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We hear a lot of people talk about public policy, whether it’s in conversations surrounding politics, climate change, health, or other topics. However, have you ever really stopped and asked what it is and why it matters? Even if you don’t consider yourself politically involved, public policy isn’t something that should be overlooked or dismissed. In fact, public policy plays a big role in your own day-to-day life. So, just what is public policy? Keep reading to learn more about what it is and why it’s so important. Before we get into more details about explaining public policy and how it works, it’s important that we define it to have a clear understanding.

Essentially, public policy is a set of laws, guidelines, and actions decided and taken by governments in order to work in favor of the public. Public policy can dictate things such as: which laws are passed, where funding goes, and which topics concern the general public. That being said, public policy isn’t simply fulfilling campaign promises. Often, policies are debated and negotiated between parties with different interests, and can also involve parties that aren’t in the government themselves, such as experts in fields like science, health, or the climate. In general, public policies are shaped over a number of years and there are several institutions that will contribute to the formation and details of a specific policy

Public policy seeks to define issues and implement strategies that will produce a measurable and positive result for the general public. Effective public policy will support democratic institutions and processes, serve justice, encourage empathetic and active citizenship, and solve problems efficiently and effectively without causing a political rift. Thus, a successful policy is both the execution of a good policy (positive, measurable outcome) and good politics (bipartisanship).

However, good public policy is more than simply solving problems as they arise. A good public policy will be able to define a problem, gather evidence, identify causes, review any current policies, and strategize solutions that anticipate the social response. Careful consideration of benefits and costs as well as the development of political strategies are all key factors in implementing a policy that will elicit a positive, measurable outcome. 

Speaking of policies, according to the constitution of Kenya, article 54 states that; Persons with any disabilities are entitled to (a) to be treated with dignity and respect and to addressed and referred to in a manner that is not demeaning; (b)to access educational institutions and facilities for persons with disabilities that are integrated into society to the extent compatible with the interests of the person; (c)to reasonable access to all places, public transport and information; (d)to use sign language, braille or other appropriate means of communication; and (e)to access materials and devices to overcome constraints arising from the person’s disability.

During last year’s World Toilet Day Webinar themed “Inclusive Public Toilet Design” We had an intensive discussion on why Every human being deserves dignity. Bright Oywaya of Association of Physically Disabled Kenya and the Executive Director of Association for Safe International Road Travel Kenya, narrates her experience as a person living with disability during the World Toilet Webinar held on November 19th 2021. Everything to do with toilet matters is private since it is done behind closed doors, but when we bring up accessible toilets for people living with disability, it becomes a matter  of urgency for everyone.

Sustainable development goal 6 emphasizes on the need for universal access to sanitation and the need of women, girls and the vulnerable in the society. Ms. Juliet Rita, a Town and transport planner and also a lecturer at the Technical University of Kenya highlights some of the public policies in our country that address the need for inclusive public toilet during our World Toilet day Webinar held in 2021;

  1. The public ruling in 2020 that required road agencies to provide public toilets along major roads in the country, the defendant noted that No toilets = torture. Has KENHA built any road along your major highway? Where do you go to the toilet when traveling by road across the country? The Building Code is very detailed in the actual toilet construction but very vague on the requirements for public toilets on major roads and highways.
  2. Back in 2016, the Chief Public Health and Sanitation Officer ordered all banks and supermarkets to provide free toilets to customers. The public health act generally requires provision of sanitation conveniences in connection to buildings. Have you been able to access a washroom in the bank or supermarket? Did you have a hard time accessing it? Some of the policies set in place have not been implemented because of lack of follow up and loop holes in the making of the said policies.
  3. The breastfeeding mother bill, 2019, provides for lactation places at work. Baby changing facility to be installed in any public facility with a capacity of fifty people or more. Wow Mom Kenya has established 2 baby changing facilities. One in Gikomba Market and the other in a Public toilet at OTC.
  4. The health act of 2017 requires that all employees establish lactation rooms in their establishments and the ministry of health subsequently provides guidelines for securing a friendly breastfeeding environment. The government established laws such as the Baby-Friendly community initiative and the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, to increase the rate of breastfeeding in the country. Here are some of the companies in the country that care about breastfeeding mothers; Oserian flower farm, Safaricom limited, DelMonte Kenya Limited, East African Breweries Limited, Nestle Kenya Limited and Mabati Rolling Mills.

We are not short of laws and policies, but we do need to start seeing implementation of these policies by increasing the number of public toilets across the counties especially where the government has rolled out construction of major roads and highways. The government should focus on continually looking for better ways to achieve their policy goals. Policy implementation has been acknowledged as critical in filling the gap between policy promises and policy outcomes and we as Wow Mom Kenya are at that forefront ensuring policies are being implemented. We are ensuring that the baby changing stations are accessible to each and every caregiver because it is their right.

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