Meru County Archives - CREAWKENYA

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February 4, 2020by CREAW

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.

Utawala Chiefs Group at the Githongo Chief Camp. PHOTO/CREAW

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.

PHOTO/CREAW

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.

PHOTO/CREAW

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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June 26, 2019by CREAW

Meru County has become the first county to domesticate model legislation on Sexual and Gender Based Violence.

The policy developed with the support from CREAW is designed to help accelerate and reinforce efforts towards the elimination of all forms of gender based violence (GBV) and improve the quality of life for women and men, boys and girls in the county.

Speaking during the launch of the policy, Meru County Governor Kiraitu Murungi reiterated his commitment to end all forms of gender based violence (GBV). The governor praised stakeholders for their support in addressing the vice in the county.

“I have a dream to make Meru great but we cannot do this with women being battered and oppressed yet they constitute half of the population,” said the Governor, while recognizing that women play a critical role in the development of communities they live in.

Governor Kiraitu explained that “the county government will increase access to quality and comprehensive response and support services across sectors and facilitate the establishment safe houses.” This will go along way in improving accountability SGBV service delivery.

In 2018, Meru County launched the Twaweza initiative to enable women build strong livelihoods and a voice to challenge oppressive norms that denies them the opportunity to lead.

“I commit to providing the necessary support- financial and human resources to ensure that the policy is well implemented. I am a womanist and I support the liberation of women and girls from all forms of violence and discrimination,” he said.

The adoption of the policy comes at a time when media reports are awash with cases of women being killed by their intimate partners and girls forced to undergo female genital mutilations.

The Gender and Special Development County Executive Member (CEC) Nkirote Kailanya bemoaned the high prevalence of SGBV in the county. Surveys have indicated that about 66.7 per cent of women have experienced GBV in the preceding 12 months.

“This policy was developed on the principle that SGBV represents not only a human rights violation, but also a hidden obstacle to economic and social development. Domestic violence not only entails private costs for the victims and their families, but also wider social and economic costs, which in the end slow down the rate of development of a community,” Kailanya said.

CREAW’s Executive Director Wangechi Wachira lauded the county effort to ensure that women and girls are better protected and are able to lead dignified lives.

“It is a great time for survivors. With the police more power and voice has been accorded to women and girls. We will continue to work with the County and stakeholders in ending GBV,” said Wangechi.

Stakeholders present at the event lauded the move stating that the policy will ensure that GBV services are better coordinated.

Writing by Christine Ogutu



January 21, 2019by CREAW0

With the growing momentum to have women voices amplified at the decision making spaces more so in conversations on policies in the wake of the devolved governance systems, the call to build stronger women movements that speaks with a unity of purpose cannot be over stated.
In Meru County, the women Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) came together to form a caucus dubbed the Meru Women Legislative Association (MEWOLA) aimed at creating a space for the women leaders to champion for the rights of women and engender the legislative processes at the county level.
Through the MEWOLA the women MCAs have strategically positioned themselves to collectively influence the Assembly and work together with the County Government to deliver services to communities. The MEWOLA believes that effective women’s participation can influence change despite the historical inequalities.

On December 7, 2018 MEWOLA launched its inaugural five year Strategic Plan with an aim of harnessing greater partnerships between men and women legislators to promote gender equality through legislations and to increase the number, influence and impact of women political leadership and governance in Meru County.
During the launch, speaker after speaker emphasised on the need for formation of women caucuses in all the counties. Meru County is the second after Nyeri to have the women caucus launch their development roadmap.
While speaking at the launch the Meru County First Lady Priscilla Murungi appreciated the efforts of the women MCAs and extended her invitation to them to work with her office and the executive in their strategic focus.
“I congratulate the women who had the courage to stand up and be elected. Women have the power but in most cases they shy off because of the way they have been socialized,” said Priscilla.

The first lady who was the Chief Guest at the launch said that the society must begin mentoring women at a younger age to sharpen their skills and build their confidence to participate in issues of societal good.
“We do not have to circumcise our girls to make them powerful women. We need to sharpen their brains to make them proud of their womanhood. We must also make our boys proud of who they are and supporters of their sisters. In this we build and equal society,” she emphasised.
The Governor Kiraitu Murungi who was also in attendance during the launch expressed confidence in the capability of women to transform communities stating that his government has a good will to empower women through the Meru Twaweza program both socially, economically and politically.

The Chairperson of MEWOLA Lucy Mukaria expressed that the caucus shall prioritise on result areas and seek resources necessary to implement the strategic activities to create significant impact in the governance of Meru County, seek better service delivery to people and create confidence as a trusted entity to effectively engage with communities.
“I extend my invitation to the likeminded partners: individuals, government, development partners to partner with MEWOLA. We can only hasten the achievement of our objectives if we work jointly with mutual understanding and cooperation,” said Mukaria.



April 9, 2018by CREAW0

We meet Caren Ruto at the Nchiiru Police Station and she quickly usher us in to the Gender Desk office and offers us seats with a warm smile and gentle spirits; a gesture that takes away the distress and stress that is usually associated with visiting a police station.

Caren Ruto supports survivors of gender based violence at the Nchiiru Police Station. PHOTO CREAW/ Christine Ogutu

The Gender Desk office is unique and one is quick to notice the walls which are neatly painted in white; the walls come alive with informational posters designed to provide useful information on gender based violence referral pathways to the survivors who visit the office for help.
Caren is among the 38 police officers from Meru County who were trained on GBV related laws and efficient handling of GBV cases with an aim to equip them with the necessary skills to properly document and store evidence from the first point of reporting or initial contact to ensuring the survivors get appropriate response in the referral system.
“After the trainings I came back and shared the information with fellow officers who are now more sensitive to the survivors of GBV. Through that, the male officers manning the reception desk now refer survivors to the gender desk for help. Previously, survivors would come but shy away from reporting,” she notes.
A few kilometers away in Kariene, resides Susan Achieng; a police Copral whose work also bore resemblance to that of Caren. Both of them are charged with the duty of supporting GBV survivors at the police gender desks in their respective stations.
For Susan, her duties go beyond the call of office; she has taken it upon herself to create awareness on GBV issues among communities living in Munjwa Village, Imenti Central Sub-County. “It is my duty to let the communities know what I do in the gender desk as police officer; I work for the general public. And if they do not know what I do then I think I am not well placed,” she says
Copral Susan Achieng works with chiefs to create awareness on GBV in Kariene. PHOTO CREAW/Christine Ogutu

At the village level she works with the local administration structures like Chiefs to organize community Barazas that bring on board men and women from across the villages. Chiefs are well known at the community level and are often the first point of referral to GBV cases.
“When we go to the community we discuss the sexual offences that occur including all the other forms of GBV like FGM and Domestic Violence. I have a village that is prone to defilements and rape that we are working to increase vigilance and bring perpetrators to book as well as make communities understand that such crimes are against the law and should not be solved out of court,” Susan explains.
She adds: “We tell them what to do when affected by sexual offence and how they can report. Some survivors keep quiet because of the stigma associated with rape, defilement and domestic violence.”
She says at first she was just a normal police officer but when CREAW came on board and organized for trainings for police officers stationed in Meru County she came to understand the importance of going to the in-depths when investigating GBV cases to have solid evidence for successful prosecution.
“We have what is called Tamman where we come together as officers to discuss the emerging issues and the needed response. I shared what I had learnt with them and the reaction was positive. They were eager to learn and wanted to know more,”
Even though her advocacies in the community continue to gain momentum; Susan expresses concern over the lack of safe shelters for the survivors of gender based violence that has forced her to sometime stay with the survivors to protect them from repeated attacks.
Through the Haki Yetu, Jukumu Letu (Our rights, our responsibility) initiative anchored within the Access to Justice program, the Center for Rights, Education and Awareness (CREAW) has been working to strengthen the capacity of police officers to effectively investigate and prosecute offenders. The trainings targets police officers who mans the gender desks and crime office with an aim to enhance their knowledge and skills on documentation, proper storage and handling of GBV exhibits as well as proper ways to create networks and linkages in the grassroots and with key actors working on the prevention and response to gender based violence in the larger Meru County.