May I introduce my friend Wanjala and his work at Coexist Initiative in Nairobi Kenya. Wanjala Wafula is a writer and Founder / CEO of The Coexist Initiative, a not for profit synergy of men and boys community‐based organizations committed to eliminating all forms of Gender based violence in Kenya.
The Coexist Initiative was founded in 2002 and officially registered in 2005 as a non -profit network for men and boys organizations that work in the areas of sexual and gender – based violence (SGBV) and HIV prevention in Kenya. Its main focus is on working with groups are men, boys and communities. We employ innovative, tested an integrated approaches that are simple, home-grown, participatory, holistic, and ones that reinforce existing work. Interventions are guided by research, training, synergy development, advocacy, tools development and extensive grassroots engagement, to build competences, raise the levels of awareness, influence attitude/behaviour change and objectively provide information.
Can you help the Samburu girls?
Please allow us to share with you a story about a practice that is destroying the lives of thousands of Samburu girls in northern Kenya. Beads are a part and parcel of Samburu community life for generations. The practice is normally initiated by parents around puberty, but possibly earlier but exploited by Morans (warriors) who use the practice to cause numerous vulnerabilities to girls as young as ten.
Beading allows a Moran to buy a girl he fancies from his clan, basically a family member and places beads on her neck. This acts as a sign of ‘engagement’. He is allowed to have sex with her. However, he cannot marry her, and they must not have a child. When the girl gets pregnant, her mother and fellow clan women conduct crude abortions. The women press the girl’s abdomen with their elbows until the fetus dies. The young mothers to be almost always die, or they get life threatening complications like excessive bleeding, sepsis, and fistula. Others never conceive again. When they carry the pregnancy to term and give birth, the child is killed using a concoction of tobacco
The archaic cultural practice of beading among the Samburu remains one of the most dreadful exercises that recurrently exposes girls as young as ten to death and life threatening complications including excessive bleeding, sepsis, fistula, segregation and expulsion from society. We propose to increase knowledge and understanding around the dangers of the beading by targeting and working with Morans, men, women, boys and communities in Samburu County
Global giving is giving us an opportunity to raise $5000 so as to mobilize a critical mass of Samburu Morans (warriors), elders, and communities to work toward the elimination of the beading vice as well as build their capacities and competencies toward the same. We come to you as a person of goodwill, friend of the organization or our partner for support towards this low cost but life transforming project that gives hope to thousands of Samburu girls in Northern Kenya. This is the best Christmas gift that you have ever given!
Please visit, support and share- https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/safe-one-thousand-samburu-girls-from-early-marriage/
Unrelenting insanity against women
By Wanjala Wafula
An innocent woman was stripped bare by hoodlums on the streets of Nairobi for supposedly dressing “provocatively” and it attracted all sorts of reactions including demonstrations by women rights groups. The media discourse that ensued remains a pointer to the fact that gender parity is still a distant realism that many on the African continent are yet to come to terms with. In my view, sexual harassment and other forms of sexual cruelty in public spaces are an everyday happening for women and girls around the African continent. For me, the incident did not come as a surprise only that it was caught on camera hence the hullabaloo that followed.
I have submitted in this third rate column for over a decade now that women and girls experience and fear various types of sexual violence in public spaces, from sexual harassment to sexual assault including rape and battering. I have over the years seen women and girls being abused and battered just because they “failed” to fit a certain definition of being a “good” woman according to various clusters of men and boys. Violence against women and girls occurs on the streets, public transport and parks, in and around schools and workplaces, in public sanitation facilities and water and food distribution sites, or in women’s own neighborhoods. My cynics, who for years have disbelieved my cause to engage men and boys in the discussion against all forms of violence against women and girls, can now blame themselves
Violence against women and girls is one of the most disturbing aspects of living in a culture that promotes the order of power in human relationships according to gender. I am not fond of statistics but I am persuaded that violence against women and girls is the fastest growing yet least reported crime in all countries across the African continent. For years, I have observed that violence against women and girls emanate from cultural norms and practices that socialize males to be aggressive, commanding, dispassionate, and overbearing. On the other hand, females are demarcated by being submissive, caring, dutiful, and expressive hence their “definition” as feeble, incapable, and reliant on upon men. These stereotyped gender-roles have encouraged men and boys to exercise control and authority aggressively. In my considered view violence has become part of the societal fabric in our societies
How can there be no violence against women and girls in all African countries when education systems across the continent promote and reflect the same norms that promote gender disparity? For many years, gender parity pundits have unceasingly documented evidence of this pyramid of power within school systems in terms of student attainment, teacher-student interface, curriculum materials, learning styles, classroom manners and many other diverse negative attributes. How can we go to the streets to demonstrate against gender based violence when our education systems daily reinforce sex-role labeling and fairy-tale imageries of what is purportedly “suitable” male and female conduct?
I recently had a conversation with a group of University students in Nairobi and I was stunned to realize just how much pervasive information youngsters are being exposed to. They were all affirmative that women and girls enflame violence and therefore available for abuse. What was more disheartening was that all the girls in the discussion shared the same view and even gave elaborate personal testimonies about the same. It emerged during the discussion that the reference point for most of the youth in Africa is the media. Current trends involving television, movies, and music often reinforce the delusion that women relish being ill-treated. They all were in agreement that it is a modern manly attribute to control women and that it’s natural. If you doubt this premise, then go ahead and watch a few minutes of television, or a movie aimed at teenagers to see countless occurrences of women falling in love with males who control them and see a number of stereotypically beautiful women as sufferers. I hasten to insist that battering and rape are not adult issues only. Violence is being entrenched in the boys early enough and the streets are only but one of the places they manifest it.
My concern is that habitually, criminals who perpetuate violence against women and girls go scot-free. They are left to prey on their next victim as we loudly console their victims. Days after the inhuman debacle in Nairobi, a group of school going girls was violently raped by a group of militias on the border with Somalia. Their crime was to confess to a faith that the criminals did not like yet I have not heard much of the noise about it. By selectively making noise in the cities and towns and ignoring the cries of women and girls in the rural areas, we are setting precedence to where else the criminals should turn to.
I detest the impunity which has persisted around violence against women and girls across the African continent. Hundreds of girls abducted by the egoistic gang calling themselves Boko Haram (whatever that means) still remain at large yet the Nigerian government moves on. Thousands of women and girls were sexually abused and some murdered during the post-election mayhem that engulfed Kenya in 2009 yet the debacle has not informed any government intervention. Many governments around Africa have put in place legislation around curbing violence against women and girls yet women and girls continue to be a statistic that many just speak to.
Considered, impunity which is widespread must be unacceptable just as the violence itself. Impunity is a significant component in perpetuating violence and discrimination against women and girls. As long as impunity toward violence against women and girls is acknowledged and stomached by humanity, so too will humanity linger on to accept and tolerate acts of violence. I am bewildered by the fact that despite increasing consciousness of the scale of the problem, its magnitude, practices, significances and expenses to both the individual and society at large, the political will to end the culture of impunity, and to successfully thwart violence against women and girls has not yet materialized.
May be it is time you joined my crusade to engage men and boys toward realizing the same.