It was an honor to participate in the launch of the Generation Equality Forum last Friday in Kenya, where the government launched a national roadmap on the promotion of gender equality and the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence (GBV) and female genital mutilation (FGM) by 2026. opportunity to build momentum and lay foundation for action, especially with uneven progress on gender equality in Kenya and globally .
Thomas Sankara, a respected Pan-African Burkinabe, spoke in depth through his quote: “The condition of women is therefore at the heart of the issue of humanity itself, here, there and everywhere. [… ] May my eyes never see and my feet never take me to a society where half the people are kept in silence. “
Despite the indisputable progress made since the historic Beijing Conference of 1995 – the most comprehensive agenda on gender equality and the empowerment of women – women and girls in Kenya still struggle to make their voices heard.
As Kenya continues to play a leadership role in the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) – a global, civil society-centered gathering to review the commitments set out in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – we have the opportunity to change that image.
The ambitious GEF commitments launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday offer a chance to have a national conversation on gender. They also provide a concrete roadmap to end gender-based violence and FGM as part of the response to Covid-19 and resources to implement this agenda.
The pandemic has exacerbated gender inequalities, with GBV being declared a “parallel pandemic” by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Kenya is no exception. One need only take a quick glance at the reports to find recurring incidents of various forms of gender-based violence, including femicide, FGM, defilement and rape.
In a survey conducted by the National Crime Research Center into the prevalence of GBV during the pandemic, the number of cases recorded between January and June 2020 increased by 92.2% compared to those between January and December of the previous year.
According to the Chief Justice’s April 2020 report, sexual offenses made up 35.8% of reported cases handled in the judiciary. There is a range of offenses classified as GBV, including intimate partner violence, FGM, early and forced child marriage, rape and defilement.
The 2014 Kenya Demographic Health Survey shows that 47% of women aged 15-49 reported experiencing sexual or physical violence between intimate partners at some point in their lives, with 25.5% in the past. 12 previous months. This is how dire the situation is. As the co-leader of the Gender-Based Violence Action Coalition, Kenya has the opportunity to step up momentum and ensure that Covid-19 does not reverse progress that has already been deemed extremely slow.
Kenya has already seized the opportunity to become a world leader in the quest to end FGM. On June 4, 2019, in Vancouver, Canada, President Uhuru pledged to end FGM by 2022. This pledge was reiterated at the Nairobi ICPD + 25 Summit in November 2019, strengthening the role of Kenya as a champion of the global movement to end harmful practices and advance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
The government has since launched guidelines for the management of gender-based violence centers in counties, which are essential to ensure survivors have access to quality essential services. The commitments made through the Generation Equality Action Coalition materialize this opportunity and provide timelines for actions.
In accordance with these commitments, we must extend this level of ambition to other areas of promotion of gender equality, such as providing universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and tightening the barriers on aspects such as the representation of women in leadership and decision-making. .
Achieving the Herculean goal of implementing the commitments we have made requires sustained implementation and continued alignment with global standards. Their achievement requires funding and allocation of resources. It also calls for the participation of all sectors of society. It is not simply a question of civil society action or political goodwill.
It will take a concerted effort of governments, feminist movements, the private sector, civil society and individual citizens to create the gender balanced society we all want.
The writer is an expert in the genre. She is the main Generation Equality consultant for the International Center for Research on Women.