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Nowhere in the World is Safe for Women

girls1Violence against women is a vice that has continued to be a serious global health and human rights issue. It touches millions of women and girls in every community in every part of the world. Up to 70 percent of women and girls experience violence in their lifetime. Violence against women is not confined to a specific culture, region, country, or socioeconomic group. Rather, its roots lie in persistent discrimination against women.

“I still remember that day like it happened few minutes ago. There I was, bleeding, crying, confused and shaking. Yes I had just been raped by my uncle who had lived with us for over 5 years. I felt useless, miserable and was sure I was never going to heal from this. All I wanted was to die or sleep and never wake up.” – Phyllis Nekesa 15 years old.

Although violence against women takes many forms (i.e. violence by an intimate partner, sexual violence, sexual violence in conflict, violence and HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation/cutting, dowry murder, “honor killing,” human trafficking, violence during pregnancy, verbal and emotional abuse or neglect), I believe that many women in Kenya suffer domestic violence without even realizing it. Additionally, women may not be aware of their human rights or are in genuine fear for their lives.

There are several international, continental and sub-regional protocols that outline the issue of violence against women within the African context. One of these is the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (The Maputo Protocol), adopted in Maputo, Mozambique on 11 July 2003 and entered into force on 25 November 2005. The Maputo Protocol defines violence against women as:

All acts perpetrated against women which cause or could cause them physical, sexual, psychological, and economic harm, including the threat to take such acts; or to undertake the imposition of arbitrary restrictions on or deprivation of fundamental freedoms in private or public life in peace time and during situations of armed conflicts or of war.

If we work together to advocate for appropriate policies and programmes that, once put in place, will help us achieve our goal, we can end this human rights violation. Every woman must be made to understand her rights as a woman and as a citizen.

In many cases, culture has been cited as the leading cause of violence against women, whereby outdated traditions -like using violence as a socially acceptable way of discipline – thrive. Other potential causes include alcohol, drugs, and financial insecurity.

According to Kenyan statistics from the Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC):

  • 45 percent of women between ages 15 – 49 in Kenya have experienced either physical or sexual violence;
  • Women and girls account for 90 percent of the gender based violence (GBV) cases reported;
  • One in five Kenyan women (21 percent) has experienced sexual violence;
  • Strangers account for only 6 percent of GBV in Kenya;
  • 64 percent of survivors of violence reported that they knew their offenders;
  • Most violence towards women is committed by an intimate partner; and
  • 90 percent of reported perpetrators are men.

These statistics are alarming and it’s about time you and I took action to advocate and raise our voices to bring an end to this human rights violation.

There are so many barriers to disclosure by female survivors of violence, thus preventing them from opening up and talking about what’s happening in their lives. Overcoming these barriers must be addressed on multiple levels, including creating services that allow survivors to access timely, supportive, comprehensive care and raising awareness of the issue to reduce the social stigma women and children often experience when they decide to disclose violence.

As we mark this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, we must take the following actions:

  • Raise awareness of gender-based violence locally and nationally;
  • Strengthen local networks to protect women who suffer violence; and
  • Create platforms for groups and individuals to lobby government to generate and implement policies opposing violence against women.

Together, we can make a difference.

Learn more about gender-based violence on Girls’ Globe