Why Kenya’s Recovery Plans Must Be Gender Friendly
Friday March 5th 2021
BY RAPHAEL OBONYO
- Anna Mutavati, the head of the UN Women’s Country, discusses the need for a gender-specific economic recovery, the gains made on the road to gender equality and the many gaps that remain to be filled.
Kenya is preparing for International Women’s Day on March 8 amid additional challenges for the campaign for gender equality emanating from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Anna Mutavati, the head of the UN Women’s Country, discusses the need for a gender-specific economic recovery, the gains made on the road to gender equality and the many gaps that remain to be filled.
What should change for women after Covid-19?
In Kenya, the pandemic affects men and women differently. While Covid-19 is a health crisis and its primary focus is saving lives, the socio-economic impact calls for a tailored and gender-based recovery.
The economic effects of the pandemic will also disproportionately affect women. Women earn less, save less and have less secure jobs.
This poses a serious threat to women’s employment and livelihoods, particularly in the informal sector, where 63 percent of street vendors and 70 percent of horticultural workers are women, all of whom are hardest hit.
Customized recovery programs should target these small businesses to recover better and stronger.
On gender-based violence, we have drawn the attention of the nation and the world by highlighting how GBV has become a shadow pandemic in the country.
After Covid-19, we shouldn’t ignore this issue in national plans and budgets. We must maintain the same level of outrage and urgency to stamp out the vice we saw at the height of the pandemic, from the head of state down to the family and the individual in every household.
What projects are women running to ensure women’s economic empowerment and resilience?
The economic empowerment of women gives them autonomy to make important life decisions. We are particularly pleased to have launched a climate-friendly agriculture program that will improve gender inclusion in climate-friendly policies, increase agricultural production and income levels, nutrition and gender-specific climate-resilient livelihoods in the target communities.
The Korean government-sponsored program, in collaboration with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Agency (FAO), will benefit 2,500 farmers in Kitui, Laikipia and West Pokot.
How do you assess Kenya’s progress towards gender equality?
Kenya is on the right track after enacting key laws on issues such as child marriage, female genital mutilation, domestic violence, and the two-thirds gender rule in the constitution to promote political leadership by women. Protection of the inheritance rights of widows; Establishment of funds for economic empowerment, including for women, young people and people with disabilities.
However, without full implementation of these laws – and insufficient funding for gender equality programs – we cannot fully protect or empower women. The slow pace of change in harmful and negative social norms and attitudes continues to hamper progress by treating women and girls as second-class citizens with no rights.
You said that gender inequality is a shame of the 21st century. What must Kenya do to achieve gender equality?
You can’t change what you can’t measure. It is therefore important that we increase the production and use of gender disaggregated statistics. Globally, we tragically lack socioeconomic data broken down by gender.
Life experiences often differ depending on whether you are a man or a woman and we need to respond to that. Accurate data enables decision-makers to take actions that are really needed to bring about social change.
Second, changing negative social norms and values that perpetuate gender inequality in different areas of life is critical. This dialogue needs to be conducted at every level by men and women, boys and girls in everyday conversations. These negative social norms manifest themselves, for example, in tolerance of domestic violence, battery and rape, child marriage, genital mutilation of women and denial of economic opportunities for women.
As we work at the community level, we must help our government decision-makers create laws and policies that eliminate gender discrimination in every part of our lives. This includes, for example, calling on the Kenyan parliament to implement the 2/3 gender rule in law and, as soon as it is achieved, to promote 50/50 representation of men and women in decision-making positions.
The economic empowerment of women is also a prerequisite if we are to achieve our goals by creating decent work for all, reducing poverty and making sure no one is left behind. Violence against women is a shame. No woman deserves to live in constant fear of gender-based violence.
What are women doing to end gender-based violence?
Our approach to ending violence against women in Kenya is ambitious and cross-sectoral. First, we need to change negative social norms and attitudes that condone and uphold violence against women.
Rape culture and attitudes that normalize violence against women are commonplace in Kenya and need to be reversed.
This is the beginning of the process – and one of the most difficult to implement. In partnership with grassroots organizations, civil society organizations, community leaders, women and men groups, we try to involve people on an individual, family and local level and to raise awareness through dialogue and strategic forms of communication.
We bring men and boys into mutual conversation in order to understand their perspectives and to enable more positive social norms.
Through law enforcement, health services and the judiciary, the state is the primary duty for survivors of violence to access essential – sometimes life-saving – services. But you are also responsible for ensuring that violence does not occur at all.
It is therefore important that national and regional governments are provided with comprehensive policies and laws to ensure that crimes do not go unpunished and that survivors receive timely health and justice services. Ending impunity for these crimes is crucial.
At the same time, we continue to work to improve the quality of services for survivors on the ground, e.g. B. safe accommodation, advice and other services.
All of these efforts must work simultaneously to bring about meaningful change. The media, academia and the private sector down to the individual all have a duty to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.
It’s been about two years since you were appointed UN Women’s Land Director. What are some of your most important achievements so far for you?
I have the privilege of working with an incredible team at UN Women Kenya. Since joining the team, we have supported groundbreaking research unpacking national and regional budgets, poverty and women’s empowerment to inform policy and budgeting for women.
UN Women was at the center of the Covid-19 Response Plan in Kenya, producing evidence and analysis on the gender impact of the pandemic. It has informed decision-makers how best to respond, for example by increasing support for gender-based violence services and financially protecting women from the total erosion of their livelihoods.
We participated in the multisectoral response to the reported increase in teenage pregnancy rates due to ongoing school closings. We also critically addressed the issue of the increasing burden of unpaid care work for women as families spend more time at home.
Kenya also joined the African Women Leaders Network (AWLN) community with the successful launch of the Kenya Chapter, bringing together women leaders to speak with one voice on relevant gender issues, including the two-thirds gender rule.
In June 2020, Kenya adopted its second National Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security, which puts women at the heart of the country’s complex peace and security landscape.