As the election period in Kenya approaches, the country holds its breath. Will there be violent clashes as there was before and if there is, how bad will it be?
But there are many Kenyan women and girls who have a different reason to be worried about this coming election period. They know that if aggression rises in public, it is likely that they will be a target for the continuation of violence at home. Past data has shown that during previous elections or other times of political upheaval, or a humanitarian crisis like lockdown, cases of domestic violence against women and girls increased. During the pandemic, reported cases of gender based violence tripled. Who knows how many more went unreported.
But victims are often unaware that there is help available and they are certainly unaware of how to access it. They are fearful of reporting it as there is a serious lack of training amongst the police on how to support victims of gender based violence. It is often stigmatised and the police themselves can add to the suffering of survivors through further ill treatment. As a result, there is a mistrust of the police, victims have nowhere else to go, so they stay put, stay silent and the abuse continues.
But in August 2020, the government launched a multi-agency service for adults and children who have suffered gender based violence. The initiative is called PoliCare. Japheth Koome, the officer in charge of Kiganjo police training campus said “The facility will have forensic investigators, ministry of health, psychosocial support team to attend to these victims. Special magistrates to listen to such cases and deliver justice faster without the survivors being taken to the court”.
PoliCare is still in its infancy though and only time will tell how successful it will be.
For now, we continue to offer support where we can at our Home in Tieng’re for children who have been victims of such abuse (as well as children with many other needs). We hope that any child in our area who is suffering ongoing abuse, particularly gender based violence, will ask for help. We can provide a listening ear, information on where to get the right support, and some respite in a kind and caring environment.