16 Days of Activism: Ending GBV is a collective responsibility

Prof Margaret Kobia, the Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Public Service, Gender, Senior Citizens Affairs and Special Programmes. As we mark 16 Days of Activism, she says ending GBV is a collective responsibility.

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Started in 1991, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence continues to serve as an important platform, drawing attention to prevention and response to GBV towards a safe and peaceful society for all.
  • It is time to define what we have achieved, within its context, on our interventions, challenges, lessons learnt and opportunities we can seize to build back better and stronger, especially in the face of the Covid-19.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) are here with us again. Kenya joins the rest of the world in commemorating this annual event that takes place from November 25 to December 10.

Started in 1991, this campaign continues to serve as an important platform, drawing attention to prevention and response to GBV towards a safe and peaceful society for all.  

As we mark this year’s event themed Orange the world: End violence against women now! It is time to define what we have achieved, within its context, on our interventions, challenges, lessons learnt and opportunities we can seize to build back better and stronger, especially in the face of the Covid-19, a pandemic that has laid bare vulnerabilities of women and girls. 

Recent global estimates, show that one in three women aged 15 years and above, have been subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or both, at least once in their lifetime. However, cases of GBV increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.


Closer home, a multi-country rapid gender assessment undertaken by the UN Women and the government on the impact of Covid-19 confirmed that GBV cases increased as a result of the pandemic. 

This year, the world is using the colour orange to signify a future full of hope in our common vision of creating a world free from violence against women and girls despite threats posed by Covid-19.

The anchorage of anti-GBV interventions is the Constitution, which lays the foundation for eliminating social and cultural patterns based on inferiority or superiority of either sex, by making specific provisions on equality of women and men, and explicitly prohibiting discrimination on various grounds. In addition, the constitution provides for the right to freedom and security of the person, which includes the right not to be subjected to any form of violence and the right not to be subjected to torture in any manner whether physical or psychological.

The Kenya Vision 2030 acknowledges that GBV cases are increasing and lays out strategies to reduce the same and the vulnerabilities that proliferate it.

Over the last 10 years, the government has put in place gender-responsive laws and policies with a progressive judiciary that has, to a large extent, upheld the rights of women and girls.

On ensuring the strict enforcement of the Protection against Domestic Violence Act, for instance, the Government has put in place the necessary rules and regulations for operationalizing the Act. Additionally, through the Amendment to Sexual Offences Act (2006), the government repealed Section 38 of the Sexual Offences Act under which women face the risk of being victimized for initiating prosecutions against their abusers.

Sexual violence

As of June 2012, victims of sexual offences, majority of whom happen to be women, are now able to report cases of sexual violence without fear of criminal sanctions. Regulations required for the implementation of the Sexual Offences Act have been passed.

Among other significant measures worth noting is the development of the National Monitoring and Evaluation Framework towards Prevention and Response to Sexual Violence, Multi-sectoral Standard Operating Procedures for Sexual Violence, the establishment of toll-free helplines including Policare, the Komesha Dhuluma mobile application to strengthen the referral pathway for GBV service providers. Further to enhance multi-sectoral coordination, the government put in place a multi-agency technical committee on GBV and FGM at the national level and formed County Anti-FGM Steering committees in the 22 FGM hotspot regions.

Through the Intergovernmental Coordination Framework, the national and county governments have established Gender Sector Working Group to ensure clear engagement at national and county levels on matters of gender. 

With increased cases of GBV as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, a national response plan on GBV and harmful practices was also executed through a multi-agency campaign dubbed Komesha Dhuluma Za Kijinsia. This is in collaboration with partners from civil society, the private sector, development agencies and philanthropists across the board. Through this campaign, public awareness campaign in all 47 counties, has been scaled up and community dialogues held with women, men, girls and boys.

Increasing awareness

The media has also played a major role in increasing awareness of gender-based violence, teenage pregnancies and child marriages through local and vernacular radio, TV and social media platforms. To date, it is estimated that this campaign has reached over more than 23 million people.

The conversation on ending GBV including FGM, is more prominent and male champions including young men have openly added their voices on the need to protect the rights of women and girls. Media has played a very critical role in reaching the hard to reach communities, especially through vernacular radio stations.

As we continue to take stock of our progress during the 16 days of activism against GBV, there are new opportunities to accelerate change including the Generation Equality Forum (GEF), a global initiative that is building coalitions across member states, civil society, women and girls led organizations, development partners and philanthropists, with the overall objective of accelerating the attainment of gender equality. This is very important because it is estimated that at the current rate of change, the global gender gap will not close for another 100 years.

Therefore, this global initiative serves as an ideal platform for gender advocates to urgently accelerate efforts, strengthen partnerships and mobilize society to fulfil the long outstanding commitments to women and girls within the next five years.

The government is a major stakeholder in GEF as a leader and member state in the Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence alongside the United Kingdom, Uruguay and Iceland, as well as civil society and the private sector, among other actors. As a co-leader, Kenya is using this platform to accelerate efforts towards the elimination of GBV and FGM nationally, regionally and globally. 

Emerging challenges

To affirm Kenya’s position as envisioned in the global initiative, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced 12 commitments at the GEF in Paris on June 30, this year. To ensure they are translated into action, my ministry has developed a five-year implementation plan that will progress up to the year 2026. This is in recognition that our country is still faced with existing, continuing and emerging challenges in our interventions towards prevention of, and response to GBV.

So the question is, what needs to be done? The first is to fast-track the implementation of the GBV legislation and policies. In the next financial year (2021/22), we shall include a target on GBV prevention in the performance contract of ministries, departments and agencies, and enhance accountability for enforcement of laws and policies in place. We shall also engage the counties to undertake a mapping on the laws and policies and level of implementation.

The Government has also committed to sustaining the budgetary allocation of Sh200 million and Sh102 million for GBV and FGM work respectively, up to the year 2026.

On financing, Kenya committed to establishing a GBV survivors fund through a co-financing model.

Further, we committed to allocate Sh5.6 billion by the year 2026 to end GBV. These resources will be mobilized through a core financing model in the spirit of the existing goodwill from development partners. The resources will be critical for implementing existing policy commitments on ending GBV including working with the counties towards the establishment of shelters and GBV recovery centres. 

Research agencies

The collection and utilization of data is also critical for informing policy and interventions needed to end GBV. The government has committed to using next year’s Kenya Demographic Survey to capture data on GBV. 

There are also plans to strengthen the gender-based violence information management system, currently housed by the National Gender and Equality Commission as well as work with other research agencies including the National Crime Research Centre, Kippra among others, for the production and timely use of data. 

Ending GBV is a collective responsibility. The relevant structures for advancing this agenda are in place, there is political goodwill from the national leadership and development partners who share our common goal of achieving and sustaining a society free from all forms of violence. 

As we paint the country orange this year and undertake the 16 days of activism, let us take a moment to reflect because the journey is far from over. We are making headway, but the challenges posed by GBV persist. Violence remains an issue for many women in public and private life, while the inability to report those incidents compound the problem.

These challenges should, however, not deter our efforts on getting to zero cases of GBV. As rightly noted in the key messages this year, everyone in society has an important role to play in ending GBV. We all must work together across sectors to address GBV. 

Prof Margaret Kobia is the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Public Service, Gender, Senior Citizens Affairs and Special Programmes