(40beba! 40bebaWa haraka beba, wa haraka ingia!
Wawili wa Embakasi , wa haraka twende!) Touts calling out.
Continuous hooting, engine roaring, dust and exhaust fumes flaring as busy pedestrians dart in between the reckless vehicles.
Careful! warns a pedestrian next to me as a Boda Boda operator narrowly misses smashing through me in lightening speed!
Well, these are some of the sounds and scenes we encountered on the 12th day of the #16DaysOfActivism as we launched a campaign to end sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) within public transport vehicles in Kenya- at Nairobi’s Accra Rd.
While chit-chatting with the public present at the Embassava Bus Terminus, it emerged that it is a common trend and that almost every female has experienced some form of violence-Be it Physical, verbal or sexual abuse- while using public transport vehicles in Nairobi and other cities across the country.
In November this year, a matatu driver raped two passengers in separate attacks in Nakuru,including a 15 year old girl. In a separate recent incident that took place in Molo, a driver ‘regularly raped his passengers’. These are just few of the the many cases in which women and girls have been sexually assaulted while using public transport vehicles. Apparently, many other incidents go unreported because again Kenya does not have a database dedicated to dealing with instances of SGBV on public transport meaning victims do not get assistance as they ought to!
It is for this reason that Equality Now, The National Safety and Transport Authority (NTSA) together with a number of Civil society organizations (FEMNET,FIDA-Kenya, KELIN, FLONE) launched a campaign dubbed ‘Nyanga Safe’ (Safe Matatu for women and girls).
The meritorious campaign launched on 6th December 2017 was meant to raise awareness about sexual gender based violence in public vehicles and encourage women and girls to speak out. The campaign was also meant to push for severe action available in the law to those found culpable.
Similarly a hotline (0709932000) and a google play store App by NTSA dedicated to handling such offenses was also availed to passengers.
Addressing the media, Equality Nows’ Office Director Faiza Mohamed urged women and girls across Kenya to be aware that they have support of the relevant institutions including NTSA. She encouraged them to speak up and speak out against the shameless perpetrators. She further acknowledged that the partnerniship will in the long run birth a special gender desk at police station which will be dedicated to handling cases of Gender Based Violence in PSVs.
Also present at the event was a renown TV and Radio personality, Anita Nderu. Anita is one among the thousands of girls and women who have experienced sexual assault while riding in the public service vehicles.
In unflinching courage, Anita, impeccably dressed strutted from her workplace at Lonrho House, Capital FM to Accra Rd (Down town) to speak to public service operators and the general public as well as share her story with the media at the press briefing and take part in the great campaign.
‘ My boob was groped while traveling in a bus’ Said the 27 year old Anita.
Tears crept in her eyes…. she paused for seconds, and finally gathered courage and continued narrating her ordeal. ‘The man did not stop! In fact when I confronted him he said we have boobs so that we can be touched!’ To her dismay, when she informed the conductor, he senselessly said to her that there is nothing he could do!
Anita who has shared her story on wider platforms such as BBC called out on women to courageously speak out about violence in public spaces because by keeping quiet they are empowering the perpetrators.
“The existence of Public Transport Saccos has been a major step in managing discipline among Matatu operators.” Said Mr. Hared Hassan, Deputy Director Head and Enforcement NTSA. Speaking to the media, Mr. Hassan pointed out that while there is a code of conduct guiding Matatu operators,his department is committed to ensuring that there is safety in public transport vehicles and that passengers are respected. He additionally called for tougher disciplinary measures for anyone that would be found violating girls and women.
In June this year, a pump attendant, a driver and his conductor were sentenced to 25 years each for sexually assaulting their female passenger. The conviction was celebrated by the public who saw the verdict as ‘a strong message to those with similar manners’
While there exist various challenges towards achieving a society free from Sexual and Gender Based Violence, such commitment by various key institutions indeed give hope to a better society in the near future