Violence against women in Kenya, as well as in other parts of Africa, is rarely prosecuted. Victims are usually left alone; without receiving legal assistance or medical help. This Make Me Smile Kenya Project addresses Kenyan women who are exposed to domestic violence in their homes and aims at giving them opportunities to overcome their situation.
Violence against women is trivialized and hardly prosecuted
Naomi knows her husband for a long time. She stays with him since she is 16 years old. In the beginning, everything was fine. The transition of living with her parents to having an independent, adult life came very fast. Her first child was very cute – her role of staying at home, doing the household didn’t bother her. Her husband was working every day and she was taking care of the children. As time passed, her husband lost his interest in her needs and wishes. He didn’t participate in raising the children, stayed out longer. Sometimes he came home very drunk, that was when he started hitting her. At first, it was an exception but as time passed, abusing her became a routine.
One day, the injuries on her body were so bad that she didn’t dare herself to go to the market. “What are the neighbours going to say?” she thought.
Because she didn’t learn any profession, she didn’t want to go to the police. The thoughts and concerns about the future of her children outweighed her personal well-being. Only after years of humiliation and because of the mental support of her best friend, she finally decided to go to the police. Her hopes were soon crushed – the police officer belittled her accusations and told her to come back when she could show “real” injuries.
This visit wasn’t without consequences – Naomi noticed people whispering behind her back at the marketplace. Her husband noticed that too – which worsened her situation. He then hit her even harder, after some weeks she surrendered herself to her fate and lost all hopes to change her personal situation.
A solution to prevent Violence against Women
Naomi’s life stands symbolically for many women in Kenya. To battle the cycle of social pressure, violence and remaining silent, Make Me Smile Kenya developed a 3-years-program to strengthen the rights of women in Kenyan society.
We offer practical support to women who are exposed to domestic violence:
We established 5 gender – based violence help desks at 5 health centers
A nurse examines affected women, records their injuries and takes care of them. A person of trust writes down the testimony
Together with the affected women, we develop measures to find solutions to change their situations for the better: Approaches to solving their situations are interventions (judicial, medical, psychological) informing public authorities and relatives as well as referring them to other Health Centers for additional (post-)medical treatment.
The mental health of exposed women is a key issue for our programs. Women in our program stay in permanent contact with a person of trust, whom they can share their problems with at any given time.
To enforce the implementation of our actions, every health- desk has two “Sexual Gender Based Violence Paralegals” at their disposal. These paralegals visit the women at their homes on a regular basis, do advocacy on all levels in the community, conduct interventions and help the women enforcing their legal rights when dealing with public authorities.