Anita Nderu Advocates for Safe PSV Rides in Kenya

 

image
An Embassa Sacco Bus plastered with a sticker displaying a hotline number

(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 matatus.

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 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’. This are just few of the the many cases in which women and girls have been sexually assaulted on public transport vehicles. Apparently, many of 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 givebirth 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.

Anita’s Experience;

image
Anita Nderu displaying a sticker with a message against lexical harassment in PSVs

‘ 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 literally empowering the perpetrators.
The Hope

“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

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Anita Nderu advocates for Safe PSV Rides in Kenya

image
An Embassava bus plastered with a sticker showing a hotline number dedicated to reporting cases of SGBV in PSVs

40beba! 40beba

Wa haraka beba, wa haraka ingia!

Wawili wa Embakasi , wa haraka twende!

(Unable to translate for non-Swahili speakers)
Puh puh puh (Loud sound of matatu being hit by a palm)
Continuous hooting, engine roaring, dust and exhaust fumes flaring as busy pedestrians dart in between the reckless matatus.

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 13th 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 chitchatting 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 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’. This are just few of the the many cases in which women and girls have been sexually assaulted on public transport vehicles. Apparently, many of 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.

Anita’s Encounter;

image
Anita Nderu poses with one of the stickers displaying messages against SGBV in public transport vehicles

‘ My boob was groped while traveling in a bus’ Said the 27 year old Anita.

Tears creeping in her eyes…. she pauses for seconds, and finally gathers courage to continue 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 literally empowering the perpetrators.
The Hope

“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

Anita Nderu advocates for safe PSV Rides in Kenya.

image.jpeg
An Embassava bus plastered with a sticker with a hotline number dedicated to reporting cases of SGBV in PSVs

40beba! 40beba

Wa haraka beba, wa haraka ingia!

Wawili wa Embakasi , wa haraka twende!

(Unable to translate for non-Swahili speakers)
Puh puh puh (Loud sound of matatu being hit by a palm)
Continuous hooting, engine roaring, dust and exhaust fumes flaring as busy pedestrians dart in between the reckless matatus.

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 13th 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 chitchatting 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 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’. This are just few of the the many cases in which women and girls have been sexually assaulted on public transport vehicles. Apparently, many of 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.

Anita’s Encounter;

image.jpeg
Anita Nderu poses with one of the stickers displaying messages against SGBV in public transport vehicles

‘ My boob was groped while traveling in a bus’ Said the 27 year old Anita.

Tears creeping in her eyes…. she pauses for seconds, and finally gathers courage to continue 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 literally empowering the perpetrators.
The Hope

“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

The Ultimate Price of FGM

blog pic
A Maasai girl enjoying a good time with a newly born goat

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a human rights violation, torture and an extreme form of violence and discrimination against girls and women-There is no subtle way to describe it!

Sadly, according to World Health Organization (WHO), more than 200 million girls and women GLOBALLY have undergone FGM, worse still, if current trends continue 15 million girls (between ages 15-19) are at risk of undergoing FGM by 2030. In addition, there are numerous documented cases of girls dying each year due to complications arising from FGM but substantial is difficult to come by.

Contrary to popular belief that FGM is ‘a cultural issue”, in reality, it has socio-economic consequences which impacts on the health, education, livelihoods and general well-being of girls and women. In the course of my activism as well as journalism in Kenya, I have come face to face with the impact of FGM on girls and women among the various communities that still perpetuate the practice.

FGM has been deemed to ‘benefit’ girls and women by ensuring chastity and cleanliness as well as a rite of passage in actual sense it is a perpetuation of misogyny, vicious and violent expressions of patriarchy and sexism that lead to the psychological and physical abuse of women.

Without exception, young girls and women carry the economic burden of FGM since the practice denies them an opportunity to access education thus limiting their chances of being economically productive. Moreover lack of education hinders girls from securing formal employment and limits the nature of livelihood activities they can engage in.

Another issue underpinning the continuation of FGM is the equation of girls to commodities. For instance among the Rendile, Pokot and Maasai (pastoralist) communities in Kenya, it is common practice to trade off girls as dowry and as way of replacing livestock lost during drought or through rustling.  As a result, a girl’s education and future is sacrificed at the expense of her father’s quest for wealth.

By the same token, it is well known that circumcisers, often older ladies, have continued the practice not because of their ‘strong’ belief in culture but purely as a means of eking a living out of innocent girls.  For instance, a year ago, a renowned but now reformed cutter, confessed during an interview with me, that she had made so much money out of her business, spanning 30 years. She boasted of having built a permanent house; one of the best in the village. Unfortunately this wealth has been accumulated against a backdrop of over 5000 girls cut- most of whom eventually dropped out of school and are married off at young ages. (https://andisilorna.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/the-chief-ex-cutters-diary-why-i-dropped-the-knife/)

The practice of FGM is also perpetuated by social institutions in practicing communities. In this regard, local level authorities, charged with the responsibility of arresting FGM perpetrators are routinely bribed. One such revelation, from a Chief I interviewed, who confessed of having made ‘a few’ coins of the practice. In deed it emerged that it is common practice for cutters, parents and community elders to bribe chiefs and police to shield them especially during the cutting ceremonies. Additionally, it has been widely documented that most perpetrators walk out of cells scot free for lack of sufficient evidence to support prosecution. In most instances, politicians have been known to interfere with criminal cases by bribing officials who in turn release the perpetrators by slapping a mild cash bail after which most cases fade away.

Lastly, and on a disappointing note, I have heard of individuals purporting to run grassroots organizations that advocate against the practice yet they are a sham. They have no real intentions of ending the practice and only use their organizations as a conduit to make money out of the poor girls!

Should I also mention schemes by dorner organizations that fake reports to earn donations -that purpose to save these girls but end up misusing the funds? I will leave that to Graham Hancock- Author Lords of Poverty.

Sounds like a scheme right? But the reality for far too many girls and women in Kenya and around the world . Women and girls continue to pay the price of FGM and the price remains way too high!

But then who therefore pays the ultimate price of FGM. I guess you now have th

 

Also published at Girls Globe

 

 

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The reality of Child/Forced Marriage; Amina Opts for Suicide than Forced Marriage,

amina
speaking to Amina at her home in Musenke, Magadi.

Few weeks ago, while at Musenke primary school, I got a chance to interact and mentor about three hundred girls who were undergoing an Alternative Rites of Passage commonly known as ARPs, a program by AMREF Health Africa. My visit to Musenke brought me nigh to the reality of child/forced marriage.

Amina*, 14 years old narrowly escaped forced marriage to a 45 year old man. Amina was only 12 years old. Her close friend, Naserian*, 15 years escaped jaws of Female Genital Cutting and subsequent marriage at the age of 9.

Amina’s charming smile caught my attention. I instantly fell in love with her confidence coupled with her intelligence. On interacting with her, her smile proved to conceal distress that she underwent two years ago. With consent from AMREF Health Africa and Amina’s main guardian, I got a chance to interview her.

2013, Amina sat for her primary school final exams and emerged best girl from her class and district as well. She desired to join a secondary school to pursue her dream of becoming a Television Anchor. Her dreams were almost shuttered when her impoverished father secretly arranged her marriage to a man four times her age.

She got a wind of the planned marriage through her brother who eavesdropped to a conversation between his father and a neighbor. Amina was to be traded in the following day for a few cows that were to be sold to raise money for his elder brother’s school fee. (Amina’s mother passed on three years ago).

That night, Amina was unable to sleep. It was about midnight, she had few hours remaining to become a child bride, a wife with new responsibilities that she could not imagine herself performing! She instantaneously planned her escape.

She tiptoed across the room, careful not to wake up any soul. Cautiously, she opened the door, closed it silently and took off at a ‘leopard’s speed’.  She waved through thorny bushes oblivious of the danger she was putting herself through (here, wild animals are known to hunt for goats at this hour), the orchestra of the chirping insects giving her rhythm to sprint even faster. The breezy full moon night supplying her with just enough light to easily locate her elder half-sister’ house, which was about 5 Km away.

In roughly 20 minutes, she arrived, flinging her door wide open. She landed on the floor with a huge thud panting, sweating and slightly bleeding from body parts that had been pricked by thorns. Her sister woke up with a loud piercing scream. Amina quickly identified herself; Through gasps, she narrated her tribulation.

Her loving sister was very concerned. She happened to be an elementary school teacher at the same school that Amina attended. The following morning, she reported the matter to the schools’ management and what followed was a series of demonstrations and marches by her schoolmates and teachers. They marched to various offices including the Area Chief, Police Station, District Education Office, and Provincial Administration demanding for immediate action to be taken to spare Amina from the imminent arranged marriage.

Amina’s father was quite belligerent citing that his decision was final. He located her, went for her, dragged her and locked her in the house. He threatened that he would harm her and curse her if she attempted to escape again.

Activities in Musenke village came to a stand-still for three consecutive days. During the day, women could be seen gathering in small groups and talking in low tones. Men left the village in pretense of search for pasture for their livestock. School children tirelessly sang and chanted ‘No Marriage for Amina!, No marriage for Amina!’ At this time, Amina was drafting her suicide note.

Just before Amina could take away her life, the police stormed her house and rescued her. Her unmoved father was arrested and remanded for a few days. Amina was now running late to join secondary school. Luckily she was awarded a full bursary though a community development fund program. She was enrolled to Kiserian Girls High School. She is currently in form two pursuing her dream.

Amina has never stepped back home except when the Nation Television crew and I was conducting this interview. When schools close, she stays at her sisters’ place.

She graduated from the ARP program, a training program that helped her transition to adulthood without undergoing FGM. Amina is so far safe from FGM and Child Marriage.

Her friend Naserian ran away from home and sought refuge at a rescue centre in Narok, miles away from Musenke. Her parents are yet to find her.

Amina and Naserian represent a fraction of thousands of girls in Kenya who are at high risk of undergoing FGM and early/forced marriage; cultures that are robbing them off their dreams.

Abandonment of child marriages and FGM is pertinent to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Goals on education, Health, ending poverty and hunger as well as achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls.

 

Anti-FGM Activists Hail the Media on FGM Coverage   

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County Executive Commissioner Emily Chepoghiso among journalists and Anti-FGM activists

Global Media Campaign activists from various FGM practicing communities across Kenya commend the media on coverage of FGM stories. According to the activists, the extensive media coverage by both local and national media outlets (in print, radio, television) has finally given Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) a national attention, an attention that it deserves!

The youth activists together with various journalists across media houses earlier this week converged at The Horizon Resort, West Pokot, where they engaged in a dialogue to chart the next frame of action in combating Female Genital Mutilation.

The two day booster campaign was officially opened by the County Executive Commissioner Ms. Emily Chepoghiso. Ms. Chepoghiso thanked the activists and journalists for committing to end a form of violence that has staggered the socioeconomic growth of this country. She pledged her support in battling FGM and cattle rustling. “I will work closely with you to ensure that no girl is denied her basic human right in the name of culture,” Said Ms. Chepoghiso.

Also, speaking at the of two day booster campaign; Global Media campaign Regional Coordinator Ms. Domtila Chesang congratulated journalists on the increased reporting of FGM stories. In her remarks, she noted that the move has not only created awareness on the issue but also increased advocacy at the grassroots level. ‘Despite the constant challenges that we encounter in our work, we shall remain focused to the struggle to end this practice’ said the passionate Chesang.

Ms. Chesang, a recipient of the 2017 Young Queen leaders’ award by the Queen of England, acknowledged the role of both the local and national media in highlighting her work of eliminating FGM in West Pokot County.

The Global Media, Media Cordinator Diana Kendi who is also an award winning journalist for reportage of FGM stories has too been playing an important role of linking up journalists to the activists as well as identifying and refining content for feature stories, radio and television interviews. Diana committed to looping in as many journalists as possible citing that journalists have the power to bring about desired change in the society.

Campaigns’ Executive Director, Maggie O’kane who was also present at the booster campaign recognized the mutual relationship existing between journalists and activists. She noted that the relationship has helped to catalyze efforts undertaken by other actors including the civil societies, development partners, private sectors, and the government to accelerate abandonment of the practice.

Similar efforts have also been launched, under the banner of Global Media Campaign, across FGM practicing countries including The Gambia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Somali and Nigeria. In this regard, the campaign has also seen the release of two films; one featuring a global activist Jaha Dukureh- Jahas Promise which premiered this year in major cinemas worldwide and another one featuring a local activist Domtila Chesang and Beyond FGM UK- The Cut: Exploring FGM which aired during the first week of October 2017 on Aljazeera.

Currently, the activists are in early stages of engaging with religious leaders (priests and Imams) to come out and collectively speak against the practice.

 

About the Global Media Campaign #MediaToEndFGM

The Global Media Campaign (GMC) formerly The Guardian Global Media Campaign (GGMC) was officially launched in October 2014 under a joint funding strategy with UNFPA. Small grants were provided to journalists and news editors to help send journalists into remote areas to follow up on stories. Simultaneously, the dissemination of information regarding the health consequences of FGM and promoting the achievements of girls who had not been cut was set in motion, through offline materials and community radio presentations featuring respected local and religious leaders, and content translation into local dialects. By mid-2015, the GGMC had identified a number of young men and women working in isolation to challenge FGM. In September 2015, the GGMC ran a media-training academy (#EndFGMAcademy) in Nairobi, to which these activists were invited. They were given media training to empower them to collect and relay stories about the harms of FGM. The academy was opened by the then chairperson of the Kenya Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Board, Linah Jebii Kilimo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating ‘Safe space’ for women?

Earlier this month. I got an opportunity to attend a training by The Africa Women’s Development and Communication Network, (FEMNET). The two-day training themed; ‘Strengthening Young African Women’s Movement and their role in Ending FGM and Child/forced marriages’ -was meant to equip young feminists with skills to help them better their campaign programs.

I  am a young female blogger on the same so I qualified to attend this ‘one of a kind’ training.

ruth 2
Catherine Nyambura, Programme Associate, FEMNET, (Left) poses with trainees

Why do I call it ‘one of a kind’ training? Well I consider the training unique for the sheer reason that all the participants were females only! I have never attended a training where participants comprised of single sex, either, or. This particular one being my first. Most of my fellow trainees shared my sentiments.

Hold up, before you ask me whether I ought to have seen the theme indicating ‘Young African Women’ Oh yes I clearly saw that while responding to the call for participation. But again, how many times have we attended women themed meetings and workshops where male participants dominated discussions on  ‘women’s issues’ and arrived at solutions on ‘our’ behalf. I have. Many times. And I tend to talk less….

‘Hmmm this is interesting…’ I thought to myself on the first day of the training. Finally, what a safe space for women to exercise their freedom of expression without fear and to better articulate their issues.

During one of the health breaks, I caught up with an over excited 25 year old Ruth Kilimo. Ruth, Founder Marakwet Girls Foundation narrowly escaped Female Genital Mutilation at the age of 9. Ruth was happy to finally have found a space where healing was more important than debate. She is currently working to end FGM and early marriages in Elgeyo Marakwet, a region that is largely marginalised.

Ruth Chepchumba Kilimo, Founder, Marakwet Girls Foundation sharing her experience during the training.

The room was filled up with young women from various parts of the country, women of about 24-40 years. Women with vigor, women who believe that the future of the next generation is destined in their hands, women who won’t allow young girls to experience inequalities and oppression for being women like they have! Women who are ready to hold hands and synergize towards a just, safe society for all. You can now imagine the energy in ‘that’ room.

The training topics were quite interesting and I must say I loved understanding my Sexual Reproductive Health Rights. Let me be honest. I probably have used this term ‘SRHR”  a couple of times not really knowing what it actually meant. So, if you have been throwing it around not knowing what it means then do not worry. Here is what I learnt. I promise to be as brief as possible (because today am discussing ‘safe spaces’, rather)

Women’s sexual and reproductive health is related to multiple human rights, including the right to life, the right to be free from torture, the right to health, the right to privacy, the right to education, and the prohibition of discrimination

Under sexual rights; the 14th World Congress of Sexology (Hong Kong, 1999), adopted the Universal Declaration of Sexual Rights, which includes 11 sexual rights:

  1. The right to sexual freedom.
  2. The right to sexual autonomy, sexual , and safety of the sexual body.
  3. The right to sexual privacy.
  4. The right to sexual equity.
  5. The right to sexual pleasure.
  6. The right to emotional sexual expression.
  7. The right to sexually associate freely.
  8. The right to make free and responsible reproductive choices.
  9. The right to sexual information based upon scientific inquiry.
  10. The right to comprehensive sexuality education.
  11. The right to sexual health care.

Now you know.

Besides the SRHR session, young women also got to learn about advocacy and how to carry out successful campaigns. How to engage the media to amplify their voices and how to leverage on new/social media to earn a critical mass. We were also taught to understand the need for young feminist movement building that is as young women, if we collaborate and concert efforts we are going to achieve our desired vision sooner.

Back to safe spaces, my definition for safe spaces would therefore be; places or communities-either online or off- where bigotry, misogyny and oppressive views are not tolerated. Controlled environments in which people discuss certain issues and support one another. Essentially safe spaces provide a network of support and understanding. An oasis for some groups who are otherwise denied safety and respect by the world.

and this is the space that young women activists just need!