The 16 Days of Activism against gender violence is an international campaign. It starts on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25th November and ends on 10 December, Human Rights Day. The campaign hopes to raise awareness on gender based violence prevention and response.
This sort of violence affects men, women, boys and girls in every other culture and society. In Afghanistan 92% women and girls are mostly abused by family members including sexual partners (UNIFEM 2006). In Rwanda between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the genocide and a decade later 67% of the survivors were HIV positive (UN 1996). An average of 48 women are raped every hour in the Democratic republic of Congo (American Journal of public health 2011). Some 3 million women girls face Female Genital mutilation every year. While some 100 to 140 million have already undergone the practice. This harmful cultural practice is forced upon victims who are brainwashed to believe it is an important rite of passage into Woman hood.
Kenya has not made the much needed progress to fight this endemic vice. In Samburu county cases of gender based violence have been prevalent for far too long. Cases of early and forced marriages, physical violence, female genital mutilation and child labor are common, The Catholic Diocese of Maralal in Samburu County, has responded to this by setting up a rescue centre in Suguta Mar Mar Parish premises . Girls who have escaped from their homes or have been rescued find shelter here. The girls depend on the rescue centre for most of their basic needs which include sanitary towels, education, stationery, food, clothing and shelter. The victims also need professional counseling as they get detached from their family upon fleeing from their homes.
A number of development projects are implemented by public and private institutions, NGOs and Faith Based Organisations in Kenya. They are however not complete if gender issues are not being taken into consideration from the projects initiation to phase out stage. While we work to ensure that the communities we target report increased food security at house hold level, are diversifying livelihoods and can access clean drinking water, we must ensure that all voices are heard. Someone has to speak out for the boys and girls who are victims of child labor, the girls who drop out of school at very early age just to get married and the women and girls who walk for long distances to fetch water for house hold use and suffer domestic violence. The voices of the victims of rape who suffer sexual violence and victims of gender violence in rescue centers need to be heard.
Kenya has been reporting too many cases of insecurity recently. As we fight for justice and peace for the victims of gender violence in Kapedo, Baragoi and Mandera in Kenya, let us reflect within ourselves. Let us take this journey of 16 days of activism together. Reflecting on what we can do for the victims of gender violence around us. Look around you, someone did not get the job they deserve just because of their sex, religion, race or tribe. Another one silently suffers domestic violence. A young girl has dropped out of school just to get married while another benefits from her bride price, a victim of Female Genital Mutilation has to live with its effects every day of her life.
As Pope Francis aptly puts it… “What we are called to respect in each person is first of all his life, his physical integrity, his dignity and the rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices. We are therefore called to think speak and write respectfully of the other not only in his presence but always and everywhere, avoiding unfair criticism or defamation. Families, schools, religious teaching and all forms of media have a role to play in achieving this goal…”
Clearly something can be done to end this endemic vice that is gender violence. It starts with you.