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Passionate Leader of UNFPA Kenya Battles Violence Against Women, FGM and Child Marriage

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

UNFPA Kenya is working hard with all partners to support the Government of Kenya and the First Lady of Kenya’s clarion call, ‘no woman should die giving life,’” explains UNFPA Representative to Kenya, Siddharth (Sid) Chatterjee.

Chatterjee explains the charge he received when he took on his new role just over a year ago, “The Executive Director of UNFPA Undersecretary General Dr Babatunde Osotimehin’s marching orders to me when taking up my role as UNFPA Kenya was, ‘support the Government to bring to an end the unacceptably high maternal deaths, end FGM and child marraige. Change the game.’”

The context, Chatterjee notes, is sobering. “Sexual and gender based violence [SGBV] continues to be a challenge in Kenya. According to Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) in 2014, 41% of women have experienced violence. This is unacceptable. The Government of Kenya has made efforts to prevent and respond to violence by adopting policies and enacting legislation such as the sexual offences Act (2007), the FGM Act (2011) and the National Policy on Prevention and Response to GBV. A comprehensive response to SGBV needs to be multi-sectoral. These will include community education/dialogue, media campaign, advocacy forums with policy makers/legislators as well as psychosocial support, clinical, legal and security services.”

In the face of such a daunting challenge, Chatterjee strikes a distinctly optimistic tone, “Our world is home to 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24, and Dr Babatunde Osotimehin the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says, “Never before have there been so many young people. Never again is there likely to be such potential for economic and social progress.’”

“Kenya has one of the most youthful populations in the world with about 60 percent of the population aged below 24 years. A demographic dividend and through the countering violent extremism summit Kenya is going to host, she can change the narrative, by putting the spotlight on youth,” Chatterjee adds.

Chatterjee notes that achieving the country’s goals for women will require government leadership and collaboration among all development partners to create an integrated, long-term program that actively involves young people. “Let’s put youth at the center of the narrative. Kenya can serve as a model for transmuting its youth into a demographic dividend which other nations can emulate,” he says.

On Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 11:00 Eastern, Chatterjee will join me for a live discussion about the UNFPA efforts to end FGM, child marriage and sexual and gender-based violence in Kenya. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about the UNFPA:

Twitter: @unfpaken

UNFPA is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. The Executive Director of UNFPA globally is Dr Babatunde Osotimehin. UNFPA works in more than 150 countries and territories that are home to the vast majority of the world’s people.

In Kenya UNFPA is working with the Government of Kenya to:

  1. Reduce the unacceptably high maternal deaths.
  2. End harmful traditional practices like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage.
  3. Advance the demographic dividend Kenya is blessed with by helping young people fulfill their potential and specifically invest in adolescent girls. Kenya has around 13.7 million young people out of a population size of nearly 43 million.

Chatterjee’s bio:

Twitter: @sidchat1

Siddharth Chatterjee (Sid) has been the UNFPA Representative to Kenya with effect from 10 April 2014.

Before joining UNFPA, he was the Chief Diplomat and Head of Strategic Partnerships and Resource Mobilization at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) based in Geneva since June 2011.

Before joining IFRC, he was Regional Director for the Middle East, Europe and Central Asian Republics at the United Nations Office for Project Services. He also served as Chief of Staff to the Special Representative of the Secretary General for the UN Mission in Iraq. He has served in leadership positions in UNICEF Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan(Darfur), Indonesia and with the UN Peace Keeping Operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iraqi Kurdistan.

Before joining the UN in January 1997, he was a career officer in the Special Forces of the Indian Army.

He has written extensively on a range of humanitarian and social issues in a variety of journals such as CNN, Al Jazeera, Forbes, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Reuters, the
Global Observatory, the Inter Press Service as well as some mainstream Indian journals. He is considered a strong advocate by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to end the scourge of polio was a key note speaker on child soldiers at a TED x event in Spain.

He has a Master in Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, USA and a Bachelor of Sciences from the National Defense Academy in India.

Sid is married and they have a son.

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