The County Government of Kilifi has kicked off an aggressive campaign against gender-based violence (GBV) and teenage pregnancies, which officials say have worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic period.
This is after reports indicated that at least 175 cases of GBV had been reported to the devolved unit’s Department of Gender, Culture and Social Services since the pandemic struck the country about eight months ago.
The department has partnered with the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA) and the Kenya Red Cross Society to educate men and women in rural areas and informal settlements on the need to eradicate the vice in society.
Ms Agneta Karembo, a Gender Officer within the department, told reporters in Kilifi town that at least 25 cases of GBV were being reported to her office monthly, a majority from informal settlements and the rural areas.
Speaking to reporters in Kilifi town Wednesday, Ms Karembo lamented the documented figures were low because many of the victims, especially women and girls, were not reporting the cases for fear of being victimized or held in contempt.
“Most women fear reporting these cases and that is why we are moving from village to village to enlighten and educate both men and women about human rights and the negative impacts of GBV,” she said.
She said the three organizations were also sensitizing the targeted groups on the importance of financial empowerment especially to married women.
The chairlady of the Kilifi Mums Forum, Ms. Kibibi Ali, called on women to ensure that they obtain marriage documents immediately they get married so that they can use them as their shields in case of oppression by their husbands or husbands’ family.
“Most of our women do not have marriage certificates and it gets tough defending them in court especially in cases where they have been chased away by their husbands or in succession cases after the death of their husbands,” she said.
Mrs. Gertrude Ndoro said that the campaign had enlightened communities in Jaribuni village on issues of justice for GBV victims and lauded the county government and its partners for the programme.
“We’ve been taught on how to preserve evidence in cases of defilement and rape that we should not bath for at least 72 hours until the case is reported and medical examination is conducted and we shall enlighten other women who have not been reached,” she said.
FIDA Coast Regional Coordinator Ilham Isham said financial oppression was the main cause of abuses against women and that there was need to engage the women economically to make them self-reliant.
“Cases of rape and defilement happen when a woman allows a man to give her handouts who later demand for payment in form of sexual favours and as we teach the women and men about their rights, we also encourage them to be financially independent,” she added.
By Emmanuel Masha