Statement on Extrajudicial Killings in Kenya

SIASA PLACE STATEMENT
DATE: 2nd June, 2020

RE: STATEMENT ON EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS IN KENYA

As Siasa Place we wish to strongly condemn the inhumane and unlawful use of force by the Police on the people during the enforcement of set out guidelines and directives to curb the spread of the novel Coronavirus in the Country. We have noted with concern the excessive force meted on citizens violating the guidelines more specifically the nationwide dusk to dawn curfew and wearing of face masks while in public. In recent times, there have been reports of the brutality across the country on people found to violate the guidelines. These acts of brutality and unlawful detention in some cases and extortion should not be allowed where laws exist on how to punish the offenders.

We note with great concern that young people specifically men are highly targeted and also those in informal settlements. According to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) since October 2019 they have received 80 (eighty) cases of police brutality as reported to the Independent Policing and Oversight Authority (IPOA) and shockingly 15 (Fifteen) people have been killed and 31 (thirty one) others injured by police officers since Kenya heightened security measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Just this week, a middle-aged man was shot dead in Bondeni area, Mathare Constituency in Nairobi County for allegedly contravening the dusk to dawn curfew order. The man commonly known as Vaite was coming from the Marikiti market where he earns his daily living and was heading ‘home’ when he met his untimely death. This incident sparked protests which went into the night. We condemn this extrajudicial killing and call upon the government to move with speed in prosecuting those involved in the heinous act. Particularly, we ask the Independent Policing and Oversight Authority (IPOA) to investigate this incident and charge those found culpable.

While, we appreciate the government’s efforts in combating COVID-19 in the Country, there is need to obey the rule of law and the constitution.

About Siasa Place

Siasa Place is an NGO formed in 2015 that aims to create an enabling environment for youth mainstreaming into our body politic, through inclusion and meaningful participation. 

Social Inequality By Ivy Achieng

In Africa the gap between the poor and the rich is inevitable throughout the various different countries in the continent. According to the Oxfam international research 10% of rich individuals earn 23 times more than the poorest 10% of individuals in Kenya.    

Social inequality refers to the degree of unequal distribution of resources like wealth and opportunities like health, education and employment opportunities. Social Inequality entails various differences between persons and groups of people which depend on availability of expenditure, income information and other dimensions in their various lives.  

In Kenya, social inequality continues to thrive majorly due to corruption which creates an unequal gap involving distribution of resources. Research from Oxfam shows that in Kenya poverty levels can be improved by simply reducing income inequality among individuals. “The solution is easier said than done” as there is a strong link between economic inequality and gender inequality.

Gender inequality involves unequal opportunities offered based on gender rather than one’s skills and experience. Men hold major positions of power in various job categories compared to women as they are deemed responsible and providers in the society, while women were deemed responsible for the family and house chores. Fewer women are in positions of legislature as an average of 40% of women in Sub Sahara Africa are not able to complete their higher education due to various factors like early marriages and cultural discrimination.

It is estimated that over the next decade millionaires will keep rising as other millions of citizens will still live in extreme poverty languishing in slums. In order to reduce social inequality in our country we as patriotic citizens can work together with the government to adopt policies that will reduce social inequality. Some of the changes that can be implemented include :

  • Investing in healthcare services equally
  • Equalizing wages and salaries 
  • Progress on racial and gender equality policies.
  • Increased taxation on wealthy rather than the poor.
  • Political leaders should listen to the needs of the ordinary majority rather than the privileged few.

In conclusion leaders need to take accountability of equitable distribution of any resources to the public and implement recommended policies since it will help reduce the major social inequalities in the country.

References

https://www.afdb.org

https://www.heifer.org

https://www.weforum.org

https://kenya.oxfam.org

Ivy Achieng Omondi is a go-getter, team player and an enthusiastic youth on matters involving women empowerment, youth empowerment and political matters in the country. 

Social media handles – @ trehvivyivy (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)

SP ACHIEVEMENTS 2019

Background 

At Siasa Place (SP), two of our values are trust and integrity. To practice that, we share our highlights of program achievements that were realized by the organization annually and their contribution towards the realization of organization vision, and mission.

Our programs strategically contribute towards the realization of the organization’s three main program areas being:

  1. People: where the organization’s aims to capacity build people to have the necessary knowledge  and skill to participate in all decision making processes affecting them
  2. Participation: SP contributed towards mobilizing both youth and government to engage either in decision making or towards improvement of service delivery and
  3. Policy: SP contributed towards influencing policy implementation.  

Introduction 

In the year 2019, through various programs, SP organized and or supported public participation forums in various parts of the country through youth barazas and community dialogue meetings. Siasa Place also capacity built both youth and government officials in various ways through which they can work together to promote youth participation in decision making. During the year, the organization hosted 43 tweet chats during the #SiasaWednesday conversations to educate, share and inform the public on various subjects of national interest.  Project specific achievements are subsequently highlighted. 

ZIVIK IMARA LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT PROJECT

A program designed in partnership between Siasa Place (SP),  and Mark Appeal Group (MA) with financial support from ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen). The leadership program focuses on building the capacity of county ward administrators on how they can promote structured  youth engagement in decision making on issues affecting them from the ward level since the ward is the  lowest level of representation.  The project realized the following achievements 

Community partnerships

Through the partnership between local youth organizations, the Executive through the Office of the sub-county administrator and Siasa Place, a total of 9 public participation forums dubbed youth barazas were organized, three per county in Kericho, Busia and Kisumu counties. The forums were aimed at providing youth with opportunities to constructively engage the county officials, share information and learn how best they can engage to influence development within their wards. Details of attendance in the three counties  is provided in the matrix.

The impact of community barazas were felt across the implementing counties. For  instance, in Kericho County, Kericho Youth Network have established a working relationship with the county assembly committee on youth where they meet in case of need and present their issues of concern. Some community members applauded barazas as a source of information for the community for improving service delivery e.g. in Litein a farmer who had not attended the forum had a sick cow and looked for a private veterinary officer who gave wrong medication and the cow died, but the other cows were still sick, a member who had attended the forum advised him to take the matter to the county agricultural officer who was cheap but effective.

In Busia County, the Busia Youth Steering Committee is engaging the county government on issues of empowering the youth. One of the members has since been appointed as a board member of a local secondary school and the others have since been employed by the government. They are demanding the youth quota in tender awards, economic empowerment fund and are organizing youths to register business.

In Kisumu County,  a participant said that Central Nyakach was witnessing public participation for the first time courtesy of the ZIVIK Imara project as previously public participation sessions by the County Government of Kisumu were normally held at the Sub-County headquarters which was very far for most of them to attend. According to a youth, public participation in their sub county is for a select few as citizens are left out. 

One participant confessed during the community baraza in Mayenje ward “[due to lack of water] we would wait for the member of parliament to repair but after the forum we mobilized ourselves and started contributing for the repair of the water, nowadays we do not wait which implies that community participation capacity built the people on their responsibilities as well. This was echoed by Central Seme Member of County Assembly we (politicians) are seen to solve all community problems ranging from public to private, no wonder politicians are engaging in corruption to have continuous flow of money to meet these demands”

Partnership with Government 

The project enabled capacity building of both sub-county and ward administrators on the importance of youth participation, communication as a way of improving stakeholders involvement in development and reducing conflict in development. The training identified the need of working with members of the county assembly and a number of the members were mobilized to have a discussion on how they could support each other and reduce conflict.

In Busia, the external evaluator found that public participation was taking root as Hon Patrick Obuya Member of County Assembly for Marachi Central was now organizing a public participation forum for the ward members to determine how the ward bursary was going to be distributed. Youth from Bunyala also mentioned during the evaluation group discussion that their member of county assembly Hon. Casper was also emulating the same by organizing public participation  forums to determine projects that were to be prioritized for implementation by the ward development fund.

In Kisumu County, a participant said that Central Nyakach was witnessing public participation for the first time courtesy of the Zivik Imara project as previously public participation sessions by the County Government of Kisumu were normally held at the Sub-County headquarters which was very far for most of them to attend. According to a youth, public participation in their sub county is for a select few as citizens are left out.

IMARA FELLOWSHIP 

Imara Fellowship is a policy-oriented program hosted by Siasa Place (SP) in partnership with Africa Youth Leadership Forum (AYLF) and Mark Appeal Group (MA) with financial support from Ford Foundation. The program is in response to the existing gap in the number of young policy makers grounded in national values and principles of good governance. 

The project established and promoted partnership in its implementation. The engagements during project implementation  has made it easier for the youth organizations based in the counties to work, collect information and developed into reports  to be used to participate in decision making processes. For instance, Kericho Youth Network adopted the report prepared by the Imara Fellows on technical training institutions. They also organized for a meeting to discuss the issues identified and developed a method of follow-up to ensure that the recommendations are considered and implemented. The same has been noted in Kisumu where local organizations led by Jiwo Paro proposed to develop a local follow up mechanism that will help address the issues identified in the youth economic empowerment report shared in Kisumu while  Busia Youth Steering Committee supported the project by identifying venues for public participation within the wards and the organizations that could provide internship to the students within the county.  The report was shared with the County government of Busia to help in the development of the youth internship policy that the county was in the process of developing to help give youth experience which is a requirement for the job market.

Through the implementation period, the project was able to establish a working relationship with the County Assembly of Kericho and the Kericho Youth Network. Good relationships between Imara Africa leadership program and Kericho Youth Network inspired the confidence of the County Assembly Kericho to share proposed ‘Youth Economic Empowerment’ bill that was being discussed at the Assembly with the Imara fellows to critic and present the youth view on the bill before it could be presented for approval in the Assembly.  

The project was also able to develop partnerships with different Youth Serving Organizations. For instance PAWA 254 and WOSWA collaboratively hosted the leadership cafes and the First Youth Baraza respectively in addition to mobilization of the youth and key stakeholders during these activities. The partnership thus reduced the project implementation cost.

Capacity Building

The project registered progress in building the capacity of the youth in two levels. One level, 30 Imara Fellows who were recruited to be trained in policy making process in partnership with the county government in various fields of their interest and careers. Notable cases include the promotion of Ms. Gladys Ndanu (Imara fellow) based on her improved ability to relate with clients on the Universal Health Care in Muranga County thus facilitating her promotion following the involvement of her supervisor in a panel discussion on Universal Health Care during the youth baraza held at the University of Nairobi Parklands campus and  Mr. Shadrack Osero(Imara Fellow) was also admitted to the DAAD Helmut Schmidt Program to study Masters in Public Management (MPM) with a specialization in Environment, Sustainability, and Geosciences at the University of Potsdam. His application was based on the work done in partnership between Imara Africa and the county government of Kericho to identify policy gaps and recommend solutions within the Technical and Vocational Educational and Training(TVET) sector. 

 The second level of capacity improvement is exhibited among the community youth who were the local partners during the implementation where they are able to engage the members of the county assembly to push for the implementation of some of the recommendations that were highlighted in the project report. For instance, Kericho Youth Network were able to hold two meetings with the youthful members of the county assembly to push for the implementation of the report recommendations. The same was replicated in Busia where the steering committee managed to convince the youthful  members of the county assembly to raise a motion on youth internship policy. The assembly will thus be discussing the bill with the recommendations from the Imara team.

The chief officer recommended two fellows,  Dr. Rono (Imara fellow and resident of Kericho) and Mr Brian Keter (Siasa Place community mobilizer and member of Kericho Youth Network) to the governor for appointment in the board of two different technical training institutions. 

Developing Policy Recommendations    

The project identified policy issues that Kericho County government was working on within the  technical training institutions which included human resource and governance among other functions. Through our collaborative approach, the report was shared and received by both the Assembly and Executive through the Chief Executive Officer responsible for youth, sports and ICT. After engaging the county stakeholders including the county government, youth, instructors, former students of the technical training institutions and other civil societies working around technical training institutions, the report was annexed as part of evidence to persuade Kericho Public Service board to hire more instructors during the financial year 2019/2020

Through the implementation period, the project was able to establish a working relationship in Kisumu County  with the different youth led startups and foundations which led to partnerships and collaborative assisted projects for instance the report launch and youth baraza which took place in Kisumu. Some of the local partners involved JIWO PARO ,KONDELE SOCIAL JUSTICE CENTRE & TEAM-Transform Empowerment for Action initiative.

The engagement in Kisumu resulted to identification of new and undocumented  sources of income for the youth including prostitution, filming pornographic movies ( a tendency spreading to minors) which could closely be associated with the increase in newer  HIV/AIDs infection in the region(prevalence of new infections is high between age 19-24)  and a contributor to the high level of people visiting pornographic sites in Kenya. Another emerging trend noted was the high level of youth dependence on betting which sometimes forces the youth to steal or sell family property to gain money for betting. Some of the recommendations like need for entrepreneurial training are already being implemented by Jiwo Paro youth being our implementing partners within the county.  

The engagements with the county government of Kisumu were  key in understanding and deriving a baseline which would help in the policy formulation process as the infographics in the policy document depended on a lot of government representatives insights which helped in getting the final policy document some key government departments that assisted in the collection of data where the County Director Youth office, Director Youth, Education, ICT, Development Department,Chief Officer Industrialization  & Enterprise Development, acting Director Industrialization in charge for training and liaison.

With the support and consistent follow up and engagement with the Busia steering committee, the assembly was able to table a motion on youth internship policy on 6th August 2019. This is despite the slow pace at which things were moving within the county and the political situation that the county has been faced with throughout the project period.

KENYA ACCOUNTABLE AND INCLUSIVE POLITICAL PROCESS (KAIP)

The Kenya Accountable and Inclusive Process project was a one-year grant implemented under a consortium with other organizations and supported by the DFID. The project was aimed at capacity building the youth on the strategies through which they could influence decision-making of CIDP and ADP and service delivery at the local level . Siasa Place was in Busia

The project aimed at capacity building a total of 350 youth from the seven sub counties in different ways through which they could advocate for the needs of the youth to be prioritized within the respective counties.

After the first training,  youth were asked to identify three main issues that they felt were of concern and Water, health and joblessness top the list.

From the meetings, they elected two representatives who formed a country steering committee to help in coordination of activities and follow up on the agreed projects. Through the sub-county awareness creation, a total of 564 (291 male and 273 female) youth and 27 (16 male and 11 female) beyond the youth  participated

Capacity building of the youth through the Constituency Level Monthly meetings

The project through series of advocacy capacity build youth from all the seven (7) sub counties as detailed in the matrix below:

After the youth were trained on advocacy strategies, several issues  that needed application were identified.  For instance, Igula dispensary in marachi central ward was constructed without toilets, water, electricity and it was also neglected without service providers like nurses and medical officers. 

 

From the training, the youth  agreed on a strategy to communicate with the county on the matter. The administrator then visited the facility and the compound was cleared, a community management committee constituted (Jesca Auguya One of the KAIP committee members was elected to be a member of the committee) and money allocated in the subsequent year.

 

Hon. Patrick Obuya the MCA Mariachi, central ward confirmed that the memoranda submitted on Igula dispensary bore positive results since the contractor had been identified  to do the toilet, Ksh 1,000,000  allocated in the financial year 2019/20, to support operation.

 

From the training and meetings held, youth complained that they were not aware of what was happening in the county because they were not getting information. As a result they could not take advantage of the opportunities  created within the county or objectively contribute to the development of the county. and in line with Article 35, they demanded for a notice board in their respective ward offices.

 

The county responded by providing a notice board in Matayos South ward administrator office  in January 2019 where a youth from Funyula acknowledged the notice board on his personal social media asking why the same had not been provided to them   

 

After the advocacy training and series of planning and strategic meetings, the youth recognized that there were several youth groups doing similar things disjointedly making it difficult to constructively engage the government and achieve results as they were sometimes perceived to be competing. As a result, they agreed to collaborate among themselves leading to the formation of a sub-county based network which brought together several youth groups. The network was later registered as a community based organization under the leadership of Mr. Mwanawari Amira and represented youth organizations from  Marachi Central and Kingadole wards.

 

The main aim of the network was to coordinate advocacy to improve service delivery in the respective wards and after the first meeting they identified stalled projects for follow up during their first meeting

Their colleagues  from Budalangi also formed a network of Bunyala youth advocates with the aim of offering civic education as a platform to help them articulate their issues and through the initiative they were able to negotiate space on Bulala FM to discuss part of the things that they were trained on.

The youth realized the importance of engaging their leaders during the strategy and planning meeting held at Samia resort in Funyula constituency on (12th-13th) November 2018. From the discussion, they noted that the county had allocated Ksh 3.5m for the construction of Nambomboto market which had not been implemented. Youth responded by writing a letter on 3rd January 2019 to their member of the County Assembly and copied the ward administrator and the area member of national assembly to urgently convene a meeting to deliberate on the same. There was no response from all the duty bearers hence the youth resorted to mobilize the business community to demonstrate as provided for in Article 37 of the constitution on 15th January 2019. During the demonstration, they demanded for the market to be constructed as the county had allocated money for the same while work never commenced.

YouTube link to KTN news that covered the demonstration:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2X1yQGKgaA&feature=youtu.

Ikonzo Market had several issues including insecurity, lack of water and toilet among others. Through the advocacy mounted by the KAIP committee, all the concerned stakeholders were invited to a meeting. Insecurity was addressed immediately as the chief agreed to work with market leadership in addition to encouraging the youth to look for income generating activities. Water and lack of toilet was not discussed as the respective leadership failed to send their representative however, they acted after the youth drafted a memorandum to the county government.

Capacity building of the county youth legislators

The project trained  members of the county assembly to enable them to understand how they could closely work with the youth in the process of planning and implementation of the project. details of the youthful members of the county assembly are presented in the matrix.

After the training, members of the assembly understood how they could involve the youth. On Monday 4th February 2019 human rights, justice and legal affairs committee in the  County Assembly of Busia held a public forum in Chakol North ward at Asinge Catholic Church to get feedback from the residents on how public participation on the CIDP was done. They reached out to KAIP committee where  Mr Fredrick Ekasiba, chair was invited to paint the picture for the committee on what happened during the public participation on CIDP.

While the county government  of Busia was conducting public participation on a draft county fiscal strategy paper for the financial year 2019/2020 and mid-term expenditure framework on (19th -20th) February 2019 at Agricultural Training Centre (ATC) Busia. All ward administrators were requested to nominate only two people from their ward to attend, taking into consideration gender, youth and people with disabilities.  Five KAIP committee members  Frederick Ekasiba Chakol North ward, Stephen Washika Malachi Central ward, Beth Atieno Mulumba ward, John Wabwire Shikuku, Bunyala west and Neriah Bilyah Anya Chakol North ward were among the selected who attended the forum to represent young in their localities.

SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENTS  

Online engagement is one of the  organization’s strongest approaches to encourage stakeholders to participate in politics and governance.  2019, Siasa Place hosted a total of 43 twitter engagements under the hashtag dubbed #SiasaWednesday.

The program runs every Wednesday to discuss emerging political and governance issues on day to day running of the country. Utilizing expert opinion on matters, information is broken down in a way that the majority of the population can understand hence giving them opportunity to contribute to the discussion. 

From the 43 online discussions, the organization observed that Kenyans were more concerned with seven main areas including:

  1. Corruption
  2. Poor state of governance
  3. Political situation in the country 
  4. Youth unemployment
  5. Mental  health 
  6. Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights
  7. Universal Health Care

The online engagements realized growth across the platforms with Twitter growing organically by 3,575 from 9,820 to 13,395  followers, Facebook growing from 5103 to 6033 and Instagram from 324 to 450.

On average, participants distribution by sex was 60% male and 40% female while the following topics trended;

 

  1. Reclaiming Youth in Devolution:

 

Trigger: The 6th Annual Devolution Conference the chat aimed to highlight the challenges that youth face in matters of devolution. During the previous year’s conference, 300 young people had been sponsored by the government to attend the conference. However, the selection of the 300 was questionable since some did not attend the conference. Others were mishandled by officials from the ministry staff and leaders. Their participation did not seem to be of any meaningful value.

Under the hashtag #VijanaNaUgatuzi, we had 22.7k impressions from the 3-day period from 4th -6th February 2019 and gained 88 followers from 10,602-10,690.

  1. Biashara Fund

Trigger: Government was in the process of consolidating all affirmative action funds together. This was in disregard to the challenges which each fund was facing at the time and without going through public participation. The government filed to engage the public and instead surprised people with the merger.

Under the hashtag #BiasharaFundKE, we had 31.2k impressions from the 2-day period from 29th -30th March 2019 and gained 53 followers from 10,867-10,920.

  1. Sauti Sasa

SAUTI SASA is a youth-led, youth-driven advocacy campaign that calls on duty bearers to adopt a multi-sectoral community-wide approach in addressing teenage pregnancies in Kenya. The campaign originated by AMREF Kenya saw them partner with Siasa Place among other youth organizations to launch the advocacy platform to step-up and end teen pregnancies in Kenya. 

Under the hashtag #SautiSasa, the twitter storm launch held on 26th September 2019 saw the chat trend nationwide at number one from 12noon to 5pm with over 3 million impressions in reach during that 1 day period. 

Through the online engagements, Siasa Place managed to partner with several organizations such as TransplantEd, Y-ACT, PAWA 254, Badili Africa and Emerging Leaders Foundation to support different campaigns among others together such Universal Health Care, Sauti Sasa Campaign and #NYCTuitakayo.

ABNORMAL DEMOCRATIC TIMES WORKSHOP

Abnormal democratic times workshop (ADTW) was convened on 27th September 2019  at YWCA Nairobi Kenya  in partnership between Siasa Place and the social justice centers  with the support of the OSIEA to promote, share  and support the emergence of unconventional continental democratic movements. 25 African countries were represented.

The aim of the meeting was to identify youth democratic  initiatives across the continent, share and create a network for support  considering the influence caused by detrimental laws to ensure incumbents remain in power, validation of fraudulent election by world bodies like state electoral bodies, election observation groups, and interference by international companies to ensure their preferred persons are in power.

The workshop mapped and mobilized a total of 65 people representing 25 African countries and democratic initiatives by the youth across these countries. In the workshop, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Senegal, DRC and Kenya had the opportunity to share their experience of the democratic struggles, challenges and how they fairing on with both success and challenges. To facilitate further experience/information sharing, participants asked for the establishment of a social communication platform (WhatsApp) to enable participants to share and for which was established. A lot of information is currently being shared through the same channel in addition to the emails exchanged during the convening. 

The convening provided an avenue for learning of new approaches, tools and exchange of ideas for better service delivery. For instance, Tunisia, South Africa and Zimbabwe both were impressed with the Kenyan legal framework and were able to get a copy of the Kenyan constitution for better understanding of the bills of right. 

From the engagement, Yet Trust of Zimbabwe has since established a working relationship with Siasa Place to share information considering that both the organizations are working on youth political participation.  

Majority of the participants who participated in the post convening evaluation applauded the idea with one describing it as a bold step to facilitate exchange of experiences of democratic developments with a very rich experience for youth movements across the continent. From the report, they recommended that the conference be held annually with guests from the previous year to recommend a person to attend to allow different young people from across the continent to benefit from this experience in making the convening rotational among the countries. They also lauded Brian Kagoro for very insightful presentation, translation team for making francophone speakers feel at home and Kingfisher Casa Hotel for doing a wonderful job.

Link to watch the youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8lXS3l77t4&list=PLr5Lxq8pmpx_FJwelCHuECJMHZGaGzEQM

JIACTIVATE FAYA

Jiactivate Faya is a campaign ignited by a GeoPoll survey which found that  Narok, Homa Bay and Kilifi county were the three Counties with  highest number of teenage pregnancies, early marriages and limited contraceptive use thus igniting the need for action.

The objective of the campaign was to capture and elevate sentiments and recommendations of Kenyan adolescents and youth and improve their participation and representation in decision-making process in sexual and reproductive health and responsibility curricular and policy

The campaign designated roles to different organizations based on their strength to which Siasa Place was tasked to capacity build youth on advocacy and initiating a campaign from the grassroots in the three counties of Kilifi, Homa Bay and Narok between July and November 2019. A total of 79 youth were trained as detailed in the matrix:

Lessons Learnt

There are uncoordinated efforts to reduce teenage pregnancy by different non governmental organizations. The resources towards these efforts could optimally be used if the organizations worked together and divided roles to support what has not been done. For instance, most of the organizations were focusing on the  urban areas of Malindi leaving the interior uncovered. Duplication was mentioned by participants.

The county government of Kilifi in collaboration with other partners formed a children rights volunteer program (locally referred to as Baba watoto or Mama watoto) which is an initiative for  reporting people abusing children’s rights. The volunteers also have a very good working relationship with both the village eleders and police through which some of the people targeting children for sex have been arrested.However most of them have been released because majority of the parties involved are afraid of going to court or resort to settling the matter out of court.

The disconnect between the organizations involved in SRHR may limit the level of success. For instance, different organizations working on the same things in the same area but not working together, establishment of very good advocacy structures like having children right volunteers but not known by majority and involvement of families to negotiate with people involved in sexual crime including rape and even some of the parents giving out their children to be married go unoticed. Improvement can easily be realized if the stakeholders are fully involved and priority is given to areas that require much compared to working in areas of convenience. 

In Narok, participants narrated how culture is the biggest contributor to early marriages and teen pregnancies, in one instance, a youth explained how the parents especially fathers gave out their young girls because they had developed breasts and thus could make wives. Since Narok County is predominantly inhabited by the Maasai community culture and cultural practices are a big challenge and threat on sexual reproductive and health rights.

During the training the trainees narrated how their push to be involved in the County plans and activities have not borne any fruit as the County government does not involve them in decision making or planning. In one instance, a youth narrated how  they tried to push for the Department of Health to be allocated resources for a sensitization program within schools and community health centres but that did not happen.

Homa Bay County had an already existing working relation and structure between the youth organizations and department of health however; the county has consistently failed to support it financially leaving the structure to depend on well-wishers and support of non-Governmental organization.  They are seasonal and 

Poverty rendered most of the youth vulnerable. For instance, a lady shared that she could be willing to have unprotected sex with an individual with  HIV/AIDs to get  money and later take post exposure prophylaxis despite knowing the dangers involved.

YOUTH SERVING ORGANIZATIONS NETWORK

In our effort to champion youth participation in the proposed amendment of National Youth Council bill 2019, Siasa Place in partnership with PAWA254 realized that there was a need to scale up the approach and involved other youth organizations. As a result, we were able to mobilize youth serving organizations to collect views, arrange meetings with stakeholders and present a memorandum.

To sustain youth work, the coalition institutionalized its work by having leaders with Siasa Place as the co-convener to the consortium, forming a Facebook page under the name Youth Serving Organizations (YSO).

The coalition now holds regular meetings to champion all issues affecting the youth. So far, the coalition participated in presenting a memorandum on the youth council and have also participated in the campaign on youth unemployment and currently working on mental health bills to be part of primary health care.

Drop your curriculum vitae Campaign (#DropUreCVKE)

The campaign came as a recommendation from the online conversation on youth employment when the President in a public address said that he was not aware why youth were saying they were broke. 

As a response, those who participated in the conversion recommended the need to come up with a campaign to share curriculum vitae with the president to help him understand that youth unemployment was the reason why youth are broke and just how much of a concern unemployment is in the country and needs to be considered a disaster. 

COURT CASES ON CONSTITUTIONALISM 

In pursuit of our value on constitutionalism, the Cabinet secretary ministry of labour and social protection appointed Mrs Mary Wambui Munene to chair national employment authority.

In our view, the appointment violated Articles of the constitution including those on public participation, section 10(1) & (2) of the national employment authority act no.3 of 2016 among other laws in Kenya. As a result we challenged the appointment at the employment and labour relations court petition no. 190 of 2019. (Detailed ruling can be found through the link http://kenyalaw.org/caselaw/cases/view/187196/)

The two Petitions were filed on 18th October, 2019 and 23rd October, 2019 respectively but they were consolidated by consent on 14.11.2019 under Petition 190 of 2019. The Petitions contested the appointment of Mary Wambui Munene as the Chairperson of the National Employment Authority, vide Gazette Notice No. 9816 (Vol. CXXI – No. 137) published on 14th October, 2019.

The Petition therefore seeks the following prayers:

  1. A declaration that the Interested Party does not meet the required constitutional and statutory requirements, standards, qualifications and experience to be appointed to the position of the Chairperson of the National Employment Authority Board and thus she is unqualified, unsuitable and unfit to serve as chairperson of the national employment authority board.
  2. A declaration that the purported appointment of the Interested Party to the position of the Chairperson of the National Employment Authority Board vide Gazette Notice No. 9815 (Vol. Cxxi-No. 137) dated 14th October, 2019 did not meet the laid down substantive and procedural constitutional requirements applicable in public service appointments; and is therefore unconstitutional, unlawful, irregular, null and void for being in contravention of Articles 10,27, 73 (2) and 232 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010.
  3. A declaration that the 1st Respondent’s purported handpick and appointment of the Interested Party vide Gazette Notice No. 9815 (Vol. Cxxi – No. 137) dated 14th October, 2019, to the position of the Chairperson of the National Employment Authority Board without following the laid out substantive and procedural, constitutional and statutory requirements applicable in public service appointments; the said purported handpick and appointment is unconstitutional, unlawful and irregular for being in contravention of Articles 10,27,73 (2) and 232 of the Constitution Of Kenya , 2010.
  1.  An order quashing Gazette Notice No. 9815 (Vol. Cxxi-No.137) dated 14th October, 2019 vide which the Cabinet Secretary for Labour and Social Protection purported to appoint Mary Wambui Munene as the chairperson of the National Employment Authority Board.
  2. An order directing the respondents to ensure that future appointments to the National Employment Authority Board of those board members whose membership is not automatic by virtue of their offices pursuant to section 10 (1) of the National Employment Authority Act No. 3 of 2016, strictly adhere to the substantive and procedural, constitutional and statutory requirement applicable in public service.
  3. A declaration that the 1st and 2nd Respondents have violated the petitioners’ right to access to information contrary to the guarantee under Article 35 of the constitution of Kenya 2010.
  4. An order of compensation including aggravated damages for violation of the petitioners’ right guaranteed under Article 35 of the Constitution as aforesaid.
  5. Costs of this petition be borne by the Respondent.
  6. Such other orders this Honourable Court shall deem fit pursuant to Article 23 (3) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010.

In conclusion the judge found that the appointment of Ms. Mary Wambui Munene as the Chairperson of the National Employment Authority by the 1st respondent vide Gazette Notice No. 9816, CXXI-No. 137 of 14th October, 2019 was irregular, unlawful and unconstitutional because it was done in violation of both substantive and procedural thresholds envisaged in express provisions of the Constitution and statutes.

COVID-19 Pandemic: Disheveled Economies, Disarrayed Polities & the Future By Sitati Wasilwa

What matters? Welfarism? Free markets? Democracy or just efficient governance systems? Individualism or communalism? The essentialism of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be underestimated.

The COVID-19 crisis has raptured globalization, disheveled economies, disarrayed polities and reorganized societies on massive scale. Pristinely, a global economic recession is looming.

Economic recessions or crises have always led to fundamental change in politics and thence a revision of the social and economic policies adopted to transition to the next chapter. The COVID-19 pandemic manifests itself as a social, political and economic crisis.

Socially, norms and routines have been altered. People are forced to adjust to unfamiliar lives: working from home; no more feeling of camaraderie from social gatherings; for others, it’s doomsday with their jobs wiped out by the monstrous virus; for some, readjusting to realities of life in the countryside is the new normal; and certainly, worries about the fate of tomorrow dominate our lives than ever before.

Politically, the frivolous nature of greedy politicians has been exposed. Politicians are now familiar with policies and terminologies of a functional healthcare system. State capture by big business is in plain view; financial bailout programmes are mainly targeting large corporations and not small and medium-scale enterprises. Democracy and authoritarian classifications no longer matter. It is how efficiently governments around the world respond to the crisis.

Economically, it’s evident that people should matter more than profits and this ought to be the primacy of policy. Global supply chains are disrupted. Organizations are scaling down their operations and unemployment is set to rise. Living standards are bound to fall and manacles of poverty are primed to handcuff more people. Developing countries are set to rack up more debts. In short, the COVID-19 pandemic has orchestrated a reversal of economic gains.

A Reflection of the Past

History matters, and it matters a great deal! In modern world history, economic crises or pandemics of human nature have often led to political, economic and social reforms. For instance, the deadly Spanish flu that ravaged parts of the world between 1918 and 1920 occasioned public healthcare reforms.

According to Laura Spinney, the aftermath of the Spanish flu prompted governments to adopt policies seeking to provide healthcare for all. Spinney notes that the post-Spanish flu period saw Russia become the first country to establish a centralized public healthcare system, a policy imperative adopted by some Western European countries. Such a healthcare system was fully financed by a state-run insurance scheme. Creation of Sweden’s modern welfare state is significantly credited to the depredations of the Spanish flu.

Across the Atlantic, the federal government of the United States of America opted for employer-based insurance schemes as part of the post-Spanish flu healthcare reforms. In Canada, the topsy-turvydom created by the Spanish flu pandemic led to the establishment of the federal Department of Health in 1919 with the state playing a primary role in advancing public healthcare.

Although information about the origin of the Spanish flu is still unclear, the first official cases were recorded at USA Army’s Camp Funston in Kansas. Large-scale mobilization of troops during World War I is thought to have catalyzed the spread of the flu.

A report published by the Federal Bank of St. Louis in 2007 documents about the economic effects of the 1918 Spanish influenza such as closure of grocery stores, an increase in drug store activities, a rise in demand for beds and mattresses, long hours of work for physicians, and closure of mines among others.

Despite the fact that the report entirely focuses on the American state, its praxis on the significance of the nexus of the 1918 Spanish flu and a modern-day pandemic is engrossing.

Africa also bore the brunt of the Spanish flu with a research study highlighting that in the coastal region of Kenya the virus paralyzed administrative operations, created food shortage, occasioned commercial losses and overstretched the healthcare sector. In South Africa, the flu led to the death of 300,000 South Africans representing 6% of the total population.

In an article published by Reuters Magazine in 2013, Begley warns of how a flu pandemic could trigger a global recession. The news feature is based on a 2008 World Bank report highlighting that the SARS pandemic of 2009 shredded global GDP by $33 billion.

Major economic crises always spark calls for reforms. Notably, the Great Depression resulted in the formulation of the New Deal which largely aimed at addressing the plight of the common Americans. In Western Europe, the economic crisis occasioned by World War II actuated the European Recovery Programme (the Marshall Plan). These two reforms laid the foundation for the Golden Age of Capitalism although Robert Reich in his book, Supercapitalism, refers to it as “Not Quite the Golden Age” since political and economic inequality was evident among women and minority groups.

The economic recession of 1973 changed the global political economy in fundamental ways. Economist and historian Marc Levinson writes that the early 1970s marked the end of the Golden Age of Capitalism with politics moving to the Right. The decline of the Golden Age resulted from stagnated productivity growth. The shift of politics to the Right resulted in a loss in social benefits such as health insurance mostly provided by governments across Western Europe among others. As such, the implications on public healthcare were significant.

The fundamental shift in the global political systems was also embraced by the Bretton Woods institutions which embarked on missions to spread the Washington Consensus gospel in Africa through the infamous Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs).

Failure of SAPs is evident especially in public healthcare and education systems leading to revision of the Washington Consensus with focus directed to a number of policy issues including provision of social safety nets and poverty reduction.

Financial crisis that precipitated the Great Recession in 2008/2009 led to advocacy for more government intervention in the economy with calls for provision of healthcare for all especially in developed economies. The austerity measures adopted by governments following the recession were germs for emergence of radicalized political movements across the global north.

William Davies contends that the financial crisis of 2008 failed to provoke a fundamental shift in capitalism but the COVID-19 crisis is set to bring about a sea change in the systems of global political economy based on high levels of international connectedness and the spatial nature of the pandemic. Retooling of social and economic life is certain with the pandemic serving as an inflection point “for new economic and intellectual beginnings.”

A Vision for the Future

Economic and political movements will emerge after the pandemic to vouch for reformation of healthcare systems all over the world. Governments and multi-lateral institutions will have to change their priorities and increase spending on public healthcare. Therefore, universal healthcare will emerge as a policy priority for state and non-state actors.

Governments and multi-lateral institutions reluctant to embrace healthcare for all will encounter opposition from social justice movements and disgruntled members of the public.

A paradigm shift in the systems of political economy is also bound to happen. Neoliberalism is set to reform or undergo decapitation. Political and economic ideologies that fashion people over profits will dominate public discourse. Could there be a re-emergence of democratic capitalism or will social democracy be the norm? Will the Chinese political economy model inspire states?

What is the future of big business in the global economy and national politics? Reformation of the healthcare system will most likely be derailed by the Big Pharma. Big Pharma may take hostage global politics and economics. The intricacies of the medical-industrial complex could go a notch higher.

Globalization will still be fashioned by state and non-state actors as a crucial step towards economic recovery and prosperity.

Immigration to the most affected countries especially the developed ones is set to take place. The Western world may review its immigration policies and make them friendly. But this will depend on the pace of economic recovery.

Is a new world order in the offing? Too close to call but possibilities are within the horizons; evolution and dominance of the world by the medical-industrial complex and not the military-industrial complex; the dawn of a multi-polar world; dissipation of democratic ideals and enchantment of political pragmatism; and establishment of welfare states.

Sitati Wasilwa is a political economist and consultant on governance, geopolitics and public policy at Savic Consultants and a youth leader at YMCA Kenya. Twitter: @SitatiWasilwa

The Power of the Web is in it’s Universality By Rose Anyango

Abstract

“The power of the Web is in its universality access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect”. This was stated by W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. The above quoted is contrary with regards to the digital divide between men and women in the form of access to technology that has been prevalent over the years.

The concept Digital Gender Divide or Digital Split

This is a term that refers to a gap between the amount of information available between men and women with focus on access. It also refers to differences in resources and capabilities to access and effectively utilize Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) that exist within and between countries, regions, sectors and socio-economic groups.

United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan’s statement to the world summit on the Information society Geneva, 10 December 2003:

The so-called digital divide is actually several gaps in one. There is a technological divide, great gaps in infrastructure and there is also a content divide. Alot of web-based information is simply not relevant to the real needs of people. Nearly 70% of the world’s websites are in English, at times crowding out local voices and views.

There is a gender divide with women enjoying less access to information technology than men. The digital gender divide is characterized by poverty, cultural norms and stereotypical perceptions.Several media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube among others are used to market and distribute pornographic materials and prostitution and they can also facilitate human trafficking for sexual purposes.

Introduction

Kenya has experienced an increase in the proliferation of ICT and social media due to affordability, easy availability and accessibility of gadgets such as internet enabled mobile phones (smart phones). This has however come without the necessary checks in terms of litigation and ICT policies to help mitigate the negative impacts that the growth may have on gender relations.

The available documented evidence points to a deficit in knowledge and understanding of the new and sophisticated permutations of violence against women as experienced on social media. In the Kenyan context, some of the acts of aggression were seen as isolated cases and reported as incidents that are not gendered. This points to a lack of acknowledgement of the harms that social media and the tools of ICT pose to women.

Many women have suffered online harassment in the hands of online bullies, anonymous or known to them. Some have been afraid to enjoy social media for fear of the dangers lurking within, some have suffered in silence with no knowledge of whom to turn to for justice. I am an example of those women who have suffered cyber bullying. This began from sexting, in the hands of an anonymous online bully way back in my teen age of seventeen. The supposed gentleman texted me on Facebook with sex texts which I found inappropriate to respond. Upon realizing I was ignoring him, he said he would edit the chat to make it look like I was warming up to him and attach nude pictures of me through morphing to the chats then share it to all media platforms. How frightened and worried I was imagining the shame that was awaiting me, I could not hold back my tears, I really wept in silence. I have also experienced sexting with a prominent person in Kenya whose name I withhold. I never knew I would ever find some platform to share these haunting experiences at least for relief if not for anything else.

Online harassment stands out as the main reason for the prevalence of digital gender divide. It takes the following listed forms;

  • Cyber stalking: This refers to repeatedly sending messages that include threats of harm, highly intimidating or engaging in other online activities that make a person afraid.
  • Denigration: Sending or posting cruel gossip or rumors about a person to damage their reputations or friendships.
  • Flaming: Online fights using electronic messages with angry and vulgar language.
  • Morphing: Is attaching a photo to make one image. For example, a face may be attached to a naked body or a pornographic situation. The software used in this is so advanced that it’s not easy to tell that the image is not real.
  • Outing and image circulation: This involves tricking someone to share their secrets or embarrassing information about themselves then you share it online to the public.
  • Sexting: The use of communication technology to send or receive sexually explicit messages and photos.

The above listed forms of online harassment explain why women are usually victims of the prevailing digital gender divide as illustrated below;

  1. Cyber laws are often gender blind

When new laws concerning the internet are introduced, it is often done through protectionist frameworks without consultation with women’s organizations. In Kenya, legal regulations serve to censor the internet broadly, which also affects women. Social media platforms are often reluctant to deal with misogynist expressions; expressions made by a person who dislikes, despises or is highly prejudiced against women (a woman hater or male chauvinist). Governments as well as the private sector have been reluctant in dealing with online harassment of women.

Any woman who experiences denigration may suffer shame and stigma thus making her shy away from online platforms thus widening the digital gender divide gap.

  1. Blackmails by boyfriends and ex-boyfriends: In the course of romantic affairs, lovers usually take pictures together out of which some may be seductive, others exposing more than necessary and some suggestive. These pictures are taken either with or without the other person’s consent. When things turn stale between the lovers, there is always a trend of the boyfriends revealing those nearly nude pictures they possess by posting them online to shame the lady in them. These photos may also be used to blackmail the lady to remain in abusive relationships with the condition that if they don’t remain with the boyfriend those pictures she would want no one to see will be revealed to the public. Chats are also revealed with abusive captions attached to them. This makes the victim to suffer psychological and emotional torture. As a result they may fully exit online platforms especially Facebook to hide from shame and to heal. This thus does more harm by further widening the digital gender divide gap.
  2. Partner rivalry: This is usually common among ladies who are fighting over a man.The victimized lady who feels the other party snatched her man may take to online platforms specifically Facebook just to shame her fellow through what was mentioned earlier as flaming. This is usually aimed at shaming the victim and diverting her attention so that he can leave the man to the claimant. It should be noted that it is not always men who perpetrate this digital gender divide but also women themselves. The victim will undoubtedly seek hiding away from the internet so as to deal with the situation and seek personal peace.
  3. Leaking sextapes: This is so common even among the prominent people in the country. Some ladies may be lured into featuring in pornographic videos and some who are unsuspecting may only learn of the videos after they get to the limelight. The perpetrators sometimes place micro cameras in the room where the action takes place and thereafter upload it to YouTube for monetary gains without the victim’s consent. This degree of online harassment results in societal stigmatization of women who may be innocent and also have far reaching consequences on ruining their reputation. Thus resulting in them having negative perceptions of using the internet and all related technologies hence the digital gender divide.

Conclusion;

It should be noted that there is a greater need to bridge the digital gender divide as it can provide the basis for substantial progress in development. This is because women’s digital inclusion can help to catalyze broader gender equality in social, economic and political dimensions benefiting not only women themselves but also their families and the broader society.

This can be done through formulation of gender sensitive ICT policies and offering training to women in Kenya on how they can ensure their safety while online. Women’s rights matter online as much as they matter offline.

References

  1. Leavy, R. (2010, October 28).How Does Poverty Affect the Digital Divide.
  2. The role of ICT integration into classrooms in Kenya.
  3. Mutula, Stephen M. (2007)”Digital divide and economic development: Case study of Sub-Saharan Africa, “The Electronic Library, 26(4):468-489.
  4. http://www.businesstoday.co.ke/news/2012/03/12/kenya-making-strides-bridging-digital-divide.
  5. http://investeddevelopment.com/blog/2012/07/closing-the-digital-divide-with-mobile-broadband-in-africa-part-2-spotlight-on-kenya/#sthash.MirEaeso.dpuf.

Written By Rose Anyango  |  Email: roseanyango744@gmail.com

Online harassment has become the order of the day By Faith Ogega

With the global rise in the use of the internet, 87% of Kenyans can now access it and freely interact online across different social media platforms. However, there’s a worrying digital gap between men and women.

According to research conducted by the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) and Article 19, Eastern Africa reveals that common attacks targeting women journalists were cyberstalking, sexual harassment, surveillance, unauthorized use and manipulation of personal information, including images and videos.

Looking into the future of digital space; men will be one step ahead of women in access to technology while women will still be struggling to secure their space. In this very advancing sector of our daily lives, men have acquitted themselves with the technological advancements hence their huge online participation across diverse issues.

Sadly, even in this era of the internet, access to the right information is still the major problem facing both women and men. Traditionally, women did not access education because their roles revolved around the home. Men, on the other hand, were the heads of the family and they were privileged to access education which has to date contributed to the lagging of women.

Although that was the case, things have now changed and there are no definite roles meant for either men or women. Down the years, new generations have emerged and to date, anyone can access the internet using their mobile phones, laptops and some visit the cyber cafes thanks to new technologies.

With the penetration of new technology, men and women have equal access to opportunities across different online platforms.  Though, this has not been the case because women have no access to these technologies. Yes, both men and women can access the internet but the male gender has taken the wheel, they are perceived as the smart type therefore any kind of opportunities are first presented to them.

As much as women are being encouraged to participate in the innovation of new technologies, the men have it all. Their innovations are incubated, unlike women whose space in the digital world is still uncertain. In addition to that, women’s participation in diverse topics is to date a major problem.

Online harassment has caused several women to withdraw from using the internet, and in many cases, women have stopped working for some time. It has also changed women’s patterns of online interaction, as they sometimes avoid engaging in online discussions for fear of being targeted.

For instance, let’s take a look at Twitter as a social media platform that now sets most of the agendas discussed in the media, not only in Kenya but also in the world. First, Twitter is known for its efficiency, effectiveness and timeliness when it comes to global communication. Secondly, it sets the agenda of the day, the majority of the issues discussed end up on the mainstream media. Therefore, anyone trading on this platform is always advised to be thoughtful.

According to an investigation I carried out on Twitter, I found out that 15 Twitter influencers 11 were male and the rest were female. Putting in mind that most of the conversations debated here end in the mainstream media it highlighted why women are still lagging.  Being a digital savvy and a daily user of twitter, I daily check the trends and the male interactions supersedes the female engagements.

On this very platform, online harassment is real; the majority of the women on this application are bullied. A recent case study would be the trolling of Neema Bosibori popularly known as Bosibori – a Twitter Influencer. A simple tweet from her was turned against her and as bullies are, they took it to her looks and said all sorts of body shaming words they could remember. That not being the only scenario, a lot of women who post their pictures on twitter are in one way or another body-shamed to an extent others pull down their pictures.

Online harassment has become the order of the day across digital platforms. To tackle such incidents its important counseling programs are established to offer psychosocial support to traumatized women. Also, victims are advised to develop anti-sexual violence policies to provide gender-responsive mechanisms for tackling harassment.

Written By Faith Ogega  |  Email: faithogega95@gmail.com

Online Harassment By Wanjiku Ng’ang’a

Can technology make people safer from threats like violent extremism, censorship, cyber bullying or persecution? Imagine this. You’re a woman, you’re married and you have a kid. You post something at work on social media and in reply you are told that you will be raped. Details of where, when and even your home address are sent for everyone to see. That feels like a pretty real threat, doesn’t it? Once the information is out there on the internet, you are most likely to lose control over it. Would you still go home that day or even continue with what you were doing?

Scrolling through social media feeds feels like a harmless part of our daily lives. But is it actually as harmless as it seems? Our growing and unchecked obsession with social media has unintended long-term consequences on our mental health. Online harassment is a worldwide problem that’s growing very fast. Research shows that nine out of ten victims don’t tell anyone that they are being harassed or bullied.

What is Online harassment?

Online harassment/cyber bullying has become this perverse art of figuring out what makes people angry, afraid, insecure and then pushing those pressure points until they are silenced. When this goes unchecked, free speech is overlooked and even the people hosting the conversation call it quits. They close up their comment sections and forums all together. This clearly confirms that we are losing spaces online to meet, socialize and exchange ideas.

This in turn enables the spread of miscommunication, lack of job opportunities and insecurity. What if technology could instead enable empathy at scale? If we had technology that understands the emotional impact of language, we can build empathy. We can have dialogue with people who have different politics, beliefs, values and personalities.

In today’s world, technology is so prominent that it’s easy for us to forget that it wasn’t long ago when the internet didn’t even exist.  Computers are just about in every home as well as most schools giving children access to technology they have never had before. Bullying is certainly not something new but it has changed over the years. Before this revolution, bullying stopped when the bell rang or when we had to go home after the end of the day.

But when it comes to online, bullies are not confined to any sought of playground or costumes. People, especially the young generation across the world are being tormented, threatened, harassed and embarrassed. Online harassment is seven days a week, 24hours a day. It can happen anytime, anywhere leaving silent victims with no place they can feel safe.

What many of us fail to realize is that the root of the problem begins with the behavior of children and teens using social media. One of the unique things about cyber bullying is that it can be done anonymously. With resharing and reposting, things that are said online have the potential to go viral. When we create fake accounts just to abuse others, we really don’t know what they are going through. Words are hurtful, they impact people. Deleting inappropriate messages or pictures does not change anything. Nothing disappears off the internet.

How do we evaluate what we are saying online and while offline? Most of our young people don’t really think before they type or share something on the internet. Amy J. Martin, an American speaker and author once said, just as we teach our children how to ride a bike, we must also teach them how to navigate through social media. Raising children especially in today’s world can be very challenging. But what we are able to do is learn from people’s experiences, tragedies and triumphs.

Imagine if machine learning could give commenters real time feedback about how their words might land on others. Just like facial expressions do in face to face conversations. When people use technology to exploit and harm others, they are preying on human fears and vulnerabilities. If we want to build technology that can overcome the challenges that we face, we need to learn and understand issues and build solutions that are human as the problems they aim to solve.

The messages we post online about a person, a place or even an event are very important. Those few seconds you decide whether or not to post can mean a lot in the future. When we are online, we need to use words that are encouraging. If adults can be better listeners and students be empowered to stand up and intervene, we can change a person’s life. How amazing would that be? So, before posting something online, we need to ask ourselves about the consequences of our actions.

By Wanjiku Ng’ang’a  | Email: mnganga701@gmail.com

Digital Divides By Sally Ogola

Kenya proudly boasts of its progressiveness in the internet space; with the introduction and subsequent enactment of the data protection act 2019, the state becomes one of the very few African countries that has institutionalized a legal framework of this nature. The legislation among other things, focuses on the regulation of data and its corresponding control. It further sets guidelines necessary for the collection, processing, storage, use, retrieval and disclosure of data within the country and/or of data whose subjects are located in the country. It is important to note that the act fundamentally encompasses the aspect of digital privacy; It generally gives effect to article 31 (c) and (d) of the Kenyan constitution 2010 amongst other provisions found in other statutes which explicitly or impliedly focus on the mitigation and/ or the prevention of data breaches and its corresponding effects.  Article 31 (d) particularly provides for every individual’s right to privacy which is expressly extended to the right not to have the privacy of any persons’ communications infringed. To understand the extent at which the data protection act gives effect to article articles 31 (c) and (d) of the constitution, it is important to read and interpret the act as a whole. Section 25 (a) of the act specifically obligates data controllers and data processors to ensure that any personal data is processed should conform with the right to privacy of the subject of such data. Section 26 of the act further provides for among other rights the right of the data subject to be informed of data, to object to the processing of any data and the right to have information forgotten. These subjects further have to explicitly consent to the processing of any data that is considered personal by the legislation or by the data protection commissioner failure of which controllers’ and or data processors’ will be held accountable and can be found liable of an offense. In simpler terms; the act makes service providers to a certain extent accountable for processing particular personal data and can accordingly be directed to pull down content on the basis of myriad reasons subject to the determination of the data protection commissioner. With the emerging spectrum of online related crimes, the data protection act will potentially promote the creation of secure online spaces for women that are free from online harassment and abuse.

While collecting and/or analyzing the extent of women’s participation in the digital space, I happened to trample on various articles which attempted to demonstrate and further explain the reasons behind the huge gap and/ or digital divide between men and women in the digital space. Out of curiosity, I resorted to collecting a little more data from individuals that were at my disposal at that particular time. Interestingly, I deduced that although most of these individuals had almost equal access to the digital space. Men unlike their women counterparts increasingly took part in online debates. Further analysis of this situation showed that the reason behind women’s laid back behavior was as a result of the harsh judgements meted particularly on women in these online platforms; simply put, the digital confidence of women is much lesser than that of men in these online platforms. Social media platforms which are currently common to the Kenyan youths and or young adults are increasingly being used as a tool for perpetuating cyberbullying and other related crimes/ vices of this nature with a majority of women becoming victims of such crimes. Online sexual harassment, stalking, offensive comments, manipulation of personal data and the distribution of intimate images and videos of women who were neither aware that data of this nature had been processed and or consented to the distribution of such data has increasingly become a norm in the Kenyan cyberspace. This trend has further been facilitated by the pure misogynistic culture in the country which treads back to our traditional conceptions related to the place of women in the society. It is not uncommon to find most women politicians being subjected to such online harassment and their opinions are more likely to be gauged with “out of the box” aspects including their physical appearance, their past and present relationships amongst other nitty gritty which rarely relates to their public work obligations. In comparison, their male counterparts are rarely subjected to such discussions neither are their abilities judged on the basis of the aforementioned aspects.

Women like their male counterparts have a voice in public discourse, and their opinions matter. With the enactment of the data protection act, the full participation of women in the digital space will potentially be encouraged. Most importantly, such participation will accelerate the ability of women across the board to take part in empowerment and development activities in the country through the internet without the apparent fear of being judged in a certain way, or being harassed or even being dismissed in an abusive and/ or intimidating manner. Kenya in the spirit of progressiveness ought to not only recognize that online violence should be constructed and be included as another form of gender based violence, rather, parliament should additionally formulate more elaborate legislations which link digital related crimes to violations of this nature. The bottom line however is; digital gender inequality still remains to be a prominent issue in the country and it should be addressed as soon as possible.

Written by Sally Ogolla  |  Email: ogolasally44@gmail.com

Online Harassment and Women’s Online Participation By Edna Asesa

Online social networks are increasingly becoming a vital part of our everyday life as they have transformed how we interact with each other and go about our everyday lives. These networks are providing a platform for current events, digital activism and comedic conversations. These social platforms also aid in the creation of networks and formation of new alliances with people who share common interests, ideals and beliefs. Many people have been able to grow their careers through these networks. These opportunities and positive outcomes created by social networks are mostly attainable by having a presence and engaging with other people on these platforms. This makes it necessary to ensure that there is equal participation online for the purposes of online inclusivity and ensuring that everyone can enjoy the positive aspects of online social networks. Various studies have demonstrated the huge disparity that exists between the level of women and men‟s participation on online platforms (Herring, 2000; Broadhurst, 1993). According to these studies, there is a low level of online participation among women, despite the fact that women may be accessing these platforms just as much as men do.

While there are institutional and social influences to blame for this disparity, this digital divide is largely attributed to the online harassment that women experience. This was acknowledged in a joint statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Violence against Women and Freedom of Expression that highlighted how the “online participation of women journalists, activists, human rights defenders, activists, and artists and other public figures and private persons” is disrupted by violence and abuse against women online. With the increased access to technology and the growth of social networks connecting people from all over the world, there is a growing phenomenon known as the online disinhibition effect. Online disinhibition effect is characterized by the tendency of people to behave online in ways that they would not when having in- person interactions. This has in turn resulted in online incivility which has brought with it vices such as online harassment, which is becoming increasingly rampant.

There has been increased awareness of the online harassment women face with the aim of bursting the bubble created by the online disinhibition effect and making platform users understand the harm caused by their words. One of the ways of creating awareness has been through hashtags on twitter such as the #mencallmethings which provided a platform for women to recount their personal experiences of online harassment and #morethanmean which was used to raise awareness about online harassment of women in sport journalism. These hashtags succeeded in showing just how much harassment women go through online.

Harassment of women online is partly attributed to the patriarchal political systems that exist online. These are the same systems that exist in in-person environments and become replicated and amplified online due to the amount of people with access to these platforms and the loosened inhibitions that come with online anonymity. Some societies such as African societies are still largely patriarchal and therefore women speaking up in public is viewed as going against the traditional boundaries, especially if they challenge patriarchal beliefs. Women who dare to challenge patriarchal beliefs are subjected to online harassment. I have personally observed this phenomenon among the Kenyan demographic on twitter where women who identify as feminists and publicly tweet about their feminist beliefs are insulted and even threatened. Hash tags such as #TakeBackTheTech, #ImagineAFeministInternet, #LiesToldByFemales, #IHateFemalesWho and #ThatsWhatSlutsDo have all been used in the past to spread misogynistic and sexist tweets and all began as a response to a particular opinion or campaign by a woman on Twitter.

The reality of many women is that they find themselves changing their behavior when they experience harassment such as “wearing less provocatively‟ and this translates to online behavior too as they become passive internet users so as to avoid online harassment. Women are choosing not to comment on online discussions even though they may be equally if not more interested and knowledgeable in the topic at hand. There is an aspect of intersectionality in this as Muslim women and generally women from marginalized communities are even more passive in their online participation. This is because they are viewed by some people as representing the views of an entire community and therefore for fear of being targeted if they say the “wrong‟ thing, they choose not to participate online. This also goes for women who are public figures such as women in politics.

The ripple effect of online harassment is clear from how low women online participation is affecting other aspects of the society. The low participation of women online affects the discourse on issues as the opinions seen or heard online fail to accurately reflect the actual views held by people. The freedom of expression of women is limited if they cannot freely express their views without fear of harassment. It also affects and stifles digital feminist activism as it poses a barrier to feminist voices. Online platforms have offered a voice to activists in various topics such as climate change but is still largely unwelcoming to digital feminist activists.

Online platforms such as Twitter can contribute to the achievement of online social equality by enforcing stricter rules on the platform users such as banning the use of hashtags or language that promote incivility against women. More organizations should also host online discussion forums targeted specifically at women so as to encourage them to participate in important discussions online. For instance Siasa Place can host online political discussions for women only, to encourage them to participate in political discussions. It is clear that online social equality can only be achieved when both men and women are able to occupy online spaces and to influence and speak within that space without fear of harassment.

Written By Edna Asesa |  Email: ednaasesa@gmail.com  

Siasa Place is an NGO formed 2015 that aims to create an enabling environment for women and youth mainstreaming into our body politics.

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