The Good Fight for Gender Equality

The Good Fight for Gender Equality

Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. We are still far from achieving a decent level of gender equality within various societies. And I believe it’s going to take a while before we are all in synch as a society with the idea of what gender equality entails and all the good things it has to offer us all at large.

We are greatly influenced by gender norms or, as others may term it “rules”, which tell us what both genders should and shouldn’t do. What this does is open the floodgates of discrimination and stigmatization. It is said that if you do not follow the rules or follow what has been set, then there is a clear problem and consequences- which I should add could be as drastic as death or life imprisonment- are justified.

I think it’s important to highlight some of the key indicators that have plagued our society when it comes to gender inequality. One very obscene ideology that was and is still highly propagated by society but with less insistence is that women are generally taught that their only job is to get married and have children and that men are often taught from birth to “man up” and not show any emotions or discuss mental health or else they are deemed weak which goes to show how badly gender equality needs to be achieved.

It is a very sad state to be in such a society, but I also understand when you are taught from a tender age specific ideologies, and you are told that questioning situations and ideologies are like stubbing your close family in the back, then the older you get, the harder it gets to let go of those behaviours and ideologies. I guess it’s true when they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. A little bit harsh but very true.

That said it is also as important for the “old dogs” so to speak to understand that times are changing and, as a friend of mine says, you better get a copy of the manuscript to get with the program or be left in the unknown. Now, what is truly hilarious about this analogy is that the “old dogs” hold the keys to the city; they make sure the city runs. A good example of this is when certain laws are being passed, the Member of parliament represents the thoughts and wants of the people. They have to ensure the delivery of the people’s wants.

And, sure, I know what you’re thinking: the old dogs have power, and they could come in and change things in one fell swoop, but in reality, we the people placed them in power, and it is equally up to us to remove them from power if they do not deliver on what they promised. What I’ve seen some communities or societies do, is take issues into their own hands and demand change, with or without the assistance of the “old dogs,” by constructing a society that works for them.

It is quite easy for them to completely disregard the concerns because they live in their little bubble, which they have constructed for themselves, and if there is a significant crisis afflicting the people, they will be in their bubble stating everything is wonderful, while the people are suffering.

The one clear positive in this situation is that, as I have seen some communities or societies doing, they are taking matters into their own hands and demanding change, with or without the help of the “old dogs”, by creating a society that works for them due to the lack of accountability by the leaders.

As a result, we the people can shape the course of society. Our ultimate goal should be to help end child marriage, reduce female genital mutilation, provide safe spaces, assist menstrual health management, provide HIV and AIDS care, satisfy psychosocial needs, and much more. These are the difficulties that affect our generation, and it is up to us to find solutions and create our societies as safe havens, places where everyone is free to live happily without stigma or discrimination.

Written by: Patrick Mbugua
A National Stigma: HIV and AIDS

A National Stigma: HIV and AIDS

HIV has affected all sections of society, including children, youth, adults, women, and men; making it our responsibility as a community to be more receptive to the idea of being more supportive and acknowledging that this is a reality which many must learn to live with and find solutions to the ‘problems’ that come up within said reality.

People living with HIV face issues such as stigmatization because others usually do not want to involve themselves with or even try to understand what they are going through. And by not providing unconditional support, over-dependence on donor funding (whereby if the international donors fail to keep their promise of a constant flow of ARVs), condoms, and self-test kits, we are doomed because there is little to no local manufacturing of these commodities. This is mostly due to socio-economic inequalities such as poverty, which is a critical area to look at being linked to the increase in HIV cases in Kenya. Although with that in mind, Kenya has greatly reduced the new infection rate since most people are aware of the existence of the epidemic. I mean, it has been in our society for many decades now. The first case was reported in the year 1984.

It is very important to ensure that the people at the grassroots, those who are suffering, and those who depend on antiretroviral treatment (ARV) have access to these commodities since it’s a matter of life and death for most of them. A clear example is when HIV drugs were recently stuck at the Mombasa port over disputing thoughts about who was to cater for distribution, which meant that people living with HIV (PLHIV) had to wait to get their required doses.

Imagine the fear, the uncertainty they went through before the issues were squashed. Some even had to postpone the scheduled time they took the drugs to lengthen the duration of uptake. This is a good example of how, if anything curtails the distribution of these commodities, then people living with HIV suffer greatly.

A few friends of mine and I decided to have an early dinner one day to celebrate our friendship; nothing too serious. At the dinner table, as we were enjoying our meals and very candid conversations, in a nervous voice Noah (not his real name) exclaimed. “Guys, I have some news I would like to share.” The table immediately went quiet, and that is when he said: “Guys, I am HIV positive.” Silence prevailed for a few seconds before we all gave him comfort and moral support. In retrospect, even those few seconds that my friends and I went silent were enough for Noah to feel stigmatized.

I should also mention that the courage it took out of him to come to us with such cathartic news is nothing but commendable. He would have easily chosen not to share and moved on in silence. I also believe there are many ways this conversation could have gone, but we must show Noah as much support as he needs. The idea of the stigma that we knew people living with HIV experience, in my opinion, is what led us to react the way we did making sure that he was not going to experience any ostracization whatsoever from his support system.

HIV/Aids is still an urgent global crisis, and the same sentiments trickle down to Kenya as a country. 40 years of experience in the battle with HIV/Aids has provided evidence of what works and what does not work, and what works at the moment is having people living with HIV on treatment the minute they discover the presence of the virus in their system. Noah did, the minute he discovered he was HIV positive. He is currently on daily ARVs at 4 am every morning. In his words, “A small price to pay for my viral load to be on point”.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2018, 69% of adults living with HIV in Kenya were accessing treatment. It is an important point to note that, through increased prevention measures which have adopted PEP (Post-exposure prophylaxis), PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), sustained advocacy of condom use, and effective distribution of self-test kits, this combined with organizations such as the National Aids Control Council (NACC), in collaboration with its stakeholders, provide policy and a strategic framework for mobilizing and coordinating resources for the prevention of HIV transmission and provision of care and support to the infected and affected people in Kenya. I can easily state that we are far off in getting the desired results required to say that we are an HIV-free country, the good news is we are on our way.

We first need to fast-track the process of making HIV/Aids a non-health threat by 2030 by ensuring more people are accessing the required medication, recognizing and combining efforts to support PLHIV. They will feel humanized, which is what the Global AIDS Strategy aims to achieve. Reduce inequalities that drive the AIDS epidemic and prioritize people who are not yet accessing life-saving HIV services as they should since it is within their right to do so. Global solidarity and community resilience will save millions of lives and many more lives.

Written by: Patrick Mbugua
Break the Bias

Break the Bias

Chapter 1

 

Gender inequality doesn’t make sense on any level and how it’s ultimately termed as women’s issues. Moreover, how feminism has become synonymous to man-hating still doesn’t sit right with me. Why has the word become such an uncomfortable one?

 

Feminism by definition is fundamentally a JUSTICE MOVEMENT. The belief of having the same political, social and economic rights to both sexes. It’s about respecting diverse women’s experiences, identities, knowledge and strengths. Striving to empower all women.

 

Take for example situations where girls drop out of sports teams so as not to be termed muscly. You’d have a man and a woman doing the same job but somehow the man would be paid more. 

 

It’s only right to be paid equally as male counterparts, and to be able to make decisions about our own body. It’s only right that women are involved on our behalf in the policies and decisions that affect our lives.

 

It’s only right, that socially we are afforded the same respect as men. My definition of feminism is that men and women are not equal but should be treated as equal human beings. Closing remarks being that both sexes experience the world differently and yes there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must do better!

Chapter 2

 

The murder of world champion athlete, Agnes Tirop in a suspected case of domestic violence has sent a shock wave around my homeland Kenya. Ms Tirop, 25, was found dead on 13th October 2021 in western town of Iten, a training center for top athletes after being stabbed to death by her husband. 

 

Since the COVID lockdown there has been a staggering increase in reports of violence in women and children. Question being what can be done to remove this poison in our country.

 

Gender inequality is rooted in patriarchy via power imbalances between women and men. To violence against women and girls, we must tackle the root causes of gender inequality and work for women’s complete and total liberation. 

 

“Bias is what will lead to a discriminatory action or an abusive situation or assault for example,” says Dr. Claire Kinuthia. “If you have a Bias it’s because of how we were brought up. It may be your teacher, your parents or belief systems around your community and these directly affect how you feel and behave towards women.”

 

For the first time we are addressing this directly. There are different forms of GBV. Physical violence, emotional and psychological violence, sexual violence, economic abuse and violence (related to income, employment and means of livelihood), harmful traditional practices/cultural forms of violence, gender-violence in politics.

 

Gender-based violence is a serious violation of human rights and a life-threatening health and protection issue. It is estimated that one in three women will experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime. Start to challenge your belief systems as an individual. Let’s put an end to this epidemic.

Written by: Vivian Kagwiria
Equality for All

Equality for All

In the spirit of our motherland, Africa

Has taught us to always embrace others 

As it has always embraced each one of us, 

No matter who we are, 

Before our beloved motherland we are

All equal!

And yet time and time again

Our women have been treated

As the lesser beings of our species 

Men have taken away their voices

Our women have been reduced to appendages 

And mere shadows of men

Through their domination, men

Have made important decisions on behalf of women

But why?

What really matters?

Equality for all!

Men and women, all alike are equal 

And in the spirit of our motherland, Africa 

What defines our humanity is our human dignity;

An intrinsic, inalienable and inviolable human value

That everyone is born with

That is what makes us Human!

That is what makes us Equal.

Written by: Raymond Kigai
End Inequalities, End AIDs

End Inequalities, End AIDs

COVID-19 has brought these inequalities to the forefront, exposed them and forcefully, demanded accountability and resolutions. The HIV response addresses inequalities that drastically affect the key populations and priority populations such the LGBT community, and young girls and women respectively whom today’s society sadly tries to deem as week which could be further from the truth.

Developing countries especially in Africa have some of the highest rates of epidemic diseases like AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis (TB). The global Aids data states that the strategy is to end Inequalities. According to KENPHIA the prevalence of HIV in women is at 6.6%, twice that in men which is at 3.1%. The gender imbalance in the burden of HIV is even greater between the ages of 20-34 years. Many of the inequalities that facilitated the spread of the AIDS pandemicare getting worse and continue to dispel the spread of HIV in many parts of the world. 

Kenya has witnessed tremendous progress over the last decade in reducing the annual number of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths, resulting in improved quality of life for people living with HIV and reduced risk of infection. Kenya’s HIV prevalence is 6% with significant gender and geographical diversity ranging from 0.2% to 27.1% across different counties, and 1.6 million of over 40 million Kenyans are living with HIV. Strategic priorities and actions need to be implemented by global, regional, country, and community partners to get on track to end AIDS. 

As confirmed by WHO (World Health Organization), Cuba is officially the first country to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV (MTCT) attributed to women having early access to antenatal services, both women and their partners testing for HIV, woman and their baby’s accessing treatment. A clear win for them in my opinion. Some other countries that have their HIV Response in order are Mozambique, Angola, South Africa, China, and Zambia, etc. Therefore, we know how to end AIDS, and the Strategy to get us there is vivid.

Despite the successes, AIDS remains a pressing global crisis. The world did not reach the 2020 Fast-Track prevention and treatment targets committed to in the 2015 UNAIDS, but there is Hope. 40 years of experience in the HIV response has provided evidence of what works and what does not. 

Total Control of the Epidemic (TCE) is a revolutionary disease education and prevention program that sees every individual as an essential building block in turning the tide against HIV/AIDS, TB, or malaria. Millions of people living with HIV now enjoy long and healthy lives and the number of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths are on the decline. Globally, of the 38 million people living with HIV, 26 million were accessing life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART) as of June 2020. 

At some point HIV drugs were stuck at the Mombasa port over disputing thoughts over who is to cater for distribution, which meant that People Living with HIV (PLHIV) had to wait to get their required doses. This is very unfair because they are highly dependent on them to an extent that it may mean life or death for some. Their resilience has shown through the adversities of life, especially in this country, the shortage of drugs and the stigma they go through every day is important to notice and assist, to curb the stigmatization they go through on a daily that none of us are even in the slightest, aware is happening and wait for dramatic stories to crop up and that’s when people are triggered enough to start having critical conversations that should have been had ages ago and solutions achieved.

Therefore, by recognizing and combining efforts to support PLHIV, they will feel humanized which is exactly what The Global AIDS Strategy aims to achieve. It aims to reduce these inequalities that drive the AIDS epidemic and prioritize people who are not yet accessing life-saving HIV services as they should and is within their right to do so. Globalsolidarity and community resilience will save millions of lives and manymore lives. Now all we need to do is properly implement them.

Written by: Patrick Mbugua
Scaling Up Women’s Empowerment

Scaling Up Women’s Empowerment

Women in Kenya face high levels of unemployment, particularly amid a weakened economy over the COVID-19 period, the situation is even worse for young women who risk domestic violence, trafficking, rape, depression, and inability to care for themselves and their immediate dependents. These conditions moreover greatly affect those women and girls who are sadly, seen by our society as weak as they face so much stigma and significant barriers to accessing healthcare services with underlying conditions such as HIV/Aids, Cancer and many other. This hurts their personal development, education, and mental wellness and perpetuates the cycle of extreme poverty.

Young women in Kenya face several forms of gender-based discrimination and inequality. For Example, Gender gaps in educational enrolment are quite prominent, dropout rates, early marriage, and persistence of unmet needs in reproductive health and family planning services, gender-based violence, food insecurity, unemployment, low standards of living, and lack of market-ready skills, inter alia, shape the life options and well-being of women in both rural and informal urban setups. Yet, the potential contribution of vulnerable and marginalized women to dynamic and inclusive growth and jobs and further our economy, remains one of Kenya’s greatest but untapped resources. This has resulted in a depressed, discouraged lot of women, who are easily exploited through poor wages, prostitution, and trafficking.

Further, very low entrepreneurship rates are witnessed among Kenya’s youth. Young people, particularly females, encounter difficulties in starting and running a business because of a lack of access to credit, lack of business skills, and lack of marketing outlets and financial services (Population Council 2019). 

Not only are young women disadvantaged in their access to material resources like credit, property, and money, but they have also been excluded from social resources such as knowledge and skills related to business, they lack the self-confidence and sense of self-worth needed to secure desired changes and gain the right to control their lives.

Therefore, for women to do away with the myriad of challenges and vulnerabilities, we have to expand their livelihood opportunities. Change must occur in the lives of individual women and girls in terms of their confidence, self-esteem, and social and economic well-being. At the individual level, social capital enhances content acquisition and boosts self-confidence and agency so that women can increasingly act on their behalf and take advantage of opportunities that arise. Also, we need to realize that supporting skills uptake and enabling women to start and control their means of income and survival works by catapulting them towards eliminating vulnerability, reduces the chances of gender-based violence, rape, unwanted pregnancies, extreme poverty, and abuse of any nature that comes up with lack of Empowerement to our young girls and women in society.

Written by: Patrick Mbugua