The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is an annual campaign that begins on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs through International Human Rights Day on 10 December.
Haki Yetu Organization has actively participated in every year of the 16 days of Activism ever since its formation. This year was no different, we were on the frontline and joined civil societies and other actors in campaigns against Gender-Based Violence under the theme “UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls.”
The meaning and extend of SGBV
Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) especially against women and children remains the most pervasive human rights violation globally. This violence undermines a person’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem. It affects not only physical health but also mental health and may lead to self-harm, isolation, depression and suicide.
The Coastal Counties of Kenya are one of the most affected regions when it comes to SGBV. According to statistics gathered by Mombasa County Gender Based Violence Mental Health Programme, SGBV cases have increased from 1,865 recorded last year to 4,477 cases reported as of June 2022. This goes to show that SGBV is a major thorn in all the Coastal Counties and that there is a lot of work to be done.
The effects of SGBV on Mental Health
We at Haki Yetu believe that mental health is a key component of general well-being and the quality of life of our staff and the communities we work with. The individual and group counselling sessions we started to offer as part of our response to the Covid-19 pandemic, are therefore now part of a full-fledged project on the provision of mental health and psychosocial support to our staff, the survivors of SGBV and intergenerational violence as well as frontline workers, such as police, mediators and teachers.
Haki Yetu staff member Triza Gacheru recently participated in a podcast on the effects of SGBV on mental health. It is part of the #UNITEGIZKENYA PODCAST Series. Please follow THIS LINK if you want to give it a listen.
The work that Haki Yetu does to end SGBV
Haki Yetu prioritizes the creation of grass root networks and empowering the community to detect, manage and prevent SGBV. Since major cities usually receive most of the attention, we focus on marginalized and remote areas such as Bamba, Kinango, Matuga, Taru, Magarini and Kilibasi.
Access to justice is the biggest challenge towards combating sexual and gender-based violence in these remote areas. The residents of Gede sub-location in Bamba for instance, have to cover approximately 99km to access Kilifi Law Courts. No matter how old or how young they might be.
It is also worth noting that we have 80 active defilement cases in Kilifi Law Court from Bamba police station and 24 defilement cases pending arrests of the accused persons who cannot be traced.
One of the highlights of this year’s campaign was that Haki Yetu, in partnership with World Vision, successfully petitioned the Honorable Chief Justice on Access to Justice in Bamba, Ganze Constituency during celebrations by the judiciary in marking ten years since the inception of the Environmental Land Court. The petition urged the Honorable Chief Justice to expedite the plan to reduce the high number of unreported cases affecting women and children and to accelerate the follow-up of pending cases.
As a direct result of this petition, the Honorable Chief Justice approved a mobile court to be operationalized in the area until the construction of a stationary court has completed. This will significantly help to address the challenges towards access to justice in the region in the meantime. It is our hope that mobile courts will also get introduced to other remote areas such as Kinango, Taru, Kilibasi. This will go a long way in advancing the war against GBV and creating a safe place for women and children.
The way forward
Moving forward, as an organization we will strengthen our collaboration with justice actors, enhance pro-bono legal representation and support to clients to access justice in court. Furthermore, we will expand our community awareness campaigns and continue to engage the county and national government to prioritize the fight against SGBV, so we can jointly end violence against women and girls once and for all.