Kenya’s progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, including goal five that focuses on gender equality, is under threat due to human induced and natural hazards that often translate into disasters. The frequency and intensity of the hazards have increased over time due to factors related to climate change, widespread poverty, urbanization and rapid population growth.
Disaster losses and impacts have significant impacts on the country’s economy. Disaster impacts do not only hamper economic growth, but also, broaden existing inequalities and exclusion particularly of the already vulnerable – mostly women and children. The cyclic recurrence of these disasters over time erodes community resilience, with many members of affected communities resorting to negative coping strategies.
Kenya is yet to recover from a severe El Nino induced drought that affected over 3.4 million people between 2016 to early 2018. The drought negatively affected large sections of the country with 23 out of 47 counties affected, leading the government to declare the situation a national disaster in February 2017 and with subsequent appeals for international support. The drought disaster was quickly followed by floods which affected at least 40 counties, displaced more than 311,100 people and about 132 deaths recorded.
Impacts of disasters and crises are not gender neutral. Gender inequality is a key driver of disasters. Women, men, girls and boys experience and are impacted by disasters differently. The impacts vary based on existing vulnerabilities, capacities, negative culture and gender norms that subordinate and exclude women from effectively participating and contributing to humanitarian and disaster risk management.
The UNDAF 2018-2022 builds on growing recognition that humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding efforts are complementary and need to reinforce each other to respond to Kenya’s vulnerability to inter and intra communal conflicts, terrorism, violent extremism, natural disasters and climate change. In the spirit of Leaving no One Behind (LNOB) and reaching the furthest behind first, there is need to address the multidimensional causes of poverty, inequalities and discrimination, and reduce the vulnerabilities of the most marginalized people including women and young men and women aged 15-24, especially those who live in areas that are prone to conflict and natural disasters.
UNDAF 2018-2022 identifies four key strategies to support integrated DRM in Kenya i.e. Capacity development to understand disaster risk for resilience at all levels; developing risk informed DRM policies, strategies and plans at National and County Level; carrying out community-based disaster risk reduction activities; and enhancing community resilience, response and coping capabilities.
The Sendai Framework makes provision for the integration of gender equality, calling specifically for all related policy and practices to reflect gender provisions. The framework states that governments should engage with all relevant stakeholders including women, children, youth, and persons with disabilities in the design and implementation of policies, plans and standards. It recognizes the need for inclusivity and the critical role played by women in reducing disaster risk and in building resilience to future shocks. This calls for adequate capacity building measures to empower women for preparedness as well as build their capacity for alternate livelihood means in post-disaster situations. This also reiterates the need to promote meaningful participation of women led organisations as key stakeholders in DRM measures at the county level.
In Kenya similar to other countries, women continue to be disproportionately impacted by disasters too due to high vulnerabilities – resulting from high poverty levels, over reliance on climate sensitive livelihoods, exclusions from key decision-making processes, limited access and control of assets etc. Such factors reduce women’s ability to cope with and recover from disaster.
All these hazards are being experienced on the backdrop of Kenya Constitution dispensation order, vision 20130, MTP III, the recently adopted National Policy for Disaster Risk Management, and the Disaster Risk Management Bill 2018 – soon to be enacted, that support the devolved disaster risk management functions between the national and the county governments. This also presents opportunity for advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the devolved levels.
Devolution of DRM functions require that counties have the capacity in human resource and technical expertise to design and implement DRM Programming. Whereas a few counties have personnel with technical skills in thematic areas and gender, the two rarely work in complementarity. This is further strained by the fact that DRM is a cross cutting theme hence little or no accountability is attributed to duty bearers. To ensure gender equality in DRM, it is important to ensure that county technical staff have their capacity built on DRM and gender linkages to realise gender mainstreaming in DRM. There is need to establish gender sensitive early warning systems both at the county and community levels. This requires capacity building of CSO’s and other community groups on gender and DRM.
UN Women continues to advocate for gender equality and inclusivity in DRM and specifically meaningful representation of women in key county humanitarian and DRR coordination structures – County Steering Groups, County, subcounty, and village DRR Committees). It has emerged that gender inequalities in HDRR work can be reduced by continuously advocating for and sensitizing county governments on the importance of meaningfully engaging women and key populations in decision making and coordination around DRR and humanitarian action at the county level.
There still exists evidence gaps on the gender and Humanitarian/DRM nexus in Kenya – specifically on the impact of various disaster categories on gender in different contexts, as well as development of efficient and effective gender sensitive community-based strategies in disaster prevention, mitigation, response, recovery and adoption. There is need for research, documentation of evidence and best practices, and sharing of knowledge with a focus on understanding gender in humanitarian and Disaster Risk Management.