In order to combat gender based violence, the whole of society must be involved. The province of Makueni in southeastern Kenya has shown that it is possible – not least through the pioneering work of Deputy Governor Adelina Mwau Ndeto. We are happy to highlight her in our series of personal portraits of people who are playing a significant role in the development of local democracy where they live.
Makueni, with about one million inhabitants, participates since 2019 in ICLD’s program “Gender mainstreaming”. The term means that a gender equality assessment must be conducted of all policies that affect the way people live.
The biggest challenge in the field of gender equality in Makueni – as in so many other places – is gender based violence. Deputy Governor Adelina Mwau Ndeto has been involved in the issue for many years, in various roles, and feels that concrete results have recently been achieved:
– We have trained more than 540 “gender champions”, both men and women, she says when I reach her in the car on her way to another meeting on gender equality in the province.
These “gender champions”, people who are passionate about increased gender equality, play a crucial role in the work.
– Together, we have not only become better at giving women protection, we have also increased efforts to give them skills so that they can get a job and become independent of the men who beat them.
“Gender champions” come from all parts of society: they are nurses, teachers, government employees, religious leaders, youth counselors, entrepreneurs and much more. They have participated in tours to break the culture of silence around sexual violence in homes as well as in public spaces, schools, churches and in workplaces.
– Information and openness are key factors. Gender based violence has been discussed far too little. Through increased awareness, we have received more reports of violence, more have dared to tell what they have been through.
Through campaigns and tours, they have managed to reach over 10,000 inhabitants. And for the first time ever, there has been a workshop on the issue with the province’s politicians. Furthermore, a helpline has been set up around the clock and large meetings have been arranged at the schools where, in addition to the violence, there has also been talk of teenage pregnancies, drug abuse, broken families and weak parenting.
Adelina Mwau Ndeto is particularly proud of the collaboration with the Gender Violence Recovery Center at Nairobi Women’s Hospital:
– Now we have launched our own recovery center here in Makueni, it is the first one of its kind outside of the capital.
Cooperation with parties outside of the province has been crucial to achieve results. The campaign “Keeping the promise to end gender-based violence” has for example been launched together with the National Commission for Gender Equality (NGEC). But the most important thing, says Adelina Mwau Ndeto, is to have people in society who constantly pay attention to the issue.
– Without “gender champions” it would not have happened.
Was it difficult to convince men to become “champions”?
– It was more difficult, but not impossible. Several men have been champions since agreeing to swap places with their wives for a day, from five in the morning to eleven in the evening. Then they realized what an incredible workload the women have!
The work for increased gender equality began long before ICLD’s program “Gender mainstreaming”. But what specific importance has the program had so far?
– The program makes us realize the importance of working in teams, to get many to strive for the same goal. We have understood that we must get all the ministries in the province to work in the same direction.
The meeting she is on her way to during our conversation is about what can be done further so that more people will have close access to water.
– Women are worst affected when the family has a long way to go to water. It is everyday issues of this kind that gender equality is often about.
ICLD´s programme officer for the Gender Mainstreaming programme, Anne Scheffer Leander, is of the same opinion:
– Gender equality is created in everyday life where decisions are made, resources are allocated, and norms are formed.
Therefore, she underlines, gender equality work must be implemented in operating plans and policy documents, and not be designated as projects alongside everyday activity – since projects always have an end.
To be sustainable, she continues, gender equality development also depends on leaders´ desire to create change.
– That is why we need appointed locally elected leaders like deputy governor Adina Mwau Ndeto, leaders who are dedicated for change so that both women, men, girls and boys can live gender-equal lives.
About Champion of local democracy
Gender or status does not matter, the important thing is that the people we are looking for have democratic values to inspire others. They may have gone through difficult situations, but never backed away from the front line of democracy. They have been or are still part of ICLD’s business and all have a personal story to tell us.
To prevoius portraits