private sector has for the Kenya deaf population. After leading a campaign on 9/5/12, it became clear that neither sector knew how to address this need because their response was that deaf people were not qualified and nothing progressed. It took me a few months to figure out what the gap was and how I could fill it. After much consultation and reflection, Deaf Empowerment Society of Kenya was born.


DESK has a dedicated team of four staff: three full timers and one who will give 80% of their time to the project. Jacob Mwanik, the Chief Executive Officer. He holds BA and MA degrees in International Development. He is the mind behind this initiative and he’s a long track record in area of deafness and development. He won awards from the Nippon Foundation, Philips Livable Cities Awards, and Peace Child International. As the CEO, he’s devoted 100% of the time to the organization. He has overall responsibility for the organization and manages the day-to-day running of DESK and staff– he reports directly to Board of directors. Michael Simon, Project Officer. He holds a BA degree in special education and holds skills in disability and project management. He’s devoted 100% of the time to the organization. He works with relevant stakeholders such as employers, training institutions and Deaf youth – enrolling participants in the programme, giving training, matching and mentoring. Paul Murugi, the Finance Officer. She holds Bachelor of commerce (finance and accounting). She has rich experience and skills in finance and accounting. She’s devoted 100% of the time to the organization. She has responsibility for the organization’s finances – budget monitoring, income and expenditure and financial reporting. Joy Mugambi, the Outreach Officer. She holds excellent outreach, deafness and development record. She’s devoted 80% of the time to the organization. She supports the organization with correspondence, running events, developing outreach materials, producing report.
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Search engine

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Founder & CEO

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

1-Deaf Human rights Project: Through this project, 100 young Deaf people(50% women) were empowered to claim their rights to actively participate in mainstream community gained enough confidence to play their role of self-advocacy to challenge injustice and discriminative practices among communities and key stakeholder group (30 police officers, 40 teachers, 21 lawyers and community leaders sensitized on the rights of Deaf people to participate in democratic processes

2-Deaf Youth Enterprise Project:Through this project, 13 Deaf youth were trained on how to manage a self-employment economic activity. 8 of them, successfully set up their own micro-enterprises.

3-Public awareness on deafness and inclusion: Through this project, deaf awareness raised on the plight of deaf people in the community, 70 deaf youth educated on their rights, 10 stakeholder groups educated on the capabilities of Deaf people to work, and 2 qualified persons gained formal employment

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

Recognizing the necessary of community support and investment, DESK is working with the following key partners to achieve the objectives:
1-National Council for Persons with Disabilities: DESK's stronger partner since 2013 who for this initiative is providing DESK with an advocacy capacity building volunteer, who support the advocacy component of the project.
2-National Employment Bureau and Ministry of Labour: DESK's stronger partner since 2014 who for this project is willing to provide expertise and guidance in employment issues. Through Kenya Federation of Employers, DESK is able to access employers directly.
3-Karen Technical Institution for the Deaf is providing DESK information on Deaf students pursuing vocational training and those who have gained a qualification.
4-Machakos Teacher College and The Foundations College, the only training service providers training a small number of deaf teachers to become teachers, are committed to providing data on deaf teachers in training and those who have recently graduated