Inside Nairobi’s plans to curb violence and support victims

Gender-based violence

For survivors like Mary, safe houses are not just a refuge. They are home.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Nairobi ranks as one of the counties with the most cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Kenya, with at least 17 reported daily.

Between April 2020 and March, 2021, at least 6,262 SGBV cases were reported across different county hospitals. Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital Medical Superintendent Emma Mutio said the hospital, since its inception in 2015, has attended to 5,688 SGBV victims with half being minors.

Between October and December last year, the facility managed 326 new cases and 258 survivors while this year alone, the hospital had by March registered 179 new SGBV cases and 137 survivors.

Faced with such grim statistics, Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) has been dedicating a room in each of the 19 new hospitals it is building to treating victims of SGBV.

The agency has also set up 21 facilities, known as Tumaini Clinics, to provide integrated GBV services aimed at restoring hope and dignity to the survivors as part of celebration of survivors of sexual violence.

Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital operates a 24-hour clinic with five nurses dedicated to handling SGBV cases and referrals from Dandora, Kayole, Pipeline, Tassia, Embakasi and its surroundings.

Women and girls

NMS Director General Mohamed Badi ordered for idle county houses to be identified and transformed into safe houses for SGBV survivors. In the meantime, City Hall has set aside two interim homes to act as ‘safe shelters’ including a 76-bed capacity home in Kayole dedicated to women and girls and a 20-bed capacity home at Shauri Moyo set aside for men and boys.

In May, a multi-agency team comprising the national, county governments, NGOs and other partners like Centre for Education and Awareness (CREAW) was formed to source for funding for putting up shelters and safe houses.

The safe houses were to provide shelter for survivors once they leave hospitals as they often have nowhere to go. And in June, Nairobi County set aside Sh68 million to put up a permanent safe house for SGBV survivors at Mji wa Huruma.

The office of Nairobi Woman Representative contributed Sh50 million under the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF) while City Hall gave Sh18 million. Nairobi Education and Social Services Executive Janet Ouko said they expect to have the safe house ready by February next year.

She said Nairobi has been yearning for a public safe house but lack of funding had put paid any efforts to have such a facility.

During the World Aids Day celebrations last week, Mr Badi said NMS has identified county structures to host the victims who have ongoing court cases including centres in Makadara, Kayole and Shauri Moyo. He added that NMS has also collaborated with the judiciary to establish more small claims courts in Nairobi on sites owned by the county government to ease the backlog of cases and ensure administration of justice with at least 1,960 cases still pending before court.

On November 1, Governor Ann Kananu signed into law the Sexual Gender-Based Violence Bill, the brainchild of nominated MCA Wanjiru Kariuki. The Act seeks to establish an interconnected reporting and referral system that will guide survivors on where to seek help. Its aim is to speed up the elimination of all forms of GBV and ensure perpetrators are severely punished.

Safety of victims

The law also proposes that the county government establishes safe houses in at least one of the 17 sub-counties to guarantee the safety of victims while their cases are being prosecuted, ensuring budgetary allocation for the facilities as well as a witness protection programme.

It also requires establishment of facilities and infrastructure necessary for GBV responses at the county level and collection of aggregate information on prevention, occurrence, and responses related to GBV.

In order to entrench support for SGBV survivors, the county assembly approved a motion by Deputy Majority Whip Waithera Chege calling for City Hall and NMS to establish gender-based violence desks.

The South B MCA raised concerns that many cases have gone unnoticed, especially during the Covid-19 crisis. She explained that the desks will provide a proper avenue for reporting such cases hence improving response and support for victims and survivors, adding that the biggest gap that faces the fight against SGBV is lack of adequate financing.

“We now need the motion to be put into action by both the county executive and NMS. The county government has also failed to allocate any budget towards dealing with his issue,” said Ms Chege.