KENYA 16 Days of Activism

On 25 November - the International Day to End Violence Against Women - was launched the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women. This campaign, which will run until International Human Rights Day on 10 December, marks an important moment in the agenda of those across the world who advocate for an end to violence.

Gender-based violence is one of the most pervasive and yet least-recognised human rights abuses in the world. As many as one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some other way - most often by someone she knows, including by her husband or another male family member. Gender-based violence leaves its victims with long-term psychological and physical trauma, tears away at the social fabric of communities, and is used with terrifying effect in conflict settings, with women as the main target.

For such women living in conflict zones, who are under constant threat of violence, it can be impossible to speak out, and be listened to by the outside world. CARE International’s Voices Against Violence campaign calls for an end to rape as a weapon of war, and for protection from violence for women who live in conflict zones.

Today CARE International brings together the voices of women from conflicts, who speak out bravely about their experiences.

A Voice from Kenya

The following is a first-hand account of the post election violence written by a beneficiary of CARE’s supporting Victims of Sexual Violence project. The author has requested anonymity.

I am a resident of Kibera where, until recently, I lived with my husband and 10 children. Violence began in my community on the morning of December 30, 2007 following the Kenya national election. On this date young men roamed through my community, harassing people with knives and stones. When this began I ran to a friend’s house to hide and left my children there to keep them safe. In the evening I decided to go back to my house with my two daughters. When I was at home that evening a group of armed General Service Unit (GSU) men knocked on my door, which I hesitated to open. I eventually opened the door, hoping the men would protect us against the rowdy youth because my husband was not home to protect us. When the men entered they searched the house for any hidden weapons, but could not find any. Then one of the men demanded that I remove my clothes, while the other two men harassed my daughters. Before I could resist, I was knocked down on the floor and raped while my daughters were assaulted.

Afterwards, I was not able to get to a health facility or get medical care for two days. When I finally got to the hospital I was asked to return in two weeks for treatment. When I returned I was given a blood test and found HIV-positive. After getting this news I reported it to the local chief who gave me a letter to help me present the case to the nearest police station. When I later reported the case at Kilimani police station, they dismissed me and told me that they didn’t handle such cases. After discovering my HIV-positive status my husband accused me of giving my body to the police and left without returning.

I was eventually admitted to the Mbagathi Hospital for 20 days, where I began antiretroviral treatments. At this point I gained some hope because CARE provided me counseling and helped me gain the confidence to openly discuss my ordeal with the Commission Investigating Post-election Violence (CIPEV). After gaining this confidence, I encouraged other women to share their experiences so that we can provide moral support to each other.

It has been hard to identify the General Service Unit (GSU) man who abused me, making it difficult to pursue justice. My life has not been the same since my ordeal, so I hope that CARE will continue to help me and other victims get access to counseling and legal aid. This is so important because many police are still abusing women and going unpunished, while women and children continue to suffer.

CARE International is one of the largest aid agencies, working in over 70 countries around the world, to tackle poverty and injustice. CARE’s work has an impact on over more than 59 million people a year across five continents.