Investing in GBV prevention makes economic sense

Wife battering

Not only does GBV undermine the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, it also impacts household and national economic development.

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Gender-based violence (GBV) is a perverse problem across the world. In Kenya, the “2022 Demographic and Health Survey” report shows 34 per cent and 13 per cent of girls and women and 27 per cent and seven per cent of boys and men aged 15-49 have experienced physical and sexual violence, respectively, since age 15.

Not only does GBV undermine the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, it also impacts household and national economic development. A National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) report, “Gender-based Violence in Kenya: The Economic Burden on Survivors, 2016”, highlights the average cost of GBV to a survivor.

It says medical-related expenses take up most of the cost at Sh16,464, followed by the cost of reporting the incident to the police (Sh3,756) and reporting to the chief and community structures at Sh3,111. The cost of loss of productivity from serious injuries and premature death is estimated at Sh223,476 and Sh5,840,664, respectively.

The report further estimates that annual out-of-pocket medical-related expenses cost Sh10 billion and productivity losses from serious and minor injuries cost Sh25 billion and Sh8 billion, respectively. That means the country loses about Sh46 billion, or 1.1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

GBV also drains the household economy through associated hidden costs such as transport to health clinics or accessing legal support. These substantial costs disproportionately affect women and girls, exposing them to further vulnerabilities, which then places them at risk of GBV. A vicious cycle that needs to be broken.

The impact is far and wide, especially since women play a key role in the household. For example, where women are responsible for food provision, GBV impacts their ability to fulfil this role; which, in turn, directly reduces food production. The same case when women are absent from work and their lower wages adversely impact income available for consumption.

In other cases, money meant for other needs, such as education, is diverted to addressing the effects of GBV. Oftentimes, GBV hampers access to education when household resources are diverted to seek redress for violence or by directly causing school dropouts for girls due to pregnancies resulting from sexual violence. In both instances, young girls and women suffer life-long disadvantages due to the denial of their right to education.

Without resources, women and girls’ ability to leave an abusive situation becomes harder. This exposes them to more risk of violence, which may include sexual violence and reproductive coercion, where they are pressured into making or denied the ability to make decisions about their reproductive health.

Survivors of GBV may suffer even further because of the stigma associated with this type of violence. Some of them are ostracised by family and/or community, placing them at greater risk for exploitation and violence, thus endangering their lives,

The consequence of such a status quo is that women and girls exist as second-class citizens, whose rights are continuously violated, and bodily autonomy ignored.

It is critical that as we mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, under the theme “Unite; invest to prevent violence against women and girls”, we urgently accelerate efforts to end GBV. Women make up half of the population and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that 50 per cent of the population is not left behind in our country's development and growth.

Reports indicate that overall, the Sustainable Development Goals—including No. 5, on gender equality and empowerment of women and girls—will not be achieved. This effectively means Kenya will fail in its ICPD+25 commitments to end GBV, including child and forced marriages, by addressing social and cultural norms that propagate the practice; end gender and other forms of discrimination by enforcing the anti-discrimination laws; and providing adequate budgetary allocations to institutions mandated to promote gender equality, equity and empowerment of women and girls. 

In the spirit of leaving no one behind, the implementation of GBV interventions must become a national priority for Kenya. We must address the complex and interconnected issues related to GBV through a multi-pronged approach, involving collaboration and coordination among various sectors, organisations, stakeholders and communities, including the survivors of GBV.

This way, we will be able to create a safer and more equal and prosperous world where people, especially women and girls, are free from violence.

Ms Samba is the Kenya country director at Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung (DSW).  eve-lyn.samba@