Economic empowerment rescuing women from GBV

ActionAid Kenya’s Country Interim Executive Director Susan Otieno (right), accompanied by Anastacia Plilan, harvest pawpaws at Ms Pilan's farm in the semi-arid Tangulbei of Baringo County. Photo| Jared Nyataya

Gender Based Violence (GBV) remains rampant among pastoralist communities in the North Rift region as a result of male chauvinism and women’s limited economic resources.
While some women have remained silent despite violence meted on them by their husbands, others have spoken out and received support to empower them economically.
Many pastoral communities refer to women as children and their contribution in decision-making, including resolving GBV is minimal.
But one woman, Anastacia Plian, a mother of eight from Tiaty, Baringo County is among the few in a marginalised region who are now economically empowered after suffering abuse in the hands of her husbands.
“My husband was always violent whenever there was no food in the house due to drought. He expected me to put food on the table and when there was nothing, he resorted to beating me and there was no one to rescue me,” says Ms Plian.
She says violence against women is the norm in their community, with many cases going unreported.

On the run

“I am a victim of Gender Based Violence and I have been on the run for a long time to escape continued abuse,” adds Ms Plian who at one point sought refuge from the local administrator. 
It is during that time that she was introduced to an organisation that has been carrying out economic empowerment programmes, including the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early marriages in the region.
“I had a very bad relationship with my husband but after undergoing training by ActionAid kenya, I learnt that there is somewhere I and other women who had undergone similar violence, could do as well as seek redress,” she adds. 
Here, they were trained on how to use communal land through agricultural activities as an alternative source of income. Livestock among the pastoral communities is solely owned by men.
“I secured two acres of land abd it was full of rocks but I managed to transform it into a productive farm where I now plant maize, beans among other food crops to sustain my family,” says Ms Plian.
This investment that she made through the support of ActionAid Kenya, saw her husband reform to a better person after close to 10 years. They are now back together.
“It is encouraging that he is now supportive. We have pooled our resources and have been encouraged to grow short term crops. I have been growing drought resistant crops including fruits like guavas, mangoes, pawpaw, oranges, bananas and lemon among others,” says Ms Pilan.

Outdated culture

She acknowledges that economic empowerment has helped minimise GBV, which is gradually being considered an outdated culture.
ActionAid Kenya’s Susan Otieno attributes the declining cases of GBV in the area to the economic empowerment programme the organisation has undertaken in the region.
“Many women confess that they saw their mothers and grandmothers being beaten and this is what makes them stand against the vice,” says Ms Otieno.
She discloses that food scarcity, common in arid and semi-arid areas, is the main cause of the violence according to women they have spoken to in the region.
“Violence increases in this area during drought because women have to ask for food, yet you can clearly see the man had left with the livestock for a number of days, and lost some. He is not sure where he is going to take them the following day,” explains Ms Otieno.
The organisation has put up rescue centres in schools where abused girls can seek shelter even as they continue with their classes.
“We want to ensure Baringo County has legislation that assists in mitigating on matters of climate change and its effects. We also want to ensure they have policies that benefit communities; it is about involving them in the policy making process,” she further says.
The organisation is winding up its operations in Tangulubei where they championed against GBV and empowered women economically.
 “Although it is time for us to leave, we believe the organisations we have set up can actually further our agenda,” says Ms Otieno whose organisation has been in the region for 12 years.,


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