Cabinet Secretary, Prof. Margaret Kobia, yesterday attended a virtual side event on the 65th session of Commission on the Status of Women hosted by the Global Fund for Widows. The theme of the event was dubbed ‘Widowhood, Empowerment, and the Path to Public Life’.
Worldwide, it is estimated that there are over 250 million widows and nearly one in ten face discrimination and extreme poverty, along with their families with growing armed conflict, HIV and Aids, Pandemic and other threats.
In Kenya, there are approximately 4 million widows according to the Government census of 2019, who continue to face challenges that involve disinheritance, discrimination and harmful traditional practices that include cleansing rites and sexual violence.
The challenges faced by widows are an impediment to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.
In her address, Prof. Kobia highlighted the policy and legislative framework in place for widows in Kenya. “The Government of Kenya is reviewing its policy and legislative frameworks to facilitate the protection and empowerment of widows. In recognition of the economic and social contribution of women, including widows, to our societies, the Government is committed to empower women economically and strengthen their land, property and inheritance rights, ” she said.
The Cabinet Secretary noted the Government’s achievements in addressing the plight of widows including the establishment of pioneering programs for widows through the Ministry of Public Service and Gender that gives space for widows in political participation in local and national government.
She expressed the Government’s commitment to lead on mainstreaming widowhood as a human rights issue that must be addressed to provide them with opportunity, access, and inclusion.
On her part, UN Women Executive Director, Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said the violation of rights of widows is a global phenomenon and called for policies to address the issue. “It is important to address these issues and ensure there is a policy and legal environment for women to have recourse,” she said.
She challenged the participants to engage in discussions that will help member states to confront the issues faced by widows at the national and international level. Global Goodwill Ambassador for Widows in Peace and Security, Dr. Alie Kabba said widows globally have been left behind for too long as they continue to suffer without being acknowledged.
“In my capacity in the UN Security council and as the Global Goodwill Ambassador for Widows in Peace and Security I pledge to ensure the plight of widows is given a lasting resolution and accorded their human fundamental rights and end their human rights violations which they are faced with everyday,” he said.
Other guest speakers during the side event were Sierra Leone Minister for Gender and Children’s Affairs, Hon. Manty Tarawalli, Liberian Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Mrs. Williametta Saydee, Women’s World Banking President and CEO, Mary Ellen Iskendarian among others.
By Nelly Kosgey