Using Regional Partnerships for Localization of the Kenya National Action Plan (KNAP)
by Grace Felten, GNWP
Robinah Rubimbwa has been working to ensure women’s empowerment in Uganda for many years. Since being trained by GNWP in 2010 on the localization of UNSCR 1325, she has been instrumental in the successful adoption of Local Action Plans in 7 districts in Uganda. These action plans have gone beyond the creation of written policy to create astounding real-world results for women and girls. They have changed laws and decreased corruption. Until recently, many Ugandan women were subjected to bride price refunds. If a woman were to leave her husband, she would be required to pay back the bride price that her husband originally paid her family. Often, it is difficult for a wife to earn her own money while she is married, as it is custom for most earnings to be in the husband’s name. In order to leave an unsuccessful or abusive marriage the wife would need her father or brother to pay her husband the bride-price refund. This meant women were staying in harmful marriages unable to pay back their husbands. Even if the couple had been married for thirty years, the woman had given birth to children, and earned substantial money for the family working on their farm, this was not considered to be a sufficient enough contribution. After implementing the Ugandan National Action plan through localization — customizing it through Local Action Plans — a law was created to abolish bride price refunds.
Robinah traveled with the GNWP team to Kenya June 2nd through June 12th to share her experiences with localization as a peace exchange member. She spoke at the Kenya National Action Plan (KNAP) workshop in Nairobi and at the two localization workshops held in Isiolo and Bungoma. As the founder and National Coordinator of CoACT (Coalition for Action on 1325), Robinah was able to share the strategies, successes, and challenges that her and her team experienced. CoACT is a coalition of 42 civil society organizations who work with government officials to help implement the Uganda National Action Plan (NAP) on UNSCR 1325 throughout the country. The Ugandan NAP was originally created in 2008 and CoACT has been working to ensure its success district-wide since 2012. GNWP asked Robinah to speak at the Kenya workshops because Kenya adopted their National Action Plan (KNAP) on March 8th(International Women’s Day) of this year.
GNWP and their civil society organization members Amani Communities Africa, Rural Women Peacelink, PeaceNet-Kenya, Footprints for Change, and with the support of UN Women, have been advocating for the creation of the KNAP for several years. The Nairobi KNAP workshop was the first gathering of government officials and civil society organizations coming together for training on the KNAP and to discuss implementation strategies. It was made possible by the support of the Austrian Development Corporation. Olga Mutoro from PeaceNet was a dynamic facilitator; she had speakers present on such topics as how to use the media to implement the KNAP, using localization as a strategy, examples of successful campaigns, and in-depth training on the KNAP itself. Since Uganda is a close neighbor to Kenya, GNWP requested Robinah from CoACT to present on her team’s experiences to begin building regional partnerships. Through these regional partnerships, civil society organizations can use the lessons of their partners as a starting point from which to build a successful campaign.
Participants in the workshops expressed appreciation for the localization strategies used by CoACT. Robinah described how they worked with national and county governments throughout their campaign. Their philosophy is that the Uganda NAP is a government policy and the role of civil society is to aid in its success. They always travel to new areas with a government official such as the Minister of Gender. This way, the importance of the NAP is more quickly communicated to local county officials. They also involve teachers, business men and women, religious leaders, community leaders, police, community members, and all levels of government officials. She stressed the importance of educating the community on the NAP because they are the ones that will feel the affects of the policy the most, and they can help hold politicians, government, and police accountable. CoACT does this through visible media campaigns and local workshops. After a 2-day training workshop with key stakeholders in the new district, focused task-forces are formed. A customized Local Action Plan (LAP) is created based on the larger National Action Plan but taking into account the unique needs of the community. This is the heart of the localization strategy; the community decides the best way to implement the policies of UNSCR 1325 in a way that will be most helpful to address their needs. A full Local Action Plan (LAP) is written and printed, along with a shorter simplified version to reach more people. Robinah also expressed how important it is to make sure these documents are translated into the appropriate local languages.
After they have the full LAP along with their shortened versions printed and ready to distribute, they do a full launch for the public. Local DJ’s are hired, women drummers, and school bands. They march with banners and posters saying things that are important to the community such as “No more land grabs from women” or “No more wife beating”. Police are actively involved, as is the media. Their goal is to make sure everyone is aware of the new policy.
Over just the past four years, the coalition has had tremendous success using strategies such as these. Along with the new law against bride-price refunds, local laws have been created against child marriage and protecting widows and orphans from “land grabs”. You now need a woman’s permission in order to sell land that she owns or co-owns. Robinah described how one issue the community wanted to address was alcoholism. She informed the group that Uganda is the 4th largest consumer of alcohol, and this creates many problems like domestic violence. To combat this, one district passed legislation limiting the time that bars are allowed to be open to between 5pm and 8pm only. This has cut down on many alcohol-related conflicts in the area.
Some of the affects from localization are reflected through attitudinal changes within the community. More girls are being allowed to remain in school, and there is more awareness surrounding gender-based violence. In addition, police corruption has actually decreased. Previously, it had been a common occurrence when a woman reported to the police that she had been sexually assaulted, that they would first charge her a fee of 500 shillings before filing the report. This corrupt practice has stopped because the police have been involved in localization each step of the way. The high awareness of the Uganda NAP and the Local Action Plans (LAPs) has made it so that politicians are campaigning on how they are best qualified to implement them. This has had ripple effects throughout families and communities as more men and women become educated and involved. Gender-based violence is finally something that is being addressed by the community. Robinah often says, “When you protect the peace and security of the woman in the home, you protect the peace and security of the children and the entire family. This then spreads to the community.”
Although there is still much progress that needs to be made, the effects of localization have been impressive. The participants of the Kenya NAP workshop and the two localization workshops felt that listening to Robinah describe her experiences gave them hope and the confidence they need to achieve localization throughout Kenya.
GNWP would like to thank the Austrian Development Agency for its support towards the Localization program in Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan.