Author Archives: WKF Activist

  • 0

Kenyan women want justice over post-election sexual violence

Category : Justice

Six years after being gang-raped and beaten in front of her husband and four-year-old child during a wave of post-election violence in Kenya, Nancy is still awaiting justice.

If it were left to the country's director of public prosecutions, Keriako Tobiko, she would never see it. Last month, Tobiko announced that his office would bring no cases related to the 2007-08 atrocities before a new international crimes division (ICD) within the high court.

Nancy refuses to take no for an answer. On Tuesday she and other survivors of sexual and gender-based violence will be in a Nairobi courtroom, suing Tobiko and other senior government officials on numerous counts, including the failure to investigate and prosecute their cases and those of thousands of others.

Tobiko, along with the attorney general, Githu Muigai, another respondent in the case, was happy to promote the ICD to the Rome statute of the international criminal court (ICC) at a meeting of state parties in The Hague in November. Why there? The Kenyan president and deputy president, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, face charges at the ICC related to the post-election violence, so the country's two top prosecutors were eager to leave a good impression with foreign diplomats that Kenya is willing and able to deal with the atrocities domestically.

Indeed, last month Tobiko claimed a special taskforce had reviewed 5,000 cases related to the period, and 1,000 of these had been prosecuted, with 500 convictions. Yet the government will not provide any information to substantiate this claim, which is contradicted by the record of impunity and prior statements about the nature and extent of investigations and prosecutions made by Tobiko's office.

What we do know is that there have never been prosecutions of mid- and senior-level offenders, including many police officers, and that for most survivors, the Kenyan justice system has been unresponsive, at best. After her ordeal, Nancy, aided by other women, went to Nairobi Women's Hospital, where several tests were carried out. Armed with the results, she went to the local police station, where she was given a report number. Many women did not even get that far; their attempts to report crimes were often met with laughter and derision by officers.

Detectives contacted Nancy months later. She showed them where the assault happened and identified her attackers. But the matter was never pursued. She and thousands of other women – and some men – who experienced sexual violence feel abandoned by the government. Kenya's constitution grants Tobiko the authority to order fresh investigations, but he has not done so.

The case being heard on Tuesday is being brought by eight survivors and four civil-society organisations. This is not the first such constitutional case. Last year, a judge in central Kenya ruled that by failing to investigate 160 rapes of girls aged three to 17, Tobiko and the police had "contributed to the development of tolerance for pervasive sexual violence", and that their failures violated multiple provisions of national and international law.

He ordered detectives to investigate the cases of the 11 petitioners concerned, and to implement an article of the constitution that requires the police to implement standards of professionalism, integrity and respect for human rights.   Kenya's 2010 constitution has many progressive elements, and legislators have proposed or approved numerous laws, which, if implemented, would make significant contributions to ending the climate of impunity for sexual violence. They would also strengthen women's rights in such areas as administrative law and democratic representation. But for now, women must continue to fight for a Kenya in which sexual violence is no longer tolerated.   Dr Joan Nyanyuki is executive director of the Nairobi-based Coalition On Violence Against Women, one of the petitioners in Tuesday's case. - Source: The Guardian

  • 0

Survivors of Sexual Violence in Kenya Break their Silence

Category : Justice

Kenyans are currently awaiting a decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on whether or not the trial in The Hague against President Uhuru Kenyatta will proceed. The Kenyatta case has garnered significant attention because the defendant is a sitting head of state. However, the case is also noteworthy because it represents the only major effort to investigate and initiate prosecution of sexual violence committed against women, men, and children during Kenya’s 2007–2008 post-election violence (PEV). While the ICC’s case against President Kenyatta has received much attention, many Kenyans will be focusing on remarkable public interest litigation unfolding in their own High Court in Nairobi next week. Despite enormous risk, eight courageous survivors broke their silence and demanded action from the government of Kenya, filing a petition in February 2013 against the attorney general, the director of public prosecutions, and members of the police and public health authorities. In addition to the eight survivors (six women and two men) who suffered sexual violence during this period, the petitioners include Physicians for Human Rights, Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW), the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ-Kenya), and Independent Medical-Legal Unit (IMLU). The petition demands that it is the government’s responsibility to protect civilians against sexual violence and ensure credible police investigations and prosecutions of these crimes. The petition is premised on the notion that the primary responsibility to protect citizens and provide redress when rights are violated lies with each sovereign state. In this instance, the government of Kenya bears legal responsibility entrenched in the county’s constitution and international and regional human rights treaties adopted by Kenya to enact and enforce laws, establish effective complaint mechanisms, and support competent tribunals that prohibit and sanction sexual violence. Further, the government is obligated to promptly and impartially investigate, prosecute, and punish alleged perpetrators of sexual violence, and provide adequate compensation to victims of these crimes. Moreover, whenever such violence occurs, the government must ensure that survivors have adequate access to medical services and psychological care. After a year of postponements and deferrals, a hearing of the petition is finally scheduled to take place in the High Court of Kenya on Tuesday, March 25, 2014, during which the eight survivors will assert their rights and have an opportunity to hold the government to account. Their testimonies will reveal that the government failed not only to train and prepare law enforcement officials to protect civilians from sexual violence, but also denied survivors emergency medical services following the violations. Furthermore, even as the director of public prosecutions insists that there is no evidence to prosecute PEV cases, the survivors will demonstrate that the police refused to document their claims and that the government’s continued inaction represents persistent and willful neglect to codify effective measures to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators. The survivors will also argue that the government has failed to provide comprehensive reparations. The eight petitioners, of course, are not the only survivors of the widespread and brutal acts of sexual violence perpetrated during the PEV. They are representative of more than 900 other victims, whose testimonies and reports were submitted to the Commission of Inquiry into the Post-Election Violence (CIPEV) in 2008, detailing gruesome incidents of individual and gang rape, defilement, forced circumcision, sodomy, and other forms of sexual brutality. These violations resulted in severe physical injuries and detrimental psychological and socio-economic effects, among other serious health complications, that many survivors have borne over the last six years. As both international legal principles and Kenya’s constitution mandate, the state has the responsibility to comprehensively punish the perpetrators of these violations and provide redress to survivors. This case provides the government of Kenya with the chance to finally articulate its political will and commitment to meaningfully addressing PEV crimes and combatting sexual violence, particularly against vulnerable groups such as women and children who are consistently disproportionately affected by this vice. Let’s hope the government of Kenya does not miss this historic opportunity. - Source: Physicians For Human Rights

  • 1

One third of Kenyan girls subjected to sexual violence – survey

Category : Research

NAIROBI (TrustLaw) – Nearly one in three Kenyan girls experience sexual violence before the age of 18, according to a report launched by the Kenyan government and the United Nations on Wednesday. Three quarters of Kenyan children experience physical, sexual or emotional violence, according to the findings of the first nationwide household survey of more than 3,000 young people aged 13 to 24. “The survey results depict a sobering picture of pervasive and insidious violence that afflicts the entire country,” Naomi Shaban, minister of gender, children and social development, said at the launch of the Violence Against Children Survey. Sexual violence – defined as sexual touching or attempted sex against the child’s will or coerced or forced sex – was experienced by 32 percent of Kenyan girls and 18 percent of boys before the age of 18. This figure is much higher than that of the government’s 2008/9 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey which found that one in five women and girls are victims of sexual violence. Rape is rarely reported in Kenya due to stigma and a lack of faith in the police and the criminal justice system, although the country has strong legislation to protect children from sexual assault. The survey found that the most common perpetrators were boyfriends or girlfriends, followed by neighbours and family members. One in three girls who were raped became pregnant as a result. Only three percent of sexually abused girls received professional help. There was a clear correlation between experience of sexual violence and engagement in risky sexual behaviour. Girls who were victims of unwanted touching or rape were four times as likely as other girls to have multiple sexual partners. Physical violence – defined as punching, kicking, whipping or being threatened with a weapon – was most widely experienced. Almost six out of 10 children had been physically abused by an authority figure, most commonly teachers. More than half the respondents had experienced physical violence at the hands of relatives.

MAJORITY CONDONE VIOLENCE

Most disturbing among the findings was that the majority of children accepted violence in the home as normal, particularly if they themselves had experienced it. “Much of violence against children… remains hidden and at times is socially approved or acceptable. That is very sad,” said Franklin Esipila, permanent secretary in the ministry of gender, children and social development. Among girls aged 18 to 24, 49 percent condoned violence by a husband towards his wife. This increased to 56 percent among girls who had experienced childhood violence. Unsurprisingly, the figures for boys were even worse. There was 62 percent approval of domestic violence among boys aged 18 to 24 who had not been abused, rising to 65 percent among those who had experienced violence themselves. “These attitudes must change in order to help mitigate the occurrence of domestic violence, both against women and against children,” the report said. “This remains the single greatest area for policy reform at the national level.” Other social attitudes and practices that justify violence against children identified by the survey include the use of violence as a form of discipline, child labour, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, prejudice against disabled children, family breakdown, homophobia and the myth that sex with virgins can cure HIV/AIDS.

VIOLENCE PERPETUATES POVERTY

A 2006 U.N. report found that 14 percent of girls and seven percent of boys around the world experience sexual violence. “Violence breeds violence,” it said. “In later life, child victims of violence are more likely to be victims or perpetrators themselves.” It also found that violence perpetuates poverty, illiteracy and early death. “The physical, emotional and psychological scars of violence rob children of their chance to fulfil their potential,” the report said. “Ending violence will increase opportunities for development and growth.” The Kenyan government said it plans to set up child protection centres, staffed by social welfare officers, across the country to help abused children. The survey found that just one in four girls and one in eight boys knew where to get help after they were sexually abused. Childline Kenya, a free national helpline for children, receives 40,000 calls a month.

  • 0

The Accountability Gap on Sexual Violence in Kenya

Category : Research

This briefing paper reviews the Kenyan government’s response to sexual and gender-based violence committed against women, men, and children during the 2007/2008 post-election crisis. It draws on interviews with over 40 survivors about their experience and analyzes the laws and transitional justice mechanisms, like the Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence, that have been put in place to address violations of the past and prevent their recurrence. It includes a set of recommendations to the government, the Attorney-General’s Office, and the National Police Service Commission on closing the accountability gap. ICTJ-Briefing-Kenya-SGBVAccountability-2014.pdf

  • 0

Nairobi’s ‘miniskirt’ march exposes sexual violence in Kenya

Category : Research

At the busy intersection of Accra Road and Tom Mboya Street in downtown Nairobi, a cacophony of voices clamour to be heard. Buses and vans vie for space on the roadside, and touts solicit passengers to ply their routes. Nearly everyone is on the move. Shortly after 12pm on 17 November, one noise superseded all the rest – that of more than 200 women, plus a few men, marching, blowing whistles, chanting and yelling for their constitutional right to be protected from sexual violence, and to wear a miniskirt. Ten days ago, according to Kenyan media reports, a woman wearing a red dress was stripped by a mob of men at this spot. They accused her of being inappropriately dressed. According to a driver and co-driver of a minibus who recall the assault, two men began it but others quickly joined in – “for fun”, the co-driver, Robert Ndungata, said. Driver Juguna Maina said he and others tried to stop them, but failed. “You can’t control the mob,” he said. A passer-by captured the attack on his mobile phone, and the video was posted on YouTube. It was one of a number of such incidents to play out on social media in recent months, but none had captured the public’s attention to such an extent. Twitter was ablaze with hashtags, some advocating for women to cover up rather than be #scantilydressed, others arguing #MyDressMyChoice. It quickly escalated into a debate about women’s rights. A link to the video was posted to a Facebook group, Kilimani Mums Nairobi, part of an online support network for mothers. On 12 November, a group of 10 Kilimani mums, connected only by social media, met for the first time. They decided it was their duty “to deliver a message to the touts who who stripped our sister that it is wrong and a woman has the right to dress the way she sees fit”, Kilimani mum Ruth Knaust wrote to members of the Facebook group. From this seed, the #MyDressMyChoice march was born. Sexual violence is widespread in Kenya. A 2010 national survey (pdf) indicated that 32% of girls experienced sexual violence before becoming adults. Being stripped in public is nothing new in Kenya, says Christopher Kirwa, who turned out to support the #MyDressMyChoice movement. In the early 1990s, there was a lot of stripping, he says. The difference now is that it is more visible and there is more awareness of it, due largely to social media. Kirwa, who owns an experimental marketing agency, was shocked when Robert Alai, an influential Kenyan blogger, tweeted in support of forcibly undressing women. “There’s more to it than lack of education. On social media, there are ladies supporting what happened. The educated masses that are supporting it tells me we have a bigger problem,” he said. “Kenya is becoming more free, more liberal, more modernised, and there are people who are against that,” said Yvonne Kerre, the owner of a chain of clothing stores, Miss Kerre Fashions, that is thriving thanks to women becoming more expressive. Some churches in Nairobi have spoken out against wearing short skirts, both at church and outside. Minibus touts in downtown Nairobi speak of an invisible line across the city, dividing where it’s acceptable to be seen in a short skirt, and where it’s not. The general consensus is that one inch above the knee is the limit. It’s clear that there is a strong, conservative core. Two women, a bus conductor and an inspector, working on the Embassava bus stand where the stripping incident allegedly happened, believe that any skirt above the knee is morally reprehensible, and that the woman in red, who was stripped here, was the one in the wrong. “If she’s raped, it’s her fault,” says Naomi Mang’era, the inspector, of any women who wear “micro-mini skirts”. “Our country should be like Uganda – short skirts should be banned,” says a male bus tout. The two women agree. “One has to locate this in the general discrimination against women, widespread stereotypes and chauvinistic tendencies of our society,” says Amnesty’s east Africa researcher, Japhet Biegon. There has been progress, he says; in 2006, Kenya enacted the Sexual Offences Act, which defined what sexual offences were. Before that it was a moral issue, the legal system skewed in favour of perpetrators. The Milimani Mums are calling for police to operate mobile units so that women can report cases from the safety of their own homes. Lilian Manegene, one of the protest’s co-organisers, says there are laws in place to protect women, but they are not enforceable because the victims are afraid of going to a police station. Currently, victims must report cases in person at police stations. Kenya’s truth, justice and reconciliation commission took this recommendation one step further, advocating a one-stop centre for victims of sexual violence to receive medical care and counselling, give evidence, and deal with police, under one roof in a place where they feel safe. The only voice absent from the noisy proceedings on 17 November was that of the woman in red whose stripping sparked it all. “The lady in red is sitting somewhere,” shouted Manegene, addressing the crowd. “We are living in fear.” “We hope by the end of this she’ll be bold enough to come out,” a bystander remarked. - Source: The Guardian

  • 0

Slow gains recorded in fight against sexual violence

Category : News

Personal initiative remains the most effective way of fighting Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV). Teaching close family members and communities how to detect, prevent and report cases of S/GBV may be the only guard against falling victim to perpetrators since the vice cuts across all socio-economic groups in Kenya. Statistics from Gender Violence Recovery Centre, a department of the Nairobi Women’s Hospital shows that the total number of SGBV cases reported in 2011-12 were 2,954. This was 45 cases more compared to the previous year. There was a marked increase of physical violence reported during the same period from 388 to 422. “These statistics are harrowing,” says Mr. Kennedy Otina, Men to Men Programme Coordinator, FEMNET, who moderated a gender forum on the 27th of February 2014. “One of five women face sexual violence and 45% of women between 15 years to 45 years have experienced physical or sexual violence in Kenya.” Notably, a girl is raped every thirty minutes. Attentive to the panel discussion

Forum inspires formulation of policies

Heinrich Boell Stiftung partnered with FEMNET and Africa UNITE Kenya chapter to convene the forum attracting 224 participants drawn from academia, civil activists, government institutions, students and the general public to share knowledge and inspire renewed action on issues of S/GBV. Although there was general agreement on the strides made by the government towards formulating policies, including the Sexual offence Act 2006, the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and the ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) that empower institutions to tackle SGBV crimes, there is laxity in law enforcement which continues to persist. 224 people attending the Gender Forum on SGBV in Kenya This was clearly exposed by a Meru Court last year after finding police guilty of failing to enforce existing laws to reported cases in the region. In the case, known as ‘160 girls project’, legal professionals from Malawi, Ghana and Kenya worked to secure legal remedies to force the state to protect girls from sexual violence and hold rapists accountable. It was a landmark accomplishment. Applauding on the boldness of the girls for facing their perpetrators- some of them close family members, Ms. Jane Serwanga, an advocate of the High Court and former Deputy Executive DirectorFIDA Kenya says that they had to develop a strategy since the shelter in Meru where the girls sought refuge was exhausted at the prevalence of the cases. “We tore into each other in the quest of seeking justice for these girls and protecting women in future.” 224 people attending the Gender Forum on SGBV in Kenya Despite this triumph, there have been consistent failures by law enforcement.Justice for Liz campaign revealed the lack of initiative by police in Busia to arrest six boys who had violently gang-raped a 16 year old girl. In fact, the perpetrators walked free while the girl languished in hospital from debilitating injuries. The ineptitude led to a massive outcry by advocacy groups from within the country and abroad. Making reference to a recent statement issued by the Inspector General of the police, Ms. Njeri Rugene, a Parliamentary Editor at the Nation Media Group who first exposed the story is perterbed that, “Instead of the police focusing on investigations, they went into what seems to be a cover up strategy from the top echelons of the institution. Justice has been denied to the family which has been uprooted from their home due to insecurity and stigmatization from the community.” A table discusses the norms and values that perpetuate or curb GBV Over 1.3 million people worldwide signed a petition demanding for justice. In February, the director of public prosecution announced that he would be moving to court to prosecute the suspects and a commission would investigate reports of negligence by the police who handled the case.

Hesitation in reporting SGBV incidences

In their defense, the police through media reports have insisted that there was delay in reporting the case claiming it was an afterthought after the survivor experienced increased complications following the incident. The forum learned that there were claims that arbitration had been made between the family and the perpetrators, a fact that is questionable in criminal law. These are among challenges hampering justice of SGBV. The Deputy Executive Director and Programme manager of COVAW Ms. Lydia Muthiani says that the first point of referral makes or breaks the case. The victim hesitantly approaches family members because the society still harbours a negative mindset towards the vice and may fail to proceed to the next point. If the matter proceeds to the second stage, which is in seeking service provision from the police and healthcare providers, challenges arise in the handling of the evidence. Oftentimes it is tampered with and hence cannot hold in the court of law. “We are asking that whatever evidence is available should be tested in the courts of law. There are also options for civil action.” Wanja speaks during plenary discussions Collecting data from national and county level The gravity of the situation is heightened by lack of instruments for data collection. This is the situation facing the National Gender Equality Commission (NGEC), a Constitutional office established in 2011 with a mandate to oversee, coordinate, research and advise on actions to reduce gender inequalities and discrimination on any grounds as listed in the Constitution. Lack of credible holistic data handicaps all actors from analyzing the situation and assessing cost implications thus retarding progress. The commission aims to remedy this by embarking on a process of gathering data in order to advice government and other actors on policy review and gaps in implementation. Summarising the world cafe discussions during plenary According to Ms. Wangu Kanja, founder of Wangu Kanja Foundation, an organization that champions against SGBV, lack of clear data analysis is fueling the crimes. “Every day we have new cases experienced but the magnitude is not known and hence not well addressed.” She opined that because of this, the issues of men and boys, who also fall victim to sexual and gender based violence, are not well articulated or responded to. The statistics of cases of SGBV are unacceptable A response from the World Café session during plenary yielded some insightful responses from the participants. Patriarchal norms are a major factor which continually perpetuates sexual violence, especially against women in Kenya. Traditional dowry payment in most Kenyan communities objectifies women thus most men treat their wives as a commodity rather than as a human being who has got rights and freedoms. There is therefore need to address these seemingly harmless sexual allusions by tackling them at the subtle level before it becomes a sexual and gender based violence issue. Trivializing sexual and gender based violence by the police is also an obstacle in trying to access justice by majority of the victims. Consequently, as Phillip Otieno pointed out, there is need to continually build capacity of the police through gender sensitization to enable them effectively respond to cases of gender violence.

Keeping to commitments

Prof. Rose Odhiambo, CEO of the National Gender and Equality Commission informed the forum, “We are in the process of coming up with the cost implications of managing SGBV," which, according to Mr. Wafula of the Liverpool VCT is tremendous, possibly surpassing the cost of managing malaria and road accidents combined! The country is also in the process of monitoring progress on achievement of objectives of key conventions such as Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and others. This means that Kenya is committed to reforms in regards to SGBV. The commission has been convening all stakeholders involved in the fight against S/GBV. Prof. Odhiambo however lays emphasis on the need for personal involvement in fighting S/GBV. Download here the full Report on the Gender Forum: Sexual and Gender Based Violence. Read More: https://ke.boell.org/2014/03/05/slow-gains-recorded-fight-against-sexual-violence

  • 0

ActionAid Launches the Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Programme

Category : News

Nairobi, Kenya, ActionAid International Kenya (AAIK) launched the Ending Violence against Women and Girls in urban places programme. The programme which is funded by DFID is centered on ending all forms of violence and discrimination against girls and women and making cities safer places for all. It will benefit close to 20,000 women and girls in Bangladesh, Kenya, Myanmar, and Zimbabwe. Launching the Programme, Lisa Phillips, Head of DFID in Kenya called for a multisectoral approach to end violence against women and girls. “ We will only reverse the grim statistics if we proactively work together with the government through the National Gender Equality Commission, Anti- FGM Board and other state agencies, donors and NGOs like ActionAid to create awareness, put in proper legislation and follow through to full implementation”. She observed. Donatella Fregonese , the Global Programme Lead, pointed to the urgent need to address widespread violence against women and girls in cities and urban spaces across the globe. A pilot project by AAIK revealed that the constant threat of sexual violence and lack of police presence in informal settlements mean that many women are too scared to leave their homes to use communal sanitation facilities. Hon. Linah Kilimo from the Anti FGM board called upon participants to work together to eliminate the practice of FGM. She retaliated the commitment of the Anti-FGM board to eliminate FGM in this generation. Commissioner Florence Nyokabi from the National Gender Equality Commission emphasized the need to operationalize the no 2/3rd one gender rule as enshrined in the constitution of the Republic of Kenya. Speaking at the launch, Bijay Kumar, Executive Director, AAIK emphasized ActionAid’s commitment to unapologetically take sides with women living in poverty and exclusion. “We mustprioritize security for women and girls in order to guarantee them access to better healthcare, education and livelihood opportunities, this will only be achievable through training, awareness raising and effective policy legislation and its effective implementation”. He noted. The launch was attended by donors (DFID, DANIDA, DFAT), corporate partners (Ericsson Kenya and Safaricom Foundation), The National Gender Equality Commission, Anti FGM board, UN agencies (UNFPA, UN Women), Civil society groups (WEL,CRAWN, WANGU KANJA FOUNDATION, SAUTI YA WANAWAKE) and ActionAid colleagues involved in this project from across the four countries. Read More: http://www.actionaid.org/kenya/news/actionaid-launches-ending-violence-against-women-and-girls-programme

  • 1

Only Rape Survivors (Like Me) Can Truly Understand What Other Victims Have Gone Through

Category : Justice , My Story

In 2002, I was car-jacked and raped. Traumatized and shaking, I remembered the advice of a family friend when I was growing up -- that if I was ever raped, I should report it straight away. But the police turned me away. They didn't want to know. I attended counseling, but I couldn't cope with life so I turned to coping mechanisms in a bid to numb the pain. I used alcohol and casual sex in failed attempts to make me feel loved and desired, rather than brutalized and worthless in the eyes of men. The rape, and the lack of help or channels to talk about it in conservative Kenyan society, nearly destroyed me. Then I began to wonder. It occurred to me that if I, as a middle-class woman, couldn't get the help I needed, then how much worse must it be for poor, isolated or uneducated Kenyan women who have experienced this type of gender-based violence? So in 2005 I set up the Wangu Kanja Foundation, because I couldn't stand the thought of so many thousands of Kenyan women not even knowing they had the right to stand up for themselves. I wanted to use my experience to inform and influence the kind of mechanisms and services we need in this country. Only survivors of that experience can truly understand what other victims have gone through. Since then, we've helped thousands of women. Some have children born as the result of rape. When we first see them, they can't love their child because of their ordeal. We provide counseling one to one, in groups of survivors, and as a family. I'm so happy to see now that many of those women are developing a loving bond with their children, powerfully overcoming their experience. We are building a network of survivors and we are training some of those women to pass on those lessons. And we are teaching women both to understand what laws are there to help them gain justice, how to access them and how to generate their own income from existing and simple skills, such as making peanut butter and weaving baskets. That way, women from poorer backgrounds are not reliant on a man for their livelihood while they are also dealing with their trauma. In the end, I opted not to pursue my case legally because of the stigma and discrimination that comes with sexual violence and the shame that comes with it. I understand how a person feels when they have been raped -- the fear, rejection, shame and condemnation, so I know how important it is that survivors get comprehensive care and support. I spent years entangled in a complex fight to get my case recorded and properly addressed so I know how important it is that survivors have help through that. My foundation has set up a helpline that women can call to report a rape. We then connect the woman to the healthcare workers and paralegals in their area who can accompany them to medical examinations and help submit the medical report (Post Rape Care form) to the police, which is needed to take the perpetrator to court. Our legal advisors help follow the case through. We are going to scale this up, in partnership with Safaricom, one of Kenya's biggest mobile-network providers, to include a text service that women can use to alert us of an attack. The reporting of sexual gender-based violence in Kenya is still very low. For example, in 2014 the International Center for Transitional Justice reported very high incidences of rape and sexual violence in the 2007-2008 post-election violence that swept across Kenya. The worst cases happened in Nairobi's Kibera and Mathare slums, where hundreds of women suffered horrific violence, yet only 31 survivors were willing to talk about the experience with the official Commission set up to hear evidence. The Commission heard these women feared retaliation, feared the police and didn't believe anything would be done. So using mobile technology provides a friendly, discreet and dignified way forward. Our successes show what can be done with even a crumb of effort and funding. But we're still small, so our foundation has focused on Nairobi. But when Kenya signs up to the new Sustainable Development Goals in September, Goal 5 -- the requirement to end all violence against women and girls -- our example must be given due prominence. Most Kenyans have a mobile phone, so our reporting service could easily go national and encourage women, whether rich or poor, rural or urban, to report an attack immediately. Counseling is an expensive business, but we have worked with survivors whose healing process was helped by their decision to train up and work with us. They are empowered to help others and spread the knowledge about the means to get oneself redress. I call not only on Kenya to use these means to respond to Sustainable Development Goal 5, but equally, to all Kenyan women to act, to speak up and learn their rights -- not their place -- and to be fearless. Wangu Kanja will speak about her work and experiences in London on September 10 at ActionAid's 'Celebrating Fearless Women.' To find out more about the Fearlesscampaign, go to http://www.actionaid.org.uk/fearless. Follow Wangu Kanja on Twitter at @KanjaWangu. This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, "What's Working: Sustainable Development Goals," in conjunction with the United Nations'Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The proposed set of milestones will be the subject of discussion at the UN General Assembly meeting on Sept. 25-27, 2015 in New York. The goals, which will replace the UN's Millennium Development Goals(2000-2015), cover 17 key areas of development -- including poverty, hunger, health, education, and gender equality, among many others. As part of The Huffington Post's commitment to solutions-oriented journalism, this What's Working SDG blog series will focus on one goal every weekday in September. This post addresses Goal 5. To find out what you can do, visit here and here.

  • 1

5 inspiring women who’ll show you anything’s possible

Category : Women Empowerment

Violence against women is a shocking fact of life for one woman in three globally. It not only affects women physically and psychologically, but it holds back entire communities and their development. Bringing down violence isn't easy, but fearless women all over the world are standing up and speaking out. Let these five amazing women inspire you with their stories of fearlessness and stand with them by taking action now.
Wangu Kanja, 40, founder of the Wangu Kanja Foundation in Kenya
Wangu Kanja, 40, founder of the Wangu Kanja Foundation in Kenya

Wangu, 40, helping survivors turn their anger into courage

I met Wangu earlier this week and she blew my mind. Hidden behind her soft voice you can hear the great pain she has overcome and turned into strength. Wangu was car-jacked and sexually assaulted in 2002. Not only was she raped and robbed, but the police would not take her seriously when she went to report the assault. Like many people facing this type of violence in Kenya, she started using alcohol and sex to ease her pain. After months of counselling, Wangu decided to stand up and use her experience to help other women. So, in 2005 she founded The Wangu Kanja Foundation, a partner of ActionAid, which helps survivors of sexual violence access medical, psychological and legal support. “I wanted to use my experience to inform and create the services we need in Kenya to support the survivors of sexual violence. Only survivors of such an experience can really understand what women who have suffered sexual violence have gone through,” she says.

Azza, 49, human rights lawyer in Egypt

Azza has been at the forefront of the fight for human rights for the women of Egypt for many years, and is the Chair of the Centre for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance. After witnessing the killing of an activist by police during a peaceful protest in Cairo, Azza reported the crime and got charged under the repressive 'Protest Law'. It was the state’s chance to be rid of a well-argued and, scandalously, female critic. Azza SolimanAzza Soliman, 49, lawyer and human rights defender from Egypt We've been fighting with Azza for months and we'll keep standing with her until those ridiculous charges are dropped. After a global outcry in May, which included more than 20,000 ActionAid supporters petitioning the UK Foreign Secretary, the judge threw the case out of court, but the verdict was appealed so she is still facing five years in prison. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is now following her case and pushing Egyptian authorities to drop the charges. Her next court hearing is on 26 September and the whole world is watching. Follow us on Facebook to find out about next steps. Azza says: “Tackling violence against women is key to development and those women in Egypt who showed leadership and were in the frontlines of the revolution in 2011 and who have worked tirelessly to improve women’s issues since then should be seen as heroes – not a threat. Using violence against them is more a sign of weakness than strength.”

Carla, 15, inspiring young women in Brazil

Carla is a youth leader who helps other girls recover from sexual exploitation and be aware of their rights. The part of Brazil that she's from, Suape, is a busy industrial hub where sexual exploitation of girls as young as 12 is common. Teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and school drop-out rates are on the rise. Carla, 15, youth leader from BrazilCarla, 15, youth leader from Brazil ActionAid supports local organisations to help girls to understand their potential and say no to sexual exploitation. “At the project we have discussions and seminars, which help us to spread our knowledge throughout our community. This helps us to help other girls our age,” she says.

Tiwonge, 40, beaten but not beaten

We met Tiwonge in the hill country of northern Malawi. The tobacco harvest had just been completed - a time of conflict between the sexes as women tend the crop, and men decide how to spend the proceeds. Tiwonge, 40, farmer and women's rights activist from MalawiTiwonge, 40, farmer and women's rights activist from Malawi Tiwonge was often beaten by her husband. As she left the house to address a group of women in 2006, her husband once again beat her. “I said enough is enough. I could not take it any longer.” At that moment something changed and she found the courage to stand up to years of abuse. Now divorced and raising her four daughters, Tiwonge has joined other women to push for an end to violence and leads a local Women’s Forum, a partner of ActionAid Malawi challenging violence and discrimination. “As a single parent, I want my children’s rights to be realised and I have a big role to ensure that,” she says.

Manu, 28, member of the COMBAT squads in Ghana

COMBAT (Community Based Anti-violence Team) groups are groups of volunteers who work together to tackle violence against women in villages. ActionAid trains COMBAT squads on human rights, social welfare, and how to help survivors of domestic violence, and supports them regularly with further training and supplies. Manu, Combat squadsManu, 28, COMBAT squads member in Ghana Manu has been a member of the COMBAT squad in her village for 6 years, and she has 6-year-old daughter. “It’s important for COMBAT to be here,” Manu explains. “Before the way women and children were being treated was very bad. They would threaten children with sticks, and widows would lose all their property, everything. Now things are much better; there is much less violence towards children and widows are now keeping their property.” You can stand with fearless women by joining our #fearless campaign now.

Ask David Cameron to act on violence against women

Photos: Georgina Goodwin/ActionAid, Nana Kofi Acquah/ActionAid, Lianne Milton/Panos/ActionAid, Arjen van de Merwe/ ActionAid, Rene Clement. Read More: http://www.actionaid.org.uk/blog/campaigns/2015/09/11/5-inspiring-women-wholl-show-you-anythings-possible

  • 0

Sexual violence in Kenya: ‘To the police, rape wasn’t a crime’

Category : Justice , News

Wangu Kanja was a victim of sexual violence, she is now using her experience to remove stigma and help survivors access psychological and legal support. In 2002 I was travelling back from work in Nairobi when I was carjacked and raped at gunpoint; I was 27. One man started telling me to undress and I said I can’t do it, until he removed his gun, gave me a bullet and told me to decide whether I want to live or to die. Those were the only two choices that I had. After the incident I went to report what happened to the police, but I was not taken seriously. Sexual violence is justified and condoned in Kenya most of the time. Our culture does not allow people to discuss sexual issues openly, and it’s difficult for many people to handle sexual violence in an appropriate way. The police reported the incident not as a rape, but as robbery with violence. They wouldn’t speak of the rape because to them it wasn’t a crime. But it’s a huge problem in Kenya. A 2010 national survey (pdf) suggested that 32% of girls experienced sexual violence before becoming adults. I couldn’t address what had happened to me because I did not have access to psychological support, and the stigma is so huge that people don’t know how to react. That’s why many people decide to shut down and deal with it the best way they know how. I fell into depression for two years, using alcohol as a coping mechanism. It has taken me over 10 years to heal. I underwent counselling, and in 2005 I set up the Wangu Kanja Foundation so I could use my experience to help women, girls and men who have gone through sexual violence to access comprehensive care and support including medical, psychological and legal services. We create a safe space for women and give them that platform where they know they can talk about their experiences and nobody is going to judge them. I am trying to make violence against women a social issue in Kenya, to make people understand that it impacts everyone: if a woman or girl in your life is affected then it means you are affected directly, or indirectly.
At the foundation, woman learn new skills including making peanut butter to encourage them to be financially independent. Photograph: Georgina Goodwin/Action Aid

At the foundation, woman learn new skills including making peanut butter to encourage them to be financially independent. Photograph: Georgina Goodwin/Action Aid

People are now opening up by discussing sexual issues – not as many as we would want, but we have started the conversation. Kenya is very patriarchal so it is important to build the capacity of women to become financially independent in order to reduce their vulnerability. At the foundation we make peanut butter, baskets, ornaments, and jewellery. With these resources, women can use their skills to protect themselves: you do not need to stay in an abusive relationship because you’re not able to look after yourself. But ultimately, many women still die in silence because this country doesn’t offer a safe environment to speak about their ordeal. Everyone looks at me as someone who has gone through a rape ordeal and has healed, but they assume I got there by a miracle. They don’t know that it was a process. So I help them understand that you can recover, but doing so is a conscious decision you have to make. Regardless of what you’ve gone through, your life can change and you don’t need to look at yourself through the lenses of other people. You need to affirm yourself as an individual instead of waiting for others to affirm you. Wangu Kanja is founder and executive director of the Wangu Kanja Foundation. In September she spoke in London at Action Aid’s Celebrating Fearless Womenconference. As told to Naomi Larsson. Join our community of development professionals and humanitarians. Follow@GuardianGDP on Twitter.