Talking men out of SGBV, Kisii Central leads the way
What you need to know:
- Through sub-county boss's guidance, local administrators came up with Baraza La Wanaume.
- Under this programme, they organise men-only meetings in every sub-location to chart the way forward on what they need to do to avoid sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
He is an outgoing person, a good listener and a person who has the interests of the people, particularly the Gusii community, at heart. Ever since I was employed as an assistant chief in 1996 and thereafter rose to the position of chief in the old system of provincial administration, I have never seen such a boss.
This is how Mr Ayienda Mokaya, the senior chief of Bosongo location in Nyaribari Chache, Kisii County, describes his superior, Mr Wilberforce Kilonzo, the deputy county commissioner of Kisii Central sub-county, for his concerted efforts to ensure domestic or intimate partner violence is never heard of in the area.
Mr Kilonzo was posted to the sub-county in February last year. And as tradition dictates, whenever a person, especially a government officer, is deployed in a new environment, top of his or her list, besides familiarising with the locals, is an assessment of the area.
As he perused files, the deputy county commissioner came across statistics that 85 per cent of inmates at Kisii GK Prison were male. Of this percentage, 60 per cent had been convicted of sex-related offences such as rape and defilement.
Perturbed by this information, Mr Kilonzo initiated a programme to talk to men so that they could explain why there was a surge in sexual offences.
“I summoned my two assistant county commissioners, chiefs and their assistants for a meeting and I told them look, we are here to help our fellow men not to end up in jail by committing offences like rape, defilement and even battering their wives. In Murang’a, where I once worked, there had been cases of women battering their husbands,” Mr Kilonzo tells Nation.Africa in an interview.
It is through his guidance that the local administrators came up with Baraza La Wanaume. Under this programme, they organise men-only meetings in every sub-location to chart the way forward on what they need to do to avoid sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). It has borne fruit, Mr Kilonzo says.
“For sure, men came out overwhelmingly. They poured out their hearts and we keenly listened to them. Apart from the usual reason of drug and alcohol abuse that is usually given, some, especially youths, told us that they were judging females if they had become adults by just their physical appearance, but that was not in order. So we had to educate them and tell them that anyone below 18, according to our laws, is a minor despite her body size,” Mr Kilonzo says.
A year on, couples who had been embroiled in domestic squabbles were confessing that the straight talk, which also included clerics’ and family life experts’ input, had helped them.
At Bosongo chief’s camp, the deputy county commissioner reported that a year after engaging the men in such fora, sexual offences in the sub-county had drastically reduced to 20 per cent.
Mr Birundu, a reformed drunkard, wowed the gathering when he spoke of how he had planned to kill her wife then take his own life after a slight argument. He said he did not want to be asked why he had neglected his family even as his love for the bottle grew.
Mr Birundu said he reformed after he bumped into one of the meetings. He was depressed and was roaming about when he heard words of encouragement from one speaker, whom he says was a priest. That became a turning point in his life.
“I was a casual worker and used to receive some good money. However, I would end up in chang’aa dens where I would spend all the money. I would go home and start beating up my wife while asking for food that I did not provide.
“She reciprocated by treating me badly and one day I thought of doing the unthinkable, but, thanks to the seminar, I received some spiritual healing,” Mr Birundu said amid cheers from the other attendees.
Before being posted to Kisii, Mr Kilonzo had had stints in Murang’a and Lamu counties. Even there, he says, he had rolled out other similar programmes.
The administrator looks forward to having at least monthly engagements with men to intensify the campaign. They currently have quarterly meetings.