Perspectives from the edge of a balcony, a tipping point.

It`s a warm afternoon, the warmest it’s been these past three days, and I’m seated at the edge of a balcony soaking up the warm sunrays as I observe a group of individuals happily chatting. These are the members of different organizations, intellectuals and members of the religious community who have been discussing women and migration in the African Context at the Second session of The Religious and Migration in the 21st Century series of conferences. The convergence was at the Insituto Dimesse of Padua Langata in Nairobi from June 6th to 8th 2017. Reminiscing the discussions that have been presented for the last three days, for the first time I grasp Malcom Forbes idea that diversity is the art of thinking independently together. There wouldn’t be any justice if I left this conversation without really explaining why I for some apparent reason was seated at the edge of a balcony? thus, the narrative continues.

The theme of this conference “Women and Migration in the African Context”, was intended to explore the unique experiences of African women in migration and come up with effective solutions to their migration issues. It began with an analysis of the concept ‘feminization of migration’ which can briefly be explained as women being the largest population that is affected by migration issues, attributable to their high degree of vulnerability due to their social, economic status and institutional frameworks that are gender imbalanced. As HAART Kenya, we can attest to this – according to studies we have conducted on the internally displaced persons in Kenya 2017, 64.5% of victims are female while 34.5% are male. Considering this, we have commenced structuring our programs to be more gender sensitive, taking into consideration the different needs of men and women in order to attain equality and equity.

One of the key agenda tackled by the conference was a review of the Khartoum process – a brief history: the Khartoum process is one of three ongoing migration dialogue processes between Africa and the EU, launched in 2014. Kenya being a member state has been part of this conversation which embarks on creating a framework for policy and dialogue around the topic of human trafficking and smuggling and particularly, irregular migration. What does this mean for HAART? It provides a platform for developing partnerships at the regional and bilateral level between countries of origin, transit and destination to tackle irregular migration and criminal networks.

The religious groups were a major point of focus, describing how they have been addressing issues of women and migration in their institutions. Such groups form the largest contributors towards assisting vulnerable people in our society, therefore they are an integral stakeholder in our projects; giving an account of the practical things they were already doing in response to the various needs of migration and refugees, bringing into perspective the challenges faced by sea-fearers while on transit. Receiving such direct information, I was left to mull over, to what degree are religious groups involved in policy formulation and designing of various community projects. For HAART Kenya, one of the principles we center our programs around is partnership and co-operation; and in this regard, we have partnered with Misereor and Misean Cara, recognizing the value of having religious institutions as our stakeholders.

Back to the question, why I for some apparent reason was seated at the edge of a balcony? So, you see having been a part of such intense, intellectual, spectacular discussions not only am I soaking up sunshine but the foresight provided during these three days.

By Miriam Muthio

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