Celebrating International Day of the Girl Child
Issue Number 41 • October 2013
Gender trainings to girls cascaded in Nandi North
Kenyan GBV activists unite to demand justice for rape victims
…By John Harrington Ndeta
…By John Ndeta
s the world marked 2013 International Day of the Girl Child, the Kenyan media was abuzz with the story of a brave Busia girl who over four months ago was beaten, gangraped and left to die in a toilet. However, sheer determination is what kept her alive. The story demonstrates the rampant nature of gender based violence in the country with defilement cases taking a lead and offenders going scot free. This has been attributed to the patriarchal nature of the society that belittles women and children to the extent of reducing them to sex objects. It is in this regard that the International Rescue Committee through Peace Initiative Kenya supported Simon Chepsiror, a chief in Nandi to cascade information on gender based violence to over 500 girls aged between 12 and 18 years in Nandi North. The school girls who gathered at Kamung’ei School were trained on how to take care of their lives as young girls. The event organised by a solid team of 15 community leaders led by Chepsiror was designed to transform attitudes and perceptions of the school girls towards making them productive members of the society. Chief Chepsiror who benefited from the 15 month Peace Initiative Kenya project through trainings on peace and gender is rapidly creating awareness among men, women and children in his area of jurisdiction. “My committee has equal gender representation and all of us are passionate about seeing change in the society. I have used the County Peace Platform model to create this platform where we are reaching out to residents of Nandi North with messages of women protection and empowerment,” says the chief. Over 500 school girls from seven primary and two secondary schools in Kamung’ei village gathered at Kamung’ei Secondary School to explore ways and means of dealing with critical issues bedevilling the girl child in Nandi County.
he case of LIZ a sixteen year old girl who was gang-raped in Busia County, in Western Kenya over four months ago has literately refused to go away. LIZ was walking home from her grandfather’s funeral when she was ambushed by six men who took turns raping her and then threw her unconscious body down a six meter pit latrine. LIZ horror story has sent shockwaves throughout the world and the police are under pressure to respond. “Nothing will truly change unless the government is put under the global spotlight,” says Fanis Lisiagali from Health Care Assistance Kenya. Up to now, nobody has been arrested for this offence. Not the rapists nor the police and on the last day of October 2013, gender activists from all over the world took part in a peaceful march in Nairobi to press for the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators and the security officers who abetted this heinous crime. The gender activists led by Peace Initiative Kenya partner, Coalition on Violence against Women (COVAW) in partnership with African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), Men Engage Kenya (MenKen), Africa UNiTE and AVAAZ stormed the city centre with chants of: “We want Justice for LIZ”, “Slashing grass is not punishment for rape.” At the Inspector General of Police’s Office, the activists presented a raft of demands among them immediate arrest and punishment of the perpetrators and the police who let them go scot-free respectively. They also asked the government to fully meet medical bills for LIZ and many other women who have been raped in the past. “We call on you to deliver justice for Liz including the immediate arrest and prosecution of her rapists and full disciplinary action for the police officers who dismally failed to handle her case,” read Said Ali, the Executive Director at COVAW. The statement further said that by holding the police officers to account, the Inspector General will send a strong message to police everywhere that rape is not a misdemeanor, is a serious crime, and if police do not uphold the law they will be held to account. The activists demanded a public apology from the Inspector General and a commitment to deal with failures within the police force to ensure due diligence in protecting survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV). In his response, William Okello, Chief of Staff at the Inspector General’s office acknowledged receipt of the 1.3 million petitions and promised to leave no stone unturned in the case of LIZ. The police agreed to a follow up meeting on November 1st where the Inspector General David Kimaiyo would be in attendance with representatives of the women rights networks to finalise on the action points raised to secure justice, not just for LIZ but for every woman and girl who suffers from GBV. “The case of LIZ is a living testimony that rape is still rife in Kenya. There is need for stiffer penalties and strict adherence to the laws governing GBV such as Sexual Offenses Act (2006),” said Nebilla Abdulmelik (FEMNET). She opines that there is an urgent need to establish reparation mechanisms for survivors of sexual violence. The writer is the Media and Peace campaign coordinator, Peace Initiative Kenya
Challenges “Our challenges in this region include early pregnancies, early marriages, and school dropouts,” said Rose Mutai, principal Kamung’ei Secondary School, adding that in the last two years, she has lost 14 girls to early pregnancies and forced marriages. “The message of how a girl can preserve herself, protection from gender based violence and empowerment is timely and could not have come to this community at a better time,” Mutai tells the audience gathered at Kamung’ei primary school hall When one of the facilitators, Shaban Varajab from Rural Women Peace Link inquired from the students why these problems remain a snare to them, the pupils highlighted low self-esteem, poverty, peer pressure, lack of commitment and sup-
Rose Nakitare from Transparency International takes the girls through an integrity class during a meeting organized by IRC to build girls capacity in GBV management. Bottom left to right: Nancy Chepchumb, a Form one student from Olmaroroi Secondary School responds to the challenges girls face and the fact that they are not given equal opportunity like boys. Natasha Chepkosgei, a Standard 7 pupil at Sing’ore Primary challenges her fellow girls to take their studies seriously. PICTURES: John Ndeta, IRC
port from the parents as the reasons why some of their colleagues are dropping out. Cultural practices such as marrying off young girls by parents were also cited as major impediments to the girl child in the larger Kenyan society. The influence of mass media, phones and internet in the modern age has not helped matters either as girls living in urban centres are ensnared by the allure of entertainment and unknowingly become victims of gender based violence. The forms of gender based violence range from denial of rights, rape, defilement, early and forced marriages, domestic violence and all manner of discriminations on basis of gender. All the above constitute gender based violence which the USAID funded Peace Initiative Kenya project is seeking to address. “When you educate a girl, you have educated the whole nation, community and world. An educated girl child has numerous advantages. She overcomes the cultural limitations and challenges, becomes independent, is an asset to the family and society and becomes a change agent. That is what you girls should aspire to become,” said Chepsiror. Varajab challenged the girls to remember at all times that their future is in their hands. “When I remember that I have a long way to go and that I have a future, then my goals should follow my plan of action from a tender age,” emphasized Varajab.
On the other hand, Rose Sitati from Transparency International expressed the need for girls to embrace integrity and sobriety in their lives. The girls were also taken through safety and protection measures to avoid overexposing themselves to risks of GBV. “You must understand your environment, avoid risky places and call for help whenever you feel that your life is in danger. If someone close to you is becoming abusive, do not keep to yourself. Seek help from a trusted person including your close friend, parents, teachers, local elders and administrators,” reiterated Chepsiror. The girls were encouraged not to keep to themselves but seek prompt psychological and medical help whenever they are faced with any form of gender based violence. “All forms of sexual exploitation and abuse particularly rape must be reported within three days to ensure that one gets lifesaving medical support,” the trainers emphasized. The girls were also challenged to take their education seriously as well as engage in income generation activities as opposed to depending on men for survival.
Determination In Nairobi, the International Rescue Committee released a statement highlighting the need for women and girls to be supported economically to enable them prosper.
In Kenya, girls and young women between the ages 16 and 24 account for more than 20 per cent of Kenya’s population. While these young women have enormous potential to create positive change, they struggle to find jobs that will enable them further their education, care for their families and see a more prosperous future. According Jerotich Seii Houlding, IRC Country Representative, the challenge lies in enabling women and girls to reach the next level and then to control the money they earn so they can use it the way they want, set aside savings and open their own bank accounts. “Women and girls in Kenya are involved in a myriad of economic activities and are often the main supporters of their families,” said Houlding, adding that 90 per cent of the income and profits that women make goes back to the family, compared to 30 to 40 per cent for men. “We want to see girls move from just scratching a meagre living in towns and villages to owning, operating and expanding their own meaningful businesses or accessing formal employment and moving up the ladder,” she asserted.
“You must understand your environment, avoid risky places and call for help whenever you feel that your life is in danger. If someone close to you is becoming abusive, do not keep to yourself. Seek help from a trusted person including your close friend, parents, teachers, local elders and administrators.” Simon Chepsiror