Business as usual in Kenya?
Having just returned from Kenya, I would like to add my voice to Florence Machio's concern that the political unrest in that country has and does and will continue to seriously affect women in that country.
The chief nurse at Nairobi's Women's Hospital says that the number of rape survivors seeking treatment at the hospital doubled in the wake of violence, and that there were many many more women who were unable to seek treatment in inaccessible areas of the country, including the notorious slums of Nairobi.
While I entirely agree with Kenyan journalists that the international media were running around looking for ‘good' stories about the unrest without seeking to really understand the situation, I was also sorry to see quite how quickly that unrest was affecting the people of Kenya – and more specifically the poor and the displaced. (It is a humbling experience lending someone your mobile phone so they can call their family to see if they are safe and alive.)
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The European Union has threatened to reduce aid to Kenya if a solution is not found over the disputed presidential elections. The US, UK and Canada are expected to announce their position in the next 24 hours. The US has already made some vague threat about not conducting "business as usual" until political harmony is found.
Business as usual in local terms would be a continuing decline in the Kenyan Government's spend on health, which has already dropped from US $10 per annum per person in the 1980s to US $3 today. Business as usual would also be a continuation of 42% female unemployment rate, 24% of women having no power in decision making within the family, and 16% of women agreeing that their husband is justified in beating them if they burn food.
While donors appear to be offering little to the process other than threats to close their purses, one wonders when the real people of Kenya will have their concerns and needs addressed. (And if we really believe our own mantra, those needs must include sexual and reproductive health and rights and eradication of gender-based discrimination and violence.) The donors? One representative of a huge multilateral donor told me, "The results of the elections won't make much difference. We will just need to make sure our projects are managed by whoever ends up in power." Business – including the business of development aid – as usual I guess. There, but not there for those who are not in the political ascendancy.