A multi-purpose community centre has opened in Turkana County to address the rights and needs of thousands of women and girls exposed to the acute humanitarian context of North East Kenya.
The Women’s Empowerment Centre was built inside the Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement – an extension of Kakuma Refugee Camp – which provides humanitarian services for both refugees and the local community. The centre will serve as a safe space for women and girls of the community to access vocational training. For survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), it will also offer psychosocial support services. Given maternal emphasis on childcare in local culture, the space also has a creche so those with young children cannot be obstructed from accessing essential services.
The centre was formally opened by county officials from Turkana including Mrs. Jennifer Nawoi, County Executive Committee Member for Trade, Gender Youth Affairs and Mrs. Sarah Eaale Etabo, from Refugee Affairs Secretariat during an event attended by UN Women’s humanitarian partners including UNHCR, Peace Winds Japan and the Danish Refugee Council. The event was attended by large crowds from Kalobeyei, who were entertained by traditional dance and performances from the community. Emmanuel Luyali, Programme Manager for Peace Winds Japan, impressed the need for such a structure in Kalobeyei:
“Our needs assessment showed very clearly that women in Kalobeyei did not have a space to share their challenges. Many have experienced sexual abuse and existing platforms in Kalobeyei are male dominated. Additionally, providing opportunities to develop marketable skills gives women here a chance to earn a living and an opportunity for improved livelihoods.”
"The aim of the centre is to empower women by providing leadership and livelihood skills which can mitigate vulnerabilities, including sexual and gender based violence, given the high prevalence rates in the camp and the surrounding areas." Idil Absiye, Peace and Security Specialist UN Women
Kalobeyei and Kakuma Refugee Camp host a combined total of almost 200,000 refugees (UNHCR 2019) from across the region including South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Great Lakes Region. In addition to supporting refugees, Kalobeyei also provides humanitarian services for the host community of Turkana, a county which is prone to inter-communal violence and natural crises. UN Women research last year found that women and girls from refugee and host communities in Kakuma and Kalobeyei are exposed to a high risk of SGBV in addition to high poverty levels, limited access to decent livelihoods, inadequate protection measures, negative and harmful cultural practices, regular exposure to conflict, drought and other disasters.
This Women’s Empowerment Centre in Kalobeyei was constructed by Peace Winds Japan with support from UN Women and Government of Japan under the Women’s Leadership, Empowerment, Access and Protection (LEAP) project. It is hoped that the centre’s success will spark similar projects in neighbouring Kakuma which, as yet, does not have dedicated empowerment centres for women.