“We are here. Listen to us.”— “Tupo. Tusikizwe.”
On the 17th of June 2023, 16 people from 6 different countries had the opportunity to meet online with members of COVAW which has been fighting for the rights of women in Kenya since 1995. This learning visit is also part of the Voice for an Inclusive World project.
Prior to this event, on the 28th of June 2023, Lord and Margaret, The Constellation Facilitators, visited the village of Shimoni hosted by Sandra, Patriciah, and Victor. The community saw an increase in violence against women in the village, a situation that unfortunately worsened during the COVID pandemic. Lord and Margaret listened to both the victims and perpetrators. They felt safe to share their stories and hopes.
During the online learning visit, participants watched a video in which local residents spoke about the situation:
“Most of them do not know the consequence on them and the community.”
“I am a boda-boda [motorcycle taxi driver]. I transported a student girl to a man’s house. She became pregnant. I look at the girl now, and I feel that I could have done something to avoid what happened.”
“Make sure that you are busy, stay focused, and stay away from drugs.”
Both men and women feel safe to share their stories: A recent progress
The primary focus of COVAW was to raise awareness, but, at meetings, women would not talk about what was happening. On the one hand, they were forbidden to speak in front of men. For another, the victims were afraid of being stigmatised and forced to return home… COVAW and other organisations came but with no lasting solution.
“We had to find a sustainable way to engage people.” COVAW then focused on two objectives: Gender responsive budgeting and Accountability and transparency.
“As the underlying reason of the village situation is poverty, we focused on budgeting capacity building to ensure that women, and, through them, girls, and children, have access to the resources made available by the government or organisations to tackle the violence.”
Shimoni took up this opportunity very strongly:
“We cannot continue to be suffering like this!”
Patriciah from Shimoni declared:
“We did not understand much about budgeting. But we have now learned how to budget and to talk with confidence.”
“We then put the leaders in the hot seat, fighting for accountability and transparency regarding funds for women with disabilities, for instance,” says COVAW. Today Shimoni not only has a recovering centre, but also safe houses for girls.
“What are the causes of teenage pregnancy, apart from poverty?”
Child neglect; Peer pressure from other children to prostitution; Cultural norms (if a girl is found with a man they are married immediately); Lack of family structure (divorce rates are high and children are torn between their mom, dad, grandmother…).
“What strengths can ensure sustainable effort to address these issues?”
Everyone now knows the importance of education for all girls, people push girls to go to school.
Women are coming up as a group, trying to be productive and helping each other. People are awakened and try to change.
Go Girl facilitators from other countries shared their experience
“I learnt that when you have an opportunity to help someone, you do it without delay. Ignoring the problems will eventually have serious effects on the entire community.
One thing that we look out for is being part of the community to understand people and feel what they are going through. It is us being part of them, being part of the country, of Africa, and helping girls make their dream come through.
But I would add that outsiders do not initiate the change. Change should come from the girls and the women, and that way the change will be a long term one.”
Comfort, Go Girl Ghana
“From the Go Girl experience, I learnt that addressing the issue of teenage pregnancy and early marriage is through working with all stakeholders in the community. They are part of both the problem and the solution.”
Aaliyah, L’Afrikana, Kenya.
Janet Ochieng’, who works for tax justice with the Kenya Female Advisory Organisation (KEFEADO), stressed the importance of following up with the young girls.
Marlou thanked everyone who contributed to the meeting. She added:
“With this meeting, we can see the depth of the importance of communities standing hand in hand to respond and to celebrate.”
Facilitators of the online visit: Lord Zablon and Margaret Musumbi. Hosts: Sandra Chivumbe, Patriciah Kamende, and Mwanamgeni Mawabar. Technical support: Eddy Man and Miel Nora.