NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Kenya’s president on Friday pledged millions in government funding to tackle the rise in gender-based violence during the pandemic and outlined plans to open women’s shelters across the country and improve policing.
According to Uhuru Kenyatta, incidents of violence against women almost doubled between January and June 2020 compared to the previous year.
“Lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic and the social and economic impact of the pandemic have increased women’s exposure to physical, sexual and psychological violence while limiting their access to protection and recovery services,” Kenyatta said at an equality conference Genders.
“This is now a crisis that we urgently need to address. Ending gender-based violence remains at the heart of the development agenda, ”he said on the video link.
Kenya will invest $ 23 million by 2022 and another $ 50 million by 2026 to tackle gender-based violence.
Other commitments include implementing policies to curb sexual harassment in the workplace and providing medical, legal and psychosocial support to victims as part of the country’s universal health insurance system.
Kenyatta’s pledge comes ahead of the UN Forum on Women’s Equality in Paris in June, where countries are expected to make bold commitments to achieve gender equality.
Violence against women during pandemic lockdowns increased worldwide.
Social and economic pressures – combined with strict restrictions on movement – have made women and girls not only more susceptible to physical and sexual violence, but also more susceptible to sexual exploitation – especially in developing countries like Kenya.
Women’s rights groups, longstanding advocates for measures such as increased funding and shelter for survivors, welcomed Kenyatta’s pledges, adding that they were ready to work with the government to implement them.
“We are very excited about the commitments made, they are quite brave and reflect all critical civil society issues,” said Judy Gitau, Regional Coordinator for Equality Now.
Funding was a huge improvement, Gitau said, as the government’s previous allocation for gender-based violence was “tiny” at around 200 million Kenyan shillings ($ 1.86 million).
“But we have to make sure these commitments are worded as they should be … we have to follow up and make sure they are met.”
($ 1 = 107,5000 Kenyan shillings)
Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla; Arrangement by Helen Popper. Please thank the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the not-for-profit arm of Thomson Reuters that covers the lives of people around the world who are struggling to live freely or fairly. Visit news.trust.org