In Kenya, women’s groups movement emerged in the pre-independence era which scaled up in the wake of independence in response to the development aspirations targeting illiteracy, poverty and disease burden. However, as years go by, more and more emerging issues affecting communities have continually been spotlighted by women groups. From political exclusion, gender bias, violence against women and girls as well as social injustices.
It is to this end that the Women’s Voice and Leadership (WVL) program supported by Global Affairs Canada through CARE Kenya is implementing a project to support the capacity and activities of local and national women-led organisations seeking to increase enjoyment of human rights and gender equality by women and girls in Kenya.
To achieve this, the project is providing funding to the grass-root women rights organisations and networks, in recognition of the funding gaps they face. Amongst the many gaps they needed to fill, Human Resource was identified as a capacity building area of need. Having noted that human resource department is the heart and soul of any organisation, we embarked on capacity building trainings to help the women rights organisations get to speed with the basics of the department needs.
The training areas largely focused on Human Resource policies, Board Charter and governance policies, Organisation structures and charts, Statutory registration, Talent Acquisition, performance management, Payroll management amongst others.
The sessions are still ongoing with several physical and virtual trainings for the group’s in Bomet, Kericho, Nanyuki, Mombasa, Kilifi and Nairobi counties. It is key to note that without proper human resources management the women led organisations would have had a hard time working effectively to achieve their institutional objectives.
Across the globe, women continue to deal with discrimination and gender-based violence. Kenya is no exception despite having a constitution that prohibit discrimination either directly or indirectly. UN Women estimates that gender-based violence impacts nearly 40% of Kenyan women. Sadly Women continue to bear the burden of unpaid domestic tasks, which can limit the long-term opportunities for women and girls.
In the workplace, women continue to occupy lower-paid positions with limited opportunities to progress, which increases their vulnerability to harassment and exploitation.
It is on this backdrop that Haki na Usalama project aimed at restoring dignity and justice for survivors of gender-based violence. CREAW in partnership with FEMNET, and Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC) has been focusing on a multi-sectoral approach towards addressing rampant violence against women working in tea farms, women out-growers, grassroots women groups, men and youth, County government, and wider GBV state and non-state stakeholders who are key players, to improve the attitudes and behaviour related to women’s and girls’ rights and create viable economic spaces where they can enjoy their rights free from violence.
Through the GBV training using the SASA! model conducted on tea farmers, religious persons, and leaders of women groups, it emerged that cultural practices and traditions, poverty, polygamy, substance and drug abuse, tea bonuses, social protection stipends, and peer pressure were triggers of GBV. Sadly rape, defilement, forced sex, FGM, and wife-beating were the common forms of violence mentioned by participants.
“Sexual harassment has been happening within the tea buying centres. It is only that we did not know what to call it. Occasionally we experience inappropriate physical gestures, particularly tickling of palms while being greeted or even intentional rubbing of the breast while weighing tea,” says *Cherono (Not her real name) who is a tea out-grower in Kericho.
The knowledge gained from the training has enabled the trained champions of change to discuss GBV issues as well as organize for joint awareness sessions to speak to adolescent girls and boys during the school holiday.
“My passion to speak about GBV since I was trained by CREAW has accorded me a platform to speak during chief barazas about the effects GBV has on the development of the community and this has inspired me to speak about prevention of GBV at every chance I get. I am now very important in my community and I have earned the title GBV woman (mama wa GBV)” Shares Margaret from Nyamira county.
The Gender committees are now more robust and targeted in their structures due to the Gender concepts and sexual harassment knowledge training that was conducted by CREAW. The training helped strengthen the Gender Committee in the tea factories which was recently constituted as per Rainforest Alliance Farm standards requirements.
“I feel that it is time for women to take up senior job positions in the tea factories. I believe that our gender committee can achieve this goal. The training has also helped me a lot as a family man. I have learned how to relate better with my spouse and children” says Felix Koskei a tea factory worker in Bomet.
The training also helped the factories identify the Gender-blind actions that need to be reviewed to ensure well-being of all the stakeholders within the Tea sector ranging from its staff, buyers, farmers and suppliers to increase tea productivity while upholding human rights as highlighted within the human resource policy.
Kelvin Murori is an epitome of the silent reality of men who go through intimate partner violence. The 30 year old father of 2, had a rough patch in his marriage, to the extent of his wife of 5 years abusing him physically.
In this typical patriarchal society where men shun away from sharing their marital challenges, Murori is defying the narrative and boldly steps out to tell his story.
“ My wife used to beat me when I come home from work without any money. She would get so aggressive to the point of locking me out of the house. I spent nights out in the chicken shed since I did not want anyone to know what I was going through,” Confirms Murori.
The boda boda operator came across Razia Salim a community champion from Wabera ward, who was raising awareness about gender based violence in the community. The message attracted him, which ended up helping him to open up to her.
“ I was invited to join a men engagement meeting. I realized there was a meeting of men in the community who were standing up for the rights of women and girls, as well as mentoring young men to be responsible members of the community,” Says Murori.
Through his continuous engagement and active participation in the meetings, is when it dawned on him that he had not been supportive enough to his wife and children. Unfortunately, he would sometimes spend the little money he made as a boda boda operator in consuming alcohol.
“ He would come home empty handed and expected to find food on the table. I would get frustrated because at that point, I was also struggling to make ends meet for the family. I know what I did was extreme but am grateful to Razia who helped me join a table banking group that has really helped improve the economic status of my family,” Shyly says Pascaline as she confirms her past brutality towards her husband.
The couple now owns 2 motorcycles which have been a great income generation, that has seen Murori provide for his family. His wife Pascaline also started a vegetable vending business in Kiwanja Ndege and together, the couple is epitomizing strength in unity. The punches and exchange of kicks and blows have been silenced by peaceful hugs and laughter.
According the Men Group in Kiwanja Ndege location is Isiolo county, the greatest challenge women and girls face in the community, is the retrogressive culture of Female Genital Mutilation, which has seen girls drop out of school.
“I have personally protected my grandchildren against the Cut. My girls are survivors but have sworn not to let their children and the next generation from going through the initiation,” says Abdul Haji, one of the elders at the group.
Jeremiah Kaberia is another reformed man in the group. The father of 6 regrets his early years of marriage as he was an absent father to his children. His love for the bottle superseded that of his family to the extent of him being a run-away husband. However, ever since he was introduced to the group, he has turned a new leaf.
“I have started bonding with my children afresh. I now know how they are faring on in school. I have become responsible to family thanks to this group. We have accountability partners who help us stand when we fall,” confirms Kaberia.
Through the Wajibika project, men engagement has been identified as a holistic approach to prevent and respond to SGBV. This is due to the critical role men and boys play in promoting gender equality as well as engaging with multiple systems and stakeholders for gender transformative change that seek to meaningfully engage men and boys to challenge negative notions of masculinity and promote healthy, gender equitable relationships.
Hezron Chege Ndaki has decided to build his young career around humanitarian work and championing for the rights of women and girls. He is grateful for the opportunity he got at CREAW through the Linda Haki project, where his work under the legal department, involved drafting pleadings, legal representation as well as mediation where necessary. It is through his diligence that Hezron is back to CREAW mentoring Linda Haki interns in cohort three.
“ My new job entails guiding the new interns that have joined the team this year. I am overseeing the work of 5 interns just to help ease the work pressure that the legal officers have when attending to clients,” Says Hezron.
As an intern he was able to demystify issues around gender based violence as well as family relations. Some of his major highlights this year (2022), has seen him secure a court order, barring a man from evicting his client from their matrimonial home.
“ I got a letter inviting him for mediation but he continued harassing me and the children threatening to throw us out of the house. It is when Wakili advised that we apply for a protection order in court,” narrates *Njoki (Not her real name) as she opines her optimism in getting access to the house she helped build and maintain.
The case is still in court as the two parties have been directed to try and mediate before it gives its direction on the matter.
Another milestone under his sleeve is child custody case. *Penina ( not her real name) had found herself in precarious situation. She had separated from her partner who was the father of her 2 children. The children went to school in an institution where their father was an administrator. Oblivious of the law, he ended up abducting the children, forgetting the mother had full custody of them after their separation.
“ He took the children without my consent. He came home while I was not around and took them away with him. I had to seek for help because one of the reasons for our separation was the physical abuse he meted against me and the children traumatising them even further. I feared for their lives,” Says *Peninah, thanking Hezron and his team for moving swiftly in securing the children.
The team went to the children court and booked the matter under certificate of urgency and filed the case in court, serving the perpetrator court orders.
“ He was so shocked that what he did was a crime, thinking he was entitled to the children since he is the father. We enlightened him on the law and he even signed consent to agree in supporting the children’s welfare,” proudly states Hezron.
For Hezron and the legal team at CREAW, having a great workmanship and collaboration has made it easier for them to serve women and girls who seek legal advice as well as psychosocial support, thanks to the Linda Haki project that is steadily increasing access to justice for survivors of GBV.
Poverty has been cited as one of the key contributing factors for hindrance of access to justice for women and marginalised populations living below the poverty line. It is against this backdrop that CREAW in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) are implementing the Linda Haki project in Nairobi’s informal settlements, specifically Kibra, Eastleigh and Makadara in Nairobi County.
The sixty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) took place from 14 to 25 March 2022. However, due to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, CSW66 took place in a hybrid format. All side events and parallel events were fully virtual.
CREAW was honoured to have participated in the side events organised by Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA). The discussion which focused on women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work, sought to highlight the effective approaches and progress towards actualisation of women’s and girls’ rights.
Speaking during the event, CREAW’s Executive Director Wangechi Wachira, emphasised the need for continuous collaborations amongst stakeholders, to push for economic justice for women in their places of work.
“ Kenya needs to fast-track the ratification of the ILO convention 190 to address sexual harassment and safe guard the rights of women in the world of work,” said Wangechi fronting for women as being good for business.
The discussions culminated with Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) launching its first of a kind private sector gender mainstreaming policy.
According to KEPSA, putting policies in place that encourage women entrepreneurs and expanding women access to capital and networks will help them realize their entrepreneurial dreams.
Chairperson KEPSA, Flora Mutahi said the policy aims to offer guidance to companies and organisations seeking to optimize gender equality and women empowerment initiatives.
“The formulation of this policy demonstrates the private sector’s commitment to ensuring that gender mainstreaming is integral to the policies and operations of an organisation. It is therefore imperative to ensure that no one is left behind in this quest for sustainable growth and development.” said Mutahi.
The launch, which was part of the two-week observance activities of CSW 66, under the theme of Women Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work, was witnessed by Jebii Kilimo, and Rachel Shebesh, Chief Administrative Secretaries (CAS) in the Ministry of Gender, Public Service, Senior Citizens Affairs and Special Programmes.
Down the alleys of Leisha neighbourhood in Mombasa county, one of Kenya’s capital city, is where Evelyne Adhiambo Ngoto has set up her water vending business. The industrious 26 year old mother of one, is busy packaging the water into smaller cans for vendors who will collect them later.
Her working area is a beehive of activities. She has just gotten 7,000 liters of water from her supplier and she has to get down to business and ensure all her clients get some water before she closes shop. She is happy to have chosen the best business venture, since Mombasa county is always marred with water shortages making many households depend on her services to access clean water for house hold use.
“ I am always here by 8am after I have dropped my son to school. Most food vendors here are my clients so I have to get here in good time for their sake,” Says Evelyne.
Behind her enthusiastic baritone voice, is a woman who has battled many forces to secure her sanity and peace of mind. The Covid19 pandemic struck at a time when her business was struggling, worse still, she was not in talking terms with the father of her son. They had gone their separate ways.
“I was worried about my son, since I was not in a position to financially cater for his needs. The father was in a position to support the boy but I didn’t think it was his obligation to do so,” Chuckles Evelyne as she explains the steps she took towards finding a solution to her predicament.
The emotional burden weighed her down to the point of seeking counseling to help her cope with the drastic changes in her life. Through CREAW’s toll free line of 0800 720 186, she was able to access a counsellor and went through counselling. However, it was also brought to her attention that the she needed support with the son, hence the boy’s father needed to chip in to support him. A legal officer was assigned to her case to help summon the father of her child for mediation in order to come to agreements of how best they can co-parent.
“He agreed to pay for his education and health expenses. I felt a heavy burden lifted from my chest because I could now focus on reviving the business, which would help cater for our other basic needs like food, shelter and clothing,” Confirms Evelyne.
Like a stroke of luck had fallen on her side, Evelyne was among women who were supported through cash transfer amid the pandemic, to help cushion them from the adverse effects of COVID-19 on business. She was able to buy another 7,000 Liter tank of water and diversified her fresh water vending business.
“I have a bigger space at my shop, I wish to start selling fish and a grocery stall at the side to maximize on capital and the rent am also paying,” Insinuates Evelyne, as she looks to applying for Jasiri Fund, to allow her expand her business.
According to Evelyne, her water and Ice business depends on weather patterns and that on a dry season she makes a combine income of between Ksh 1500 and Ksh 2000, while on a rainy season she makes an average income of Ksh 800.00. She uses the profit to meet her basics needs and that of her son.
While government initiatives encourage enterprise development, most respondents, who participated in a study by the International Centre for Research on Women and Kenya Association of Manufacturers in 2020, reported difficulties in accessing those funds. Instances of sexual exploitation in exchange for credit facilities and compliance clearances were mentioned.
At the moment Evelyne has managed to pick up the pieces of her life and started living by herself, away from her mother whom she lived with when things fell apart. Her clarion call to women facing violence or any form of abuse: Stand up for yourself, there are others fighting for you, don’t let their efforts go in vain.