UN-Habitat and several key stakeholders recently held a five day meeting on gender mainstreaming and capacity building workshop in Kisumu, Kenya.

The meeting brought together UN-Women, Association of Local Government Authorities of Kenya, Joint Programme on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment (JPgewe) together with five countries representatives participating in the Lake Victoria Water Supply and Sanitation Programme  which are Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya.

The workshop focused on ensuring that gender mainstreaming reflects in all projects, programmes and in all local authorities operations within the Lake Victoria Basin.

UN-Habitat's Director of Project Office Mr. Alioune Badiane said at the opening session that: urbanization is a source of development if it is planned, well governed, and supported with adequate finance, policies and legislation. In reality, women are the majority of the poor in some countries, and up to 70% of the poor in both rural and urban areas". There was need for all to view a city as an opportunity, an asset and a basis for national economic growth, he added.

Mr. Badiane emphasized that in order for UN-Habitat to contribute to Gender Equality, there is a Gender Unit at UN-Habitat located in the project office and it has the responsibility of implementing the gender policy and mainstreaming within the organization. Gender mainstreaming is one of the crosscutting issues taken very seriously within UN-Habitat and good progress has been made thus far.

During her speech Ms Ruth Odinga, the Deputy Governor of Kisumu noted that "for democracy to be real, there is need for human rights of all to be respected including women's' rights to social, economic and political rights". She urged women in Kenya to be more aggressive in fighting for expanded democratic spaces as provided by the new constitution.

"Accessing leadership positions is one of the biggest challenges women in the region face," she said. She shared her own experience from the just concluded Kenyan general elections where despite her vigorous campaigns for the position of Governor Kisumu County the environment was intimidating and unfavorable to her but in favor of her male counterparts.