PILLAR OF PROGRESS

Coast women, youth must stand up for their rights

National and county governments must immediately prevent women and youth from suffering further degradation

In Summary

• Women and youth are the pillars and engines of our society but they suffer from cultural bias, political exploitation, marginalisation and violence, exacerbated by Covid-19.

• Their emancipation is necessary if Kenya is to succeed and realise its growth.

Haki Africa executive director Hussein Khalid and, Gender and Children' Rights Salma Hemed addressing journalists in Voi on Saturday, November 3, 2018.
Haki Africa executive director Hussein Khalid and, Gender and Children' Rights Salma Hemed addressing journalists in Voi on Saturday, November 3, 2018.
Image: SOLOMON MUINGI

Women and youth’s rights in Kenya, especially in the Coast. remain under threat.

Despite the few successes in empowering women and youth, numerous issues still exist in the country, including cultural, political, social and economic disenfranchisement, which undermine their well being across all the counties.

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation and deeply entrenched violations of women and youth's rights violations in the trenches and dungeons of the very homes meant to be safe havens.

Since the Coast lockdown and cessation of movement, we have seen the skyrocketing of domestic violence, cultural inequalities, economic injustices, including evictions, extrajudicial killings, mob 'justice' and sexual and gender-based violence .

On a daily basis, human rights organisations such as HAKI Africa have been receiving tens of new cases every day on violations and abuses. The cases r

If this situation persists in the next few months, there will be no women and youth left in our community to bank our future on.

It is obvious that women and youth at the Coast are undergoing tremendous challenges. While generally all the people are faced with trials and tribulations emanating from the Covid-19 pandemic, the situation with women and youth is further compounded by the abuse of their rights.

Everyone is lamenting dwindling economic fortunes as a result of the Mombasa Port operations unfairly having been moved from the region by the government, however, women and youth are further challenged by labour rights abuses. These  include low wages, extended working hours and sexual harassment by their bosses.

On the security front, it is evident that women and young girls continue to suffer immense sexual and gender-based violence in private and public places. The violence has become so common that victims are no longer reporting it.

In the public domain, killings and disappearances of youth have now returned in parts of the Coast region. As if these were not enough, the public are further engaging in crime and mob lynching or killings. This situation compounds the security problem and leaves women and youth more desperate for their safety and security.

On the political front, Coast leaders who have continuously used women and youth for their selfish reasons have taken advantage of the political divisions in the country and are campaigning for supremacy in either divisions. As they do so, they are pushing their women and youth followers attack each other in defence of the political divisions.

Socially, the Covid-19 distancing requirement has seen women and youth's social networks dismantled and disintegrated. What used to be religious or cultural women and youth's groups pulling together for development are now shells of their their former selves, with no membership at all.

As a country and specifically the Coast region, we need an awakening of minds to address the issues hindering emancipation of women and youth. To do this, residents must seek to bring to the fore the challenges faced by women and youth, and hold local political and community leaders accountable for rights violations.

Security authorities must be forced to do their work and protect the rights of women and youth. More importantly, we need to urgently empower women and youth to rise up and refuse to be the weaker sex and age group.

As the country slowly picks itself up from the effects of Covid-19, national and county governments must immediately protect women and youth from further degradation. In all recovery initiatives and programmes, women and youth must be prioritised.

National and county government must inject resources in women and youth funds and make them easily accessible. Loans must be replaced with grants to spur economic re-growth. Unnecessary bureaucracies and red tape must be abolished to encourage this group to engage in economic recovery programmes.

Women and youth are the pillars and engines of our society. Their emancipation is necessary if Kenya is to succeed and realise its growth.

We must waste no time in empowering women and youth.