On 15th April 2017, Members of Mathare Social Justice Centre did not attend the 2.00pm general meeting as is our custom. We all headed to Pirates hall located in Mlango Kubwa ward in Mathare. The reproductive justice campaign was holding a community dialogue themed Gender-Based Violence. In Mathare, men and women have experienced gender-based violence year in year out, but in most cases women and children are the victims. I felt it was important to have a discussion on this as it is something residents of Mathare have seen, heard or experienced first-hand.
In attendance were about fifty community members, all the members of MSJC, Yvonne Flammer who is a medical officer at German hospital in Baraka, Naomi Van Stapele who is among other things a researcher passionate about human rights in Mathare, Aika Matemu co-coordinator reproductive justice campaign and Biki a web developer but who on this day took beautiful pictures during the forum. Faith Nafula and Juliet Wanjira were the facilitators during the dialogue. Faith is a GBV expert and great facilitator. Juliet is the coordinator of the reproductive justice campaign.
The facilitators started the forum by getting the community members to explain GBV in their own understanding. And then we all took turns to tackle different aspects of gender-based violence.
The Kiswahili translation for this word was discussed as a way to easier communicate to the community and have a shared understanding; this is Kudhurumiwa kimwili, Kufinyiliwa kuhusu jinsi yako.
We had an interactive forum where the community members explained and gave examples of these violences. It was interesting to note that men in this community were also victims of GBV, and especially the ones who are alcoholics or happen to have no money and their partners cater for all expenses.
We discussed the different kinds of manifestations of gender-based violence. And among them are:
Emotional and physical manifestation of GBV where there was mention of examples such as releasing stress on wives and children as well as verbal abuse towards both men and women matusi na matharau.
Physical abuse where violence is used as a way to control the victim. Types of violence discussed were: Rape: people felt that is happens to both men women as well as children and the elderly. Rape was described as unwanted or forceful sex, wanting to have sex with someone who does not want to have sex with you and with no consent. Police violence and harassment: where police in Mathare often harass and abuse community members by forcing them to strip naked and run across the streets. Cat calling: there was debate on whether this is a form of abuse. A few men expressed that they do it because they feel that women like it and expect it from them as a way of validating that they are beautiful and to be admired by them. They also mentioned that it is idle men who participate in cat calling. Child defilement was discussed with an emphasis on under age sex with a minor under the age of 18 as being illegal in Kenya. Indecent assault was discussed as having unwanted physical touch or exposing yourself to the public or another person.
There were also discussions on gender roles. Traditionally it was a man’s duty to work, toil the land and provide for his family while the women were to reproduce and take care of household duties. With the evolving world, this is changing overtime. Women and men are competing for job markets even in field previously known for men. So gender roles are changing now that women are also in a position to provide. The main point however, was that no role is for particular gender; both men and women can cook, do laundry, baby sit and provide comfortably — although we are still some time away from this situation.
The facilitators mentioned statistics such as 46% of women having experienced GBV in their lives. The reasons for not intervening when witnessing a GBV assault were fear of being physically attacked, being questioned about whether you are interested in the person (in the case of domestic violence) and not wanting to interfere with domestic issues, which is very popular in this community.
We also discussed how family structures are affected by GBV, and for exampled we talked about the developmental effect on children and the future perpetration of violence by children who have experienced violence in the home. We looked at ways of mitigating gender-based violence and said we should specifically build on community dialogue and forums.
Above all, we emphasized that we should not let it happen and if it does speak out! We also decided to do more community mobilizations and to inform residents that they should report cases of GBV at the police station, MSF blue house, Mzee wa Kijiji, legal clinics and the National GBV hotline 1195. Also important are the child hotline 116 and the child counselling hotline 1190. Also we agreed that if you feel as an individual that you are violent seek help. See some pictures of this powerful event below.
Julie Wanjira, Reproductive Justice Campaign Coordinator