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My experience as a panelist at the 30th GIMAC session

Written by Maria Safari

June 27-28 marked the 30th session of the Gender Is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) in Addis Ababa and I had the opportunity not only to attend but also to present a case study conducted by WREPA Rozaria memorial Trust (RMT).  I wasn’t expecting to be selected as a panellist and I was very nervous as I was going to be presenting in front of members of larger organisations. On the panel, I spoke about youth and young women empowerment in rural areas and presented some recommendations.I made a presentation about the research that WREPA did with Rozaria Memorial Trust discussing the impacts of Early and Forced Child Marriages on young women in Busia and Kilifi district of Kenya.  While reviewing the research for the presentation, it really made me realize the impact that child marriage has on young girls. Young girls and women who have been subjected to early or forced marriages often leave school early, denying them their right to education, accessing health services and opportunities to become economically independent. I also talked about the communities that WREPA and RMT target in their research. We targeted Busia county and Kilifi county. In Kilifi county, we found that over 70% of the population of 1.2 million live in absolute poverty and 50% of the population is under 15 year of age and are dependent on less than 10% of employed adults. The total enrolment in secondary school is 9.57% of the 135,971 school going age. In Busia county, almost 66% of the population of 736,881 lives in absolute poverty (on an income of less than US$ 1 per day) (Kenya Bureau of Statistics 2016). Total enrolment in secondary school was 20 per cent of the secondary school going age of between 14-17 years (Kenya Bureau of Statistics 2012)I also had to discuss the suggestions brought up by young rural women in both counties. These suggestions included:

In both counties fishing was the main economic activity and the young women wanted funds to improve their business of selling fish .

Challenges was accessing the fish was difficult as the trade is dominated by men and older women  and often the young women were coerced into unhealthy sexual relationship inorder  to get the fish at lower price

They suggested forming cooperative groups which will enable them to negotiate for better prices

They also suggested the use of energy saving stoves to prepare the fish for sale as this would reduce energy costs and increase their profit margins

They also need identity cards to register their savings groups

I also talked about the Suggestions from the Young women working in the construction industry. These suggestions included:

Most of them were only provided crude equipment to produce ballast for builders , this took them the whole day and they earned less than 1 USD

The had no protection gear and often suffered chest infections

They recommend that the groups be trained and provided with proper equipment and also form a savings group which would enable them to negotiate a proper price for their ballast , instead of working with middle men , who often did not pay them on time

They also requested jobs in construction work so they could improve their labour value instead of being limited to production of ballast , which a very taxing process

At the end of my presentation, I discussed the recommendations that WREPA and RMT discussed together. These recommendations included:

Engage more rural girls and young women at these platforms for a more practical achievement

Introduce and strenghten ICT centres in rural areas so as to really harness the demographic dividend .

Help them improve their enterprenuership and vocational skills at community level.

I am so honoured that I got the opportunity to attend the GIMAC sessions with support from Rozaria Memorial Trust and Plan International, and to be able to present at an amazing panel, I hope I will be given the opportunity to be a panellist again.

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