As a result of CECOME’s participation in the YW4A programme, the staff, young women, and institutional capacity for advocacy have been enhanced. We have been actively lobbying by creating awareness and have discovered creative and innovative ways to undertake advocacy, highlight concerns, push for policy implementation, and increase organizational visibility.
Equality Now, under the legal and policy advocacy pathway in the YW4A programme, has contributed significantly to the organization’s strengthened legal and media advocacy capacity, which has increased our degree of involvement with county-level duty bearers. Our advocacy work has been aired through the local radio and TV stations, and our team has held radio talk shows and submitted calls to action on international days, which are geared towards advocating for the adoption of a gender policy for Kisii county as well as the operationalization of the rescue centre.
The young women in our organization have been empowered through the same training. We learned about the Maputo Protocol, which protects and promotes the rights of women and girls in Africa, and how we can engage with the Protocol and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
Participation in the YW4A programme has improved CECOME’s stakeholder engagement for advocacy. Through the program, the Kisii County Director for Gender and CECOME took part in the inter-county dialogue on SGBV legislation in Kisumu, which assisted in getting the buy-in on the need for a gender policy for Kisii County. This was due to the sharing of experiences from other countries that had legislation on gender or SGBV and were in the implementation stage.
The organisation has been successful in getting the Gender Sector Working Group involved in the efforts to promote the adoption of a Gender Policy. The young women wrote an opinion piece on the need to have a gender policy that was published in The Standard newspaper. Additionally, the young women ran a social media campaign on the importance of operationalizing a safe house and adopting a policy.
There was a call to action on International Women’s Day through the radio talk shows calling on the woman representative of Kisii to operationalize the Kisii rescue centre. CECOME also applied to join the Court Users Committee, a platform that brings together criminal justice actors, including referral pathways.
The organisation has equally been able to train CSOs on social accountability and coalition building, forming a network of CSOs from Kisii County. It also led to sharing of a draft policy by the Director for Gender, which had earlier been drafted for further review and finalisation. CECOME has also circulated and signed an online petition through change.org, which continues attracting signatures from the public to compel the Kisii County Government to operationalize the rescue centre
However, this journey has not been free from challenges. Engagement with the county government has been a hitch as more than two scheduled meetings to push the agenda forward have failed to materialise due to non-participation by the county departments. This is because civil society groups cannot only push the agenda ahead. Getting the buy-in of the political class has been challenging too, which makes it difficult for the process to move faster.
The latest challenge is the reaction to the online petition by the Office of the Women Representative requesting us to pull down the petition. Otherwise, the organisation loses signing an MOU with the county government. However, we felt that pulling the petition down would mean injustice for the survivors of violence as we are out to speak for the voiceless and identify institutional gaps that hinder service delivery for our people. As we continue to grow in our advocacy work, we receive more challenging cases that need more advanced skills and strengthened networks to address them.
We look forward to a time when Kisii County will have a Gender policy that will provide a framework for addressing GBV cases, monitor and evaluate GBV in the county and have a budgetary allocation to address gender concerns specifically.
We shall be happy to be counted among the champions that led to the attainment of the policy for Kisii County.
This article is part of the YW4A Technical Point of View (PoV) series, a collection of technical analytical and strategy reflection articles from YW4A programme staff, consultants, advocates and allies, with expertise in various aspects of programming facilitating young women’s leadership and eliminating SGBV.