What you need to know:
- It is the society or those around them that make their deeds known intuitively.
- And they offer a helping hand to girls and women in difficult and abusive situations almost on bare hands.
- Perpetrators of SGBV are people with a history of violence.
- The pandemic has only helped to bring out this evil and criminality in them.
One of the saddest cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) against women and girls that I have lately encountered — during this Covid-19 pandemic — involves a mother and her 12-year-old daughter. And this most sickening attack of a sexual nature is perpetrated by the girl’s father, who happens to be her mother’s husband.
The girl is only 12 and is autistic. For years, her mother has been subjected to the most dehumanising form of sexual abuse, physical violence and emotional torture. Whenever he would force himself on his wife, sexually, he would proceed to ‘finish it off’ with defiling the child — in her mother’s presence.
Thanks to some great and honest Kenyans with big hearts, however, mother and daughter have been rescued and now live in safe accommodation away from the monster.
The two live separately as their rescuers work out how to reunite them under one roof. From her alternative accommodation, the woman is receiving psychosocial support while the child now has a much better life.
Emerged as heroes
The saviours have quietly emerged as heroes during the pandemic but don’t shout about it. They just want to do what they must do, graciously, behind the scenes, without expecting applause or compensation.
A handful have had their stories published in the media but they did not call for cameras or shout about it.
It is the society or those around them that make their deeds known intuitively. And they offer a helping hand to girls and women in difficult and abusive situations almost on bare hands.
It is three months since Gladys Wanjiru, a mother of one, found herself with three additional daughters.
The soft-spoken young woman and her friends had taken it upon themselves to put together some food and other basic necessities for distribution to needy families, mainly in informal settlements in Nairobi’s Eastlands.
Gladys was attracted to one family — of a single father of three little girls, the eldest of whom is eight and the youngest just about two. Their mother abandoned them. It was later revealed that the man had, for a long time, been defiling the eight-year-old and subjecting her to other forms of child abuse. The little girl was broken and the other two in bad shape. The trio was rescued and the man arrested. Gladys has taken them all in.
One happy family
When Kandara MP Alice Wahome and I visited them, we found one happy family. The girls have found the warmth of a mother in Gladys. They are healthy and are back to being children. Gladys was unaware of our visit. She prefers to keep it away from profile-raising situations, though she appreciates help.
While the pandemic has caused us and the rest of the world much pain, anguish, confusion, anxiety and fear, it is not to blame for the evils that some men, and even women, have unleashed on their kin and kith, mostly girls and women. It has brought out the best and worst in us.
Perpetrators of SGBV are people with a history of violence.
The pandemic has only helped to bring out this evil and criminality in them. And for that, human rights advocates, especially girls’ and women’s, continue to hope, push and pray that the authorities will respond to the catastrophe that is violence against women and girls (VAWG), through a gender lens.
Failure to do so will result in sustained escalation of injurious gender inequity, inequality, discrimination and unfairness.
And SGBV will be unrelenting as girls and women are defencelessly trapped by criminals who perpetrate all manner of abuse, including domestic violence, incest, defilement and rape.
Let us support and fete the people who sacrifice to help SGBV survivors. In the same vein, those taking advantage of the pandemic to commit crimes — including theft of resources meant to aid the victims, survivors and their families — must be held to account, punished and exposed.