The Catholic Church Fights The Scourge Of Gender Based Violence In Samburu

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Gender based violence is an issue that has been prevalent for far too long. This vice has continued to be a serious global health, human rights and development issue. It transcends the bounds of geography, race, culture, class and religion, touching virtually every community in every part of the globe. It is condoned by outdated customs and reinforced by institutions which are thriving because there is no fear of punishment. It affects men, women, boys and girls.
The development office of the Catholic diocese of Maralal in Samburu has an active desk that is mandated to ensure that issues on gender based violence are addressed. The Church is on the front line to fight the scourge of Female Genital Mutilation which is a harmful rite of passage that is practiced despite its negative side effects. It is one among the most common forms of gender based violence in Samburu. The procedure involves the unnecessary cut, incision or excision of any part of the female genital organs for cultural, ritual or social purposes depending on the community
Some 3 million women and girls face Female Genital Mutilation every year, while some 100 to 140 million have already undergone the practice. From a medical point of view it is unhealthy and causes adverse gynecological conditions. Some of the negative effects of the same include injury to adjacent tissues of the vagina, profuse bleeding, shock, acute urine retention, HIV/Aids infections, and recurrent urinary tract Infections.
The diocese has facilitated awareness creation in Samburu County on the adverse effects of harmful cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation, early and forced marriages and sexual violence against women. The Justice and peace Department of the diocese deals with 4-5 cases of gender based violence every week.
Also, the Catholic Church has a girl child education and Rescue Centre in Suguta Mar Mar Parish premises, located 42 kilometres away from Samburu County headquarters. The Centre accommodates girls who have escaped from their homes to find shelter there. The girls are victims of FGM, forced/early marriages and other forms of gender based violence. The sister in charge of the rescue centre Sister Fransisca Nzilani says “it is difficult to support these girls without funding. The girls depend on the rescue centre for most of their basic needs which include sanitary towels, education, stationery, food, clothing and shelter on a monthly basis”
Agnes Nakutuni aged 13 was rescued from Angata Nanyukie two years ago. Sr. Fransisca Nzilani says that when they rescued the girl she had jiggers all over her body. The young girl also suffers from epilepsy and has incoherent speech. “It was daily routine for Agnes to be thrashed by her birth mum every day, when we rescued her she had cuts in every other part of her body” she further says. Two years down the line the Agnes has recovered and can now fetch water. The process of reconciliation with her birth mum has not been easy because the girl is still scared. One of the key things that victims need is professional counseling as they get detached from their family upon fleeing from this harmful rite of passage.
Through awareness creation the target communities understand the negative effects of gender based violence however this is not enough. A lot needs to be done to end this endemic vice. Village based committees have to be formed , trained and empowered through liaising with the Kenya police to help victims of rape, early marriages, child labor get the justice they deserve. The government in partnership with NGOs, Faith Based Organizations and other stake holders should empower victims to speak out. Samburu county is remote and Marginalized from mainstream development and lacks basic infrastructure with some areas being out of mobile telephone network coverage. However, that should not deter our activities in the long run, with adequate funding and in collaboration with the government, we might have to set up a helpline that will provide a platform for these victims living in urban areas of Samburu county to seek redress.

 

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The possibility of development in the Kenyan Northen Frontier

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Fifty years after independence, some counties in Kenya are marginalized and far from mainstream development. Article 204 of the Kenyan constitution provides for an equalization fund of 0.5% of the national budget to cover service provision and infrastructure development in marginalized areas. However, the rift of development between counties in Kenya is still wide, and this begs the question; who is to blame for the cases of insecurity, food insecurity, poverty levels of up to 84%, poor infrastructure and low literacy levels that define the better part of the Northern Kenyan Frontier?
In Samburu County, rampant incidences of insecurity have been a bane for far too long, not forgetting the intermittent harsh climatic conditions that have impacted negatively on food security region. Limited access to sufficient water and other basic needs continues to escalate inter-ethnic conflicts in the region. The killing of 42 soldiers in November 2012 by heavily armed cattle raiders is a clear indicator that there is a worrying pattern of insecurity in the region.
Samburu County is beautiful and endowed with enormous potential of minerals and other natural resources. This region has immense opportunities for growth especially in the tourism sector, with breath taking sceneries and a rich wildlife in various national parks and game reserves. Diverse cultural practices of the nomadic communities living in the county are also an attraction to high end tourists whose interest is to study different cultures in the world. Bird Watching is also an attraction here, with the county boasting of numerous bird species. The annual Maralal International camel derby attracts both local and foreign tourists, with some of them coming to take part in the international event. In the Agricultural sector, the Lorroki plateau if developed, it has the potential of becoming a strategic food basket for the county and surrounding regions.
Factors that hinder sustainable development in the region are noteworthy. In 2014 some areas in Samburu County are out of mobile telephone network coverage, don’t have electricity, and during the onset of heavy rains the roads become impassable. The road that leads to Samburu from Nairobi is unique; the tarmac road ends at Rumuruti. The infamous Rumuruti Maralal road always makes it to the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Every time it rains, trucks and Lorries ferrying goods to and fro Maralal get stuck for days just to cover a distance of 162 KMs.
NGOs and FBOs, in partnership with the Government and other stake holders have identified the need to intervene and provide possible solutions to communities that live in Samburu. A needs assessment conducted by the Caritas Maralal, in collaboration with CAFOD (Catholic Aid for Overseas Development) reveals that the gap lies in the capacity available to community members. The economy of the region is largely dependent on livestock and animal husbandry; there is a need for skills transfer in areas of modern farming technologies, marketing, preservation technologies and environmental conservation. So far interventions by the Caritas Maralal in Partnership with its donors have seen an installation of 12 greenhouses in Samburu North Sub County.
Through engaging communities in Income generating activities, focus gradually shifts from highway banditry, politically instigated violence, and negative cultural practices which manifests itself in the discrimination of women in the ownership and control of resources to best marketing strategies and learning from each other regardless of gender and ethnicity. These projects have also seen increased social interaction among warring communities. Through selling the produce from the green houses, beneficiaries of these projects are able to increase disposable income at household level.
However, these interventions are not enough. With adequate funding, Samburu County has the capacity to develop in every sense of the word. In 2009, the World Summit on Food Security stated that the “four pillars of food security are availability, access, utilization, and stability”. If people cannot access food or markets for their produce because of poor infrastructure such as bad roads, then these factors make it difficult to achieve sustainable development in the northern frontier. The Government, in partnership with Key stake holders in this region, should strengthen their ties to ensure that this region grows economically, politically and socially. It is also not possible to develop without security. Once insecurity issues are addressed, roads are rehabilitated, funds are channeled towards adult education and the agricultural sector, things shall gradually fall in place.