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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

UN chief visits Kenyan slum to highlight plight of urban poor

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited a Kenyan slum Wednesday to underscore the need to focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the fight against poverty, which is punctuated by more women living in poor and unplanned neighbourhoods.

Guterres visited the Nairobi slum of Mathare, one of the biggest informal settlements, where he met with the youth, women leaders and representatives of drought-stricken families from the Rift Valley, to discuss how authorities could use policies to deal with drought.

Guterres was accompanied by UN Settlement Agency (UN-Habitat) Executive Director Joan Clos and the UN-Habitat’s Chief of Youth and Livelihoods, Doug Ragan, to a youth centre in the slum.

Clos said during the visit, which also coincided with the International Women’s Day, the urban centres and cities were emerging spaces for youth innovation, where women were the main players.

“As representatives of change, they are great assets in our efforts towards gender equality and women’s empowerment,” Clos said.

Guterres met women aspirants vying for political posts during the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in Kenya and called for the empowerment of women and girls.

The UN chief said access to credit would empower women and communities.

During the visit, women representatives from Laikipia, one region in Kenya, affected by the ongoing drought in Kenya, called for the protection of women, including those running for political offices.

“We are here to discuss the challenges facing women. Women should not assume that the women’s vote could be taken for granted,” said Esther Mwaura-Muiru, of Grassroots Kenya, an organization that represents women aspirants.

Guterres met with members of an all-girl team, the Mathare Up for Slum Dwellers Team, to emphasize his agenda against urban poverty, UN officials said.

The team represented the SDG 11 agenda, which UN Habitat officials say is crucial to its ongoing campaign for youth and public space.

“The crisis in Laikipia has to do with climate change but the government is not doing much. They have done too little to assist the communities in Laikipia North, which is a semi-desert. We want our region classified as arid because it has no difference with Wajir,” said John ole Monto, a local community leader.

UN agencies insist efforts to improve the status of women are currently underway, including through its newly adopted New Urban Agenda, which is an opportunity to empower women.

“It is a unique tool which recognizes urban economic empowerment of women. It is a tool which recognizes urbanization as an endogenous source of development and prosperity,” Clos said.

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