Realising Democracy and Human rights requires concerted efforts
This week, the annual democracy and human rights festival was marked in Nairobi, gathering diverse practitioners and relevant stakeholders in two engaging days to share experiences, knowledge, examine good practices, and showcasing efforts made in advancing democracy, human rights and gender equality in the country.
This annual event is jointly organized as a joint effort of civil society, cultural, media, faith-based organizations and art actors in Kenya coordinated by Forum Syd and Diakonia with the support of the Embassy of Sweden in Nairobi.
More than 450 diverse stakeholders from of civil society, art, cultural, media, faith-based organizations as well as state actors converged at Kenya Cultural Centre for two days of engaging discourses enhanced by the dynamic demonstration of creative approaches contribution to the pursuit of democracy and human rights.
In the keynote address at the opening ceremony, Veteran Kenyan Politician and women rights activist Martha Karua reiterated that leadership is about individual attitudes that impact positively at the community level. “We cannot talk about effective leadership at public spaces without effective leadership at the individual spaces,” she stated.
Martha further emphasized the nexus between women rights and human rights. " You cannot be a human rights defender who does not accept that women's rights are also human rights," declared Martha
The festival which is unique due to its creative integration of art media and culture entailed high-level expert plenary and thematic breakout sessions informed by a series of keynote speakers and panellists. Use of art for activism was demonstrated through street art installations, spoken word poetry, theatre, music, film and puppetry.
In his welcome speech, Forum Syd Hub Manager, Jackson Obare stressed that Deepening democracy, respect for human rights and realization for gender equality require more coherent and concerted approaches, and the festival presents a platform for advancing conversations on democracy and human rights
The festival gives voice to human rights defenders, civil society, art media and cultural actors from both the grassroots to national levels,” stated Jackson before adding that it facilitates an exchange of local experiences, know-how and demonstration and recognition of efforts that are already making a difference.
Emerging from the festival is that democracy and human rights have suffered serious setbacks in the last one year in Kenya. The country has been on a downward trend characterised with insecurity, underdevelopment, massive corruption and economic injustices, including runaway public debt.
This was a sentiment echoed by Khalid Hussein, Executive Director of Haki Afrika. “Kenyans are decrying the loss of livelihoods and worsening living conditions, contributing to flagrant violations of human rights. Said the Hussein. He added, “Such an environment diminishes political participation that leads to shrinking democratic space.”
Pioneer artivist Eric Wainaina who spoke and performed at the closing ceremony hailed the increasingly visible role of artists demanding for democratic space and accountability. He noted that in as much as artists are increasingly airing out social injustices, safeguarding democracy and human rights requires the efforts of everyone.
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