In Focus - Violence Against Women & Girls Mitigation
Why is violence against women and girls such an important issue that it’s been made a dedicated technical area of Jamii Thabiti?
Because it comes at a huge cost – and we’re not talking about money, per se. A woman or girl who has suffered violence towards her faces a lifetime of effects from it: it’s the physical effects, it’s the loss of childhood, it’s the mental health impacts, it’s the time and cost of sometimes life-long medical needs, of visits to lawyers and legal fees. It destroys so much potential.
Kenya has made a lot of progress in terms of legislation fighting VAWG. Nonetheless, Jamii Thabiti still has a lot of work to do, towards improving the redress mechanisms and prevention of VAWG. Prevention entails addressing some of the most elementary attitudes towards VAWG. For instance, a key concern is that VAWG is still often seen as a social occurrence, rather than a crime. To achieve the change that we seek, we need to help the people and communities of Kenya to understand that it is a crime, as much as if a man hit or assaulted a fellow man.
It is the chance to change these mindsets and root understandings of VAWG that drives my work with Jamii Thabiti. It is part of my quest to understand what makes people behave the way they do and what shapes their attitudes. We need to ensure that women and girls who are suffering from gender based violence receive immediate help, and then we also need look at the root causes of it and why it happens – we need to put out the fire but then make sure we look at the conditions that caused the fire to start, and address them.
How do I think we do this? Well, we are using a multi-pronged strategy, working with partners at national and county levels to address various aspects VAWG mitigation, viz: publishing the VAWG related legislations and policies to equip, support and enable the women and gender sensitive men in county governments, starting with the eight counties in which Jamii Thabiti is working in Kenya. Strengthening coordination among key actors and embedding these gender sensitive women and men is a root action that is crucial to the success of subsequent work: by having people in positions of power who honour and affirm work to tackle VAWG, we begin the process of changing mindsets on the path to creating real change.
The health of society – of communities, villages, towns and cities – depends on the health of every member of a family, whether young, old, male or female. My work helps people and communities to think holistically – whether about the impact of VAWG, or about how communities function successfully – and I feel very proud to be part of it.