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The role of women in disaster responses applauded during World Humanitarian day in Kenya

The World Humanitarian Day celebrations held in West Pokot County on 19th August 2016 brought recognition to women’s role in disaster responses. For decades, women’s role during emergencies has never been recognised. Women understand the consequences disasters have on their communities and the potential long term impacts and therefore their roles during emergencies as first respondents are very important. Women are often the most affected by disasters. 

The celebrations were hosted by Pokot Women Empowerment Organization (POWEO)-women led organization and Shifting Power local partner.

World Humanitarian day key messages

The celebrated theme  was; ‘Women providing Leadership to Community-led and Accountable Disaster Preparedness and Planning’ a theme that POWEO chose to showcase the role of women in disaster preparedness and planning and to push for women inclusion during policy formulation and implementation processes both at the local and national level. 

The messages for the day were tailored to recognizing the efforts by women during disasters, a scenario that reflects actual struggles women go through to ensure safety and security of their families averting further loss of life. 

Speaking during the celebration, Lucy Loboo, a member of POWEO emphasized  that, when disasters strike, women and children are the most affected and in most cases bear the cost of such occurrences. Although they might lack skills to respond to such incidences, in their small way they are the first respondents and this ensures security of their families and entire community.

Women’s contribution and needs are not mainstreamed into the formal disaster preparedness and response framework in West Pokot County among many other counties in Kenya. Therefore there is need to properly recognise women’s efforts in humanitarian response by the County government and other actors.

Women's recognition

‘‘We will  support the demands presented by women, it is their constitutional right to be included on decision making processes since they are the first respondents and the most affected when disasters strike. We will also set aside some funds to support women and enable them to directly respond to emergencies’’, said Hon. Titus Lotee, the Deputy Governor West Pokot county

The Speaker of West Pokot County Assembly Hon. Robert Mnang'at Katina also recognized the role played by women in the society during emergencies . In his speech, he affirmed that the county assembly will push the national assembly to pass the two- thirds gender rule bill that has been held up for years retaliating that it is unconstitutional to deny women what is rightfully theirs.  The bill seeks to balance the composition of elective offices in Kenya to ensure there is equity in the government by not allowing one gender to hold more than two-thirds of elective positions thus support the women's place in the political decision arena. 

The women presented below key demands to the county government on humanitarian responses;

1. Formal membership of women organizations and women led disaster committees into the County Steering Group(CSG) based on the Not more than 2/3 Gender rule – through POWEO

2. Joint branding starting from county level to national; acknowledgement of partnerships with women organizations such as POWEO

3. Advocate for Women and Community /Public participation in the development of the County Disaster Management Bill 

4. Seek the establishment of Accountability structures within the CSG e.g. regular meetings, formal membership of women and other stakeholders, clear M& E

5. Allocation of sufficient funds to address priorities that address the burden of women during disaster 

6. Capacity Building of Women in the Kenya Initial Rapid Assessment  (KIRA) tools and Formal Incorporation into Joint Assessments undertaken by the County Steering Group and National Drought Management Authority(NDMA) 

Through the office of the Deputy Governor , the county government agreed to further look in to the demands and promised to work hand in hand with women to ensure they are empowered and have the right skills to handle emergencies further reducing their vulnerability and increasing their resilience. 

There is need to look at women's rights in emergencies and facilitate their self-led actions to ensure there's protection in terms of safety with dignity, rights and ensuring that the response is gender responsive.

ActionAid Kenya partner,Pokot Women Empowerment Organization (POWEO) is  women led organization formed and registered in 2013 in West Pokot County. The Organization has over 500 registered members with representation from 20 wards across the county. Since its inception, POWEO has been in the fore front responding to humanitarian emergencies like natural calamities, hunger, diseases and violence and advocating for women’s rights and peace building in west Pokot and neighboring communities