Similar to a number of countries in the Horn of Africa, Kenya is regularly faced with natural and man-made disasters. Annually, it is estimated that between one to two million people mostly women and children are in need of humanitarian assistance due to a combination of drought, floods and conflict. Disaster impacts exerts immense pressure on the country’s economy, undermining progress towards sustainable development whilst exacerbating existing vulnerabilities including gender inequalities, marginalization and poverty.
With experts warning of increased frequency and intensity of disasters due to climate change, rapid urbanization and population growth, disaster impacts if not adequately addressed will continue to undermine economic progress.
Despite being a force for transformative change and resilience with traditional knowledge, an understanding of existing vulnerabilities, in disaster situations, women are often perceived as victims that require support rather than voices that need to be engaged in humanitarian and Disaster Risk Reduction Processes.
It is in this regards that the UN Women in Kenya launched the Humanitarian and Disaster Risk Reduction Mainstreaming Manual entitled Enhancing the Capacities related to Gender and Gender Based Violence in Humanitarian Actions. The Manual is aimed at strengthening the capacity of key humanitarian actors and DRM institutions at national and county levels to integrate gender and GBV within their policies, plans and strategies; strengthen the capacities of women and women led organizations for effective engagement in humanitarian action; improve and strengthen coordination within the UN system and increase the capacities of key stakeholders especially women.
Through it is on-going Humanitarian and Disasters Risk Reduction work, UN Women in partnership with OCHA and other key stakeholders will be rolling out trainings and capacity building programmes in support of the use of this manual and other tools such as the Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) gender marker tip sheets. The capacity building programme is expected to strengthen gender mainstreaming across humanitarian and development continuum.
The need to mainstream gender within disaster management and humanitarian emergencies emanates from the realization that not only are women among the most affected by natural and human-induced disasters, but that they also require the most support in the post-disaster environment. More so, disasters have significantly increase women’s vulnerability, especially to sexual and domestic violence.
Speaking during the event, the UN Women Kenya Country Director Ms. Zebib Kavuma highlighted on the need for collaborative efforts from stakeholders within the country in ensuring that women are at the center of the entire disaster management programming starting from early warning, preparedness and during humanitarian and disaster response to building disaster resilience for all stating that “No single organization or agency can address gender equality and women’s empowerment issues in humanitarian action alone. As the world prepares for the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in May 2016, one of the Core Responsibility being proposed is to leave no one behind”
The manual addresses the pre-existing challenge of operationalizing gender mainstreaming in humanitarian and disaster risk reduction practice.
The launch brought together stakeholders from the Government through the State Department of Special Programmes, Ministry of Devolution and Planning, National Disaster Operation Center, National Drought Management Authority, National Disaster Management Unit, Development Partners, Academia, Civil Society Representatives, UN agencies among others.