Inclusion International has welcomed two new fellows, Fayel Achieng Odeny and Pooja Gopee, through a partnership with the Commonwealth Professional Scholarships Programme.

Fayel works for our member the Kenyan Association of the Intellectually Handicapped (KAIH) and Pooja works for our member Inclusion Mauritius.

The fellows joined the team in London in February. Learn more about their projects in this blog!

Fayel & Pooja
Fayel Achieng Odeny and Pooja Gopee began their fellowship in February.

Fayel Achieng Odeny: Promoting the Right to Make Decisions

Fayel Odeny normally works as an advocacy officer for Kenya Association of the Intellectually Handicapped (KAIH).

Her work is about promoting the rights of people with intellectual disabilities to make their own decisions and have those choices respected.

“It’s something that I’m very passionate about, because I’ve seen many people not able to make simple decisions for themselves,” Fayel said.

For her project, Fayel will examine best practices around supported decision-making.

Supported decision-making is when someone gets help from people they trust to make choices about their life.

[Supported decision-making] is something that I’m very passionate about, because I’ve seen many people not able to make simple decisions for themselves

Fayel Achieng Odeny, Fellow, Inclusion International

Her goal is to make an accessible resource for self-advocates, families, organisations and policymakers.

“I’m looking at what the challenges and best practices are or stories about tackling those challenges. I want to package that into a module, into a policy paper, and into something easy-to-understand for people with intellectual disabilities,” she explained.

Fayel plans to interview people across Africa and other regions to learn about the perspectives of self-advocates and to understand what works. 

She is also looking forward to working in a global space with global perspectives, since she has worked in Kenya with KAIH for more than twelve years.

Having grown up with a sister with an intellectual disability, and being a person with a psychosocial disability herself, she understands the importance of creating a safe space for open discussions.

Pooja Gopee: Rights Approaches to Social Protection

As Project Head at Inclusion Mauritius, Pooja Gopee is excited to develop her skills alongside the Inclusion International team.

“I’m always motivated to bring positive changes, but we all know that it’s not always sunshine. So it’s learning about the type of challenges we have in the disability sector, how you encounter them and bring positive changes based on those challenges,” Pooja said.

Pooja’s project is focused on social protection systems. She wants to help change systems to be rights-based.

Social protection systems are how governments or states:

  1. Support people to be part of society.
  2. Support people to overcome challenges.

A right-based system makes sure people with intellectual disabilities have the same rights to be included in society as anybody else.

“Most social protection systems have been creating barriers for people with disabilities. Some of them are very complicated and some of them are there just to help financially, and it’s not reflecting the rights-based model at all,” she explained.

Her vision is to create accessible resources like a toolkit and policy paper designed for all, including self-advocates. 

I want to deliver something which can motivate a self-advocate to be a change maker.

Pooja Gopee, Fellow, Inclusion International

Pooja sees self-advocates acting as agents of change to improve the systems in their own countries.

“I want to deliver something which can motivate a self-advocate to be a change maker – to be the catalyst for a fresh change,” Pooja said.

Learning with Inclusion International

Both Fayel and Pooja are excited to learn from Inclusion International’s own approaches during their fellowships in London. 

Fayel hopes to gain skills to take back to and support disability communities across Africa, while Pooja is excited to be working internationally after 15 years in Mauritius’ disability sector.

The new fellows are pursuing important work that will drive progress for supported decision-making rights and rights-based social protections around the world.