In Kenya, VSO Jitolee together with secure livelihoods partners, Illaramatak le Mpusel and Noomanyanat, celebrated this year's International Women's Day (March 8th) with a ceremony attended by 500 people in the Loitokitok district of Kajiado County.
Hosting this high profile event under the theme, 'Equality for women is progress for all’ with the UN and VSO offered a rare opportunity to shine a spotlight on the lives of the local women and communities. Loitokitok is a small rural town about five hours drive from Nairobi and inhabited by the Maasai community who are predominantly pastoralist and whose culture dictates their way of life. Men here control income-generating activities on the land, while women and children are treated as the property of the husband and don’t have a say on important issues that directly affect them.
Cases of children undergoing the outlawed female genital mutilation (FGM) are prevalent in the area. When young girls undergo FGM, they are considered adults and are often married-off and this causes them to drop out of school. The majority of women do not participate in major decision-making processes due to high level of illiteracy. The Constitution of Kenya (2010) clearly stipulates in the Bill of Rights the provisions for the empowerment of women. Women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres; the right to acquire and own property.
Creating awareness of women's rights
The Loitokitok event on March 8th aimed to create awareness of violence against women, women's rights to control and access property, the anti-FGM Act (female genital mutilation) and the need to include women in leadership and decision-making processes. More than 450 women and about 50 men in the area attended the ceremony. Among those who attended the ceremony included the Kajiado County Governor, women members of the County Assembly, the Assistant County Commissioner, local leaders, civil servants and women from across Kajiado County.
The ceremony featured a procession to the Loitokitok Stadium, brief presentations and artistic performances that raised awareness of gender issues. School children, women traditional dancers and theatre groups used performance art to share educational messages on women’s rights to land and property, the right to education and the empowerment of women.
Speakers emphasised the need for the community to understand the anti-FGM Act and the need to send children to school. The governor David Ole Nkedienye recognised VSO Jitolee's role in working with local partners to improve the lives of people in Kajiado.
Women, whose leadership capacity has been developed by VSO volunteers and VSO Jitolee's programmes team, took a lead role in overseeing the success of the day. Women leaders from other counties, Laikipia and Muranga, attended the event for cross-learning and to offer mutual support.
With over 50 years of work in Kenya, VSO is committed to the development of Kenya's people. Our programme work aims to reduce poverty and create wealth in Kenya. Find out more about VSO's work in Kenya:http://www.vsojitolee.org/