Monday, March 7, 2011

Spotlight on International Women’s Day

March 8th is International Women’s Day—a time to reflect and motivate about the status of more than half of the world’s population. For Kenyan women and girls, considerable strides have been made in terms of health, education, safety, and government representation. Still, much remains to be done. In this blog I focus on women and girls in Kenya, on both their potential and their plight.

This video from the Nike Foundation about the “Girl Effect” is a reminder of the importance of interventions specifically for adolescent girls. Spaces like the Uweza Community Center provide a safe and empowering environment for girls to grow and flourish. As the video asks, will the revolution be led by a 12 year old girl?

Launched earlier this week, UN-Women is the new UN agency devoted to addressing issues of gender inequality. The Guardian UK collected messages from people around the world for UN-Women. See the photos here.

Kenya has the greatest percentage of children in secondary school of any country in sub-Saharan Africa—but girls are still lagging behind in rates of enrolment and completion. Read more about interventions to keep them in school here.

In previous blogs, I’ve written about obstetric fistula, a childbirth injury that is easily preventable with appropriate medical care at delivery. Fistula is practically non-existent in the Western world, but Kenyan women, particularly those who live in rural areas, remain vulnerable. Read RH RealityCheck’s ongoing series about preventing and repairing fistula here.

Being HIV-positive in Kenya can bring great stigma, which in turn may deter expectant mothers from seeking the treatment needed to ensure that their babies are born negative. Integration of HIV and maternal services—i.e., putting them under one roof—has had great success. Read more here.

In Africa, gathering firewood is generally the work of women and girls. At Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya, women and girls risk rape, assault, and death when they venture out for fuel. Check out this photo essay by the Women’s Refugee Commission about the dangers of gathering firewood in Dadaab.

Finally, Kenya’s own Wangari Maathai is the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She continues to inspire with her courage and vision for a more democratic and just Kenya. Watch the preview for a documentary about her life here, and see if the film is screening near you anytime soon.

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