By Ann Wambui
Plan International Kenya launched Girls Get Equal youth led campaign at Crowne Plaza Nairobi on March 8, 2019. This campaign is aimed at putting girls and young women first in redefining leadership and to give them a voice in ending abuse against them, harassment and negative stereotyping. The campaign sets to involve boys and men as strong allies as part of important vessels to achieving success of this campaign.
The campaign was launched by Lady Justice Martha Koome hand in hand with Plan International Kenya Director Kate Vorley, alongside Nairobi Women Representative Esther Passaris, Boniface Mwangi and youth Hope Nyokabi. There was panel discussion with Cabinet Secretary Labour and Social Protection Hon. Ukur Yatani moderated by NTV anchor Olive Burrows, as the world marked International Women’s Day. The campaign’s focus is to empower girls and women who have for long been oppressed in the society and deprived of rights and equal opportunities as their male counterparts.
It is a concern that girls everywhere are undervalued, undermined and underestimated. Globally, women are calling for equal opportunities and positions of power in government and organization spaces. Girls Get Equal campaign launched by Plan International Kenya seeks to encourage girls to speak up against abuse and report indecent acts done by anyone regardless of position in family or society.
The Plan team hopes to add value and voice to the existing movements and support activists aiming to bring about change in communities, with gender equality as their focus. In Kenya, a huge number of girls are locked up in outdated and harmful traditional practices like female genital mutilation and child marriage.
This campaign on #GirlsGetEqual is held up by three equal pillars; Equal Power- this is to support girls and young women to become leaders who will take part in decision making matters to positively affect their lives in the communities they come from. Equal Freedom- girls and women should have the ability and space to move, live up and speak up without fear of intimidation or danger for their lives because the society has placed them a certain way. Equal Representation- which seeks to call out discrimination and stereotyping of what we publicly see and make room for powerful stories showing successes of girls and women.
In Kenya, the Constitution states that there should be a 2/3 gender rule in every institution but this is not the case on ground. Most often, the major positions are occupied by men even though there are women who are equally qualified for the job. The Parliament should have female representation to a certain level but the society has placed politics as a thing for men and therefore not many women are willing to vie for political positions. It is in this regard that Justice Koome pledged her allegiance and resources towards supporting the campaign. “I promise to support the Girls Get Equal campaign and that I will use my resources to push for gender equality”
There are 22% and 31% women representatives in the National Assembly and Senate respectively. Citing 2018 as an example, there was a huge rage of teenage pregnancies and thus leading to school drop-out. Primary school completion rates are 10% lower for girls with disabilities than for girls without disabilities in Sub-Saharan Africa. These and many other reasons are why the campaign is advocating for equality. Just as boys continue with school , so should a girl after she is past the breastfeeding period and is in a state to resume her studies without worrying that fellow students will perceive her in any way or the society at large. At least in Kenya, girls are allowed to go back unlike in neighboring Tanzania where President John Magufuli prohibited second admission for girls who fall pregnant while studying in 2017. Shinyanga is one of the regions in the country that have recorded highest teenage pregnancies even as activists complained the ban contradicted the ruling party’s 2015 election manifesto that committed to allow pregnant school girls to continue their education.
It should however be noted that men and boys play an important role towards the success of this campaign. Again it starts from home where boys learn how to give genuine compliments and not because they want something in return, to respect girls and standing up for them to get equal opportunities to speak up and to also help around with chores so as to get rid of the “women’s position belongs in the kitchen”.
As it is always said, “Change begins with me. You and I.” Anything that needs to take a dynamic turn requires collective effort and so to ensure that #GirlsGetEqual comes to a reality, you need to speak out against discrimination immediately you see it. You need to learn the facts and get acquainted with human rights and those that are for girls so that you encourage females to rise up. You need to make space for girls and young women to lead. And this starts from home where you allow girls to raise their opinions. And lastly, you need to support women through providing platforms for them to be heard, seen and valued.
This is a movement for us all. This is how #GirlsGetEqual #InternationalWomensDay
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