A journey of firsts for Endorois women

Giulia di Mattia, MRG’s Programme Assistant, reports back from a trip to the African Commission in The Gambia with a group of indigenous women from Kenya.

In a landmark decision in February 2010, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights declared the expulsion of Endorois from their ancestral lands illegal and found that the Kenyan government had violated certain fundamental rights of the indigenous community, protected under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Since the adoption of the decision, representatives of the Endorois community have attended African Commission sessions to pressure for the implementation of the ruling. At the 50th session in October 2011 five Endorois representatives, four women and one man, travelled to Banjul, The Gambia.

For the women it was a journey of firsts. The first time they had ever had a passport, boarded a plane, travelled outside of Kenya and left their families behind. Sarah, Elizabeth, Christine Chebii and Christine Kandie, in traditional Endorois costume and jewellery, were embarking on a brand new adventure.

Christine Kandie and Sarah

The women gave out an incredible energy. Excited to be outside of Kenya for the first time, they expressed how proud they were to represent their community and how thankful they were to have obtained passports. They were eager to take pictures to take back to the community and spoke about the need to provide the same kind of opportunities for other women in the community.

Interestingly they pushed MRG to search for funds for a gender project, about education, FGM and early marriage, which would allow them to become more independent. If the project is for the whole community, then men will always be prioritized, they said candidly. For example, one of the women was told that if women travel they are sexually assaulted, so men travel to protect women.

During the session, Fatuma Zullo, from the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights, addressed the African Commission specifically mentioning the need for implementing the Endorois decision. During the break, where the real advocacy work takes place, the women thanked Commissioner Zullo for her intervention on the Endorois case. Zullo, who has been working closely with the community, was happily surprised to see that the Endorois representatives were women.

Christina Kandie delivering the Endorois statement

On 25 October, Christine Kandie delivered the Endorois statement to the Commission. Kandie addressed the Commission about efforts made by the community to negotiate with the Government of Kenya on the implementation of the decision but stressed that the community did not want the case to be passed to the African Court, but wanted instead to give the Government more time. The Chair replied directly to Kandie (a rare sight in itself) that the Endorois case is a priority for the Commission and that they will work to see implementation.

This work was carried out under an MRG’s project funded by the Baring Foundation, which aims to build the capacity of the Endorois community and implement the decision of the African Commission.

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