Kimbilio Trust moves into the community to address GBV

Jackline Mwende with her parents. Photo - Courtesy
Jackline Mwende with her parents. Photo - Courtesy

Despite the country making significant progress in addressing gender based violence, Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) remains high.

The magnitude of the problem is worrying and this can be attested by the scores of women who went public after the sad tale of Jackline Mwende in August, this year.

Mwende’s hands were chopped off by her husband for failure to bear him children. This is even after it was established that it was he, the husband, Stephen Ngila, who had a medical problem. Weeks later, more cases emerged, trickling in on social and mainstream media, as women who had undergone different forms of violence in the hands of their spouses came out in the open.

“Most women who are abused by their spouses know little or nothing about their rights. Majority are ignorant of their rights, hence they suffocate under the influence of the patriarchal society,” says Sarah Kinanu, Programme Officer at Kimbilio Trust, an organisation that runs a GBV hotline.

Kananu says that in some Kenyan communities, women are beaten as a way of discipline while in other cases, the women persevere torturous relationships to avoid losing their status in society especially in areas where stigma thrives.

Toll free helpline  

Kimbilio Trust, a member of the Africa UNiTE Kenya Chapter has been using the toll free helpline 1193 to address GBV cases.

“We receive distress calls from women who have gone through different ordeals in the hands of their partners. Men also call to inform us about a battered woman,” says Kananu.

Trying to make their reach wide, Kimbilio Trust has started a community awareness project in Kipkitur, Baringo County to empower the community on ills of gender based violence.

“We realised there was a need for people to be aware of the most basic and fundamental human rights,” explains Kananu.

Awareness creation

Sarah Kinanu, Programme Officer at Kimbilio Trust, an organisation that runs a GBV hotline. Photo: Dianarose Odhiambo

Sarah Kinanu, Programme Officer at Kimbilio Trust, an organisation that runs a GBV hotline. Photo: Dianarose Odhiambo

Kimbilio has also been sensitizing communities on the Bill of Rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya.

Kipkitur is located in the interior parts of the expansive Baringo County, where retrogressive culture is dominant. Girls as young as nine years old undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) after which they drop out of school to get married. Culturally, immediately after the rite of passage they are considered women and hurriedly married off even before they heal.

In Kipkitur, Kimbilio Trust has been able to resolve cases of fathers defiling their own daughters.

“Most of these cases are handled locally without involving the authorities but we have been able liaise with the police and chiefs in the area to apprehend the perpetrators,” Kananu explains.

Kimbilio’s efforts have seen them also engage men in the fight against gender based violence.

“During the 16 days activism, we spearheaded a GBV campaign dubbed Peace in The Home to the Nation and men were champions of this campaign,” explains Kananu.

According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014, 45 percent of women aged between 15 and 45 have experienced some form of physical violence from their husbands or partners.

Challenges in the war

Different organisations face different challenges when addressing GBV with stigma hampering the process.

“Most survivors fear taking the cases to conclusion for fear of stigma, whereas others prefer settling the cases at home. However, in areas where some come out to report, they face challenges in police stations, with some officers urging complainants to opt for domestic settlements.”

One of the emerging issues in the fight against gender based violence is that fathers are now turning against their children in the absence of their wives.

According to Kananu, men defile their children as a way of punishing their wives for abandoning them. Some of them believe in using their children as bait to make their wives come home. Unfortunately, such cases are also settled out of court with the women being blamed for leaving the children behind.

“Women, who decide to leave their matrimonial homes after excessive forms of violence, end up going back to their spouses more grief-stricken than they left,” Kananu notes.

The Protection against Domestic Violence Act 2015 provides for the maximum protection and relief to victims of the vice. The main objective of the Act is the protection and provision of support to aggrieved spouses, children and dependent persons.

However, this is yet to be achieved one year after the bill became law. According to the Act, violence is abuse that includes child marriage, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, forced wife inheritance, interference from in-laws, sexual violence within marriage, virginity testing and widow cleansing. Most of these cases are settled domestically.