Meet the Match

A Disability Advocate for Kenya

Lizzie Kiama grew up an active child in the coastal city of Mombasa, Kenya. She was the first born with three siblings to follow. Her mother was the pillar of the family, the glue that held everything together. In Lizzie’s words, “My mother, she did it all. My father was in and out of our lives unfortunately. But my mother was determined, resilient, and creative. She started a number of businesses from scratch. If something didn’t work out, she would just pick up and try something else. She was strong-minded in that way.  And she loved all of us and made us feel so special. My mother made me who I am today.”

Lizzie’s mother played a critical role in her childhood development, but maybe an even more important role in Lizzie’s adult life.  At the age of 18, Lizzie was in a serious car accident.  After many surgeries, she left the hospital in a wheelchair and through a slow and laborious process, she began walking again.  As a young woman, Lizzie went to school, she dated, she worked, and she got married. It wasn’t until the birth of her baby that Lizzie lost mobility again; moving to the use of a cane and sometimes the use of a wheelchair.

With the support of her husband and mother, Lizzie slowly began to connect with her new identity.  As her mother said, “There is a reason this happened to you Lizzie. You have the strength to carry it gracefully and to use it as a tool to empower others.” Over time, Lizzie began to understand her mother’s vision.  “For me, understanding disability as part of my identity was a difficult journey. But once I embraced it, I was empowered to use it. I had claimed it for myself, instead of letting others label me as such. When you know who you are and what you stand for, there is power in that.”

Lizzie has since launched her own management consulting firm, This-Ability that aims to provide management support to organizations working in Kenya. This-Ability creates strategies for organizations to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) specifically in relation to poverty, human rights issues, and the protection of marginalized populations. This-Ability is dedicated to improving opportunities for vulnerable communities, particularly persons with disabilities using sustainable and inclusive methods.

Lizzie’s most recent project, “Women and Wheels,” promotes inclusion and the integration of women with varying degrees of mobility through friendly wheelchair rugby competitions. The project is designed to use sport to increase understanding about the life of women with disabilities and address existing stereotypes. Through the GSMP, Lizzie aims to maximize her leadership potential and learn best practices and sustainable techniques that are in line with her organizational goals and objectives to grow This-Ability nationally and regionally within the next five years.

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