NAIROBI, Kenya Jun 9 – In the wake of increased Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the country, the government has committed to incorporate key services in the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) program by the end of next year.
With these services, victims of Sexual Gender-Based Violence will be able to seek medical attention and other services in public hospitals for free.
Currently, such services are offered at a fee, which many victims, particularly in the informal settlements where the vice is rampant, find inaccessible or expensive.
“The President noted that GBV including medical, legal, and psychological support services would be integrated into the essential minimum package of UHC by 2022,” State House said, quoting President Uhuru Kenyatta who has also announced plans to conduct a survey on GBV under the 2022 Kenya Demographic Health Survey in addition to developing a system for managing the vice.
Existing statistics from the government on GBV are often disputed due to major variations from records in other stakeholders which document them.
Gender-Based Violence cases hit record high numbers in Kenya in 2020, raising concerns on the safety of women and girls who are the most vulnerable and affected in society, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Statistics released on Thursday by the Ministry of Public Service and Gender show that there was a 36 percent spike in GBV cases in 2020 when 5,009 cases were recorded.
“We always have these very beautiful policies but there is always a disconnect between what the president says and the implementing agencies,” said Sammy Muraya, the Programs Manager at the Voice for Women and Girls’ Rights (VWGR), a project under the Journalists for Human Rights (JHR).
On plans to incorporate key GBV services for victims under the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) program by the end of next year, Muraya said, “if that does happen I will applaud the govt.”
“At least we are seeing some strides being made because the government is now starting to take matters GBV more seriously,” he said and stressed on the need for more proactiveness. “We need to all rise up and do something it is not just the government but us all.”
And he urged the government to consider establishing psychosocial mechanisms for GBV victims which will be easily accessible.
Just recently, President Kenyatta announced that the survivors’ fund under the UHC program will be established in partnership with the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders for survivor’s economic empowerment.
“We have allocated USD 2 million (Shs 200 million) for the implementation of an inter-agency programme on the prevention and response to GBV.
While acknowledging the global nature of FGM affecting more than 200 million women, President Kenyatta enumerated achievements made towards tackling the vice in the country among them setting up an aggressive media campaign to end FGM in 22 counties with high prevalence.
Kenya has committed to ending FGM by 2022.
“Equally important to highlight is that cultural and religious leaders from the Borana, Samburu, and Pokot communities have made bold public declarations, to eliminate FGM and child marriage. This includes the ‘Kisima declaration; which I witnessed in Samburu in March of this year,” President Kenyatta said.
Tony Mwebia, the founder and Director of “Men End FGM” however, says there is little or no progress made so far in commitment in ending the vice by next year.
“There is very little or no concrete steps made and time is running, the government must take this matter seriously if it is to end FGM by next year,” Mwebia said.
President Kenyatta acknowledges the important role of women, and recently called them a “critical national asset with great potential to shape, influence and contribute to all spheres of development.”
He said empowering women strengthens the family, society, and the nation at large.
“When countries respect women rights, promote gender equality, and put women and girls at the centre of their development agenda, their societies and economies thrive, and those benefits extend far into future generations.
“Indeed, women are the pillar upon which society leans. Women are drivers of family health and welfare; they inculcate values and nurture the young, and they exert a powerful influence on intergenerational outcomes for their children” the President said.
He announced Government plans to invest Sh2.3 Billion towards the prevention of gender-based violence and progressively increase the funding to Shs 5 billion.
Further, the Head of State said the Government would ratify and implement the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 190 on eliminating Gender-Based Violence (GBV), and harassment in the workplace by 2026.
He said the Government would conduct a survey on GBV under the 2022 Kenya Demographic Health Survey in addition to developing a system for managing the vice.