Kenyans Say “We are #BetterThanThis,” Aiming to Support Women’s Participation in Elections
“Violence is an everyday reality for women running for office in Kenya – from physical and verbal abuse, public undressing and humiliation, to arson attacks. Women continue to bear the brunt of it all and this needs to change.”While women in Kenya have reached leadership levels across multiple sectors of society, when it comes to political leadership the country falls behind in female representation in comparison to other countries in the East Africa region. Barriers to women’s political participation range from cultural and religious beliefs to internal political party politics and access to financial resources. In Kenya, violence against women in elections is a particularly significant barrier to women’s political participation.
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) “Kenya Electoral Assistance Program” (KEAP) is committed to improving women’s political participation in the 2017 electoral process and beyond by making the narratives of violence against women in elections in their homes, political arenas and public spaces more visible. IFES recognizes that Violence Against Women in Elections (VAWIE) is a threat to the integrity of the electoral process; it affects women’s participation as voters, candidates, election officials, activists, and political party leaders and it undermines free, fair, and inclusive democratic processes.
On July 5, 2017, the IFES KEAP project officially launched the #BetterThanThis campaign, which comes from the insistence that we can do better than the current state of violence against women in Kenya’s electoral process. Preliminary data collected during the primaries in Kenya showed that instances of violence disproportionately affected women, and in many instances women were targeted simply because they were women. Ahead of the August 8 elections, IFES launched this digital media campaign in an effort to create a critical demand structure for female political leadership in Kenya over both the short and long term. The #BetterThanThis website includes information about women’s political representation, barriers to women’s political participation, VAWIE in Kenya as well as efforts that Kenyan organizations are making to address it in the short term, and opportunities to be #BetterThanThis.
In order to ensure survivors of violence can access critical services they may need when experiencing violence, IFES has partnered with Healthcare Assistance Kenya, who runs the country’s first-ever nationwide 24-hour gender-based violence help line. By dialing #1195, Kenyans can receive emergency tele-counseling services over the phone and will be directed to services they need, including healthcare services, police and security services, and legal services. Through this partnership, IFES is working to make sure that survivors and witnesses of VAWIE know they can both report instances of violence as well as receive any services they may need. In the long term, IFES will use VAWIE related data collected from this effort so that electoral, security, and gender-based violence stakeholders can work together to address this issue.
A reception was held at Aga Khan University to launch the campaign and to foster discussion on avenues toward greater female political participation during the 2017 elections among influencers. Over 60 guests were in attendance including prominent bloggers and social media influencers, activists, media professionals, candidates, donors, and guest speakers from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. During the event, the #BetterThanThis hashtag went live and was trending at the number two spot in all of Kenya. Over the coming weeks, the campaign will continue to launch videos, inspirational images and posters that encourage women’s participation in the electoral process.
Kenyans attend the launch event of the #BetterThanThis campaign.
To learn more about VAWIE, please see IFES’ VAWIE Toolkit.