Kibera women dancing GBV away from community

Women dance at Koyaro Hall  in the Ayani area of Kibera, Nairobi County, on Friday, to keep themselves fit.

Photo credit: Moraa Obiria I Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • A majority of them are survivors of gender-based violence.
  • Their meeting was facilitated by the Forum for African Women Educationalists-Kenya (Fawe Kenya) and the Feminist for Peace Rights and Justice Centre.

The women danced. About 500 of them had gathered at Koyaro Hall in the Ayani area of Kibra, Nairobi County. They wiggled and jumped as fitness instructor Dickens Omondi encouraged them to “remain on the right track”.

No, this was not a gym or fitness class. These women were shaking off fear and timidity. By the end of the 15-minute session, it was believed, they had mustered a significant measure of confidence and self-esteem.

And these were not just ordinary women. A majority of them were survivors of gender-based violence (GBV). They converged on Friday, the day the world officially kicked off 16 Days of Activism against GBV.

Their meeting was facilitated by the Forum for African Women Educationalists-Kenya (Fawe Kenya) and the Feminist for Peace Rights and Justice Centre (FPRJC).

“Dancing builds self-esteem and confidence. You need the power of self-expression when reporting an incident of gender-based violence to the police,” Mr Omondi told them.

Meanwhile, FPRJC Executive Director Editar Adhiambo Ochieng demonstrated how unfit women are easily overpowered by GBV perpetrators.

“Let’s dance to keep ourselves fit. We need to be fit to defend ourselves in case of an attack,” she stirred up the women. “Let’s dance to relieve stress and heal ourselves.”

Mental distress

Emily (she preferred to use only her first name), who was among the dancing women, says she has endured mental distress at the hands of her husband, with whom she has four children.

“I got married in 2005 and the first five years were good. I was a housewife and he provided everything. Then all of a sudden, he changed and started beating me,” she said.

“I feared that he would kill me, so I went back home to Kendu Bay in Homa Bay County. After five years, he came begging for reconciliation and I accepted. He doesn’t beat me anymore, but he hasn’t stopped shouting at me or picking quarrels with me. To me, this dancing is therapy. It gives me the power to carry on with life.”

Fawe Kenya programmes officer Dorise Ng'ong'a said the forum afforded women a safe space to share experiences on what has worked for them in combating violence in their households and community.

“At this time, schools have closed and many girls are at home. How can we prevent teenage pregnancies and child marriages?” she asked.

She noted that “uniting women in the local communities enables them to find solutions to tackling GBV.”

Woodley location chief Nehemiah Amwocha lauded the civil society for its continued sensitisation of the community to the impact of GBV. He said awareness has empowered survivors to speak up.

“But let’s not forget about the boys and men. Let’s create awareness of violence against boys and men and work together towards ending it,” he urged.