A Non-governmental organization has launched a programme in Nakuru, to help victims of gender-based violence, early marriages and teenage pregnancies overcome trauma associated with the vices.
Through funding from the Aga Khan Foundation and United States International Aid Agency (USAID), Young African Women Initiative (YAWI) is also working with creative artists and content developers to produce material on detection, prevention and legal remedies of gender based violence through films, theatre, music, poetry and stage plays.
YAWI Executive Director Fidelis Wambui Karanja says that the initiative dubbed ‘Kuimarisha Project’ that has brought on board 14 Community Based Organizations and Youth groups in Nakuru was launched following a surge in the vices with perpetrators identified as mainly close family members such as intimate partners and relatives.
Ms Karanja says difficulties in accessing healthcare services and the fear of seeking counseling because of the containment measures are some of the challenges that the victims face.
She has urged the County government to help in setting up protection measures such as provision for safe spaces in all the 11 Sub-Counties where women and girls, survivors or those at risk of this criminality, can seek solace far from their abusers – family or otherwise.
The need for safe houses, rescue centers and shelters notes the Executive Director cannot be gainsaid at a time, when people are being directed to stay at home as efforts to fight against the spread of the horrendous virus go into overdrive.
She says the cause is empowering the women and youth groups to equip community members at the grassroots level with knowledge on GBV, how they can protect themselves and where to seek medical help when they face such situations.
Authorities report that cases of rape, female genital mutilation and illegal abortions have also increased significantly in Nakuru County in the past three months. The rise in these forms of violence, where women and girls are the main victims, is attributed to stress as a result of economic hardship, among other causes.
Ms Karanja says the project has unveiled the Elewa Haki product where information on gender based violence and human rights is shared through zoom meetings and online platforms via social media.
The program is working closely with the Nairobi Women Hospital’s Gender Based Violence Center where participants refer victims for counseling and treatment. Police Gender Desk is a crucial partner as they help survivors report cases and seek justice.
Hannah Kimani, chairlady to Subukia Women Group, says teen pregnancies, including from incestuous abusive situations are rising to alarming proportions in the Sub-County.
She cites a case of a standard six girl who was impregnated by her uncle but could not report to authorities as the issue was hushed up by the family.
“We are now speaking ourselves hoarse, calling for specific actions to stop SGBV in its tracks. Women and youth groups in this area are now actively seeking protection for survivors and those at risk and criminal prosecution for perpetrators.
Elvis Emitati from Nakuru Cultural Creative Center says the initiative is encouraging playwrights and music composers to create content that promote national moral values, family values and peaceful co-existence during the Covid- 19 pandemic.
Members of the center who include artists, musicians, poets, actors, storytellers and spoken word artists who are working on diverse stories of Covid-19 and how communities are coping with GBV, while film makers are crafting productions promoting awareness and prevention of GBV and teenage pregnancies.