Gender inequality in the East Africa region is manifest at all levels: in the social spheres, at the domestic level, and in public institutions. Gender based violence is particularly problematic. While there has been increased representation of women in politics – Rwanda leads the world in women’s representation in parliament at 61.4%, progress has been uneven.
Until recently there was a lack of harmonized policies and legislation to deal with gender inequality across the region. But in March 2017, the EAC Gender Equality and Development Act (also called the Gender Bill) was passed by the East Africa Legislative Assembly. While the Act awaits to be assented to by the Heads of States and to take effect nationally, there is a clear need for a harmonised framework for action, to track success, and to make cross-national comparisons.
The Eastern African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI) is monitoring the implementation of the Gender Bill at both the regional and national level to gauge progress toward gender equality.
EASSI is a civil society network working through National Focal Point member organisations in eight countries of the region: Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda. Its Secretariat is based in Uganda.
The Commonwealth Foundation has supported EASSI’s advocacy on the Gender Bill by enabling interaction between EASSI and members of the East African Legislative Assembly. The project also includes the development of a gender barometer which will provide an annual report that assesses progress of government’s actions, such as formulating policies that remove gender based discrimination, guaranteeing women’s rights, and providing the necessary services for the realisation of these commitments. These actions require financial resources, institutional mechanisms and accountability frameworks that should be integrated in national plans and budgets.
Citizens views on government performance are a fundamental component of the barometer that integrates the use of a ‘Citizen Score Card’. The barometer offers evidence based information for holding governments accountable to their gender commitments.
Availability and utilisation of monetary resources play a central role in the realisation of the right to health in Kenya. Resources allocated to health need to be utilised in an accountable and transparent manner, thus ensuring that everybody, especially the most vulnerable, can access health services.
Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV & AIDS (KELIN) is building a network of knowledgeable civil society organisations (CSOs) Community Based Organisations (CBOs), the media and communities of persons affected by HIV and TB to monitor the implementation of the right to health commitments, including the availability and utilisation of resources allocated to health at county and national level. This includes participation in health planning processes at county level and the development of communications to inform stakeholders on health issues. KELIN is also facilitating constructive engagement between the network and decision makers, such as government officials at county level, to advocate for measures that can promote greater transparency and accountability in the health sector.
This project builds on the “Influencing HIV Policy in Kenya” project funded by the Commonwealth Foundation from July 2013 – June 2016. The project established and built the capacity of networks in key target counties to engage in local governance processes for enhanced and inclusive delivery of health services.
Through the proposed project these networks will be expanded and further strengthened to monitor the implementation of the right to health. Network members are closely involved in the planning, implementation and monitoring of the project in order to promote ownership.
By the end of the project, network members will have acquired skills and experience to enable them to continue to monitor the implementation of the right to health commitments in the long term.
KELIN is a Kenyan civil society organisation working to protect and promote health-related rights in Kenya by: advocating for integration of human rights principles in laws, policies and administrative frameworks; facilitating access to justice in respect of violations of health related rights; and developing the capacities of civil society organisations and groups working to promote the right to health. KELIN has been at the forefront in advocating for increased public participation in governance processes relating to the health sector, including policy making and legislation review, in Kenya. The organisation has experience of participating in the development of policies and legislation relating to health in Kenya, including the Health Act 2017 and the Reproductive Health Bill 2015.
Equal rights for children and young people with disabilities, although recognised in Kenya, need to be strengthened through engagement between policy makers and civil society.
AbleChildAfrica is working with disabled peoples’ organisations and civil society organisations to improve the rights of Children with Disabilities (CWDs) in Kenya.
In partnership with Action Network for Disabled (ANDY), AbleChildAfrica is forming a coalition of child focused civil society organisations (CSOs) and disabled peoples’ organisations (DPOs) to work with government officials, and to deliver a public campaign that will enhance government and the public awareness of child focused disability rights. AbleChildAfrica is developing the coalition’s ability to advocate for the rights of children with disabilities, facilitating meetings between coalition members and government officials, and developing evidence based reports of policy recommendations for policy makers.
By the end of the project, it is expected that effective public campaigns and engagement between policy makers and the coalition will lead to the implementation of policies that strengthen the rights of children with disabilities.
AbleChildAfrica is a UK based charity working with and alongside partner organisations in Africa to achieve equal rights for children and young people with disabilities. AbleChildAfrica works in partnership to provide direct services such as education and health, and engages in advocacy and influencing working in the UK and internationally. www.ablechildafrica.org
Action Network for Disabled (ANDY)
Action Network for Disabled (ANDY) works to promote the equality, inclusion and empowerment of young people with disabilities in Kenya. ANDY supports young people with disabilities to become involved in development and decision-making processes. It facilitates their socio-economic empowerment by involving them in small scale self-sustainable projects. www.ablechildafrica.org/our-partners/kenya-partner
Right to information (RTI) is a key tool for guaranteeing a number of human rights, particularly economic and social rights. Building the Kenyan government’s capacity to share information, and improving civil society’s understanding of and ability to use the Access To Information (ATI) Act in the public interest is recognised as a necessity.
In partnership with Katiba Institute (KI), Kenya, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), India, will support civil society and government in the implementation of the ATI Act in Kenya.
The project is working with civil society organisations to raise awareness of right to information, emphasising the value of accessing information held by public authorities. It is also supporting Kenyan government officials in developing an RTI implementation plan.
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative is facilitating an exchange between Indian civil society, government representatives and their Kenyan counterparts. This exercise in South-to South collaboration will utilise India’s experience, in implementing a similar law since 2005.
Endorsed project title: Building civil society organisations’ capacity to advocate for Right to Information
Photo: Flickr CC dilettantiquity
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, India works to promote the practical realisation of human rights in Commonwealth countries focuses on building and reforming systems of governance, essential for the protection and promotion of human rights. CHRI played the lead role in successfully advocating for the adoption of RTI laws in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Cayman Islands, Guyana, the Maldives, Malta, Pakistan and Sri Lanka www.humanrightsinitiative.org
Katiba Institute (KI), Kenya, established in 2011, is a constitutional research, policy and litigation institute focused on the implementation of Kenya’s 2010 Constitution and the development of a culture of constitutionalism in Kenya. KI has experience of working with CHRI to advocate for the adoption of a strong right to information law in Kenya. www.katibainstitute.org
The progressive social protection programme of the Kenyan Government aims to address poverty, health risks and vulnerability through direct cash transfer in order to help sustain livelihoods and build human capital. The programme directly targets orphans and vulnerable children, older persons and persons with severe disabilities. Recent social audit findings suggest there are gaps in certain regions in the cash transfer programmes’ design and delivery.
The Africa Platform for Social Protection is ensuring that beneficiaries of Kenya’s social protection policy are involved in the design and delivery of the national cash transfer programmes. Working in Kenya’s Busia, Kilifi and Kajiado counties, the project is firstly increasing community awareness of this social protection policy and its benefits. It is also supporting government officers and other stakeholders to use social auditing effectively, in order to assess the implementation and design of the cash transfer programme in their region. By facilitating discussions between local communities and the regulatory bodies involved in implementing the programme, the project is increasing participation of beneficiaries in the development and deployment of the programme.
The project is contributing to an improved understanding among communities with regard to their roles, responsibilities and entitlements in cash transfer programmes, while also enabling effective implementation of the programme.
Endorsed project title: Enhancing accountability in the management of cash transfer programmes in Kenya
Photo: Flickr CC Michał Huniewicz Mombasa kids
Africa Platform for Social Protection
Africa Platform for Social Protection was established in 2010 to develop and implement innovative Social Protection strategies and programmes that make a difference in people’s lives in Africa. Africa Platform for Social Protection is a member of Kenya’s National Social Protection Steering Committee that brings together Ministries of Agriculture, Education, Health, Social Development, Finance and Devolution and the Civil Society. The committee reviews progress on the implementation of social protection programmes and makes recommendation to government. Africa Platform for Social Protection has experience of participating in social accountability projects in Ghana, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.www.africapsp.org
EACSOF is a platform for civil society organisations in East Africa.
EACSOF was established in 2006 to be the channel through which civil society can make representation to the regional governance institution, the East African Community (EAC). Its vision is to see an East Africa in which citizens are fully engaged and involved in all affairs affecting their lives. EACSOF’s mission is to provide a platform and catalyse a critical mass of organised civil society to engage in need-driven, people-centred East Africa integration and to cooperate effectively and proactively for equitable and sustainable development.
The Commonwealth Foundation is supporting the institutional strengthening of EACSOF and working with it to develop an East Africa regional agenda for action at the EAC.
The Forum is currently reviewing its strategic plan and prioritising key regional issues for its action agenda for 2015 – 2019. National consultations in each of the five East African countries are currently ongoing and findings will be brought together at EACSOF’s General Council meeting in early 2015.
In his welcoming address to the Kenya consultation in October 2014, Morris Odhiambo, Chair of the Kenya EACSOF Chapter captured the vision of EACSOF: “Regionalism is a global movement and the voices of the most disadvantaged citizens must be heard”.
By involving people in marginalised and rural communities in the processes that determine their health services and policies, health outcomes for those communities will be improved.
Health Poverty Action is helping civil society organisations in Kenya, Namibia and Rwanda to build their capacity to share best practices for the participation of marginalised groups in health service governance. This project is looking at the participatory structures that are already in place in three African countries – Kenya, Rwanda and Namibia – and exploring how they can be enhanced, documented, and potentially scaled up and shared with other countries.
At the moment, a Community Conversation approach is being used in Kenya, where solutions are directly sought from communities themselves through discussion sessions with community leaders and influencers, facilitated by trained moderators. In Namibia, designated Clinic Health Committees (CHCs) support dialogues with health service providers to make sure solutions are relevant, culturally appropriate and fit to meet the needs of the communities. And in Rwanda, the traditional Ubudehe social protection system sees communities – under the guidance of trained facilitators – select a priority community project from a list of options and decide collectively on actions to take.
With a grant from the Commonwealth Foundation, Health Poverty Action is helping civil society organisations in each of these countries to build their capacity to support and enhance these systems. The organisations in Namibia and Rwanda are supported in building Kenya’s Community Conversation into their systems, while also being trained in participatory methods that help them to draw inputs and contributions from communities that have previously been unable to make their voices heard on this vital aspect of their existence. In each country meetings will be held with decision makers to share their learnings on participatory methods, with the aim of embedding the on-going contributions of these under-heard communities into the fabric of their national healthcare systems.
The Commonwealth Foundation awarded a grant of up to £45,000 over 18 months for this project.
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Kenya’s Constitution requires that no more than two thirds of any one gender represents any elective post. In the 2013 general election only 19 women stood among the 244 candidates that fought for Senator positions in the 2013 General Election and only occupy 9.8 per cent of seats in the Kenyan parliament.
The Institute for Education in Democracy (IED) is now working towards the High Court’s recommendation that positive steps should be taken to increase the representation of women in politics by 2015. It will explore the development of affirmative action in political parties and ensure that the promotion of gender equality is consistent and sustainable, raising the long-term position of women in politics.
The Institute will stage a consultative forum with civil society organisations, political parties and the Registrar of Political Parties to identify strategies for affirmative action. The Registrar – which oversees the law on political parties and has the mandate to ensure gender considerations are integrated into the membership and workings of the parties – will play a pivotal role in the work and will also see its capacity to develop tools to guide political parties in establishing affirmative action regulations built and enhanced. The IED will also develop a new framework with which civil society organisations will be able to monitor the progress being made by political parties on gender equality.
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The pen and the written word are powerful tools for upholding free expression, cultural rights and democratic governance. Through creative expression, Commonwealth citizens have the ability to advocate for the legislation that underpins these rights.
PEN International (founded 1921) is a global community of writers, who work to promote literature and defend freedom of expression. The organisation will target measures to build capacity, skills and knowledge in order to advocate in favor of freedom of expression. Local PEN Centres will participate in policy training to help with advocacy work on local, regional and international levels and a three-year advocacy strategy will map out plans to engage with regional-level forums such as the Africa Commission on Human Rights.
This work will serve to leverage the voice and influence of PEN Africa Network members in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia. PEN members will gain greater understanding of areas including freedom of expression and digital freedom, cultural and linguistic rights and quality education. It will help to empower not just them but the people with whom they work and future generations of writers, journalists and advocates.
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