Nairobi, July 2020 - UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif, joined Inger Andersen, her counterpart at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and Zainab Hawa Bangura, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON) to virtually launch the International Gender Champions hub in Kenya's capital.  

The International Gender Champions (IGC) is a leadership network bringing together female and male decision-makers who aim to make gender equality a working reality in their spheres of influence. Since it began in 2015, the Initiative has attracted over 250 active Champions and has 160 alumni covering a wide range of thematic areas including disarmament, trade, justice and standards. The IGC network also has hubs in Geneva, The Hague, New York, Vienna and Paris.

The Nairobi launch featured a discussion on Gendered impacts of COVID-19 and the actions taken by agencies in Kenya to mainstream gender in COVID-19 responses which had over 50 attendees. The new Nairobi Champions were invited to share strategies that their organizations have used to ensure that the responses to COVID-19 and any recovery initiatives are gender-responsive.

The UN-Habitat Executive Director urged the new and prospective champions to continue to expand the network and to engage more leaders who pledge to improve gender imbalances in decision-making, and in policies and practices.

 “When women and men stand side-by-side it really is a win-win for sustainable development,” said Ms Sharif who is also part of the Deputy Secretary-General’s Women Rise for All Initiative and featured in a video which was just released.

UNEP’s Executive Director stated that entrenched inequality has been amplified during this crisis and has put women at even greater risk including indigenous people and other marginalized groups.

Through the IGC network, the Champions while continuing to address the mandates of their organisations, can work together to challenge harmful gendered impacts of COVID-19 during and after the pandemic.

In her speech, Mrs. Bangura said: “At the United Nations office at Nairobi, our focus has been duty of care to staff. The COVID-19 pandemic has been affecting people professionally as well as personally, affecting the way people live, work and interact. As a result, we have strengthened the Joint Medical Service to support the mental health of staff with particular reference on women.”

Siddharth Chatterjee, UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya, said: “As part of the UN Country team in Kenya, we are working with the relevant line ministries both at the central and devolved government levels, NGOs, faith-based organizations and private sector to ensure that the support and services that they need for Gender Based Violence medical management as well as livelihood support or access to justice are available throughout the country.”

 “The issue of gender parity is also a discussion on human rights. The pandemic has had a big impact on women’s health, children and their freedoms. We as governments, NGOs and other stakeholders can help to ensure they don’t suffer economically by developing support systems to help the vulnerable communities to get through crises,” said Marta R. Juarez, Ambassador of Costa Rica to Kenya

The Hub in Kenya brings together the UN agencies based in Kenya, the diplomatic community and other leaders and the International Gender Champions in Nairobi include:

  1. Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif - Executive Director, UN-Habitat, Board member International Gender Champions
  2. Ms. Inger Andersen - Executive Director, UNEP
  3. Mrs. Zainab Hawa Bangura - Director-General, UN Office at Nairobi
  4. Mr. Siddharth Chatterjee, UN Resident Coordinator, Kenya
  5. Ambassador Marta Riuz Juarez – Ambassador of Costa Rica to Kenya and Permanent Representative to UNEP & UN Habitat
  6. Mr. Roger Yates – Regional Director, Plan International
  7. Mr. Stephen Omollo – Regional Director World Vision
  8. Ms. Elin Bergithe Rognlie, Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations in Nairobi, Ambassador to Kenya, Somalia and the Seychelles
  9. Ms. Alison Chartres. Australian High Commissioner to Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, Ambassador to Burundi; designate to Somalia, Permanent Representative to UNEP and UN-Habitat
  10. Ms. Emma Naylor-Ngugi, Regional Director, CARE
  11. Mr. Ian Vale, Regional Director, Save the Children
  12. Mr. Mohammed Abdiker, Regional Director, International Organization for Migration
  13. Ms. Clementine Nkweta-Salami, Regional Director for the East, Horn and Great Lakes Regions of Africa, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
  14. Mr. Olivier Dubois, Head of Regional Delegation, International Committee of the Red Cross in Nairobi

More information is available on the IGC Webpage