What you need to know:
- Organisations have set up telephone hotlines for reporting GBV.
- Fida Kenya offering legal aid and counselling services to women in distress.
- CREAW Kenya using community radio to sensitise locals on GBV.
- COVAW has established two lines where GBV cases are reported.
- UN Women, Unicef and UNFPA working increase psychosocial support through telephone and chat counselling services, among other measures.
Women rights organisations have moved to respond to the impact of the deadly coronavirus disease, which has seen a steep increase in cases of gender-based violence (GBV) that has so far, affected mainly women, girls and children.
Since the government implemented mandatory partial lockdown including a dawn to dusk curfew and other containment measures to stop the spread of Covid-19, there has been a spike in sexual and domestic violence.
Early GBV statistics released by Cabinet Secretary for Public Service and Gender Prof Margaret Kobia indicated a 42 percentage rise in domestic and sexual violence cases between March 13 when the measures were announced and mid-April.
Chief Justice David Maraga, on April 2, said the National Council of Administration of Justice, which he heads, had noted a surge in sexual offences, only about a fortnight since the containment measures were enacted. Sexual offences reported across the country, formed the highest number of criminal matters reported in that period, constituting 35.8 per cent.
The Ministry of Health too, has said incidents of the violence have increased threefold during the coronavirus period.
With no indication of these violations going down, women - individually and as groups, have come up with ways of protecting victims of GBV. Some organisations have set up telephone hotlines for reporting GBV apart from the 1195 national hotline by the Gender ministry.
The hotline numbers, which are mostly free, have been published on social media and websites. The organisations also offer civic education on Covid-19 and its effect.
The Law Society of Kenya too, has a comprehensive civic education – Safeguarding Basic Rights during Covid-19 Pandemic - and the effect it has on the people. It includes lessons on what one needs to do or know should they encounter any form of GBV.
Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (Fida-Kenya), has launched a toll-free number where women can report gender violence cases. In addition, it is offering legal aid and counselling services to women in distress.
The Centre for Rights Education Awareness (CREAW) and Coalition on Women against Violence (COVAW) have a strong presence in social media on advocacy around issues of GBV and Covid-19. They have also set up hotlines and publicized them within communities that they work with.
Ms Leah Wangechi, CREAW Kenya’s executive director, says in addition to using community radio to sensitise locals on GBV during these peculiar times of Covid-19, they also provide online counselling and legal support.
“We are working with community activists across the country and use of bulk SMS to those in far flung and rural areas who do not have access to digital platforms,’’ says Ms Wangechi, adding that CREAW has a database of more than 40,000 contacts across the world.
As at Monday April 20, Ms Wangechi says her organisation had received 63 reports of gender violence against women, from various counties, through its hotline. Kilifi County had the highest with 23, followed by Nairobi with 20, while Meru, Nyeri and Isiolo counties recorded nine, six and five respectively.
On its part, COVAW, which focuses mostly on GBV work, has established two lines where cases are reported. It is in the process of getting a toll free line, according to executive director Wairimu Munyinyi-Wahome.
The organisation has been recording cases of violence against women during the Covid -19 crisis. They then link the survivors to pro bono lawyers for help. In addition, the organisation has paralegals in the communities, currently keeping tabs with locals in relation to GBV and providing regular updates. All cases reported to COVAW so far, are domestic violence related, with most from urban areas and few from counties outside Nairobi, she says, adding that cases of intimate partner violence have risen. The organisation has moved some survivors to safer places.
“The determinants of violence have definitely become more reinforced - poor stress management, economic disempowerment including loss of jobs,’’ she says. “We are getting more enquiries and calls not necessarily to report cases, but also from people who just want to talk,’’ adds Ms Munyinyi-Wahome.
The Creaw and Covaw bosses are agreed that an effective way to deal with the rising violence is to move the survivor to a safe place. The two, as well as Fida Kenya, are among seven women rights organisations who have petitioned the government to ensure an integrated GBV response, including essential services during Covid-19, allocation of funds for GBV sensitization, distribution of sanitary towels and access to water as well as provision of safe homes and shelters for victims of violence. They also seek a 24-hour toll free line where survivors can seek psychosocial support and referrals, among other needs.
“In a nutshell, this requires resourcing financial and human- for sustainability and all this is anchored on the political will of government to prioritise GBV interventions,’’ says the COVAW executive director.
“The government must prioritise GBV response from a multi-sectoral perspective in its recovery plans.’’
Others in the petition demanding concrete actions from the government are SDGs Kenya Forum, Groots Kenya, Equality Now and Kenya Female Advisory Organisation (Kefeado).
Ms Anna Mutavati, the UN Women Representative in Kenya, her Unicef counterpart Maniza Zaman, and Demola Olajide, of UNFPA say their organisations are working closely with Kenya’s national child and GBV hotlines to increase psychosocial support through telephone and chat counselling services, among other measures.
“These are often first responders to survivors of domestic violence or violence against children, and their role cannot be understated,” said the three in a joint Opinion Editorial on Sunday.
“Data from these helplines is already informing the government’s national response. Assistance is also being given to the Ministry of Health to develop GBV guidelines during Covid-19.’’
Public awareness-raising, especially for those most at risk, will be rolled out to promote rights and services, they added.
Some of the hotlines to report GBV cases in addition to 1195:
Fida Kenya - 0800720501 (Toll free), 0722509760
CREAW Kenya - 0719437286 / 0768467772 (call/text/whatsapp)
COVAW - 0722594794 / 0733594794
Gender Violence Recovery Centre - 070966700 / 0719638006
Wangu Kanja Foundation - 0722790404 / 0719638006
The Law Society of Kenya - 070908700
KNCHR - 020396900/0733780000 / 0736780000