Safe houses the missing link for SGBV survivors
What you need to know:
- A forum organised on Thursday by the Danish Embassy highlighted the glaring gaps in access to shelters by sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) survivors in Kenya.
- The country has only six government-run safe houses and 56 private ones, according to the National Shelter Network. Of these, only five cater to the needs of male survivors.
A human rights forum organised by the Danish Embassy has highlighted the glaring gaps in access to shelters by sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) survivors in Kenya.
“Sexual and gender-based violence is a major concern in Kenya, with an estimated one in three women having experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime,” said Danish Ambassador Ole Thonke.
“The lack of access to shelter services has serious consequences because without them, survivors may be unable to escape their abusers, risking further abuse. They may also fail to access medical care, legal services and other forms of support available to them.”
In Kenya, there are only six government-run safe houses and 56 private ones, according to the National Shelter Network. Of these, only five cater to the needs of male survivors.
The forum, held at the Ambassador’s residence in Muthaiga, brought together stakeholders, including government organs, non-governmental organisations and civil society groups.
Florence Keya, a survivor and the founder of Maisha Girls Safe House, which hosts 50 female survivors in Eastlands, Nairobi, expressed her disappointment with the government’s response to shelters. Her biggest challenge, also voiced by other groups throughout the discussion, was inadequate funding.
“The government has continually failed us by not supporting us when, in reality, this is their burden to bear,” she said.
She called on the Nairobi government to fast-track the completion of their safe house and urged other counties to also build safe houses.
Njeri Migwi – the founder of Usikimye, which also runs safe houses – said that reintegrating the survivors into their community was also another big challenge. She cited how one woman had been rescued only for her to be beaten and kicked out by her brothers once her 90 days in their shelter elapsed and she was in the process of settling back home.
She called on the government to help strengthen their systems because a lack of proper exit plan from the shelters was only perpetuating a cycle.
Mary Wanjiru, a programme specialist at UN Women, asked donors and other stakeholders to always put survivors at the forefront when designing programmes.
“Survivors should be allowed to express what is safe for them. And countries should seek to use models that work best depending on their contexts.”
The attendees recommended the fast-tracking of the enactment of SGBV laws and policies. They also called for better funding of SGBV programmes, the development of sustainability models for shelters, the mainstreaming of gender in government departments with a focus on data collection to inform decisions, and the strengthening of SGBV awareness and prevention programmes, among others.
Mr Thonke reiterated Denmark’s commitments to supporting access to SGBV survivor shelters. Through their Accelerate Programme in partnership with Populations Services Kenya and Gender Violence Recovery Centre, he said they would fund 13 counties targeted by their partners.
The support would be in the form of technical assistance and capacity building, provision of basic minimum standards for strengthening access to shelters, and refurbishing and equipping already existing structures.