'Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world." - Eleanor Roosevelt.
Kenya's passivity when it comes to human rights violations has been criticised on multiple occasions and on various national and international platforms.
Most notably, inadequate implementation of the new constitution, as well as its failure to address the 2007/08 post-election human rights violations, were the targets of criticism by Human Rights Watch in 2016.
As we head into yet another charged election year, we can't ignore the fact that at least 1,200 people died and 650,000 relocated as a result of election related crimes in 2008. In recent years, Kenya has made major gains in many aspects of social development, including reducing child mortality and narrowing gender gaps in education. Interventions and increased spending on health and education are paying dividends.
By addressing injustices, removing disparities and exclusion, and allowing people to participate in decision-making that affects their lives, human rights have the capacity to address the core causes of conflict and crises. Societies that value and protect human rights are more robust, better suited to withstand unexpected catastrophes such as pandemics and even the effects of climate change.
Equality and non-discrimination are critical to prevention: all human rights for all ensures that everyone has access to the preventive advantages of human rights, but inequality will drive the cycle of conflict and crisis if certain persons or groups are excluded or discriminated against.
Rising youthful population
December 10 marked the annual commemoration of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. This landmark proclamation states that everyone, regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other stance, national or social origin, property, birth, or other position, has inherent rights as a human being.
Human rights are founded on the concepts of equality and non-discrimination. Incidentally, this year's theme is "equality". Equality is also a priority in the 2030 Agenda and the UN approach outlined in the document leaving no one behind: Equality and non-discrimination at the heart of Sustainable Development. This includes confronting and resolving long-standing forms of prejudice that have harmed our society's most vulnerable citizens.
Dynamic private sector
Given its rising youthful population, a dynamic private sector, trained workforce, better infrastructure, a new constitution, and vital role in East Africa, Kenya has the potential to be one of Africa's success stories.
More efforts should be made to enable and preserve the rights of our people, particularly minorities and the vulnerable, in order to ensure that they enjoy their lives and reach their full potential. Sadly, despite the fact that more people are becoming aware of their human rights and the country is progressing, millions are oppressed and underprivileged in some way.
Many women do not have the same rights and benefits as the rest of society; many women are still discriminated against because of their caste, creed, religion, sex, gender, financial status, and ethnicity.
Human Rights day is dedicated to addressing the concerns of such individuals in society and bringing them to the fore. We can do better. Let's do better.
Ms Kombe is a rights advocate and a program assistant at Zamara Foundation. [email protected]