United Nations agencies based in Kenya marked United Nations Day on Monday with a special tribute to the Kenyan Member of Parliament and women’s rights activist, Ms. Njoki Ndungu.
Naming her the 2006 "UN in Kenya Person of the Year", the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya, Ms. Elizabeth Lwanga, cited the way she had spearheaded a 10-year campaign for the adoption of the 2006 Sexual Offences Bill by the Kenyan Parliament, despite vehement opposition.
"Today the United Nations family in Kenya recognises Honourable Ndungu for her important contributions to ending gender-based violence in Kenya. In doing so, we pay tribute to the many men and women who work tirelessly in their various fields towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in this country,” Ms. Langwa said.
Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, who serves as the director of the UN Office in Kenya, also paid special tribute Ms. Ndungu when she read out the United Nations Day message of the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan.
Mrs. Tibaijuka urged Ms. Ndungu to now work towards carrying her campaign deep into the East African regional heartland and to continue to speak out against discrimination and exploitation, particularly of young women and girls. She recalled that she had followed Ms. Ndungu’s campaign to mobilise women parliamentarians and civil society to demand better protection against sexual violence for girls, boys and women.
Accepting the tribute, Ms. Ndungu said: “Women are more than equal to the task of representation of the people and in providing quality leadership in law and policy making. What more proof do we need as a statement that the political voice of women can provide protection of human rights and public service to the poor and vulnerable?
“We need to keep up our hard work, perseverance, faith and determination to continue to create milestones that significantly improves the lives of women,” Ms. Ndungu said.
Mrs. Tibaijuka said that violence against women and children is an issue of global concern and one that is still plagued by taboos and stigma.
A study this month commissioned by Mr. Annan found that although at least one out of three women around the world experienced violence at some stage in their lives, more than half the 192 member states of the United Nations had no laws to punish men who are violent against women. In fact, one of the study's most important findings is that in many countries, even where there is a strong policy and legal framework in place on violence against women, that framework is not being implemented.
The representative in Kenya of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Mr. Kemal Mustafa said: "Honourable Njoki Ndungu's selection for her work on pushing through the Sexual Offences Act, which she launched as a Private Member's Bill, is further recognition of the importance the UN pays to eliminating gender-based violence in Kenya.”
This is the fifth time the UN Family in Kenya has collectively honoured an individual as part of its celebrations of UN Day, which is held every year on 24 October. “The United Nations in Kenya Person of the Year” is chosen based on their personal commitment towards achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
This year's runner-up is multiple Paralympics medal winner and record holder Mr. Henry Wanyoike. He lost his sight at the age of 21 and has overcome numerous hurdles to pursue his dream of becoming a world-class long-distance runner.