Tag Archives: #EndVAW

Ending FGM & Harmful Traditional Practices: Engaging Our Religious & Cultural Leaders

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By Otina Kennedy*

In many African communities, cultural leaders are increasingly under pressure to remain relevant in light of increasing awareness and advancements on human rights for women and men.  There are many cultural practices that are in direct conflict with some of the national and regional laws, especially those which focus on the rights of women and girls. Most cultural institutions are male dominated and promote patriarchal tendencies that have remained a major hindrance to social justice and adherence to women’s and girls’ rights.  The greatest challenge is transforming the attitudes of cultural leaders to promote the rights of women, without fear of losing their influence in their communities.

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Since 2013, FEMNET (African Women’s Development and Communication Network), the Swedish Reproductive Health Organization (RFSU), Masculinity Institute (MAIN) and the Anglican Development Services Mount Kenya East (ADMSKE) have jointly partnered to tap in to the social status and influence religious and cultural leaders to promote sexual, reproductive, health and rights – SRHR for women and girls in Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Homabay counties in Kenya.

The project engages cultural and religious leaders in mobilising and leading their communities towards ending socio-cultural practices deeply-rooted in their communities such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and wife inheritance as a strategy to promote sexual and reproductive rights for women and girls in Tharaka Nithi and Homa Bay counties, respectively.

Using FEMNET’s Men to Men Strategy, the leaders have successfully cultivated an environment for religious and cultural leaders to work together to address FGM. For example, in Meru and Tharaka Nithi, the highly esteemed cultural leaders known as Njuri Ncheke have been openly supporting alternative rites of passage and are giving a consistent message to their communities.

The project has provided a platform where religious and cultural leaders share intelligence on secret ways used in performing FGM. One such tick is the transfer of girls from one village to another to confuse the locals.  From this information, religious and cultural leaders are alert and continuously monitor the influx of non-resident girls into their neighborhoods to ensure they don’t undergo FGM. The national treasurer of the Njuri Ncheke, Mzee Mwamba from Mara, is a traditional male circumciser and gathered this intelligence:

‘One day as I was checking on the medicine used on circumcised boys, I noticed that somebody was using the herbs without my knowledge. Upon investigations, I was informed about some women who were colluding with my assistants to siphon the herbs. I later learned the women were administering the herbs on girls who had been brought in the neighborhood from other communities to undergo FGM. As a trainer of trainers on SRHR, I was embarrassed that this practice was still happening in my backyard.  I reprimanded my assistants and the women involved who later shared the tricks that they use locally to perform FGM. I have gone further to establish a team of scouts who are keeping a watchful eye on girls visiting our area to protect them from FGM. Even though the women who were stealing my herbs committed to stop the practice, I had to report them to the area Chief who is the government representative at the village level to ensure they are known to the authorities for illegal activities.’

Women remain key allies in all the efforts to eradicate FGM. Society has pushed them into believing that FGM is a source of income and status in the community. Women have been pushed to justify FGM as a cultural heritage despite the negative impact the practice has on them directly. Most of the women who mutilate these young girls don’t believe that FGM is illegal and will go an extra mile to mobilise their fellow women to allow their girls to undergo the practice.  “We can easily tell if a girl from a particular family has not been circumcised. Our cultural practice requires that after undergoing FGM, the mother to the girl must organise a dance ceremony for women in the village to  perform songs and dances in praise of the circumcised girl”,  said a woman who performs FGM. Men have continuously blamed women for performing FGM, yet they seldom publicly condemn it. This is a scapegoat used by the men to avoid taking responsibilityon FGM matters. Women should be made to understand the immediate and long term negative impacts of FGM on the girls and on women’s SRHR life.

Article 5 of the Maputo Protocol calls upon State Parties to prohibit “all forms of FGM” through legislative measures and supportive sanctions. Kenya has since come up with an anti-FGM law -“The Prohibition of the FGM Act 2011”. The Act explicitly prohibits female genital mutilation. However, the greatest challenge remains the implementation of law.  The situation gets worse at the community level as some duty bearers accept FGM as sound cultural practice.

In Kenya, the government is represented in every village by administrators who are often picked from the same community. This is aimed at ensuring that they are familiar with the people they are governing. However, they also harbor attitudes that perpetuate negative cultural practices like FGM thereby hindering efforts towards eradicating it.  A case in point is in Katwara village, where a family was free to perform FGM on their girls after paying Kshs. 6,500 (USD 70). The money is shared as follows: the area Chief and Assistant Chief get Kshs. 1,500 (USD 16) each, the village Headman gets Kshs.1,000 (USD 11) and the woman performing the cut gets Kshs. 2,000 (USD 22). When members of the community went to demand an explanation as to why the Chief as a government official was allowing the practice to continue in the village, he became indifferent.” Kila mtu ako na mtoto wake na anaweza kumfanyia kile anachotaka. Sitaki maneno yenu na mkijaribu kutuingilia tutawaroga” (Everybody has their own child and is free to do what they like. I don’t want to engage with you on question and answer anymore. I will bewitch anybody who interferes with us). The Chief has succeeded in intimidating the community members using his position in government. As a government representative in the community, it is unfortunate that he supports a practice that has been outlawed. This scenario is repeated many times over in communities and countries across Africa.

This year, the project partners have purposed to expand the stakeholders’ base to target other members of the community. In the coming months, we will be strengthening the role of women as advocates for the eradication of FGM. Men and boys will also be given a platform to openly voice and demand an end to FGM.  Additionally, the project will undertake advocacy campaigns targeting national and county governments to ensure that the existing national laws are widely known by the citizenry, and are implemented. At national level, the project will share intelligence on the tricks community members are using to procure FGM on young girls with the National Anti FGM Board. The project will work together with the National Police Service to ensure that they are properly trained to handle these cases and that  reported cases are prosecuted as a matter of public interest.  It is sad that FGM is still a problem facing us at this time and age. This is a wakeup call to all of us that a lot more is needed to truly abandon and end FGM in our generation.  There is need for concerted efforts by all – women and men, girls and boys, young and old, government and non-governmental institutions – as well as education, advocacy, outreach, political will and collaboration. This is not just a problem for the few, but for us as a people of Kenya. FGM is wrong. Protect the girl by raising your voice.

Join the campaign: #endfgm.

*Mr Otina Kennedy is the Program Associate (Regional Men to Men Program) at FEMNET.

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One Year On – We Have Not Forgotten – #BringBackOurGirls

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We are unfortunately fast approaching the one year anniversary since hundreds of girls were abducted from their school in Chibok, Nigeria.

A Global Week of Solidarity Action is currently underway to amplify calls for their immediate release and rescue, as well as to reiterate that we have not forgotten our girls.
In light of this, all citizens of conscience are invited to join in the solidarity week of action from April 8th – 14th April  to speak out and take action against increasing fundamentalisms and oppressive systems of patriarchy and domination which perpetuate injustice.
You will recall that our call for a solidarity day of action on May 15 which marked one month resulted in incredible mobilization from over 20 countries across Africa as well as globally – with the holding of vigils, fasts, prayers, marches, protests, sit ins, media engagements and more! Here in Nairobi, hundreds from all walks of life took to the streets to express their love, hurt, anger and solidarity.
There will be a Global School Girls March on April 14th. If you are planning any activities in your respective cities/towns/countries – please fill out this form:
 

Here are some social media messages that you can feel free to use and share widely, along with a mapping of relevant policy makers for the targeting of those messages. Some images can also be accessed here – please feel free to use and share widely. 

Please also let us know if you’re interested in writing op-eds, articles or blog posts in relation to the girls.

For any questions, please contact communication@femnet.or.ke

Justice delayed is Justice denied #Njeri’sJustice

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In Kenya, this year’s, V-Day’s International Women’s celebration was marked by the hosting of Vagina Monologues show at Alliance Francaise in memory of Njeri, a 19 year old girl whose justice is yet to be served. Njeri was raped, murdered and found dead stark naked on June 2013 in Kikuyu. According to the post-mortem, she was raped, stabbed 12 times including the neck, back, thighs and legs. The accused was released on bail.

Justice delayed is Justice denied: This court case has been adjourned several times for the past 2 years. With the recent reports of rape and assault incidences in corridors of power, it is our hope that the law will take the course and justice will prevail. The sense of confidence in the courts is essential to maintain the very fabric of the society and the delay of the justice system to serve justice destroys that confidence and may even drain a just judgment of its value. In the larger sense, the public may come to believe that the justice system cannot fulfill its primary function to protect its society.

Despite the adjournments, we have not forgotten Njeri and we are calling members of the public to attend the court hearing dates as a show of confidence that the wheel of justice will roll faster and justice will be served. The Court hearing dates are scheduled for 30th March 2015 and 2nd April 2015 at Milimani Courts at 9am.

Other courts case that we are following up on: Kayole stripping case Ruling will be delivered on April 1 at Makadara Court.

Facebook Event Page:

https://www.facebook.com/events/433970743433970/

Colour of solidarity: purple or black. We will be handing out purple ribbons before the hearing.

#ABetterWorld

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By: Yemurai Nyoni

When it comes to gender equality and the question of why I keep talking about it, I have this to say. Gender (in) equality is a real issue, whose legitimacy is still undermined by the status quo: the existing arrangement of our economies, societies and politics. As a young man, a youth voice and a part of your social media family; I have to keep talking about gender equality in order to send the message home.

I aim to make sure that by the time we’re done talking about gender equality, that’s all our leaders will have left to say. Up to such a point that any leader who doesn’t say it, see it or work towards it as we do, will stick out like a sore thumb.

We need to keep conditioning the world to see what we see in order to bring our future closer. There is a greater hope for humanity, a suppressed potential, which we will see if and when women have their stake of the development pie.

So I will continue to speak about gender equality, until this conversation stops being unusual. But even then I will continue, because it is not enough to speak about it or believe in it; we must take the necessary steps to prove its authenticity. That way, when we have seen the transformative power of women’s leadership, when we witness their constructive influence on the economy, society and politics; there will be no turning back, ever.

To my female friends and colleagues, we are not at gender equality 101 yet. Somehow it seems the world can still afford to leave you out, beat you up and keep you down. So they need to hear more, they need to believe and we can help them. Hence I speak with the 50+% because there is a case to prove and women need a full platform to prove it.

Lastly, for those who ask for evidence of the benefits of gender equality, there is plenty in tow; but the best of it is yet to come. #HeForShe #MorePower #MoreSpace #NoViolence #GenderEquality #NoRegrets #MakeItHap

Infographic courtesy of Women Deliver http://www.womendeliver.org/knowledge-center/publications/invest-in-girls-and-women-everybody-wins-2014/

Implement #MaputoProtocol NOW!

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The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (better known as the Maputo Protocol) is one of the world’s most comprehensive women’s human rights instruments, with progressive provisions aimed at addressing the current realities of girls and women across the African continent including addressing harmful traditional practices, economic empowerment, ending violence against women and food security. The theme of the AU Summit this year; “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063” provides a unique opportunity to accelerate commitments towards the Maputo Protocol.
The Maputo Protocol currently has 36 ratifications.

“Realization of #TheAfricaWeWant through #Agenda2063 starts with implementation of the #MaputoProtocol. Implement Now! http://thndr.it/183gcJe”
Support SOAWR in sharing this message here;
https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/21509-implement-maputoprotocol-now?locale=en

#Justice4Osebe

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As the entire world observes UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the beginning of 16 Day of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, we are tragically yet again reminded that the right to life is a basic human right that is often violated.

A 4-year-old girl Anita Osebe Moi was robbed of this extremely important human right. She will never grow up to fulfill her dreams and actualize her full potential because she is no more.

Please sign the petition here.

We are extremely appalled and in the strongest terms possible condemn the rape that led to the subsequent murder of 4-year-old Osebe. This deeply disturbing, cruel, inhuman and gruesome incident took place at Iringa village, Tabaka Ward, Kisii County, Kenya on 8 October 2014.

The cause of Osebe’s death was revealed by results of a postmortem done at Tabaka Mission Hospital on 30 October 2014 confirming that she died from acute heart failure as a result of defilement and sodomy. Osebe was laid to rest at her parents’ home in Iringa village on Friday October 31st 2014. The defilement and subsequent murder of Osebe MUST be vehemently condemned by ALL Kenyans and world citizens of goodwill.

We also condemn what the family of Osebe and community members are noting as a slow response by the local law enforcement systems to thoroughly investigate and apprehend the known suspect when he emerged as a suspect in this matter before he went into hiding. Given the gravity of the offense, the suspect is a serious threat to public safety and particularly so to children.

The suspect must be apprehended as soon as possible to help ease community tensions and the deep sense of insecurity and vulnerability that prevails within the Iringa and Tabaka Ward community at large. Life in Iringa village is not the same. There is great fear particularly amongst children that what happened to Osebe could happen to them. WE WANT JUSTICE AND WE WANT IT NOW!

This case is just one in thousands that highlights the challenges and difficulties survivors of sexual violence in Kenya face daily. The rampant defilement of minors particularly girls in Kenya coupled with a very low prosecution rate when cases are reported is deeply disturbing and a fact that led to the ‘Equality Effect’ 160 Girls project in Eastern Kenya that revealed that every 30 minutes, a girl or woman is raped in Kenya and that there is a high prevalence of sexual violence against children in “the whole country.”

Kenya must uphold the rights of all its citizens and protect women and girls from sexual violence, in line with the 2010 Constitution, the Sexual Offenses Act, the Penal Code, and its obligations under regional and international human rights instruments. Kenya has ratified a number of international and regional human rights instruments that affirm the State’s responsibility to protect women and girls from sexual violence, including the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Protocol), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Protocol obliges member states to “adopt and implement appropriate measures to ensure the protection of every woman’s right to respect for her dignity and protection of women from all forms of violence, particularly sexual and verbal violence” and to “ensure the prevention, punishment and eradication of all forms of violence against women.” Furthermore, the Protocol requires that Kenya establish “mechanisms and accessible services for effective information, rehabilitation and reparation for victims” and direct adequate State resources towards the implementation and monitoring of preventative action.

Tragically, the 2006 Sexual Offences Act’s “effectiveness has been marred by poor enforcement due to failure of the police to investigate complaints of sexual violence or arrest the perpetrators.” Much more must be done to protect Kenya’s women and girls from sexual violence and to ensure timely access to justice for all survivors.

It is unfortunate that several weeks after the murder of Osebe we must be moved to call upon our leaders to take action, knowing that they have the mandate and the power to ensure a swift professional investigation, subsequent apprehension and prosecution of the individual that committed this grossly abhorrent act that so brutally took Osebe’s life.

Our leaders’ immediate response to this call to action will not only demonstrate to Osebe’s family but the entire country and indeed the world that Kenya and Kisii County in particular are serious about addressing the prevalent issue of violence against girls and women.

Please join us in signing this petition to call upon the following Kenyan government officials to ensure a swift and thorough investigation into the gruesome defilement and subsequent murder of Anita Osebe Moi leading to the capture and prosecution of the individual that committed this heinous act. Furthermore, call on these officials to urgently ensure the realization of the Kenyan government’s obligation to prevent and eradicate sexual violence, while ensuring justice for all survivors.

– Hon. Dr. Willy Mutunga, Chief Justice and Head of the National Council for the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) – chiefjustice@judiciary.go.ke @WMutunga
– Keriako Tobiko, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) -keriako.tobiko@odpp.go.ke @ODPP_KE
– Hon. Winfred Lichuma, Chairperson, National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) – info@ ngeckenya.org
– H. E. William Ruto, Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya -dp@deputypresident.go.ke, @WilliamsRuto
– Anne Waiguru, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Devolution & Planning -info@devolutionplanning.go.ke, @AnneWaiguru

We cannot continue to lose girls or any child for that matter as a result of sexual violence. This MUST STOP NOW! We call upon all Kenyans and world citizens of goodwill to stand with Osebe’s family at this very difficult time of great loss and grief by signing this petition demanding that the Kenyan government apprehends the known suspect as a matter of urgency and ensures that justice is served.

Thank you so much for your support and may justice be served!

Join us on Facebook

Please amplify this message on social media using the hashtag #Justice4Osebe

Endorsers:

– The Tabaka Ward ‘Uongozi Wa Utu Project’ – FEMNET (The African Women’s Development and Communications Network) – Young Women Leaders Institute (YWLI) – Njagi and Nyaboke Advocates’ (Jane Nyaboke Matoke, Advocate of the High Court of Kenya) – Center for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) – Africa UNiTE Kenya Chapter – Equality Now.

cc:

– H. E. Uhuru Kenyatta C.G.H. President and Commander in Chief of The Defence Forces of The Republic of Kenya – @UKenyatta info@president.go.ke
– Office of the First Lady, State House – fl.secretariat@president.go.ke, @FirstLadyKenyaHon
– Hon. David Kimaiyo, Inspector General of the Kenya Police -kimaiyodm@ymail.com, knfp.info@gmail.com @IGKimaiyo; @PoliceKE
– Hon. Prof. Githu Muigai, Attorney General, oagpcomms@kenya.go.ke
– Hon. Joseph Ole Lenku, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Interior & Coordination of – National Government, joelenku@gmail.com
– Jacinta Nyamosi, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions – @ODPP_KE
– H.E. James Ongwae, Governor Kisii County – governor@kisii.go.ke, @JamesOngwae
– H.E. Joash Maangi, Deputy Governor Kisii County -deputygovernor@kisii.go.ke
– Commissioner Chege Mwangi, Kisii County Commissioner
– Commander Moses Kanyi, OCPD, Gucha South Sub County
– Jane Mbera, Area Chief, Iringa Sub –location, Tabaka Ward
– Hon. Josephine Ombati, Chairperson Kisii County Assembly Women’s Caucus
– Hon. Mary Otara, Kisii County Women’s Representative
– Hon. Daniel Ombasa Apepo, Minority Leader Kisii County & MCA, Tabaka Ward
– Hon. Manson Nyamweya, South Mugirango Member of Parliament
– Hon. Janet Ong’era, Senator Kisii County
– Hon. Chris Obure, Senator Kisii County
– Commissioner Kagwiria Mbogori, Chairperson, Kenya National Commission for Human Rights – haki@knchr.org; complaint@knchr.org
– Patricia Nyaundi, Secretary to the Commission, Kenya National Commission for Human Rights – haki@knchr.org; complaint@knchr.org
– Prof. Rose Odhiambo, HSC, CEO/Commission Secretary, National Gender and Equality Commission- info@ ngeckenya.org
– Hon. Cecily Mbarire, Chairperson, Kenya Women Parliamentary Association,info@kewopa.org
– Chairman of the Council of Governors, info@cog.go.ke

Call to Action to End Violence Against Women & Girls

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This Call to Action holds a common human rights agenda, uniting our visions & clarifying our demands. With it, we can be many voices speaking loudly and consistently backed by evidence and experience in ways that convince, inspire and challenge others outside our movements to use their power.

This call to action is a strategic demand for change.

Together, we call for greater action and an explicit commitment to the elimination of violence against women.

COMMIT TO ACTION!

Join the hundreds of other individuals and organizations working toward ending violence against women.

Join here:

http://www.lancet.com/series/violence-against-women-and-girls