Since Kenya gained independence from British colonial powers in 1963, the country has rapidly modernized, resulting in many signs of economic progress. The urban middle class is enjoying increasing prosperity, and in 2010, the Kenyan government ratified a progressive new constitution that, in theory, supports the protection of many human rights. In practice, however, many people still struggle to make these rights a reality.
Most of the nation remains extremely poor, and many people—particularly women and girls, LGBT people and other minorities—experience routine discrimination and high levels of violence. Especially in more traditional parts of the country, social norms limit women’s opportunities and life choices. LGBT Kenyans often report not being able to find employment or being denied housing, health care and other services—simply because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Religious and political leaders sometimes stoke the flames of this intolerance, preaching hatred and spreading discriminatory messages.
The majority of Kenya’s rural population relies on the land to making their living, whether through farming, fishing or raising livestock. Small villages and nomadic tribes cluster around scarce natural water sources, subsisting on the same crops and animals that they have for generations. The Kenyan government has frequently authorized development projects and sold formerly protected tribal land without consulting communities, purportedly with the goal of increasing jobs and tourism—but some of these projects have displaced hundreds or thousands of people and led to deadly conflicts.
AJWS is committed to helping marginalized communities in Kenya to advocate for human rights. Our grantees are:
- Seeking to stop or delay the construction of development projects that threaten local people’s means of survival and advocating for communities to be consulted in the use of their land and other natural resources
- Attracting media attention to local land rights struggles and pressuring investors to consider the human cost of their projects
- Providing adolescent girls with greater access to quality sexual and reproductive health information and care as well as counseling services, so they can make healthy decisions about their own bodies
- Working with health care providers to ensure that sex workers can more easily access critical health services
- Engaging community and religious leaders, police and the general public about the human rights of LGBT people and overcoming intolerance and ignorance
- Teaching women and girls about the laws that protect their rights