Where boys learn ‘No’ means ‘No’

Mr Walter Amadi gives a talk on prevention of rape to PCEA Silanga High School students in Kibera's Laini Saba area. Photo/CARLOS MUREITHI

What you need to know:

  • New project gives young men the basics of relating with women and to grow up into responsible adults

Deep inside Kibera’s Laini Saba area, a class is in session. It is not your ordinary class, though.

The 54 secondary school boys listen attentively as Mr Walter Amadi imparts important life skills to them. He is teaching them how they can stop sexual violence against women.

This is the first of two-hour lessons that Mr Amadi, 32, will give to the PCEA Silanga High School students over a six-week period.

“My sexuality is my responsibility!” the students shout in unison. This is the slogan advocated for by No Means No Worldwide, the organisation for which Mr Amadi volunteers.

Today’s topics are sexuality and the causes of rape. The class is interactive. The students understand the theory and respond to the tutor’s questions. There is no shyness among these boys despite the sensitive topic in discussion. Sheng is their language of choice.

“Rape is forced sexual intercourse,” answers Andrew Otieno to one of Mr Amadi’s questions. The instructor agrees, adding that in very simple terms, “rape” refers to having sexual intercourse without the other person’s consent.

“As long as the girl has said no, it is a no, no matter how soft or low the tone of her voice is, or whether she is looking sideways as she is stating it,” says Mr Amadi.

The students are enlightened on the different types of rape. From their reactions, most seem to be amazed at the idea of date rape, even more by marriage rape.

“If a girl visits me at night and wants to spend the night, but refuses to have sex when I ask for it, why did she come in the first place? For accommodation?” asks one Form 3 student.

Mr Amadi emphasises that trust, love, respect, self-control and self-discipline are important in relationships.

The boys are told how they can rape their girlfriends without even knowing it, for example where a girl is unwilling to have intercourse but the boy finds his way through using threats such a break-up.

They are told that if a sexual violence incident is reported to the police, the suspect will face criminal charges.

Mr Amadi says men are often labelled as dogs and rapists, and he urges the class members to begin the fight to dispel this notion among women.

Then, future generations of boys will not have to face such negative perceptions.

He says thoughts of sexual abuse start in the mind. And, if you can control the mind, he says, you cannot have sex without consent.

“You should look at every girl as your sister, mother, cousin or aunt, no matter how ‘hot’ she is,” says Mr Amadi.

He asks the boys how they would feel if someone used the excuse of mode of dress as a reason to sexually abuse their sister.

Some students respond by saying that they would kill the offender in revenge. But, they remain silent when asked whether they would like the same to be done to them in case they were the offenders.

“If you can get that angry, then why would you want someone else to go through the same pain?” asks Amadi.

The boys appreciate these classes. “Our parents don’t discuss these things with us. Therefore, it is important that we have such a forum to air our opinions as well as learn,” says 18-year-old James Ngwili.

One student states that he was inspired by these lessons, which he took at Salama Primary School, Huruma. He applied the lessons two weeks ago when a girl he had invited over to his parents’ house declined his advances.

“She was amazed that I respected her decision, saying that she had never seen such a good person,” he says.

After the six lessons, Mr Amadi says, he notices changes in boys’ attitudes. They realise that there must be consent in sexual intercourse.

Preventing rape

Mr Evans Otieno, the head of research, monitoring and evaluation at Ujamaa, a partner organisation that runs the programme in Kenya, says the idea behind the lessons is to let men know that they can play a part in preventing rape, and that boys in the 14 to 19 age bracket are the best to focus on.

“When you look at the socialisation process, most things happen at the nursery stages of life. It is easier to have these young people grow up to become fundamentally inclined towards respecting women,” he says.

Meanwhile, two blocks away, a group of women is discussing the same topic. Five women are equipping the school’s female students with rape-prevention skills.

Their approach departs from the boys’. Theirs is mostly physical self-defence training, where they at times use punching bags to learn different strategies of protecting themselves.