The 2019 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) presented a timely opportunity for development leaders to stress the importance of Kenya’s youth in accelerating the country’s gender equality agenda.
On the sidelines of the global conference a youth-focused dialogue, under the theme of UN Women’s new campaign ‘Generation Equality’, was coordinated in partnership with leading civil society organisations ActionAid and Akili Dada. The event brought together the next generation of women’s rights activists with those instrumental in creating the Beijing Platform for Action – a defining framework for advancing gender equality – more than twenty years ago.
“Every generation has a mission to fulfill or betray” asserted UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngucka. Quoting West Indian political philosopher Frantz Fanon, her remarks captured the sense of urgency that drives the new campaign, which focuses on the lack of progress towards women’s empowerment since Beijing.
The initial conversation comprised of young movers and shakers from Kenya’s gender equality movement and civil society, who unpacked the most pressing issues for the country’s women and girls such as sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR). SRHR was a prominent theme throughout the dialogue and aligns to the broader priorities of the ICPD and the Beijing Platform. Patience Zingani, a community volunteer, trained peer educator and paralegal in the sector, described her experiences of reproductive health services in Kenya:
“Distances to health facilities, conservative attitudes, hiding contraceptives and damaging cultural norms remain realities for many of Kenya’s youth. We need to have a conversation with duty bearers on how to address these issues; follow up on promises and address the stigma attached to seeking sexual and reproductive health services.”
A high-level discussion followed with participants from the Government of Kenya, leading civil society figures and UN agencies, including UN Women Executive Director. In 1995, Phumzile was working inside the South African government, developing commitments it could bring to Beijing. During the dialogue, she reflected:
“Beijing and the ICPD are to women what the UN Charter is to nations. If nations pull out of these agreements, they remove what holds them accountable to women. From generation to generation we have tried to improve and enhance the gender equality and women’s empowerment (GEWE) agenda. Today we are facing push back and it is critical for young people to understand what is at stake. The GEWE agenda is for all generations, and the future of humanity depends on what we give and do for girls and children. Beijing was a huge leap forward when we affirmed that women’s rights are human rights, we want that equal future: now!”
The Generation Equality campaign demands equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end to sexual harassment and all forms of violence against women and girls, health-care services that respond to their needs and their equal participation in political life and decision-making in all areas of life. It looks to build momentum in the gender equality space, recognizing that promises remain unfulfilled from the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action. The 25th anniversary commemoration in 2020 will be a rallying point to insist on finally achieving the human rights of all women and girls and will be organized as a global mobilization.
Visit our Gender in Kenya Flickr page for more photos of our events and activities in the gender equality space.