Kenyan Women Resist Post-Election Violence
Kenyan sources report that to date, over 1,000 Kenyans have died and over 800,000 are displaced and living in 311 rescue camps all over the country. Kathleen Cravero, director of the U.N. Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, called for aid for Kenyan women and reported that attacks against women have doubled since the outbreak of post-election violence. We have recently reached out to help our Kenyan partners as they scrambled to respond to this unexpected turn of events. One key partner is GROOTS Kenya.
Led by a young woman who long ago recognized the potential power of women's collective action, GROOTS Kenya mobilizes women in Nairobi's vast slums and rural communities to respond to crippling poverty, lack of educational opportunities, and staggering numbers of AIDS deaths.
In the wake of the recent post-election violence, GROOTS is putting a priority on long-term reconciliation processes. While food and shelter are being provided by the Red Cross, GROOTS is organizing peace dialogues to bring divided communities together to air their grievances and find healthy ways of making their concerns known to the leaders that are so removed from the realities in the slums. This includes the young men who have been easily manipulated to inflict harm on their neighbors, including rape. Uneducated, unemployed, with no perspective on how their actions do not address their own marginalization, it is important that they be reached and convinced to see reason. GROOTS also hopes that the peace dialogues will highlight the common suffering among ethnic groups so as to enable non-violent advocacy actions.
The Global Fund for Women also works with the Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC) in Nairobi. It is the only post-rape trauma center of its kind in East Africa, offering HIV post-exposure prophylaxis, comprehensive STI testing, pregnancy testing, counseling, and referral to legal services – all for free. As rape is reported in increasing numbers, GVRC has dispatched mobile units to the slums and Internally Displaced People's camps in different parts of the country to provide its critical services to women and girls who otherwise have no money for care. In a context of almost 7 percent HIV prevalence and an estimated 2.4 million AIDS orphans, access to life-saving anti-retroviral drugs is critical to prevent new HIV infections. Women's foundations from around the world – including Urgent Action Fund, African Women's Development Fund and Mama Cash – have also funneled funds to GVRC to respond to the rampant sexual violence.
As a human rights organization that mobilizes funds to respond to violations against women and girls around the world, the Global Fund for Women is no stranger to the persistent use of women's bodies as the battlefield for political gain and influence. Whether it's in Bosnia, Rwanda, South Africa, Japan, Democratic Republic of Congo, or Colombia, intimidation by sexual terrorism is a dark but under-reported fact of political history. Just as we have in the past, the Global Fund does and will continue to award grants to women's groups in these countries to advocate against the culture of impunity as well as to provide emergency services to victims of rape.
Photo of Kenyan women by the Nomadic Pastoralist Education Project.
Muadi Mukenge is the Senior Program Officer for Africa.