Over the past few months, a series of impactful community dialogues took place in various counties across Kenya including, Homabay, Kisii, Kericho, Samburu, Embu, Kajiado, and Wajir. These dialogues, conducted by Media Focus on Africa in conjunction with partner organisations and in collaboration with local communities, aimed to address critical issues such as the empowerment of women, environment and climate change, period poverty, women’s leadership, and inclusivity in public policy. They sought to bring both men and women in discussion of these key topics.
Our partner organisations included Inuka Community Developers Network in Homabay, A Million Hugs in Kisii, The Barrier Breakers in Kericho, Network Empowering Samburu Transformation in Samburu, Stitch In Time My Africa Projects in Embu, A Pack A Month in Kajiado, and Arid Lands Development Focus in Wajir County. Their contribution was paramount to the success of the community dialogues.
During the community dialogues, participants engaged in thought-provoking discussions that shed light on the challenges faced by women, particularly in relation to period poverty. These dialogues revealed the severity of the situation and the lengths women would go to in order to access menstrual hygiene products, including resorting to sexual acts. In a session in Kisii, Mr. James Matundura, Chairperson of the Gusii Council of Elders, shared his revelation, stating, “In my 70 years of living, I have never sat down in a meeting with men and women to discuss menstruation. As a community, we have always viewed this as a women’s issue. This is progress.” This poignant statement underscores the importance of continuing the discussion on menstrual health at the grassroots level.
The dialogues aimed to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and advocate for affordable menstrual products to ensure every woman’s dignity and well-being. By breaking down barriers related to menstrual health, the dialogues contributed to the empowerment of women, and to promoting gender equity.
James Matundura, Chairperson- Gusii Council of Elders
In discussion on inclusivity in public policy, there was consensus on the importance of fostering women’s active involvement in governance and local development initiatives, ensuring that their voices are heard in matters of public interest. Through these discussions, it became evident that advocating for inclusivity and gender responsive policies is vital for creating a more equitable society. In order to achieve this, it is essential to have more women in leadership positions. The community dialogues also focused on identifying and addressing the barriers that women face in their pursuit of leadership roles, such as safety concerns, financial limitations, societal norms, and structural obstacles. Despite these challenges, women were encouraged and inspired to run for political and other leadership positions within their communities. A key outcome of a community dialogue in Samburu County was the recognition that “empowering women to actively participate in decision-making isn’t just a matter of equality; it’s an investment in a brighter, more inclusive future for all”.
Empowering women was the central focus of the community dialogues. Understanding the challenges faced by women was identified as a crucial step towards empowerment. Throughout the dialogues, participants engaged in discussions about these challenges, some of which included limited access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. Additionally, participants recognized the impact of community and societal structures in perpetuating these limitations. The inclusion of both men and women in these dialogues created a platform for collective action and allowed for the exploration of strategies to address these issues effectively, leading to a more positive and equitable society.
The community dialogues also facilitated discussions on environmental issues, with a particular focus on climate change. Participants explored ways in which women can contribute to creating greener and more sustainable communities. Various perspectives were shared regarding the necessary changes that could be implemented within their respective communities. Additionally, there was a strong emphasis on empowering women through capacity building initiatives, enabling them to take on leadership roles and have a greater influence in shaping policies and decisions related to climate change. A notable example can be seen in Embu County, where participants at the Climate Change Dialogue unanimously agreed that by reducing harmful activities and empowering women to lead and advocate for environmentally sustainable practices, they could effectively mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Embu County- Climate Change Dialogue
The series of community dialogues held across various counties in Kenya successfully fostered open conversations on women’s empowerment, leadership, and their contributions to society. By bringing together both men and women, these dialogues provided a platform to collectively address crucial issues such as climate change, economic empowerment, period poverty, and inclusivity in public policy. The outcomes of these dialogues include increased awareness, improved understanding, and a commitment towards creating a more equitable and inclusive society. It is through continued dialogue and collaborative efforts that sustainable change can be achieved.
“We will get there one step at a time…”
Ms President 2022