Anne Mugo, Positive Young Women Voices, Kenya
When Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta started outlining the country’s commitments at the opening session of the Generation Equality Forum in Paris by vowing to end female genital mutilation by the end of his tenure, it was perhaps a jolting indicator of just how bold the roadmap he would be outlining to foster Kenya towards gender equality would be. The weight of that statement may have escaped a lot of the people both in the room and those following the virtual proceedings, particularly those unaware that his presidential term ends in 2022, which means only a few months to end a violating, humiliating and deeply rooted practice that has been subjected to girls in various communities in Kenya for a long time.
Kenya has been one of the co-leaders of the Generation Equality Gender Based Violence Action Coalition. The President went on by committing to invest USD23 million in GBV prevention and response over the next five years, an annual USD 1 million for GBV research and innovation, scaling up a national police service integrated response, setting up recovery shelters and centers in all 47 counties, as well as establishing an accountability framework to not only foster the implementation of existing laws and policies but to also track the financial resources allocated in the implementation of any of these commitments. If implemented, these commitments have the potential to change the lives of many Kenyan women and girls. These dreams will however not be realized if these conversations and plans are made without the involvement of young people and grassroots organizations working every day to respond to and end gender-based violence in communities.
It was on this premise that Positive Young Women Voices in collaboration with Nala Feminist Collective co-organized an intergenerational dialogue to foster accountability for Kenya’s commitments to end gender based violence. The dialogue brought together government representatives, development partners, civil society and young people to discuss the way forward to ensure that Kenya’s commitments do not remain as just policy statements and that this does not become a missed opportunity like so many beforehand. The duty bearers included the chief administrative secretary from the Ministry of ICT and Youth Affairs, Hon. Nadia Ahmed Abdalla; UN Women Kenya Deputy Country Director, Dr. Rukaya Mohammed; UNFPA Kenya Representative, Dr. Ademola Olajide; a representative from the EU delegation to Kenya; the Chief of Staff to Kenya’s first female Chief Justice, Rose Wachuka; alongside Nalafem Chair and former AU Youth Envoy, Aya Chebbi. These stakeholders collectively reinstated their individual and institutional commitments to putting young people, particularly young women, at the forefront of driving accountability and advancing the gender agenda in the country.
As a testament to the power of intergenerational co-leadership and meaningful youth engagement, the interventions made by young speakers at the dialogue were both thought provoking and eye-opening. It was the call of a young sexual reproductive health and rights advocate, Esther Aoko, that drew attention to the inaccessibility in terms of language and knowledge of the commitments and their potential for change to the very same people in the grassroots whose lives we are trying to impact. It was Natali Robi who has worked for years to end female genital mutilation in her community in western Kenya who pointed out the need to change the approach in addressing this gross human rights violation and drew attention to the emerging but worrying issue of cross border FGM. The contribution of Afrikana Njuru, a young ONE champion on the intersections of poverty and violence against women and girls cannot be understated.
Involving young people and grassroots organizations is thus key as we embark on the implementation phase of the commitments. Community based organizations need to be allocated part of the resources allocated for prevention and response as they deal with emerging cases of violence day in day out. Tackling FGM requires both the implementation of laws by prosecuting perpetrators and educating community members to change societal perceptions and enhance ownership of the fight to end the practice. Young people are a great resource in popularizing messages of ending violence directed at women and girls, through community outreaches and social media engagement. This fight cannot be won at the policy level alone, and it cannot afford to leave the people who are working at grass root levels behind.
We will continue our work to ensure women and girls live free from violence, including sharing proposals and solutions to challenges hindering gender equality. And we are calling for everyone to be involved.
Read more about Generation Equality on our blog post Generation Equality: our Making Waves commitment to intersectional feminist HIV leadership.
Check out the Generation Equality Action Coalitions Global Acceleration Plan.
Thanks to Anne Mugo and Lucy Wanjiku Njenga for permission to post this article, which also features on the Positive Young Women Voices website.
Positive Young Women Voices (PYWV) started as a self-help group in the year 2014 and registered as a community based organization in 2017, to respond to the challenges facing young women and girls living with and at risk of HIV in Dandora, Nairobi. Its mission is to empower and advocate for girls and young women to advance their lives through mentorship, dissemination of information on sexual reproductive health and HIV, linkages and referrals and economic growth.
To follow on twitter:
Anne Mugo: Anne the Bold Type @MugoAngelah
Lucy Wanjiku Njenga: @LucyWanjikuN
Nala Feminist Collective: @_Nalafem