Over a hundred participants representing non-governmental partners of the Dutch Embassy among which AWEPA Kenya attended Partner Day on April 4th, 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya. This initiative by the Dutch Embassy fits within the AWEPA-NIMD strategic partnership programme on lobby and advocacy with the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The main purpose was to discuss issues of mutual interest in order to strengthen partnerships for the achievement of common objectives. The topics included were the shrinking space for civic engagement, the need to strengthen gender integration within partner programs and thematic discussions in line with the Netherlands development cooperation pillars of security and rule of law, food security, renewable energy, water and sanitation, gender equality, and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Opening remarks were provided by H.E. Ambassador Frans Makken who spoke about the Dutch Embassy in Kenya’s transitioning policy from Aid to Trade, given Kenya’s move to a lower middle income country. The Embassy aims for a smooth transition, however, ensuring that the Aid to Trade agenda leverages on the years of development cooperation, and there will still be opportunities to work with civil society to continue to strengthen citizen and contribute to an enabling environment for business, through central funding mechanisms.
A first panel discussion focused on Shrinking Civic Space and Lobby and Advocacy in the Context of Elections. In the lead-up to the August 2017 general election in Kenya, the embassy focuses on ensuring that the elections are credible, free, fair and peaceful, Ambassador Makken noted. During this period, advocacy on various issues remains a priority for many partners. In this regard, Ms. Anne Nyambura, AWEPA Programme Manager in Kenya, brought up the importance for civil society to continue to target parliamentary committees and caucuses, including the women’s caucus, and to present petitions on issues they would like to see discussed on the floor of parliamentParticipants underlined the need for key strategies to organize meetings around issues that citizens care about.
During the second panel discussion the participants focused on Strengthening Gender Integration in Development Interventions. Ms. To Tjoelker, Head of the Civil Society Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noted that gender equity is about power relationships and non-discrimination, and that women’s rights are human rights. In discussion, participants raised the need to transform institutions that are built on patriarchy, the importance of making the business case for investing in women and girls, the fact that transformation takes time and must be monitored closely to avoid further entrenchment of patriarchy, and to remember that patriarchy affects men as well, and evidence based strategies to engage men need to be developed. Binaries such as ‘women versus men’ or ‘business case versus human rights’ must be avoided.
The vibrant discussions highlight the need for tailored approaches by partners, ensuring targeted use of evidence and responsiveness to changing contexts. The Embassy emphasized that it remains committed to working with partners to ensure protection of civic space for citizens to engage with their government, which will strengthen democracy, human rights and inclusive economic growth in Kenya.