The voices of indigenous women in Kenya are yet to be fully integrated in all spheres of development and as such they continue to push to be heard.
The women from indigenous communities such as Ogiek, Endorois and Ilchamus face a set of myriad challenges ranging from poor housing and sanitation facilities, land dispossession, insecurity, inaccessibility to quality maternal health care, safe and clean water and energy.
More often than not, they are excluded from discussions on laws and policies relating to improvement of their lives due to their high level of ignorance and illiteracy. Urgent action is needed to address these hindrances in order to enable the women to get empowered, subsequently ultimate progress.
Kenya is among the countries that have committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which provides reference to addressing gender inequality, conflicts, environmental degradation, poor sanitation and water. But women across the country continue to face discrimination owing to poor enforcement of the laws and implementation of policies intended to eliminate varying forms of discrimination. It is even worse for the indigenous women who have to walk through the historical marginalization of their respective communities to have their voices heard.
The 2019 Baseline Study report by Ogiek Peoples' Development Program (OPDP) on indigenous peoples' land rights in Nakuru County shows indigenous communities facing discrimination in access to political power and land ownership which has pushed them to severe poverty, illiteracy and poor health. It indicates that women are in worse situation due to inaccessibility to land, resulting to poor healthcare, poor education and general low standards of living. In these circumstances, women bear greater burden due to biased systems that subordinate them thus denying them open spaces to freely engage and amass resources.
The 2018 UN Women report 'Turning promises into action: Gender equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," underscores the urgency of addressing challenges hurdling women's development if gender equality is to be achieved.
Familiar with these challenges, the women from Ogiek, Endorois and Ilchamus drew the attention of the public, government and development stakeholders on March 8,2019 during the International Women's Day when they held a peaceful procession in Nakuru town, Nakuru County, Kenya .
The women partook the march with the objective of raising awareness on the existence of indigenous women and significance of taking into account their interests in every development agenda.
While taking part in the procession, Ms Joyce Tuya, an Ogiek woman said: “Indigenous women are missing out in active politics and leadership. We want the government to know there are women from the indigenous communities who want to be involved in every step of development.”
Ms Naom Torono, an Ilchamus woman said: “We want our girls to access education in an environment free from any harm or harassment. Our girls have to be protected from FGM and early marriages.”
Ms Christine Kandie, an Endorois woman: “Women from indigenous communities have not benefitted from affirmative programmes. They have been left out and yet they carry the burden of supporting families in the society.
The Ogiek women exhibited their culture through their traditional wares or artifacts as s part of advocating for recognition, at Shabaab Social in Shabaab area, Nakuru County where the main celebration was held. It was attended by various Nakuru based civil society organizations and Nakuru County Government representatives. The artifacts included traditional regalia of animal skins and fibre woven strands displaying their traditional knowledge in weaving and beadwork.
Ms Leah Kawawa, one of the Ogiek women who exhibited the wares said: “We love our culture and we will continue to keep all that showcases our lifestyle.”
The indigenous women's participation in the commemoration was covered by various media houses including Citizen Tv, Ktn News, Daily Nation and Hivisasa.
Below are the links to the media coverage:
Citizen Tv: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VA0n61PryuU