Over 100 humanitarian workers from The United Nations alongside other agencies in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Turkana County on 9th pledged their support and commitment for gender equality through The UN Women HeForShe campaign in Kenya. The campaign is mobilizing men and boys to be agents of change and advocate for gender equality.
The launch follows a previous launch by the County Government of Turkana spear-headed by H.E. Governor Josphat Nanok.
The population of the 20-year old camp stands at approximately 179,000 refugees of whom 46% is made up of women and girls drawn from 16 different countries in Africa and who are faced by challenges of access to education for girls, high drop-out rate due to teenage pregnancy, early marriages and limited school spaces among others.
Some of these challenges have led to the establishment of two rescue centers for women within the refugee camp where women, girls and children seek asylum. The rescue centers offer them education, shelter, food, counselling services and physiotherapy services for those with special needs amidst several challenges.
One of the women in the safe house where they seek asylum
The campaign brought together United Nation Head of Agencies in Kakuma from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee in Kenya (UNHCR), International Organization for Migration (IOM), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Windle Trust Kenya, Lutheran World Federation, Danish Refugee Council Kenya Programme, to commit towards supporting gender equality by mobilizing men and boys as change agents and advocates of gender equality through mainstreaming gender issues in all sectors.
The Head of sub office, UNHCR Kakuma Mrs. Honorine Sommet-Lange stressed the need for involvement from everyone highlighting that UNHCR continues to promote gender equality and ensure women and girls equal access to provision of protection and assistance through ensuring integration of gender perspective across sectors and the use of targeted action to address a specific potential concerns faced by women and girls. UNHCR programs strive to build women resilience and strengthen them to support their own empowerment.
“Women and girls in displacement and refugee camps like Kakuma face specific risks and are less likely to have access to their rights than men and boys. Such risks include discrimination, sexual and Gender Based Violence.” She added.
The launch saw participants interact and engage on masculinity and femininity in the context of the community highlighting the challenges, perception and beliefs held by men in the community and organization on an experience sharing basis coordinated by The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) representative Kennedy Otina.
Raphael Sungu, the UN Head of agencies representative on his part highlighted the importance of communities to understand the advantages of ensuring that there is gender parity. Most arid and semi-arid regions with gender inequality there exists a correlation between gender imbalance and under-development. We have to change mindsets, attitudes and misconceptions in order to curb the retrogressive cultures. We must ensure that our cultures are in line with time.
“There is a lot of affirmative action to ensure women access to opportunities, mobilization and community engagement through the media and some agencies that have recruited mobilizers to ensure issue around gender parity are addressed. “ Mr Sungu reiterated adding that there are a lot of engagement with community, religious and opinion leaders in the various communities to advocate for gender equality.
As a way forward, the move to launch the campaign in Kakuma was applauded and seen as a formal platform towards a structured approach to showcase all the efforts from all the other agencies that include the Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) working group, protection departments and referrals within agencies and learn from each other.