Putting Gender Based Violence on the Agenda

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Side by Side Intern, Freja Schurmann Munksgaard, reports on a recent meeting organised by Side by Side Kenya.

On the 23rd December 2018 Side By Side Forum in Kenya gathered to discuss and reflect on gender based violence (GBV). The meeting brought together 101 women and men with the purpose to reflect on various forms of GBV and the significance of religious actors in this context. The aim was also to empower and encourage men and youth to participate in the conversation together with women to secure and understand gender equality and furthermore encourage to advocate against GBV and gender inequality.

Gender Based Violence on the Agenda
On the meeting it was acknowledged that Kenya as a country has witnessed an increase in cases related to GBV. To counter this, Side By Side Kenya has chosen GBV as a lead element on their agenda in their 2019-2020 activities. Fr. Thiani reflected on the need to expound gender roles within the African setting and how they culturally perpetuate in GBV and thereby the represented individuals’ and organisations’ responsibility to include focus on GBV in their activities. The primary root causes of GBV was pointed out which among other factors consists of unequal distribution of cultural, political and economic power as well as patriarchal society and silencing of religious actors on the topic.

The Church and Religious Actors as a Part of the Solution
In line with Fr. Thiani’s reflections the participants discussed and highlighted the various forms of GBV in Kenya and how these affect and challenge different layers in society and local communities. The topic was discussed in the perspective of the role of the church and religious actors and leaders, whereas the importance of including religious leaders in the fight for gender equality was emphasized. In relation to this Prof. Mombo from St. Paul’s University gave a speech on how to use religious texts in fighting GBV and contesting interpretations that encourage GBV.
In groups the participants shared their communities’ issues on GBV and discussed how their faith and religion can contribute to the fight against GBV. This led to reflections on initiatives and solutions on how to create safe spaces for victims and the possibility to create local platforms for information and education about GBV. The important question of how to engage men, women and youth in a joint action against the violence was also raised and general thoughts on gender justice was shared.

Shared Experience and Knowledge
41 men and 60 women participated in the meeting highlighting the importance of a united effort to secure gender equality and justice. Fr. Thiani articulated his wish for Side by Side Kenya to be a space for everyone to bring resources and experience together and to learn from each other. From here the members are now able to transit the shared knowledge to their respective institutions and communities improving gender justice and encouraging these to take part in the fight against gender inequality.

The 7 Thematic Action Areas on Gender Justice for the Side by Side Kenya includes:

1. Theological reflections of gender justice – the role of faith leaders
2. National values and principals of governance as stipulated in Chapter 2 – Article 10 of the
3. Women leadership – realities in Kenya and implementation of the Constitution
4. Men engaging on issues of gender justice
5. Social – economic and political rights
6. Gender Based Violence
7. Disability and people with special needs
Possible action points for the role of religious leaders in seeking gender justice was discussed to consist of/reasons to engage
– Contribute to laws and policies
– Church leaders are viewed as role models by their congregants and their communities
– They have a prophetic voice role
– Having a vision that values gender equitably
– Have a vision, mission, and pledge for Side by Side
– Gender Justice can only be achieved where all work hand in hand by sharing resources and ideas/experiences
– Increase the gender voice on GBV
– Build the capacities of their communities on matters GBV
– Communities of healings for victims of GBV
– Join SBS-K and offer their personal commitment as well as their institutional commitment

All members present decided on the following

1. To go through various sensitization and empowerment forums in 2019 and 2020 under SBS-K on
GBV so that they can transfer that to their own religious institutions

2. To see that GBV is part of their next two year’s institutional plan

3. New members to join the Gender Justice Movement

4. SBS-K to offer more resources on GBV because the Tamar Campaign II booklets and the WCC
Thursday’s in Black were not enough

5. To allow for a more inclusive leadership that has all major religions in Kenya represented, there
shall be need for an election of new leaders in 2019.

Posted by: Side by Side | Friday, March 1st, 2019
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