Author Archives: WKF Activist

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Action for Global Justice

Category : Justice , News

Strategy 2028: Action for Global Justice represents the next step in our evolution, rooting us more deeply where we work, and with the people whose rights and visions we work to achieve. This strategy builds on learnings from our previous strategy, People’s Action to End Poverty, our history and practice.


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In Kenya, Abuse Survivors Find a New Life in Peanut Butter

Category : Women Empowerment

With no way of supporting their children, many women are trapped in abusive relationships they can’t afford to leave. But a group of Kenyan women who have all been targets of gender-based violence are moving forward with the help of their peanut butter business. Read More...

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Where rape survivors fight for justice amid stigma, trauma

Category : News , Research

SILENCE BREAKERS The #metoo campaign was covered extensively by the media internationally, with reputable titles such as TIME magazine honouring the “Silence Breakers” as the “Time Person of the Year, 2017”, lauding the survivors for their courage to come out and speak boldly against their perpetrators. The #metoo campaign has had its fair share of the domino effects, including the fall of various powerful men. These include comedian and actor Bill Cosby, who was convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault against a woman, Fox News Executive Bill O’Reilley and  Hollywood Film maker Harvery Weistein. Read More...

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Kenya’s “rape taboo” spurs women in slums to report attacks via SMS

Category : News

"In Kenya, we are socialised to believe sex, sexuality and sexual violence is a private issue. People don't discuss it - it's a complete no-go zone," said Wangu Kanja, founder of the charity operating the SMS service, and also a rape survivor. "Those who do speak out about being raped are not taken seriously and can face negative reactions from their family, community and police. Most survivors have no one to turn to for help such as getting medical care or even reporting the crime." Read More...

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Survivors of sexual violence want peace and justice to reign in Kenya

Category : Justice , News , Research

Failure by the government to act on recommendations of the documented horrors in the 2007/8 Post Election Violence (PEV) report compiled by the Justice Philip Waki-led Commission on Inquiry into the Post-Election Violence (CIPEV) continues to be a source of concern which only compounds the fears of Kenyans. Almost ten years on from Kenya's brush with all-out civil war, the Waki Commission findings together with the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) report remain dusty reference materials on government shelves. Read More...

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Founder of group for survivors of rape and gender based violence in talks with our University over research links

Category : Uncategorized

imageKenyan activist meets with researchers at our University and practitioners at Leicester Rape Crisis
L-R Dr Lisa Smith, Lynda Yorke (manager of Leicester Rape Crisis), Wangu Kanja, Dr Clare Gunby (UoL), Meirion Reynolds (Honorary President of Leicester Rape Crisis).

An activist who survived a harrowing rape and carjacking, and went on to establish a Foundation for victims of sexual and gender based violence, is in discussion with our University over establishing a research partnership.

Ms. Wangu Kanja, a Kenyan woman who founded and is director of the Wangu Kanja Foundation is participating in workshops and conversations organised by Dr Lisa Smith from our Department of Criminology. The aim is to strengthen collaborations in research relating to sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict settings and other low-resource environments. This is linked to the project Dr Smith leads with colleagues in the Department of Genetics developing forensic DNA recovery techniques for women in developing countries. Wangu Kanja said: “Amplifying the voices of survivors requires ‘all hands on deck’ and so building a relationship with the University of Leicester is crucial for linking research with national priorities in Kenya.”
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Building a World free from Gender Based Violence

Category : My Story

w Wangu Kanja was raped in 2002 during a carjacking incident. “I was with two male friends. It was 10pm,” she remembers. Reuter

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The Survivor Who Was Carjacked, Raped, and Now Fights for Other Victims

Category : My Story

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He told me to undress, I refused—I said, 'No. What you are doing is wrong.' He asked me again. I said, 'No, I don't know you. What you're asking me is wrong.' The third time he asked, he took out a gun. Eventually he gave me a bullet and said, 'You choose whether you want to live or die.'"

This is how Wangu Kanja describes the night in 2002 when she was raped at gunpoint. She is matter of fact in her description. It's a story she has told many times before.

It has been nearly 16 years since she was carjacked and violently sexually assaulted as she travelled home with associates from a business meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. The perpetrators ransacked the group's bank cards and took Kanja hostage, the only woman in the group, in case they had given incorrect PIN numbers.

That was the night she says her world came to a standstill.

"He raped me at gunpoint. His mate was standing at the entrance so I didn't have a choice, I couldn't run away. After, I was numb, I didn't know how to react to it, the trauma," she said.

"When I came out to speak about my ordeal people judged me. The first question was always how were you dressed? Who were you with? People's reactions were either to keep silent or to blame me, instead of holding the perpetrator accountable."

Kanja reported the incident, however, despite attending hospital, police refused to acknowledge the attack as rape. They told her: "Sex is sex," and labelled it...

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This is Life

Category : My Story

Wangu Kanja begins this interview by questioning why people have stopped being human. She wonders why the society has become so cruel. “Rape is a crime that defies all logic. Years back, it was unconventional to hear stories of men raping their daughters but such stories abound today,” says the rape survivor and sexual gender-based violence activist.

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Why Kenyan Men Rape

Category : Research

Miriam Wangu Kanja, was heading home with friends one evening in December 2002, having come from a client’s office. She was working as a saleslady and the client offered her and a friend a ride home at night. But four gunmen confronted them and robbed them of their valuables. The thugs then put her in the back of the car and drove off, keeping her with them till late in the night as they robbed other motorists. Somewhere along the night the gangsters split, leaving one of them with Miriam in a deserted garage. The man had a loaded gun and he ordered her to take off her clothes. She pleaded for mercy but he ignored, and proceeded to wrestle her to the ground, brutally raping her at gunpoint until it was morning.

No Counselling

When she found her way to a police station, they advised her to record a statement of robbery with violence, with no inclusion of the sexual assault. Miriam experienced immense psychological trauma following the incident. After receiving the necessary medical attention offered to rape victims, she went through depression for months because she had not received any form of counselling.

The stigma associated with rape could not let her to talk about her experience, except with close family and friends. As a result she resorted to heavy drinking. It was only after she received help at the Amani Counselling Center in Nairobi that she was able to cope. Rape, is still considered a taboo topic in our society and, as a result, many victims choose to suffer in silence. In collaboration with a group of friends, Miriam started the Wangu Kanja Foundation in 2006 to assist rape victims and to speak up against sexual violence. At the non-profit making foundation, they work with organisations such as Liverpool VCT, Kenyatta Hospital and Mbagathi Hospital to give assistance to women who have been sexually assaulted. The foundation also assists women who choose to carry their babies to term after a rape incident. They counsel them and help them get a source of livelihood. Says she: "The biggest challenge is the silence of the victims, who view rape as shameful and refuse to open up." She urges families of rape victims to be supportive and ensure the victims get intervention in good time. "Victims need room for expression, and those around them should not try to cover things up and pretend it didn’t happen. In cases where the victim does not get the necessary psychosocial help, they may become potential perpetrators of violence, be it sexual or domestic," she warns.

Who’s to blame?

Miriam says that coming out in public to talk about her experience was greeted sympathy, not empathy. One of the biggest challenges her organisation is experiencing is that where children have been abused, parents take the easy way out by asking the culprits to pay through kangaroo courts because they cannot let it come out in public. Vip Ogola has been a victim of multiple rape incidences. She laments that rape is the only crime in which the victim gets blamed. "If my car is stolen, it is the culprit who is to blame, but when I get raped, society looks for a way to blame me. People say "She got raped because of the way she was dressed or because she encouraged it" but little girls and old women are raped too," she says. Vip says it is wrong that the culprits who indulge in rape will often excuse themselves, claiming that it was the woman’s fault. Says she: "For a long time I blamed myself, until I realised that those men did not respect my boundaries and it was their fault." Further, Vip says that during rape, it’s not just the sex that is traumatising but the words spoken by the perpetrators. "The rapist will often try to justify his actions to the victim while in the act. He will say that he is giving you what you asked for and that you are getting what you deserve. Yet rape is a crime of choice," she explains. A report just released by Samuel M Muchoki and Simiyu Wandibba presents the confessions or testimonies of convicted rapists. Titled An Interplay of Individual Motivations and Socio cultural Factors Predisposing Men to Acts of Rape in Kenya, the report, which was published by the International Journal of Sexual Health, seeks to answer a question ‘Why do men rape?’. "I raped two strangers before I was arrested. The first woman wanted me to help her with shelter for the night. It is a long story, but at night I asked for sex and she refused. So I had to use force. I raped the second woman in the process of committing a robbery. I found her in the bedroom naked. Immediately, I got an erection, and I forgot everything I had come for. I forced her back on the bed," narrates Kim, a 30 year old serial rapist sentenced to death. Samuel, a researcher and anthropologist says: "It came to my interest that, trying to curb the vice, we concentrate on the survivors who actually provide a lot of information on what happened. I decided to get into the minds of the sex offenders." The research was drawn from three prisons, Kamiti, Naivasha and Nyeri with respondents being convicted rapists serving jail terms.

Personal and cultural reasons

And from the interviews, he was able to analyse data, coming out with these main predisposing factors for rape; individual motivation and socio cultural factors, or a combination of both. The individual motivational factors include drug consumption, marital problems as an excuse for rape, inability to negotiate for consensual sex and psychological factors like the influence of pornography. Also cited were rape hallucinations, easy access to sex, and impersonal sex- we will see them deeply, shortly. The socio cultural factors included the view of rape as a sexual act rather than an act of violence, social attitude that the woman ‘invited’ the rape, early childhood environment, cultural practices, peer influence, and a lack of parental advice on sexual activities. Up to 65 per cent of the respondents admitted to having been influenced by drugs, mostly bhang, while 51 per cent claimed to have been drunk. Patrick, a 34-year-old single man condemned to death, says he raped because he was drunk: "I raped a woman who was my workmate. I raped her after a disco. She was attractive, sexy, beautiful, and seductive. On that day, she was in a miniskirt which was tight on the body. Her lipstick was red ‘hot,’ and she was proud. I was stronger and more robust than her, so I overpowered her. I was drunk and did not know I was wronging her." And Dennis, a 44-yea-old married man convicted for defiling his 10 year old niece says he was high on bhang and chang’aa when he did it. The men said that drunken women, when helpless, are easy targets to rape. Steve, a 32-year-old married man charged with defilement of a five-year-old girl, committed the crime because his wife was having an extramarital affair: "My wife was having a relationship with a policeman. I had sex with her daughter when she (the wife) was absent." Effect of pornography And 25-year-old Isaac, charged with defiling a four year old, says that a woman he fellowshipped with trusted him enough to give him shelter. Then he was left in charge of five children, and he lured her four-year-old girl to the bedroom. Also cited is the psychological factor, where victims, mainly girls, come from poor families and are easily lured using favours such as food. About 48.6 per cent of the respondents had been exposed to hardcore pornography, and had developed strong sexual fantasies. Others used impersonal sex to prove their manhood, forcing themselves on women they always admired and who had rejected them. The survey shows that the major enabling factor is the culture and society’s attitude to sex. Michael, a 75-year-old single man charged with rape and manslaughter says; "Where I come from, we do not seduce women; we force them into sex and then marry them. I wanted her to become my wife. I sent my friends to go and entice her to come to my place. They brought her to my house. I had sex with her but did not realise that she was already pregnant. She died after the sex from excessive bleeding." And in his conclusion, Samuel notes that the gender imbalance, and how deeply a community believes in men’s superiority and entitlement to sex, greatly heralds the opportunity for sexual violence. Read more at: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/1144029185/why-kenyan-men-rape