Cabinet Secretary, Prof. Margaret Kobia yesterday chaired a virtual meeting of Commonwealth Ministers for Gender and Women’s Affairs on the impact of COVID-19.
The meeting that was also attended by Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland provided a platform for the Ministers to share their country’s experiences with COVID-19, and in particular, its impact on women, and how they are rebuilding in ways that take into account a gender-sensitive response. Further, it also focused on addressing the structural and systematic changes needed to tackle gender inequality as well as building back a better forward amid and post the pandemic.
Prof. Kobia started off the meeting by acknowledging that the COVID-19 pandemic is not just a health issue but a profound shock to our societies and economies with women at the heart of care and response efforts. “In Kenya, women are playing a key role in responding to the pandemic as decision-makers, caregivers, frontline healthcare workers, community leaders and mobilisers, often at great risk to their health,” she said.
Chief Administrative Secretary, Hon. Rachel Shebesh presented the Kenyan Paper where she highlighted the impact of the pandemic on women and girls and the measures that the Government had undertaken to minimise suffering.
Like many other countries, Kenya has witnessed a rise in Gender-Based Violence cases as a result of COVID–19 pandemic. Hon. Shebesh noted that it is through the leadership of women in Kenya at various levels, state and non- state actors that Gender-Based Violence is an integral component of the COVID- 19 response. “We have strengthened the medical-legal response to GBV, enhanced and publicised the national toll-free helpline 1195 and rolled out a public awareness campaign on prevention and response to GBV,” she said.
Within the COVID 19 pandemic response, the Chief Administrative Secretary also highlighted that the Government had created employment for women and young people through local manufacturing of face masks especially those residing in informal settlements.
In her keynote address, The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland noted that despite all the focus, effort and resource being expended to defeat the virus there is little attention on the diverse and devastating impact that the crisis is having upon women and girls. “Our purpose in convening this meeting is to start to address the distinctive and very particular impacts the COVID-19 pandemic is having on women and girls,” she said.
The virtual meeting ended with a clarion call from the Chair and Secretary-General, Prof. Margaret Kobia and The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland respectively, for members to focus on setting up Ministerial Action Groups which was a key commitment made when the meeting was convened in Kenya last year.
The meeting was attended by 25 member states.
By Maurice Goga