Remarks by USAID/Kenya Mission Director Karen Freeman, Women in the Red campaign launch

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

-As prepared-

Thank you for inviting me to join you in celebrating the leadership, talent, potential and promise of Kenyan women.

For decades, USAID has been leading global efforts to achieve gender equality – believing that long-term, sustainable development will only be possible when women and men enjoy equal opportunity to rise to their potential.

In Kenya, USAID supports greater opportunity and gender equity for women as they claim their human rights and their rightful place in civil society, government and the private sector under the new Kenyan Constitution.  We are proud of our 50-year partnership with the Kenyan people and of the many development goals that we have achieved together.

USAID has partnered with the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association to develop gender-responsive budgeting guidelines. We have also partnered with the private sector to improve education for Kenyan girls through the Global Give Back Circle. More generally, we have supported women’s land rights; women’s involvement in Kenya’s conservation and biodiversity efforts; training of women leaders in peacebuilding efforts; training in awareness and response to gender-based violence; and we have expanded women’s access to finance, business services and agricultural inputs. 

Achieving gender equality requires working with men, boys, women and girls to bring about changes at home, in the workplace and in the community. There is no faster way to reach every segment of society than through media. The program we are celebrating today, Women and Girls Lead Global, is a 21st century media strategy to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.

Women and Girls Lead Global combines the power of documentary film, national television broadcasts, local and new media, and community activities to impact audiences and support existing NGO efforts to empower women and girls.

Women and Girls Lead Global is a public-private partnership between USAID, the Ford Foundation and Independent Television Service, in collaboration with CARE International. 

Women and Girls Lead Global is running a three-year, nine-country social mobilization activity using social media and a library of 30 documentary films to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.

Kenya is one of those nine countries. The campaign just concluded the first season of a 10-episode documentary film series on the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC).
The activity we are launching today, Women in the Red, is part of the Women and Girls Lead Global program.

Women in the Red campaign is designed to accelerate the acceptance of women in Kenya’s political leadership, where all key decisions about Kenya’s future are made.

Kenya promulgated a new constitution in 2010 that boldly and broadly sets the stage for women to play a critical and unprecedented role in shaping the development of their communities, institutions and nation. The “not more than two thirds” principle of Article 81 of the constitution prescribes that neither gender can have greater than two/thirds representation for elected and appointed positions. This article was designed to promote greater gender equality. Despite this, there are still only 86 female leaders out of the 416 representatives in the two houses of Parliament. The promise of women playing a critical and representative role in Kenyan politics has not yet been realized.

Including appointees, political representation of Kenyan women stands at 21 percent versus Rwanda’s 56 percent, South Africa’s 42 percent, Tanzania’s 36 percent and Uganda’s 35 percent. Kenya’s 21 percent female political representation is an improvement from the previous 10th Parliament, but it still lags behind its East African neighbors. 

Kenya now needs to put its constitutional commitment into action.  Kenyans must continue to elevate women to key leadership positions and promote their involvement in policy-making bodies and at all levels of decision making.

The Women in the Red campaign wants to help with this.

Women in the Red is a strategic media campaign to support and sustain a growing movement across Kenya to empower women and their communities, and help raise the profile of every woman as a leader.  In collaboration with local NGOs, public television and media partners, the Women in the Red campaign will engage audiences and promote activities that encourage leadership development, violence prevention and economic empowerment.

The campaign calls on media to provide more comprehensive coverage of existing women leaders, and to showcase those who are least talked about, seen or heard.  It also asks media to increase visibility of the barriers that women face, including lack of access to education, risks to maternal health, economic instability, and the adverse effects of local conflict and insecurity.

Tonight, you will have the opportunity to view the power of a Women and Girls Lead Global documentary.

Kenya’s Constitution provides for improved gender balance in government, setting the stage for women to play a critical and unprecedented role in shaping their communities.  I invite each of you to join USAID, the Ford Foundation, ITVS, and CARE to use the Women in the Red campaign to provide the inspiration, the conversation, and the connections for women to seize this historic opportunity.

Thank you.

Serena Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya
Issuing Country 

Last updated: September 19, 2017

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