Addressing teenage pregnancies in Mt. Elgon in partnership with Mt. Elgon teenage and youth mentorship [METYM] group
Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a serious human rights violation for women and girls globally. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 1 out 3 women is at risk of GBV in their lifetime. Sadly, the risk of violence, exploitation, and abuse is heightened during emergencies. Although, girls and women are disproportionately affected by GBV, the risks of sexual violence against men and boys can also rise in crises. During the Covid-19 pandemic there has been an upsurge of GBV cases. Regionally there have been reports of abuse such as intimate partner violence (IPV), sexual harassment, early and forced child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), domestic and sexual abuse of women and girls which were exacerbated during the lock-down.
Teenage pregnancy had become normal in every family in Mt. Elgon as young girls in the community are viewed lesser people often married off at early age or many of their rights violated silently. AfriNov CRP’s organized for stake holder’s forum with a goal of “Restoring Mt. Elgon girl child rights”.
Among stake holders forum included, teachers, area chiefs, clergy, opinion leaders, medics, community and other local based civil society leaders.
The outcome of the stake holders meeting was the formation of METYM group specifically to address the menace. Madam Violet Kirwa as the chair, the head teacher of Banantega primary school, the school that was most hit by the injustice for being pastoralist area school of Ndorobo’s who seems to have a private sacred special place in the forest for practicing female genital mutilation FGM. Area chief Mr. Rodgers Sangula and others were members of the group. The forum shared what was alarming in the community about girl child and it was like everyone was affected in one way or the other. They did their analysis well where the area chief had similar complain about the situation and they all agreed to intervene to save Mt. Elgon girl child.
The METYM group organized for girl child forums, and overwhelmingly girls came and openly threw blames to parents for neglecting and abandoning their role of parental responsibility. During the discussion, girls mentioned many items like lack of menstrual sanitary pads which came out loudly and demand that parents seemed not to care about it giving the local Bodaboda riders to take advantage, who in turn causes teenage pregnancy as the girl becomes disadvantaged of the situation.
Transformation of the Gender Based Violence justice system response mechanism in Embakasi Central
It is against this backdrop that AL-QAMAR youth group in Komarock area mostly serving Kanguruwe and Huruma informal settlement reached out to Africa Centre for Nonviolence and Sustainable impact (AfriNov) for Turning the Tide training (TTT) in order to build their capacity in challenging Sexual and Gender Based Violence. The first interaction with the program was when the group supported devoted group on the water campaign issue and later worked together putting up the COVID 19 Graffiti talking walls on the same. AL-QAMAR members liked how the devoted group conducted themselves non-violently. They were impressed then reached out to AfriNov.
The group leader Halima reported that: “In the wake of Covid-19 pandemic the sexual and gender based violence cases we received increased. The biggest challenge we had was finding justice and safe spaces for victims. It was very challenging with the curfew and the restrictive containment measures.” She explained that the major reason for the overwhelming cases was that before the pandemic system was already functioning dismally. The compromised justice system was now almost broken by the increased cases. During the training the group established the specific pillars supporting this social injustice as systematic failure in the response and reporting channels, distance to reporting centers, uncooperative officials handling cases and this is coupled with social norms that have normalized some forms of Gender Based Violence.
“When we started operations with the donated gender desk, work was not been easy. Our work was being challenged by lack of cooperation by the administration police stations and the community. We established that most cases die at the police station. Getting information about procedures and referrals was also difficult. In support another member said that: “I am currently handling a case where I am yet to record a statement because the authorities involved have been compromised. This is very challenging for me because there is a time limit for holding the culprit in the cells as well as keeping the girl at the safe house without cause….” one member said.