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UNODC hosts a commemoration of International Women’s Day

Nairobi, 8 March 2021 - In partnership with the Embassy of Austria, The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime, Regional Office for Eastern Africa (UNODC-ROEA) Youth Programme hosted a networking brunch to commemorate International Women’s Day. Following this year’s theme: “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”. The event was to celebrate the tremendous efforts made by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future throughout the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The commemoration was centered on the need to inform and discuss the role of women in the mandate of UNODC and to call to advance their involvement leadership and business. The event which was held physically and live streamed for virtual participation allowed guests to network, have meaningful exchanges, share their expertise and knowledge in a safe environment and forge partnerships for mentorship purposes. It brought together women parliamentarians, ambassadors, innovative businesswomen in the digital space, green economy, women in the justice sector and promising young women.

In his opening remarks, Ambassador of Austria to Kenya, Dr. Christian Fellner said, “I really believe that more men should be present, because gender issues are not women issues, they are issues of all gender. The fight for women’s rights cannot be exclusive for a gender, and society as a whole, including men, have to jump in and get involved in this collective effort.”

In her introduction, Ms. Sylvie Bertrand, Officer In Charge and Deputy Regional Representative, UNODC-ROEA, said that “UNODC recognizes that gender equality and women's empowerment is a human rights issue, a condition for social justice and a fundamental prerequisite for equality, development and peace. A key output of the UNODC Global Programme is the development of a strategy which ensures that gender equality and the empowerment of women is an integral part of all aspects of the work of UNODC in making the world safer from drugs, crime and terrorism.”

After an overview on the initiatives of UNODC in Kenya, the women had interactive discussions on empowerment, inter-generational knowledge sharing, and building resilience against crime by encouraging entrepreneurship, innovation, sports, art and culture. The discussions were led by a panel composed of H.E. Caroline Vicini, Ambassador of Sweden to Kenya; Hon. Senator Mercy Chebeni, Senate of Kenya; Ms. Akinyi Odongo, Director of MEFA Institute of Design; Ms. Eva Kikuyu, Sociologist and Viridiana Wasike, Head of Partnership and Resource Mobilization at the National Youth Council. The guests celebrated women’s achievements, while also highlighting the plight for their rights, especially for those in conflict with the law. The event also showcased the work of youth entrepreneurs in music, art and culture including music by Ms. Nuru Gichuhi and Mr. Brian Buula and art by Ms. Shekinah Orangi and Ms. Blaine.

During the closing session of the commemoration, the Head of the UNODC-ROEA Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, Ms. Charity Kagwi-Ndungu, raised the very important question of what makes a strong woman, and the burdens society oblige to carry to the less fortunate ones. This was followed by Hon. Esther Passaris, the Woman Representative of Nairobi County, who challenged the guests present that women were still exposed to child marriage, female genital mutilation, honour killings, human trafficking, and other forms of physical, emotional, sexual and psychological violence. She pointed out the need for safe spaces for women as a key method of building women and girls’ resilience against the risks they face in their daily lives, helping them build character and a future for themselves.

In line with building resilience to crime and supporting vulnerable girls in conflict with the law, UNODC continues to support a number of development projects for women and girls. These include a pilot initiative in collaboration with the National Department of Child’s Services and the Spanish NGO THRibune. The Designing Dreams Project aims to address the social stigma against the young women graduating from rehabilitation centres, starting with the rehabilitation schools of Kirigiti and Dagoretti and to promote their full reintegration into society. To achieve this goal, UNODC is working with centres to provide them with training programmes, coaching and psychological and social support, as well as building a Safe Spaces for those young women who cannot go back to their original environments once they graduate from the rehabilitation schools.

A general takeaway from the commemoration was that the fight for women’s rights and equality has accomplished some major steps forward in the last years. However, there was still a long way to go to gain full equality of rights and opportunities. UNODC will continue to champion efforts on gender and generation equality and protection of human rights through various initiatives including the Designing Dreams Project. 

Useful links:

UNODC: Wambui Kahara wambui.kahara(@)
Regional Youth Focal Point & Coordinator, UNODC-ROEA