A campaign to mark the start of the global sixteen days of activism against gender violence dubbed  “Activate Nairobi” was launched at an event at the University of Nairobi yesterday.

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.

According to The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS), more than 4 in 10 women in Kenya have faced 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.

Statistics by The Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW-Kenya) reveals 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.

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

Four inspirational women leaders, including the first daughter, Charlene Ruto, Elizabeth Wathuti, Francesca Di Matteo and Professor Mary Lucia Mbithi, shared their strategies to combat domestic violence. The round table culminated in the opening of the ‘I Want You to Know’ photographic exhibition by Gaia Squarci, a National Geographic scholar.

“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.” said  Wang’ombe, Deputy Minister of the Department for Gender and Affirmative Action.

Ambassador Natali emphasized, ” it is imperative to sensitize, to talk, to inform, to educate our children: educate about respect, about equality, educate about the idea that force can 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.”

Speaking at the launch, Charlene Ruto called for diversity and inclusivity in such campaigns, She championed for the youth and the people living with disabilities.

” When young women, especially those living with disability are actively involved in policy formulation and implementation, the resulting strategies are 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 stated

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

Giovanni Grandi, the founder of the photographic exhibition themed ‘I Want You To Know’ which was inaugurated at the end of the panel discussion talked about her experience when they held a workshop for disadvantaged young people in Mathare, an informal neighborhood in Nairobi.

The initiative was a collaboration with the Mwelu Foundation which is active in promoting photography and videography as tools for emancipation from poverty.

“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.”Grandi stated

Elena Gallenca, Director of the IIC, declared, “Culture is a bridge between nations, and unfortunately, women’s voices are historically underrepresented. The activities of the Activate campaign aim to bring Italian culture to the forefront in the global fight against gender violence.”

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

The campaign  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.

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