Interview with Polycom’s Jane Anyango on gender inequality and women and girls’ engagement in Kenya Thursday March 7th, 2019
Interviewed by Dorsina D. Aboagye, GCAP Secretariat
On 18 February, SDG Forum Kenya, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), the Marie-Schlei-Verein and GCAP organized a conference on SDG 10 in Nairobi. The aim was to create a constructive and dynamic space where lines of collective inquiry and effort are realized on SDG 10.
Polycom Development Project (PDP) is also working with GCAP to Leave No Women Behind by focussing on the multiple discrimination of women, especially those with disabilities. The organization was started in response to the sexual violence and exploitation faced by young girls in Kibera informal settlement in Nairobi. There was a particular case when a 39 year old man had a sexual relationship with an 11 year old girl that spurred PDP’s founder, Jane Anyango, into action. She wanted to help girls to understand that they need to take care of their bodies until they are ready. She started by educating girls to understand themselves and make informed decisions concerning their lives, particularly their bodies.
Dorsina: Could you please talk about the work you are doing? How are women facing multiple discrimination included in your processes?
Jane: I live in a slum settlement called Kibera in Kenya and here, I work with women and girls. I work with girls through schools and women through organised groups. Our initiatives or projects aim to enhance the involvement of grassroot women in society and promote active participation in social or political processes.We work on themes such as hygiene, peace and cohesion, resistance to climate change to make sure that ‘no one is left behind’. SDG 10: reducing inequalities is very important to the group.
Dorsina : Are the target groups of women and girls very active and interested in your initiatives?
Jane: The women and girls are very interested because these initiatives are locally owned. This means that they involve the grassroot women and are undertaken by the community’s women and girls and not from an external source. These women and girls who were formerly marginalised are now actively engaged in processes and discourses that impact their lives.
Dorsina : What was the 18 February conference in Kenya about? What are the future or expected results from this conference?
Jane: This conference was not organised by us but it was an opportunity to discuss inequalities experienced in the Kenyan society and to learn from others’ experiences about the measures and practices being implemented to reduce inequalities. SDG 10 was linked to SDG 5 and 8. It was discovered that gaps still exist in efforts towards reducing gender inequalities. This conference also contributes to an event that will take place on International Women’s Day on similar themes.
Dorsina : Any events planned for International Women’s Day?
Jane: Yes, a community organised event that seeks to bring the grassroot women and girls and elite stakeholders or stakeholders from other levels together to mutually engage about the way forward to reduce gender inequalities. About 350 people are expected; but such events are able to reach wider audiences when greatly opened to the public – as I recall 2300 people from the community attended a programme we organised some time ago.
Dorsina : Are men also implicated in such initiatives to learn about the gender inequalities, that women and girls especially face? How diverse is your audience although women and girls are the main focus?
Jane: Yes they often are. Target groups are women, girls including those living with disabilities, women organisations, schools etc.
Dorsina: Any inspiring stories you would like to share?
Jane: On World AIDS Day last year, 65 women living with disabilities facing challenges with the health sector were brought together to engage with us and each other. One woman living with a disability and AIDS gave an account of facing stigmatisation in the health sector. She gets questioned about how she contracted this virus despite living with a disability. Another woman gave an account of how she was forcefully sterilised because the people believed she did not have to give birth in her state.
Dorsina: Thank you, Jane. You are doing an inspiring work.
Jane: Thank you.