Breaking the Silence

By Diane Doris

Safe Spaces, an initiative that seeks to advocate for gender equality and a platform to air thoughts and experiences on Gender Based Violence (GBV) was launched over the weekend to ensure victims do not die in silence.

“Girls are raised to be silent, proper and polite, which in my view contributes to abuse,” said Leila Kambogo, the founder. Leila stated that girls being raised in the culture of silence were one of her main motivating factors to start the initiative. She saw the need to create platforms for different individuals to tell their stories without prejudice. With the initiative she hopes to seek solution to the different challenges they society faces in relation to GBV.

Leila strongly expressed the need to do more than write about gender inequality. She decided to come up with an organization that can be pro-active in championing for gender equality and also to reduce cases of GBV. “GBV is not only physical but emotional and mental as well. Individuals between the ages of 17-24 are the target for perpetrators. 75 per cent of the perpetrators are people known to the victims for example relatives, boyfriends and/or girlfriends,” she affirmed to the shock of the participants.

According to the Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC), they have supported more than 40,000 survivors of GBV.

During the conversations, date rape was highlighted. The audience was cautioned to be careful when going out as there as individuals easily spike drinks in order to take advantage of victims and lure them into sexual activities when unconscious. Rebecca Gitau from GVRC enlightened the audience to do a background check on their partners as most sexual perpetrators come from dysfunctional homes and may carry out these unlawful acts.

At Pawa 254’s Mageuzi space where the conversations were taking place, participants were encouraged to be courageous and stand their ground on sex.

Leila Kambogo

Rebecca from GVRC was very vocal about how the African culture has promoted GBV in today’s society because it seems to tolerate the ungodly act. Rebecca explained that many of her patients disclosed to her that they were skeptical about speaking out on GBV because they are scared of being embarrassed and also fear being isolated by the society. She also referred to how African culture deems it acceptable for a woman to be hit and she has no authority to speak out about, which has led to the increase in GBV cases across the country.

When Rebeca highlighted that there is also gender based violence against men, most of the participants felt that most of them do not believe that it is possible for a man to be sexually assaulted, while in reality it actually happens. She urged the audience to accept that abuse of the boy child is a reality and the society needs to address it and stop ignoring it.

She introduced the slogan, “No means no!” as a creative way to be bold and say no to GBV. She also unveiled GVRC’s 72 hour campaign, which are three guidelines to be followed after one is involved in a rape ordeal. The first guideline is that do not shower after a rape incident. This destroys evidence that could assist the police in catching the perpetrator. Secondly, do not keep quiet! Victims should report the incident to the police and visit a hospital as soon as possible to seek medical attention. Finally, victims should seek counselling. Counselling helps victims heal and get rid of the shame brought about by rape.

Through the Safe Spaces Initiative young Kenyan women are coming together with the agenda of eradicating GBV and advocating for gender equality.

If you are interested in learning more about Safe Spaces and how you can get involved, click here, or like the page Breaking through the glass on Facebook.

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