Led by the Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos and his Deputy Dr. Aisa Kirabo, UN-Habitat members of staff on Thursday joined the global community in commemorating this year's International Women's Day in Nairobi.
© UN-HABITAT/Julius Mwelu
The highlight of the occasion were two presentations by Kenyan women gender activists Kanji Wanjiru and Sitawa Namwale who talked on "Growing up as a woman in Nairobi; a sense of belonging and identity".
Wanjiru founded 'The Change Initiative', a not for profit community based organization working with young women and girls in Nairobi's Embakasi constituency after four years' experience working with adolescent girls and young women in different communities in Kenya,.
The Change Initiative aims to empower the young women and girls in Embakasi to be knowledgeable and enable them to make better and informed choices in regards to their social and economic life.
On her part Sitawa is a poet, writer and performer interested in how Africans are defining themselves in today's world. In writing she finds her expression. In 2009, her first book of poetry, "Cut Off My Tongue," was published. Later that same year, her poetry show was invited to the Hay Festival in the UK.
She was then nominated for the Freedom to Create Prize in 2010 for the courage and positive social influence of her poetry. In 2011, her second show of dramatised poetry called "Homecoming" was performed in Nairobi to rave reviews; this show was then invited to Uganda.
After a brief introduction by Dr. Kirabo, the Executive Director addressed the gathering and said that historically, the interpretation of a good life has been varied.
"Both in urban and rural setting and throughout human history, women and men have interpreted a good life in different ways, due to different roles in families and in societies, as conditioned by the norms and values that have evolved over the centuries.
In general, women have been assigned the roles of securing the basic human needs for their families, in tasks that still remain largely unpaid for, are often taken for granted, and basically remain invisible and unrecognized. And in spite of all the hard work of women globally, and the estimation that the average work-day for millions of women has 16 hours compared to 8 for men, women often constitute the majority of the poorest of the poor. We could say that, all in all, women take care of the food and habitat aspect of well-being," he said.
According to Dr. Clos, men on the other hand have in general had more privileged positions compared to women; men have also had higher status in their local communities and in society at large. He added that the division of labor within families – as is evident globally- showed that men have also had and still have far more free time compared to women.
This, he went on, had allowed men to engage in income-generating and also more socially rewarding activities that receive the attention of the media and public at large while women and their contribution to society are relegated to the background where they remain basically invisible.
"It is therefore essential that we in the development process and in the planning of future cities do not lose sight of the silent majority. The goes for all agendas, be it economics, health, security, mobility etc. For our work to be effective, gender aspects and the special needs of all, both men and women, have to be defined within the agenda of all our processes, at the international, regional, national and local levels, from the outset," he said.