Nairobi, Kenya, February 7, 2024 — The United States Ambassador to Kenya, Margaret Whitman, paid a visit to the International Rescue Committee's (IRC) Women Empowerment Centre in Lodwar, a hub of resilience and empowerment that serves as a safe space for women and girls in the community to access vocational training and crucial psychosocial support services, especially for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
The United States Ambassador to Kenya, Ambassador Whitman, said,
"I am very grateful for the warm welcome I've received. The stories I've heard have touched my heart, and I am confident that every woman who passes through these doors will return to their community stronger and empowered. As someone who has broken down many barriers for women in male-dominated spaces, I am pleased to see women taking control of their lives. I believe this is a significant step towards creating a more equal and empowered society. And to all the inspiring women I've met, I echo an American cheer of encouragement: 'You go, girl!' Your resilience is a powerful force for change."
Mohammed El Montassir, Country Director, IRC, Kenya, said,
"We are immensely honored to have hosted the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya at our Women and Girls Safe Space in Lodwar. The aim of the center 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 surrounding areas. Some women have become self-reliant and active contributors to their communities. However, we only have one centre, but we need several others across the county to build the capacity of vulnerable women and survivors.”
Alex Marangach - Social Protection Officer from county government Turkana, said;
"We have been collaborating closely with the IRC in this field. Through our partnership, we've managed to reach the most vulnerable populations in our communities, including the disabled, who were initially inaccessible to us. Looking ahead, I am hopeful that our continued engagement, backed by support from the American people, will enable us to extend our support to these individuals. I am immensely grateful for IRC's contribution in empowering these women through skills, knowledge, and life improvements. Tackling GBV is a major focus for our government, and we are committed to fighting it on all fronts.’’
Women and girls in Turkana County are impacted by numerous factors undermining gender equality in the region. Traditional perceptions render girls' education optional, with the most recent figures suggesting that only 41 percent of Turkana young women aged 15-24 are literate (this rate is around 70 percent for young men of the same age). Furthermore, harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation, gender-based violence, and child marriage remain prevalent. 42 percent of Turkana women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence, compared to a lower 34 percent of Kenyan women. Evidence also highlights that more than half of Turkana girls will marry before the age of 18. The Women and Girls Safe Spaces in Lodwar, supported by the U.S. government through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), highlights the collaborative efforts between the United States and Kenya in promoting sustainable development and empowering women. The programs offered at the Centre aim to equip women with skills that not only enhance their economic prospects but also contribute to the overall development of their communities.
The IRC is a global humanitarian organization dedicated to providing relief, protection, and resettlement services to communities affected by crises. With a focus on empowering women and fostering sustainable development, the IRC works tirelessly to create positive change worldwide.