Nairobi — The Team Lead at Journalists for Human Rights (JHR-Kenya), Mustapha Dumbuya has underscored harmful cultural practices and beliefs as part of the challenges facing the African Woman and slowing her full potential in society.
Other challenges include Gender Based Violence (GBV).
As Africa marked the Women’s Day on Saturday, Dumbuya took time to reflect the gains achieved so far, but he was categorical that unless practices like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are completely eliminated, women and girls will continue to suffer.
“We can not give a blind eye to the systemic challenges buried in harmful cultural practices like FGM, religion and other forms of misogynistic attitudes that do not only negatively impact women’s health and wellbeing but also affect their chances to take their places in society,” Dumbuya said.
African Women’s Day is commemorated to acknowledge the role African women played in the liberation of the continent from colonialism and their continued contribution to socio-economic development.
It is marked on July 31 annually across the continent to recognise and affirm the role of women’s organising in achieving the political freedom of Africa and advancing the social and economic status of women on the continent.
“While there are still a lot of impediments in the fight for African women to achieve equality, it’s important to acknowledge the gains that have been made for the emancipation of women across the continent,” Dumbuya said, citing gains recorded in politics, education, sports, art among others.
He urged governments in Africa to come up with policies that are implemented to safeguard the rights of women in the society.
“More work needs to be done by African states and communities to ensure women and girls realize their full potential,” he said.
In Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta has committed to end FGM and other harmful practices by the end of next year.
In June, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions unveiled specific procedures on investigation and prosecution of such cases in what was lauded as a positive step towards protecting women and girls, particularly in the remote villages of Kenya where FGM is practiced openly, and with the knowledge of local authorities.
Lack of specific policies and interventions by the government has always made commitments to end FGM unachievable.
DPP Noordin Haji said the new SOP was developed pursuant to the National Prosecution Policy, Article 157 of the Constitution of Kenya, the National and International Legal Framework that seeks to eradicate female genital mutilation and other harmful cultural practices will now guide investigations and prosecutions which were a challenge to law enforcement officers.
FGM is a harmful cultural practice and a form of violence against girls and women that lead to their disempowerment and violation of their rights.
It is a deep-rooted practice in the communities like the Maasai, Kisii, Samburu among others.
These communities carry out FGM for various reasons, including the misconceived belief that it is essential for marriage, transition to womanhood while others do it ornamental purposes.
And as part of Kenya’s commitment to end GBV, President Uhuru Kenyatta has committed to ratify and implement the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 190 on eliminating Gender-Based Violence (GBV), and harassment in the workplace by 2026.
Cases of Gender-Based Violence and harassment are rampant in Kenya but are rarely documented, including when they occur in work places.
In most cases, women are worst affected particularly due to lack of policies in workplaces, including in government institutions.
“When countries respect women rights, promote gender equality, and put women and girls at the centre of their development agenda, their societies and economies thrive, and those benefits extend far into future generations,” President Kenyatta said, acknowledging that “Indeed, women are the pillar upon which society leans. Women are drivers of family health and welfare; they inculcate values and nurture the young, and they exert a powerful influence on intergenerational outcomes for their children.”