Six Months After Post-election Violence, Kenyans Still Need Help
Women in particular have much to cope with. As Sibinty Conteh, manager of the International Rescue Committee’s short-term program to tackle sexual violence says, “Women have told us that they were attacked or raped when they left their temporary camps to collect firewood. Young girls were attacked in their tents at night and even now these women have returned home there are great needs.”
She explains, “In the Rift Valley as a whole, there’s a culture of silence: people don’t speak out because they’re afraid of being stigmatized, and they don’t report the issue because they don’t know where to go for help. Yet the truth is that sexual violence has terrible health effects on its victims, both physically and psychologically, so they really do need help quite urgently.”
Over the past months, the IRC has run awareness-raising campaigns in three camps for displaced people – Noigam, Showground and Kiminini. We spoke to men and women about risk factors and improving safety; and we brought in service providers such as the Ministry of Health to talk about where people can go for help or more information.
As people have slowly returned home, we’ve been working with existing women’s groups to build up their knowledge about the issue. One of our community volunteers James Tai admits, “It’s very hard to talk to people about sexual violence because it’s so sensitive. It’s a very slow process, but people are starting to talk about past incidents.”
And do the women have a problem with James bringing up the issue with the community because he’s a man? “They don’t seem to mind at all,” he says. “I work with a female colleague, Francisca, and they know I’m here to help. Actually, I have seven daughters myself so they say that I’m an honorary woman now anyway!”
In response to their requests, the IRC has provided the women’s groups with some knitting and crocheting materials so they can spend time together socially. Groups of women are less at risk of abuse than lone individuals, and such a social forum also allows women from different groups to come together, talk openly and share their experiences.
The IRC is also partnering with local service providers to improve the quality of their services for survivors of sexual violence, including Ministry of Health staff, local organizations and police officers.Learn More
IRC Voices from the Field Blog: Hear from the IRC's Joanne Offer in Kenya