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Four in 10 Women in Kenya have faced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner, KDHS reveals

According to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS), over 40 percent of women have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner during their lives.

Additionally, around 1 in 4 girls get married early, and about 1 in 5 undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) in the country.

KDHS presented these revelations during the launch of a campaign dubbed ‘Activate Nairobi’ at the University of Nairobi to mark the start of the global sixteen days of activism against gender violence.

With a terse message around the need to fight gender-based violence, the campaign is a collaborative effort between Kenya’s Department of Gender Affairs, the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (Aics), the Italian Cultural Institute (IIC), and the Offices of the Embassy of Italy in Kenya.

The event, which featured a round-table discussion, was inaugurated by the Italian Ambassador to Kenya Roberto Natali and Deputy Minister of the Department for Gender and Affirmative Action in Kenya Anne Wang’ombe.

“Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are essential to eradicate poverty and build a global society based on sustainable development, social justice, and human rights,” stated Wang’ombe.

Statistics by The Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW-Kenya) revealed that over 3,762 cases of Gender-Based Violence were reported in 2022. Out of those cases, 2,985 cases of GBV were by women while 777 cases were by men.

In a quick rejoinder, Ambassador Natali emphasized that it is imperative to sensitize, talk, inform, and educate our children about respect, equality, and the idea that force could never be an instrument of dialogue.

“And if we can do it together, we will be more effective and we will build more sustainable solutions,” added Natali

Also speaking at the launch, Charlene Ruto, the First Daughter and Youth Champion was keen to note that when young women, especially those living with disability were actively involved in policy formulation and implementation, the resulting strategies were more comprehensive, resilient, and sustainable.

“Moving forward, let us continue to champion inclusivity, amplify diverse voices, and create opportunities that empower women to lead the change against global warming. Together, we can forge a path toward a more equitable and resilient future for all,” she urged.

Moreover, the event, attended by over 500 students, focused on the relationship between climate change and female empowerment through the testimonies and experiences of four women activists.

During the round-table discussion, the inspirational women leaders, including Charlene Ruto, Elizabeth Wathuti, Francesca Di Matteo and Professor Mary Lucia Mbithi, shared their strategies to combat climate change which culminated in the opening of the ‘I Want You to Know’ photographic exhibition co-created by the Mwelu Foundation and Gaia Squarci, a National Geographic scholar.

The latter, an Italian photographer was in an artistic residency in Nairobi in October 2023 where she met, interviewed, and photographed women activists, and held a workshop for disadvantaged young people in Mathare, an informal neighbourhood in Nairobi, in collaboration with the Mwelu Foundation, active in promoting photography and videography as tools for emancipation from poverty.

Meanwhile, Head of Aics Regional Office of Nairobi Giovanni Grandi highlighted the pivotal role cooperation initiatives played in empowering women across all sectors of society.

“We recognize the challenges faced by women, particularly in arid and semi-arid lands, and through our initiatives, we aim not just to confront these challenges, but to empower women to empower the society,” voiced Grandi.

The Director of the IIC, Elena Gallenca noted that culture is a bridge between nations, and unfortunately, women’s voices were historically under-represented.

She said that the activities of the Activate Campaign aimed to bring Italian culture to the forefront in the global fight against gender violence.

The ‘Activate Nairobi’ campaign will run until 10th December, with several impactful events to highlight the magnitude of violence against women in Nairobi lined up.

The engaging campaign events will include a theatre performance, two evenings of stand-up comedy by a leading comedy group in Nairobi, film screenings, and two forums dedicated to survivors of gender violence cases in Kenya, authorities, and stakeholders.

By Michael Omondi

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