Sexual and gender-based violence is a serious public health and human rights concern. One in three women in Kenya has been a victim of gender-based violence, while 35% of women around the world have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
It is for this worthy cause that the Australian High Commissioner to Kenya, His Excellency Geoff Tooth, invited partner organisations to observe White Ribbon Day, which marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, over a breakfast event held on 25 November 2014. The day signals the start of 16 days of activism to stop violence against women, which ends on the Human Rights Day on 10 December.
HEGeoff Tooth pointed out that “we can create the change necessary to prevent violence against women and girls, but to do this, we must address the attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate, justify, excuse and fail to counter such violence.” Following this speech, all the men present, including Australia Awards staff, Alex Alubisia (Officer in Charge) and Patrick Loyatum (Program Officer), made an oath not to engage in gender-based violence.
The event was also an opportunity for the Head of Mission to award grants to three organisations engaged in initiatives that promote gender equality: the Wangu Kanja Foundation, the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation and the ZanaAfrica Initiative.
“We must be honest and give both sides of the story. Women have also been known to abuse their children. We must work together as men and women to end all forms of violence”, remarked Ambassador Dr Tegla Loroupe as she accepted the Grant that would go towards constructing dormitories for a girls’ rescue centre in Kapenguria.
The founder of the Wangu Kanja Foundation noted: “Rape is the worst kind of violence and leads to psychological and physical trauma. It is important that we restore dignity to the victims so they can attain their dreams”. It was also noted that the ZanaAfrica Initiative, which provides affordable sanitary towels to girls in low income areas, gave these girls a chance to participate in school and ultimately empower themselves.
The event was held at the Amani ya Juu Garden Café, which supports victims of gender-based violence by training them on viable income-generating activities.