Kenyans: let the He4She Campaign promote GBV awareness to all

GBV discussions
We must all support the He4She Campaign and address all aspects in our society that perpetuate gender based violence. This campaign comes in the wake of serious episodes where women were being undressed for wearing short dressses.

……We cannot have women stripped naked while the public watches without taking any action against the perpetrators. This is the height of irresponsibility on the part of the spectators. As a good citizen, what action did you take against the criminals who were violating the rights of the women? Gender equality is not just something that we will talk about, but something that we must internalise in everything we do. I unveiled the National Policy on Prevention and Response to Gender-Based Violence, and signed the ‘HeForShe’ campaign banners endorsing my commitment to champion the cause for gender parity (President Uhuru Kenyatta, 26th Nov 2014).

The attacks on women on the basis of their dressing have appalled all Kenyans of good will, were the words of Anne Waiguru the Minister for Devolution.

These heinous acts against our sisters, mothers, and children are barbaric and criminal. Beyond the outrage and horror that these attacks have rightfully provoked, we must now look inwards at ourselves and ask hard questions: what kind of society have we become? What kind of society produces men who so nonchalantly undress and humiliate their sisters or even mothers in public? Which man sexually molests a three-year-old child? Do they not have mothers, sisters, or daughters?

In traditional Africa, a shared morality was the cement of society. Nurturing and protecting our women and children is a fundamental attribute of who we are as a people. Our oral traditions and stories are full of heroic men who saved women and children from wars and ogres. Even the doyen of African literature, Chinua Achebe, noted that “it is not bravery when a man fights with a woman”.

It is to answer the cry of every woman and girl who has suffered violence for no other reason than that of being a woman or girl that we as a government ministry launched the HeForShe campaign and 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, as well as the National Policy on Prevention and Response to Gender-Based Violence.

The government has demonstrated its commitment to addressing the gender inequalities that persist in our society. We now have various initiatives aimed at improving the well-being of women, providing social protection, health care, education, and security, as enshrined in the Constitution and our development blue print, Vision 2030.

Through the second Medium-Term Plan 2013-2017, socio-economic programmes for women, youth, and persons with disabilities have been realised. The implementation of the Uwezo Fund, The Youth Enterprise Development Fund, and The Women’s Enterprise Fund are all aimed at deepening financial access for those who are not covered by commercial financial services.

The biggest game changer, however, is the 30 per cent preferential procurement provisions. Through this initiative, the government is putting real money and opportunities for growth in women’s hands.

UNTIL WE PARTNER WITH MENFOLK

We have realised that gender equality cannot be achieved until we partner with our menfolk. We, therefore, mark the evolving of a new dawn, where we have changed our strategies and have opened a new platform to reach out to men and boys as advocates of gender equality and in so doing, create a society where women and men, boys and girls are valued and treated equally.

n and women who call this beautiful land our home, have an agreement among ourselves, a social contract if you like, which binds us as a people to “live in peace and unity as one indivisible sovereign nation” and commits all of us to “nurturing and protecting the well-being of the individual, the family, communities, and the nation” (as the preamble of the Constitution states).

The change and possibilities we are looking for start with us.

As a female minister , I sometimes find myself harshly judged. I have to dress right, speak right, socialise right, and even smile right. I am not allowed to express my uniqueness and choice without attracting a myriad of comments. For my male colleagues, it is different; no one would even notice that they wore the same suit twice in a week.

However, we all know that it is not just about the dress or the style; it is about a social construct that promotes intolerance and oppression. Many of us are culprits, doing it both unconsciously and consciously, smothering the expression of self-identity and seeking to box others in what we consider “right”.

Let us all endeavour to make Kenya a better place for all of us. To all the men, the challenge to you is to join in, as champions for the HeForShe campaign in your daily lives as fathers, brothers, sons, boyfriends, husbands and colleagues, to promote the rights and empowerment of women and girls.

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