In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, government enforced social distancing restrictions among them the stay at home order in a bid to suppress transmission of the Coronavirus and keep people healthy, but for many women and girls home became a ‘danger zone’ as they were forced to be in the ‘lockdown’ with their abusive spouses, partners and family members and cut off from supportive network and resources that could help them.
The ordeal of one evening morning in early July, brings gloomy memories to 38 year old *Nafula (not her real name). Her husband of three years had turned against her; what started as verbal insults progressed real quick into physical leaving her bruised.
“It was not the first time that he was abusive to me. At one point he hired goons to beat me up,” recounts Nafula.
Nafula’s own abusive experiences form part of the statistics of countless women and girls whose lives have been affected by the wave of gender based violence during the pandemic. In December 2020, a report by the National Crime Research Center indicated that incidences of gender based violence had increased by 92 percent in the period of January and June compared to that of January and December in 2019, with murder, sexual offences, defilement, grievous harm, physical abuse, child neglect and child marriages taking the larger chunk of cases.
Similarly, the Center for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) has received increased cases of women and girls reporting violations. On average, CREAW would received 20 cases in a month, with the Covid-19 pandemic, the numbers have spiked to 34 cases necessitated by the social and economic effects of COVID-19 on women and girls. Consequently, the demand for legal and counselling support was on the rise.
Amidst the surge, CREAW rolled out a 24 hour hotline-0800-720-186 to help survivors like Nafula to access support services virtually including legal information, counselling, access to safe shelters and referrals to other GBV services.
With the support from grassroots community champions and messaging on community radios and social media, CREAW has been able to publicise the hotline that now have over flow of cases reported even from the counties in the outskirts of Nairobi.
“Through the hotline, survivors are able to get timely legal aid services, information and psycho-social support to rebuild their lives,” says Nereah Oderah, the lead Counsellor who supports survivors through the helpline.
With the support from UNDP, CREAW has adapted its interventions to provide free tele-counselling and pro-bono legal services to survivors of gender based violence among them, women and girls who reside in the informal settlements of Nairobi. A total of 597 GBV survivors benefitted from pro-bono legal assistance & advice during the pandemic period.
We meet Neema* (not her real name) in the informal settlements of Kawangware where she has been living for six months since her husband of 10 years beat her and threw her out in the cold in the wee hours of the night with her two children.
“For the last 10 years I have been married to him, there has never been peace in our home. Occasionally, we would fight even on the slightest provocation,” she says, adding that everything changed when she lost her job; her husband threw her and her two young children out in the cold, and she was left to fend for her children with no income in sight.
Sadly Neema* is not the only one facing domestic violence: her experience mirrors that of many women and girls who are increasingly being trapped with their abusers at home.
With the raging cases of COVID-19 pushing households into economic slumps, women and girls “locked” with their abusers are also finding it difficult to seek safety away from violence marred homes- cutting them off from their supportive networks and resources that could help them.
Like Neema, Kadija ( not her real name) is also another survivor of domestic violence from the informal settlements of Kibera. It has only been a month since she left the shelter where she had sought refuge after receiving constant abuse from her husband that only worsened during the pandemic.
“I am unemployed and depended on my husband. Because of the pandemic, he received a pay cut and we could barely afford to pay for food and rents. Many times we would fight even over minor things. I feared for my life and that of my children,” says 29-year-old Kadija who is now separated with the husband.
As the pandemic keeps raging on, CREAW’s owned hotline-0800720186 has been a buzz with women and girls making frantic calls to report violations and seek legal and referral services. On average, the hotline receives 90 cases in a month, this compared to 20 cases during the same time last year. Similarly, the rising incidences of violence against women and girls have been further affirmed by the data from the National gender based violence (GBV) hotline 1195, indicating a 55 percent surge with women accounting for nearly 70 percent of those cases.
With the pandemic disrupting access to essential support services to survivors of GBV, CREAW, with the support from UNDP Kenya, adapted its intervention in the community during the pandemic to ensure that women and girls- survivors, especially those living in the informal settlements of Nairobi receive the much needed support to heal and build resilience beyond the pandemic.
This includes, free legal information and representation, psychosocial support to help survivors heal from their traumatic experiences. In-addition, CREAW also integrated the survivors to the existing livelihood cash reliefs intervention supported by the European Union in Kenya and shelter services as they reorganise their lives.
The last time *Sarah (not her real name) had a domestic scuffle with the husband; he nearly took life out of her.
“He came home drunk in the wee hours of the night, beat me up and stabbed me with a knife,” recalls Sarah as she chokes back tears. It was then that she made a decision to leave her matrimonial home.
Sarah recounts that it was not the first time that she had been abused by the husband; on several occasions, she was subjected to a slap, a punch, a kick… and to tap it all intimidation and coercion that only become worse during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our first born daughter couldn’t take the abuse, she ran away from home. It got to a point where my husband wanted to rape her,” says the 55-year-old mother of four.
Before the pandemic, Sarah was a laundry woman, she would move from house to house doing laundry and other domestic chores, when the pandemic struck, no one was willing to employ her even for other menial jobs. She says, the Covid-19 pandemic is one of the worst moments in her life.
Sarah is however not alone, her experiences mirror that of many women and girls across Kenya whose lives have been affected by the wave of intimate partner violence during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Like Sarah, *Pendo (not her real name) was gang raped on her way home from the market. She had crossed over to Mombasa mainland from Likoni where she usually hawks cassava and coconut to make ends meet. The event of that fateful night left her with a life threatening hemorrhage.
In April, the government and women rights organizations, CREAW among them issued an alert of the increasing cases of gender based violence meted on women and girls. The recent study by the National Crime Research Center indicated a 92 percent increase in cases of GBV in the period of January and June 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. The nature of cases reported include, rape, assault, murder, sexual offences, defilement, child marriage, psychosocial torture and child neglect.
In the wake of this, CREAW with the support from Oxfam in Kenya adapted its intervention in Nairobi and Mombasa to provide support services to survivors of gender based violence like Sarah and Pendo. Mainly, the intervention targeted women and girls from informal settlements with cash reliefs to aid them in meeting basic necessities such as food, water, rent and healthcare for them and their families.
“The first thing I did when I received the cash from CREAW is to pay rent and the rest of the monies I bought food, mask and sanitizer,” says Sarah who has also received a resilient fund from CREAW to establish a business that would sustain her and her four children.
Currently Sarah and Pendo also receiving continuous psychosocial support services to enable them heal and build resilience during the pandemic and thereafter.
We, the undersigned Women, Women Associations, Women Rights organizations and Gender Equality Advocates in Kenya, being representatives of women in all their diversity including grass root and rural women, women in the informal settlements, women in Business, Women in Professional Bodies and in all Associations and organizations have taken note of the Action taken by the RT. Hon. Chief Justice , David Maraga issued Monday, 21st September 2020 to His Excellency, the President Uhuru Kenyatta in respect to the dissolution of Parliament for its failure to enact legislation to implementation of the two thirds gender rule as provided for in Article 10 (2), Article 27(6) ; Article 81(b) and Article 100 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010.
The women of Kenya stand in solidarity with the action taken by the Rt. Hon. Chief Justice on dissolution of parliament. The action by Rt. Hon. Chief Justice is timely and takes cognizance of the challenges that women have faced and continue to face in our quest for inclusivity and equality.
We further note that it is the responsibility of each one of us to remain accountable to our Constitution and the Rule of Law.
We further affirm that the drafters of our Constitution were alive to the patriarchal challenges and difficulties in promoting women’s political leadership and representation in our country.
We note the Rt. Hon. Chief Justice’s decision has taken cognizance of the numerous attempts by Parliament to provide a mechanism for actualizing the gender provision anchored in the Constitution. On all these occasions, Parliament has failed to reach a decision and demonstrated a lack of good will and respect for the rule of law.
We note that by advising, H.E. the President to dissolve the 11th Parliament, Rt. Hon. Chief Justice has acted within the bounds set out in the law, and as espoused in Article 261(7) and in furtherance of our democracy and the rule of law.
The women of Kenya are in full support of the Rt. Hon. Chief Justice’s insistence that the Country must hold everyone accountable for their actions or lack thereof. This is as it should be.
We further highlight the four (4) Court Orders that have been issued directing Parliament to implement the two thirds gender rule within clearly specified time lines. We acknowledge the efforts and attempts that both houses of Parliament have taken on the matter. However, we note that these attempts have not resulted to any outcome as envisaged in the Constitution.
We regret the push-back and voices from Parliament that are misleading Kenyans with the false narrative that the ‘two thirds gender rule: Is not part of the mandate of Parliament; that there is no mechanism to implement this provision; and that it is too costly to implement the two third gender rule.
We note that all these narratives are misleading and point to the challenges that we have encountered and have had to endure with parliament in our attempts to push for enactment of a mechanism for the implementation of the two thirds gender rule.
While women welcome the attempts in Parliament to implement Article 100, we wish to point out that this does not in any way provide for the implementation of the two thirds gender rule as it only deals with limits its focus to the existing seats in Parliament.
We reiterate that the spirit of our Constitution envisages an inclusive Kenya in which all citizens including women, youth, persons with disabilities and other marginalized categories have equal opportunity to socially, economically and politically participate fully in the affairs of our country.
We note that the crisis the country finds itself, unlike the COVID-19 pandemic, is self-afflicted and hence its solution is within our reach.
We further reiterate that Implementing the Constitution of Kenya 2010 in its entirety including the two thirds gender rule is a matter of great interest to all Kenyans. Unfortunately, this crisis did not happen yesterday and has been with us for the last ten years.
We emphasize that the time has come for Kenya to entrench constitutionalism and the rule of law. The hall mark of a democracy is its adherence and fidelity to the Rule of Law and Separation of powers between the various arms of government.
We note that the Two Thirds Gender Rule is not about giving seats to women but it is about creating an inclusive and sustainable society in furtherance to its commitment to the SDGs, the Agenda 2063 and the Vision 2030.
We note that while Kenya has made some great advancements in promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality, the country is lagging behind other countries including Rwanda, South Africa, Namibia and Senegal among others who have embraced gender quotas. Kenya is a leader in many respects except in this area of women’s representation.
We stand on the various promises that His Excellency, the President has made to the women of Kenya including his commitment to ensure that Kenyan women enjoy full political, social and economic rights. Mr. President, the Judiciary and parliament have done their part. The ball is now squarely in your court.
We are confident that H.E, the President will assert himself on this matter and provide leadership that will move this Country forward and entrench Constitutionalism.
Finally, we note that all women and men are equal and it’s the obligation of the leadership to ensure that its citizens enjoy all the rights as guaranteed in the Constitution.
Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day) is a global advocacy day to promote good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) for all women and girls by breaking the silence, and raising awareness to change negative social norms around MHM, and engage decision-makers to prioritise and catalyse action for MHM, at global, national and local levels.
his appeal raises novel questions of law on whether vicarious liability can be attributed to the appellant, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) who at the material time had employed Astorikoh Henry Amkoah, (3rd respondent hereinafter referred to as “teacher”) for alleged acts of sexual abuse against the students hereinafter referred to as “WJ” and “LN”).
By Christine Ogutu
For 12 years Margaret Sepengo was a renowned female circumciser in the remote village of Leparwa tucked in the north of Isiolo County.
In 2015 she abandoned the cut all thanks to the sensitization efforts by CREAW auspiced under the Tunza Mama Na Mtoto project aimed at empowering communities to abandon retrogressive cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FMG) that inhibits on maternal and newborn health.
With the support from UKAid through Christian Aid, the project that is in its third year of implementation adopted a community mobilization approach dubbed SASA! (Start, Awareness, Support, Action),to educate and inspire communities to take actions for social change.
Margaret was lucky to be among those who were capacity built on maternal health issues and how they can use the knowledge to advocate against FGM, early marriages, teen pregnancies and gender based violence all of which are rooted deep in culture and the leading causes of maternal and newborn motilities and morbidities in the larger Isiolo County.
“It is the trainings that enabled me shun the practice and engage in alternative source of livelihood,” says Margaret who is now a respected community activist who is using the SASA! model to change perceptions and attitudes of her community towards FGM.
Female Genital Mutilation as she puts it, used to be the cornerstone of livelihoods for many households but the situation has changed. When she learned the art of the cut, her only motivation was to eke a living.
“I used to admire an elderly neighbour who used to circumcise girls and would earn a lot of money. Being a third wife and an only breadwinner in the family, I learnt the art and would make Sh1000 from each girl. The prices would go up to Sh2500 during high season and sometimes poor families will offer their goats or cattle,” she says.
“With the sustained community dialogues targeting the council of elders, men and women, the community has opted abandoned the age-old tradition,” she adds.
In her quest to have the elders lift the ban on the curse placed on any man who marries uncircumcised girl, Margaret reach out to the Masaai Morans to have the elders allow them to marry uncut women. The elders agreed to their quest and held a public forum to ‘break the curse.’ The forum held in Laikipia brought together the young and elderly from Masaai, Turkana and Samburu communities. This was a great step towards eradicating FGM.
“During the exchange visit between reformed circumcisers from Isiolo and Kajiado, I learnt the different initiative that my counterparts were using to have the elders to create a by-in with the elders who are the custodian of culture. I came back and embarked on the same. My efforts bore fruits,” explains the mother of four.
“Among pastoralist communities, uncircumcised girls were doomed to be a bad omen and outcasts. The blessings symbolized an end to the cut among the communities,” she says, adding, “ This was a step to ensuring that women and girls would now be free from early marriages and complications experienced during childbirth associated to FGM. “
Aside from her proactive activism in her community, she has enrolled herself into adult education program now in level three. She explains that like many girls in her community, she was married off to an elderly man at the age of 14 and was not able to ascend through to high school.
“If we give girls the opportunity to go to school, we will be able to break the cultural barriers and make healthy decisions for their reproductive health and that of their families and children,” she says.
By Christine Ogutu
Thursday afternoon, the weather is chilly and the usually busy Githongo pitch has no sight of any young ones kicking around the ball in the pitch or athletes working out as in the usual. In the surroundings, the densely constructed shelters are slowly shifting the small rural town of Githongo to an urbanized community center.
Looking on to the vast field in the left corner is the Githongo Chiefs Offices. Outside, a group of women and men are seen chit chatting. Their starched and well-pressed brown khaki uniform brings their steadfastness to the fore; their threaded shoulders mark them out as protectors and defenders of the larger community as their call of duty bestows them.
The uniformed women and men are Chiefs from Imenti Central, Meru County who came together to establish the 14 members Utawala Chiefs Group with an aim to better provide coordinated response to GBV matters in their localities. Today, they are having their usual biweekly meetings to discuss the emerging issues in the community.
At the location level in Kenya’s administrative system, Chiefs are charged with mandate to maintain order within their jurisdiction. For the Utawala group, the work in the community goes over and above their call of duty. They derive passion from a violence free society where women and girls live in dignity, are better protected and able to move freely and thrive and thus their continued conversations and coordinated response to the ills that bedevils their community.
For more than two years now, they have been working together, raising their voices and driving conversations through Chiefs’ Barazas to educate their communities on the ills of GBV and the channels of reporting.
“I was privileged to be part of the Chiefs’ training that taught them on how to handle and support survivors when they report violations,” says Faith Kagwiria, a Chief at Kathurune West Location and also a member of the Utawala Chiefs.
As the first respondent when an incident occurs, it is paramount that Chiefs like Faith are well vast with the roles and responsibilities they play in regards to the various matters reported thus, CREAW through the Haki Yetu Jukumu Letu initiative came in handy to build their capacity to enable them to effectively support survivors and respond to the needs of the locals.
The initiative now in its third year of implementation and supported by the Embassy of Netherlands in Kenya equips Chiefs among other duty bearers with the knowledge on GBV related laws, how to document and report matters as well as how to set up community structures that promotes safe spaces in the community.
“Not a day goes, without widows flocking my office puzzled, confused and bewildered when their in-laws take away their matrimonial lands,” narrates Phyllis Mungatia who is the Chairperson of the Utawala Chiefs.
She says the inequalities when it comes to access and control of matrimonial land particularly in the agricultural rich region of Meru disenfranchises women.
It is such that draws the Utawala group to work with a unity of purpose. Their work in the community is slowly gaining momentum with the continued conversations, the community is slowly opening up and speaking out on matters such as incest that were shelved at family level.
“Apart from the weekly chief barazas, we also conduct targeted dialogues with men, women and in schools,” explains Stella Kinoti.
She goes on to say that they have also consistently taught the village elders and area managers on how to tackle GBV noting that it takes both individual and community actions to create a ideal community for all. The Nyumba Kumi clusters have also come in handy to map out cases like female genital mutilation and child neglect.
But as Lucy Magiri puts it, their success has not been without the challenges. Sometimes they are forced to flee their homes or handle cases under cover for fear of their lives. Nonetheless, together, they affirm that their actions are just a starting point to lasting change in the community. They are positive that with their collective efforts, their neighbourhoods will violence free.
In Kilifi County, pregnancy remains a key barrier to girls’ education. In 2018 alone, over 17000 girls fell pregnant – some of the cases are attributed to wayward bodaboda riders who lure young girls with gifts and impregnate them; some girls also fall pregnant after being molested by those they trust most: relatives teachers and clergymen.
When we meet 16 year old *Riziki at her maternal grandparents home, she is cuddling her two year old son- a product of an affair she had with the bodaboda rider. Then, she was in Form two.
“I met him on my way to school and he offered to transport me,” she says. What followed were everyday rides that transitioned into sexual encounters.
“He promised to take care of me but denied being the father of my baby when I informed him I was pregnant,” says Riziki
Like many other girls in Kilifi, Riziki forms part of the statistics of girls whose dream to ascend higher in education and make their future a reality is cut shot by pregnancy emanating from wayward bodaboda riders.
In the wake of this, CREAW through the Haki Yetu Jukumu Letu initiative with the Embassy of Netherlands in Kenya incorporated the Bodaboda riders in the community outreaches where they learn how to ensure that children are safe and well protected from sexual violence and other ills in their communities.
Daniel Tinga is the chairperson of Bodaboda riders in Kaloleni Sub County. He tells us that through the community outreaches he has learnt the dangers that sexual violence pose on the lives of young girls. From the lessons, he teaches his fellow riders to uphold respect and dignity of the women and girls they come into contact with.
“As a bodaboda rider I have the responsibility to ensure my customers whether young or old, arrive to their destination safely,” says Tinga.
In Ganze, Tinga’s counterparts are also organizing around the issue of defilement that has labeled them as perpetrators. In them is a resolve defy the ‘normal’ – they are building agency and using their voices to champion for good.
“ As a father I want, other girls in my community to grow well and complete their education just as my daughters. I want girls to fly high and build our village to greater heights,” says Shadrack Kazungu, a bodaboda rider at Matano Manne, Ganze Sub County.
He explains to us that after attending various community dialogues by CREAW his outlook on violence against women and girls has changed.
“I learnt that cat calling and groping violates the rights of girls. Before I was never attentive to such matters because in my industry, they are ‘normal.’ I am glad there is a shift, the conversations have helped us build consensus amongst us,” he says while noting that, in their Association they are on the look out for individuals who goes against the ethics and conduct they have set as such, they are excommunicated and matters referred to the police.
At Kibaoni, the Bodaboda riders’ voices are even getting more louder in their day to day work. In their numbers, they want Kibaoni Bodaboda Association to be known for good. With their collective voices, they are certain that their community can only getter better.
“We have a good relationship with village elders and Chiefs within Kibaoni who help us in tackling gender violence matters even among our circles,” says Sudi Zalikini.
Writing by Christine Ogutu