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Status of women’s and girls’ rights in Kenya, 26 years after Kenya committed to the promotion of gender equality

NAIROBI/LONDON/WASHINGTON D.C. July 30, 2021 – It has been more than 26 years now since more than 180 governments, including Kenya, came together and committed to promoting gender equality through the adoption of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on Gender Equality.

Since then, Kenya has adopted a raft of critical legislations designed to address sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). These legislations are welcome and have all the hallmarks of a country that is committed to facilitating gender equality. Besides this, during the Generation Equality Forum that took place in June 2021, Kenya pledged to end Gender-Based Violence by 2026 through the following 12 actions:

  • Commit to the full implementation of GBV laws and policies by adopting a GBV indicator in the government Performance contracting framework to track duty-bearers accountability on enforcement and implementation of GBV laws and policies by 2022.
  • Commit to investing USD 23 million for GBV prevention and response by 2022 and increase the resource allocation up to USD 50million by 2026 through a co-financing model. Specifically, the Government of Kenya commits to sustain the allocation for FY2020/2021 of USD 2.79 million to GBV and FGM and incrementally work towards a minimum budget allocation of USD 5million for subsequent financial years. In addition, we commit to instituting an accountability framework for tracking expenditure.
  • Commit to ratify and implement the ILO Convention 190 on eliminating Gender-Based Violence and Harassment in the world of work by 2026 in close partnership with the private sector.
  • Commit to introducing a module on GBV in the 2022 Kenya Demographic Health Survey to strengthen the utilization of gender statistics in informing the design, scale-up and evaluation of FGM and GBV programming.
  • Commit to developing a GBV management and information system by 2022 to strengthen GBV prevention and response programming.
  • Commit to investing USD 1 million annually for GBV research, and innovation to boost evidence-based programming by 2026.
  • Commit to integrating GBV services – medical, legal, and psychological support services into the essential minimum package of the Universal Health Coverage UHC by 2022.
  • Commit to scaling up the national police service integrated response to GBV’ (Policare)’ and establishing Gender-Based Violence Recovery Centers and shelters in all 47 counties by 2026.
  • Commit to establishing a GBV survivors fund through a co-financing model in partnership with private sector, civil society, and other stakeholders for economic empowerment of GBV survivors.
  • Commit to GBV prevention and response in crisis situations such as COVID-19 pandemic response, humanitarian contexts and electoral related GBV.
  • Commit to strengthening collaboration with non-state actors including girl-led, women’s rights organizations, male champions, and private sector through coordination structures such as the Gender Sector working groups at the national and county level.
  • Commit to adopting and institutionalizing the multi-sectoral GEF Leadership structure comprising the National Advisory Committee, the National Steering Committee, and the county leadership structure to guide the implementation of Kenya’s GEF Commitments in the GBV Action Coalition up to 2026.

While we welcome these robust and concrete commitments, we remain concerned that GBV will remain a shadow pandemic and that justice will remain elusive for many women and girls if Kenya does not honor its word. It will also continue lagging behind in the promotion of gender equality and exacerbate the current prevalence rates of SGBV including lifetime physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence at 40.7%; child marriage at 22.9% and Female Genital Mutilation at 21%, which are often accompanied by or result in adolescent pregnancies (1 in 8 girls are either pregnant or an adolescent mother) and a host of other sexual and reproductive health injustices among women and girls. Humanitarian crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic as well as potential crises related to electoral periods compound SGBV and expose women and girls to further violence.

We, therefore, urge the government of Kenya to honor the 12 commitments to end all forms of GBV by 2026 and further call upon it, fellow civil society organizations and the private sector to intensify the fight against GBV by:

  • Institutionalize each of the 12 commitments by linking each to a state department or organization for action planning and budgeting; embed them in county planning documents as well;
  • Developing a clear road-map and accountability framework of how each of the 12 commitments will be implemented, with meaningful engagement of non-governmental, civil society, women rights organizations and grassroots communities;
  • Rolling out the “Komesha Dhulma campaign’’ in all the 47 counties; and
  • Institutionalize the Generation Equality Forum Secretariat within the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender to fast track action planning and implementation of the 12 GEF commitments.