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.
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.
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.
When 16 year old *Kadzo met her boyfriend, she was smitten; she did not in anyway think her life will change completely.
She says, “he promised to marry me and I believed him.” But today, her melancholic look tells the tale of a wound that she has long reconciled with. From the experimental sexual relationship, came pregnancy.
All through her childhood, her grandparents were the sole providers. They had so much hope in her completing her schooling but the tables had turned and now they wanted her out of their home. Swiftly, they married her off to the father of her child.
And as she tells of her ordeal, she fidgets and mumbles some words. The shock and disappointment of being a teen mother is written all over her. Apart from her pregnancy, she was forced to cope with her abusive boyfriend who came home each night drunk and would threaten to burn her alive.
“The scariest of all was when he took a kitchen knife and wanted to cut off my neck. I managed to escape,” she recalls of her deadliest experience at the hands the lover turned foe.
Once again she was back to her grand parents home, forced to fend for herself and adjusting to the reality of being a mother of a three months old baby with the future unknown.
*Mbodze on the other hand started dating her boyfriend at the age of 14, she was in class six. Now aged 16 and a mother of two moths old baby, she is juggling between nursing her baby and classroom.
Her story bore similarity to that of Kadzo; they are both teen mothers only that one dropped out of school and the other rose through stigma and household poverty to continue with her education.
“I come to school at 8am and leave at 12 noon to go nurse the baby, “she says.
When we set out with her to her home, it takes 30 minutes to navigate through the village paths surrounded by thickets and maize plantations. She usually walks through the 7km journey to Dzitsoni Primary School.
“My dream is to join Ngara Girls after completing Kenya Certificate of Primary Education. I want to be a lawyer so that I can help other girls in my community,” she says.
Mbodze come from a family of five and her parents have since separated.
Hadly a kilometer away is 17 year old *Rehema, Mbodze’s classmate. She is a mother of a seven days old baby.
“I met my boyfriend at the funeral night vigil in the nearby Swere village. I used to call him through my mom’s phone and we would arrange to meet after school. He is a form three student,” says Rehema.
She says, “ when I became pregnant, I informed my boyfriend and he denied responsibility. From there on, I never wanted to see him or have anything to do with him.”
Rehema is lucky that her parents have been very supportive; when she is in school, her mom takes care of the baby.
“I want to learn so that I can have a good life,” says Rehema.
Why so many teen mums?
The life of Kadzo, Rehema and Mbodze mirrors the life of many teens in Kilifi and by extension across Kenya who are now forced to transition to mother hood at a young age. Their situation is not an isolated one. Over the last three years, Kilifi County has drowned under the weight of high numbers of teen pregnancy.
Statistics from the Kilifi County Ministry of Health shows that in 2017, 12,790 girls fell pregnant. In 2018 the numbers skyrocketed to 17,866 and in the period of January and March, 3102 girls were pregnant.
The Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014 indicated that one out of five (18%) girls aged 15-19 years were pregnant or were already mothers. By February 2018, the County had approximately 203,094 teenagers.
In 2017, statistics from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) indicated that 378,397 adolescents in Kenya aged between 10 and 19 got pregnant. It is this worrisome statistics that continues to wipe out the future young girls.
For the 11 years that Olive Nyawana has been a teacher at Dzitsoni Primary School, the school has never experienced high numbers of teen getting pregnant but in 2018 and 2019 the numbers came as a shock.
“Previously we’ll have one or none. In fact for the last four years preceding 2019 we had none. This year we have four who are candidates,” explains Olive.
Olive who is a guiding and counseling teacher interacts daily with the Rehema and Mbodze, teen mums from the school. She says that she has been encouraging them to continue with schooling.
“I continuously talk to parents to be supportive of their children till they finish school,” says Olive who is also the Deputy Chairperson of the Beacon Teacher Movement in Kilifi.
As a Beacon Teacher, she has undergone trainings on child protection and GBV laws that are supported by CREAW’s Haki Yetu Jukumu Letu project in Kilifi and Meru Counties.
In her guiding and counseling sessions, Olive has adopted the use of materials that are child friendly and fun to hold conversations with pupils in her school. She teaches them on age appropriate sexuality issues.
As a teacher she has nurtured an environment where pupils are free to approach her with any challenges they experiences at home and while in school.
“Aside from the speak-out boxes that we have installed in school, we also have session with the boys and girls so that they are able to speak out freely,” says Olive who is also the Deputy Chairperson of the Beacon Teacher Movement in Kilifi County.
But why so many teen mums?
The 2016 Plan International report cited the root causes of teenage pregnancies in Kilifi as cultural practices, poor parenting coupled with broken marriages, poverty and inadequate sex and family planning education.
On cultural practices, the research touched deeply on the issue of funeral discos. It also cited long-held beliefs that girls’ work is to give birth in the society upon reaching puberty. The report noted that it is regarded as normal when a teenage girl gets pregnant before marriage. Some girls are exposed to drunkards at their homesteads, where mnazi (palm wine) business is done. This is more so in rural areas, where strict rules of establishing palm wine clubs away from home are not followed.
Ending teen pregnancies
In the wake of this, duty bearers continue to grapple and ponder on the appropriate redress mechanisms. Recently, there have been talks of introduction of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in schools to ensure healthy sexuality and reproductive lifestyles for adolescents as in countries like Netherlands, Switzerland and Denmark where such initiative has proven to be effective.
In 2014, a Reproductive Healthcare Bill was introduced in the Senate. The Bill sought to provide children as young as 10 with condoms and birth control pills. The bill also proposed unhindered access to CSE and confidential services to adolescents. Ideally this would have gone along way in building the knowledge of children on pregnancy among other reproductive health issues and as fate would have it, the Bill was shot down on grounds that it would promote moral decay.
Fast forward, here we are with the ballooning statistics on teenage mothers wiping out the potential of our girls. Who would blink first? Parents, government? And is the society ready to change and create room for unrestricted access to reproductive health services including information to the young ones?
The government of Kilifi is however well aware of the bigger problem that child pregnancy posits to the development of its citizens. As such, the County Government of Kilifi constituted a taskforce constituting line state and non-state actors to look into the matter.
“The culture of silence make it difficult for perpetrators to be held accountable and punished for their harmful actions. It shows how sexual violence against children has been normalized making it difficult to shield girls from sex predators especially at family level,” says Saumu Mwadime who has been representing Women on the Move Against (WIMA) GBV at the taskforce.
WIMA is women led accountability group that has been working closely with CREAW in educating communities and spearheading actions geared towards increasing transparency, responsiveness and accountability for public service delivery by the county governments.
As an anti-GBV crusader, Saumu notes, “even with the existing laws and policies to curb the menace, the roaring statistics on child pregnancy are nothing to write home about.” She says.
“I look forward to the Kilifi government enacting a gender based violence policy to ensure that the needs of survivors are well catered for and the vice mitigated,” adds Saumu.
Under the auspices of the Haki Yetu Jukumu Letu project supported by the Embassy of Netherlands in Kenya, CREAW has worked to empower women groups such as WIMA on gender based violence and the existing redress mechanisms postulated by the law. The knowledge to which they have used to sensitize communities to challenge norms and attitudes that promotes sexual violence against children and other forms of gender based violence.
Over the last three years, CREAW has been working within communities to end sexual violence among children among other forms of gender based violence. We have continuously engaged the custodians of culture to eliminate the barriers that put girls at harms way and build equitable societies for women and girls to realize their rights and thrive in their communities.
To address child pregnancies, WIMA members are continuously conversing with parents on good parenting skills. They have also been holding mentoring sessions in schools around Kilifi, speaking to girls on their sexual and reproductive health rights and way they can report sexual violations.
For girls who fell pregnant while in school like Kadzo, Rehema and Mbodze, WIMA members have formed a supportive system to address their needs while in school and at home. For example, they have approached the office of the Women Representative to sponsors girls like Kadzo to continue her education. This year alone, the Office of the Women Representative has sponsored 91 girls in various secondary schools through the affirmative action funds.
“ 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.
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.
“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.
Women legislators on Friday 12th January converged in Naivasha for an induction workshop.
The three day event aimed at “laying the foundation for an effective female legislator” was organized by the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) in partnership with the Center for Rights, Education and Awareness (CREAW), UNWomen, USAID and FIDA among other key actors in gender and governance. Speaking at the event, the outgoing chairperson of KEWOPA Cecil Mbarire lauded the gains made by women MPs in the previous parliament in actualizing legislative processes. She called on the leaders to be proactive in building communities.
In the 11th Parliament, women contributed tremendously to the enactment of family and gender based violence legislations. These are: Matrimonial Property Act, Marriage Act, Protection Against Domestic Violence Act, and Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act.
“We have numbers in parliament to achieve our goals. We need to stay focused and chat the way forward for the women agenda,” said Mbarire who served as the chair of KEWOPA in the 11th Parliament.
“Let us capacity build women to be effective leaders,” she added.
The Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Sicily Kariuki congratulated the legislators for making it to the National Assembly and Senate noting that the country has beaten many odds in terms of women representation in key decision-making spaces especially in Parliament.
“The gradual increase in the number of women in all arms of government is as a result of consistent and tireless efforts of our path finders whose shoulders we stand on,” she noted, explaining that it was important that the female legislators understood the history of women empowerment so that they soldier forward with full appreciation of those who came before them.
In the quest to ensure gender balance in all elective and appointive positions, Mrs Kariuki challenged the MPs to ensure the country attains and upholds the two-third gender principle within their oversight and legislative roles.
It is the first time since the dispensation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 that three women were elected as governors in an election that also saw three women senators and 23 women MPs elected to the 11th Parliament; a great milestone in the push for gender equality and women empowerment.
“There is need to ensure both the national and county governments allocated enough resources to prevent and respond to gender based violence,” she said, adding that “we need to advocate and legislate for resources to end all forms of GBV and keep our girls in school.”
Her sentiments were also echoed by the former Gichugu MP Martha Karua who reiterated the need for male engagement in advocacies around gender imbalances in governance.
“When you contextualize gender within the family, it becomes very easy to convince men on our courses. In this, even the worst critics of gender inclusivity become your partners,” Karua said.
Karua who expressed optimism in the ability of women voices in parliament, explained that women have the responsibility to steer the country to prosperity if they speak with one voice even out of parliament.
“Most political parties have not met the Constitution merit on gender; you need to speak out on such inequalities,” she said.
During the induction, Kirinyaga Woman Representative Wangui Ngirici was elected the KEWOPA chairperson taking over from Mbarire. Also elected to lead the Association are the Kisumu Women Representative Roza Buyu as vice chairperson in the National Assembly and nominated Senator Milicent Omanga, vice chairperson in the senate.