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After Nine Hard Years of Job Hunting, Gichana Positions Himself Perfectly at Coca-Cola Beverages Africa

"When you focus on someone’s disability you will overlook their abilities, beauty and uniqueness. Give them a chance to be like the rest and you will unpack one of the greatest workforces out there."

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"When you focus on someone’s disability you will overlook their abilities, beauty and uniqueness. Give them a chance to be like the rest and you will unpack one of the greatest workforces out there."

"I applied for many jobs. I used to do applications each week and some would go forward," explains, Gichana Maina, a 32-year-old applied biology graduate, now working for Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA) in Nairobi, Kenya. 

Gichana has a hearing impairment that developed after being in a coma in 2002. 

"I had four major interviews. But when they get to know the situation it becomes a definite factor to consider – your hearing. I would be overlooked. Many could say, 'you did well, we’ll definitely have a serious look at this.' And that could be the end. 

"Also, in most job applications, requirements for people with disabilities were overlooked and those who included them did so for the sake of it. In the end, they could not pick anyone in that category. 

"Week after week, it became quite tiresome. Looking for a job for nine years is not something I want to talk about. I feel like it was a bad dream so let’s focus on what is happening now."

After his painful job search, Gichana found out about the vacancy at CCBA and had filled in the application within an hour. 

"Coca-Cola was actually different. It was the first place where I was understood. It was the first place where my papers mattered more than my hearing impairment," Gichana says. 

"The hiring process was smooth. I had done different interviews before. I was very composed, relaxed and remained positive. The CCBA Kenya team was very friendly and the first impression clearly pumped me up. I had to ace this one and I did."  

CCBA’s Margaret Ndei explains how the company employs people with various disabilities: visual impairment, people of short stature, mobility impairment, as well as people with hearing impairments, who often come to the company through its productive partnership with Deaf Empowerment Kenya (DEK).  

"My advice to employers is to seek partnership with other organizations in the way CCBA has partnered with DEK," says Margaret.  

"There is talent and we need to start investing. It should be a two-way process, so the organizations of people with disabilities should be able to ask companies what skills they are looking for, whatever is relevant in the market, to be able to bridge that gap that exists in the market." 

DEK’s Jackie Kiambi agrees addressing the skills gap is a priority. ‘We are focusing on the education aspect and the employment aspect, collaborating with vocational institutions (VIs) to make their courses and institutions more friendly,’ she adds.   

"Most employers lack people with disabilities who have relevant skills. The reason we have a large population of people without the skills is because they don’t have access to courses in VIs." 

Jackie says DEK is trying to work with mainstream education institutions so they can better accommodate students with disabilities. 

For Gichana, after his long wait, an exciting career journey has just begun.  

"If given an opportunity I could center my entire career here. Once I started here, I felt appreciated so much. What I was going to give to the team is what was going to matter going forward – nothing else. 

There is no gap in communication between me and the rest of the teams. Even though I experience some isolated issues, I have been able to swipe that away. It’s never personal, nor a hard feeling situation. Positivity overweighs small setbacks that happen once in a while."  

He has this advice for other job seekers with disabilities: "Earn honest trust, work harder and be open-minded. You’re not different in talents – actually, you’re far better."      

And his message for other employers in Kenya and beyond couldn’t be clearer. 

"When you focus on someone’s disability you will overlook their abilities, beauty and uniqueness. Give them a chance to be like the rest and you will unpack one of the greatest workforces out there," he says. 

"Employers need to stop looking at a disability – it’s very, very unfair. You’re not going to regret just one step you’re going to take." 

 

i2i and the private sector 

The Innovation to Inclusion (i2i) programme believes an effective partnership with the private sector is essential to support persons with disabilities into work. Our private sector engagement strategy seeks to increasingly engage businesses just like CCBA as partners in future disability-inclusive programming. 

i2i works with employers to test initiatives that support them on workplace inclusivity.  

In partnership with Fuzu and NCPWD, we have developed a platform that provides services and jobs specifically for people with disabilities. The NCPWD Career Portal is an online space for people with disabilities to get career advice, access training and be matched with jobs. We will also reach out to employers across the country, including CCBA, who want to recruit candidates to inclusive jobs.

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