Gender Based Violence Archives - CREAWKENYA

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October 21, 2021by CREAWKENYA

When Center for Rights Educations and Awareness (CREAW) Kenya, spread its wingHaki s to Kitui county to support women and girls facing violence in the community, Dorcas Belinta, a widow and founder of Mosa vision group, was only doing little to economically empower her fellow widows in Kisasi village Kitui Rural Subcounty.  

Luckily, she was among 30 women picked from 14 active women led community based organizations in Kitui county to undergo a training on how best they can support survivors of gender based violence, as well as create awareness in the community regarding the vice. The training which is supported by CREAW in partnership with ForumCIV under the Haki Mashinani project is implemented in Kitui and Nyeri counties. It was based on the SASA model, which addresses violence against women, in community-based approaches and aims at changing the attitudes and behavior of men and women.  

 The four-phase process, developed by Raising Voices in Kampala, Uganda, mobilizes communities for a change in social norms. The primary goal of SASA! is to reduce violence against women and girls by exploring the balance of power in intimate partner relationships and in broader community dynamics. 

 “After the training we had our first community dialogue, where we invited the chief, 3 religious leaders and village elders. It was an open session of learning and unlearning what we thought was right as a community” Says Dorcas. 

 The primary school teacher, was encouraged by feedback she got after the meeting. She would get invited to have a talk in other community dialogues as well as enlighten her students more on issues of sexual and gender based violence. 

 “Previously, Mosa Vision group was doing table banking and outreaches in schools distributing sanitary packs, but now the training has built our capacity in addressing violence against women in the community” Confirms Dorcas. 

 The mother of three is now fixing her eyes on the political scene, as she feels political good will is another key in advancing the gender agenda as well as championing for the rights of women and girls. 

 “I want to be the next woman representative of Kitui County in the 2022 general elections. I understand the plight of widows and want to champion for their rights to own property as well as access property left behind by their late husbands. Widows here don’t have people who enlighten them on their rights” Concludes Dorcas with a smile.

 As a GBV champion, Dorcas notes that there’s an emerging trend of economic violence aside from sexual violence in Kitui County. As a widow, she relates well with women involved in matrimonial property succession and marriage, that were proving hard for them to handle. With her eyes focused on her political ambition, Dorcas is a woman on the move to make it better for fellow women and the next generation of girls. 


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October 18, 2021by CREAW

Huge win for survivors of sexual and gender based violence as Kenya launches its first ever policy for the National Police Service (NPS) integrated response to gender based violence. Launched on the 13th October 2021, the Policy is intended to steer NPS in the establishment, management and operations of one-stop centers dubbed ‘Policare’ and is intended to provide comprehensive support services including legal, psychosocial support, police and health to survivors of gender based violence (GBV) at no cost.


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January 26, 2021by CREAW

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.


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March 20, 2020by CREAW

By Grace Katee

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.

 

 


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January 31, 2020by CREAW

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.

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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.

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“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

 


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January 16, 2020by CREAW

As we approach the New Life Tabernacle church in Nkubu, a sweet, soothing melodious sound fills the air. We are mesmerised! The heavenly tones are weaved in such a beauty that creates an aura of peace and serendipity.

Saturday evening and the sunset has filled the sky with deep red flame, setting the clouds ablaze. Inside the church, the red and sky blue curtains drapes around the iron sheet thatched walls, illuminating our minds to a rather conversational evening.

Seated at the right corner is Pastor Anthony Maina, deeply consumed in the melody. His fingers run over the piano keys so gracefully and he closes his eyes as he feels each melody he plays. He looks up and smiles to welcome us to the pulpit that has been his way of life for the last 20 years.

Maina’s calling goes beyond the pulpit; and as he tells it all, his vision has been to see an empowered society- his voice from the pulpit not only feeds his flock scripture wise, but also transfers words of nobility that mobilises his flock to address the plight of the community.

“For me, an ideal society is where everyone is aware of what is good and what is bad. I believe that everyone is gifted to make a difference however small their actions are,” he says holding his head a little higher; depicting hope for better.

Three years ago, Maina and 80 other pastors formed the Imenti South Pastors Association (ISPA); bringing together clergymen and women from various denominations with a common goal of uplifting the society and providing support to one another.

“We realised that we needed a collective voice to speak out on issues that affects our community,” he says.

Maina now the chairperson of the ISPA says he was privileged to be part of the community actors who were trained by the Center for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) on how to map out gender based violence, mitigate it and work with other county structures to ensure that women and girls are better protected and able to thrive in the community.

As a religious leader, Maina is an influential member of the community and as such his opinion on social matters is held with high regard.

Pastor Anthony Maina interacting with the New Life Tabernacle Church faithfuls. PHOTO/CREAW

His order of day entails daily church summons and pastoral visits in the community. It is here that he converses against social ills such as gender based violence (GBV) and advocates for respectful relationships among men and women.

As such, CREAW’s Haki Yetu Jukumu Letu initiative in partnership with the Netherlands Embassy works to capacity build religious leaders like Maina to continuously engage in conversations on matters GBV at the pulpit and in wholesomeness to shun bad behaviors and encourage community to coexist peacefully.

“Talking about GBV is not easy. Talking about it to a population that is highly patriarchal is even harder and requires skill, patience, charm and persistence,” says the Reverend whose calm, cheerful and friendly demeanour continue to bestow community confidence in him.

During our interactions, his community oriented perspective draws us to the personality and qualities that has enabled thrive as the man of cloth for decades, carving out a niche for himself as a much trusted ear of confession, shoulder to lean on and from whose lips wise counsel can be found by hundreds of his flock in the neighborhoods.

In the community, his deeds and that of fellow clergy in the ISPA speaks loud- a Kilometer away is the Nkubu Police Station where they are currently putting up a holding cell for women.

In one of the Court Users Committee, which he is a member, he got a report about a seven months old baby who died in the police holding cells.

“It is very undignified to lose a young life in such a manner. I engaged my fellow pastors and together we visited the station to ascertain the condition. To our surprise, adults were being made to share cells with children in dilapidated condition,” he narrates, explaining that they made a resolve to raise funds to establish a standard cell with sanitary structures, beddings and child friendly cells for women at the station.

He says the CuC sittings have enlightened him on the operations of the legal systems. More so, he has been able to understand the Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms through the various court training. With the knowledge, he has been helping families resolve land feuds amicably.

“Every year, we map out the immediate social needs in the community, raise funds to actualise it and give it to the community,” say the Reverend.

In 2018, the group visited Meru Women Prison and saw the need for a more women friendly space. Again the ISPA through their table banking monthly contributions, bought mattresses, sanitary towels and other personal effects. This has gone along way in improving living conditions for Women in prisons.

One of the issues that Meru Community grapples with is the disinheritance of women especially when it comes to land ownership. This the Maina, attributes to lack of awareness on the law and inheritance.

“It is unfortunate that when husbands die, their widows are disinherited and left without means to build their livelihoods- we end up with a community where women are oppressed and a generation that is hopeless. Such is a source of disharmony. We must advocate for equal share of land,” explains Maina.

and about the future?

“We are looking forward to establishing a Counselling Center to help women and children deal with psychological trauma. We want to prevent cases of femicide and other forms of GBV. Thus we are engaging like-minded organisations and government structures to support the initiative,” he says.

Writing by Christine Ogutu


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January 15, 2020by CREAW

Meru Youth Arts Program (MYAP), have revolutionised their skits to not only build a buzz but also rally their communities against retrogressive cultural practices that promotes violence against women and girls.

Amid the wheat tucked in greenery fields, Meru stands tall as one of the counties that has enacted a sexual and gender based violence policy geared towards the prevention, response and management of gender based violence but beneath the milestone, the youth who form the larger population of the agricultural rich region still stare at a myriad of challenges, perpetuated by the societal underpinnings.

MYAP members at their youth center in Meru. PHOTO/CREAW

From unemployment, mental health issues, female genital mutilation to unwanted pregnancies, and now the skyrocketing cases of femicide pitying the youth at the mercy of their own struggles.

But is it a case of a failed system?

Not exactly, as MYAP tells us during the recent interview with CREAW. Despite the grueling challenges, the MYAP are turning the tides, amplifying their voices to push back the ills that bedevil their peers and the community at large. To them, dramatized conversations are just a starting point to change.

“As we speak about reproductive health issues among young people, we are also addressing the gendered inequality that brings squabbles to the community,” explains Santa Kagendo, the Organizing Secretary of MYAP.

“We came together to galvanize our voices through arts. In this, we knew the society would identify with the issues that mostly affect them. Key among them; female genital mutilation that denies young girls bodily autonomy and put their lives at risks,” adds Santa.

For MYAP, the power of creative words cannot be underscored when addressing gender violence; a topic that is a taboo in most household. Activism through art not only gives them the power to empower their peers but also change societal attitudes regarding issues such as female genital mutilation and domestic violence.

“Dramatizing issues in local dialects brings to touch the issue at hand with the community. People are not only able to understand but also internalize what repercussions violent actions could bring to families,” says Santa.

Every week the MYAP group has two days set aside to develop their skits based on the issues that emerges in their localities. Most of them are not only activists but also change agents in their own rights.

On this particular Saturday morning when we meet at their usual youth center tucked within the Family Care Medical Center, they are having a discussion about the wave of femicide that has rocked their peers.

Leading the conversations is Jamila Mohammed as the young men and women take turns to voice out their opinions. After, they head on to Gakoromone Market; some two kilometers away where they mesmerize the onlookers with their multicolored costumes and props. Soon, the crowd builds up.

“It always begins with an icebreaker,” says Clinton Mwenda alias Skinny

“Their skit is set in a household with a family of six. The couple in their fifties at first paints a picture of a happy home but behind the scene, the husband is hooving around with a 20 year old clandestine who is also in a romantic affair with the son.

After awhile, the wife is made aware of the husband’s meanderings and the home turns chaotic with revelations of HIV infections.” – Such paints the reality of household marred by domestic violence. How then do they address it?

“Conversations with market sellers that follows the street theatre, gives them an opportunity to query the violent actions and discuss bad behaviours collectively. They begin to understand that violence is unacceptable and adopt positive actions,” says George Kimathi.

The end game to them, is that women and men foster respectful relationships. “From where we stand, we believe each person can be part of the solution,” explains George.

Apart from the street theatre, MYAP also holds community dialogues in the villages and behavior change conversations in high schools and universities around Meru. They also use mass media to create awareness on GBV issues.

“So far the reaction has been good especially the youth who are now more comfortable to report and discuss issues affecting them,” he says.

Beyond their artistic prowess, their successes are also depicted in the manner in which they build partnerships with key GBV actors and county government structures for effective and quality service delivery to the populations that their group exists to serve.

“For a long term the most facilities in the County lacked youth friendly centers. Most youth were shying away from seeking health in hospitals because the spaces were not favorable for them and so we petitioned the county and now we have two centers that serve the youth,” explains Santa.

Writing by Christine Ogutu

 


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January 15, 2020by CREAW

“ Physical disability does not mean you’re mentally challenged.”

These are the words of Lucy Nkatha as she reflects of how  tough  it was for her to gain access education due to her physical disability. Today she is eloquently challenging the barriers that underpin the growth of differently abled persons and more so women and girls.

Lucy Nkatha participating in a learning forum on gender based violence in Nairobi. PHOTO/CREAW

As most children with disability growing up in the remote areas of Meru, going to school is an out of reach dream. Most schools are physically inaccessible to children with special needs like in the case of Lucy back then. She ended up spending most of her childhood in an orphanage just so she could get education. But even with that, her dream long journey to ascend to tertiary level of education proved futile- life at the orphanage was a hard one.

“My childhood was tough. I don’t feel I was able to realise my full potential,” says Lucy.

She says, she was discriminated by the community she was born and bread. From her experiences, she understood that change could only happen to other children who are differently abled if she used her voice to make it better for them.

Lucy Nkatha standing on the ramp at the Igembe Central CDF offices. Her actions saw the ramp established ease PWDs movement in the premises. PHOTO/CREAW

“Because of the stigma, families see persons with disability (PWDs) as a burden, thus most children are not able to get equal opportunities as other children,” she explains.

As a result, she founded the Kiengu Women Challenged to Challenge, a Self Help Group to advocate for the rights of Persons With Disability. To date, the group has attracted a membership of 30 other advocates who share in her passion.

Through the group, they continually engage the county government and the local administration to improve schools for children with special needs and to enact disability friendly policies to create a level playing field where PWDs can actualise their rights and lead better livelihoods.

“We realised that we have so many children in y village who were not able to go to school and so we approached the head teacher of a nearby school and together we did a proposal and was awarded Sh300000 which we used to fund the construction a dormitory,” she says while explaining that they continue to fundraise to ensure that they have a fully fledged special school in the next two years.

Lucy is thankful to CREAW for enhancing their skills and building their confidence to speak out and engage better with their community on issues of rights and equality.

Her successes also spread to the manner in which she also advocate for the improvement of public spaces to accommodate the needs of PWDs. The highlight of it all is when she and her group were able to successfully petition the Office of the County Development Fund in Igembe Central to construct a ramp to enable PWDs access the offices.

What did it take?

“When I saw the building I was enraged and I thought we needed accountability for our rights to be recognised. It took months exchange of letters and meetings. Finally the ramp is a reality and we are able to access all the floors in a two story building,” she explains.

She says the other part of the work that remains is to maintain the momentum in conversing with the community more so, parents about the needs and rights of PWDs to stem out the stigma completely.

and for the future?

“We want to spread beyond Igembe Central to other parts of the county. In the next five years we want to be a community based organisation that would make inclusion a reality in our community,” she says.

“It is time for people to focus on our abilities not our disabilities,” she concludes.

Writing by Christine Ogutu

 


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January 15, 2020by CREAW

Thursday afternoon, men and women are gathered at the Tom Mboya Hall in Makadara to converse on rather difficult subject that is mostly unspoken in the households, the silence is even louder among the communities.

Tom Mboya Hall is synonymous with community gatherings that called for liberation in the clamour for independence in Kenya. And so, I gather that the ground where we are seated is symbolic enough; from the conversation, freedom calls- it is a day to let free and openly talk about domestic violence and by extension, other forms of gender based violence.

But first, a skit is dramatised…

“The play is set in a household with a family of six. The couple in their fifties at first paints a picture of a happy home but behind the scene, the husband is involved in a romantic affair with a 19 year old  who is also in a romantic affair with the son.

After awhile, the wife is made aware of the husband’s meanderings and the home turns chaotic with revelations of HIV infections.” –for a minute, a sharp silence follows, the melancholic faces connotes the realities that women and girls are forced to contend with in the various households.

Slowly and slowly, the murmurs transitions into a buzz of discussions. Ken Odaga a Community Champion leads the conversations.

From the conversations, it emerges that silence around gender violence makes women and girls more vulnerable and often compounds their sufferings. Today is a day to break the silence; notes Odaga.

Odaga, a long time resident of Makadara understands that the stigma around gender based violence (GBV) has contributed greatly to survivors not speaking out on their perpetrators and hence they are not able to get justice and heal from the harm done to them.

“In the conversations, we are making communities aware of their rights and the existing GBV related laws. This is a sure way of ensuring communities are involved in actions that addresses the vice,” he says.

Odaga also explains that, the skits makes it easier to communicate what would have otherwise been difficult to talk about given the social norms around issues like intimate partner violence that exists among communities.

The conversations are spearheaded by community champions under the Linda Haki project implemented by CREAW in partnership with the United Nations Development Programs.

The Linda Haki project aims at educating communities on their rights as provided for in the constitution to enable them seek legal redress and stem out gender based violence in Nairobi’s informal settlements of Kibera, Kamukunji and Makadara.

Under the project, Odaga and 60 other community champions were trained on the existing legal frameworks and GBV. From the knowledge, they have taken the initiative locals within their localities.

“Following the dialogues, community members are now opening up and debunking the myths around intimate partner violence and supporting survivors to deal with the violations,” says Odaga.

The community conversations have also instilled a growing interest among community members on the available laws that protects women and girls from gender violence.

Writing by Christine Ogutu