Awareness key to ending child sexual defilement in informal settlements

By Benard Ogoi, AMWIK

For Alice (not her real name), a standard seven pupil at Daniel Comboni Primary School in Nairobi’s Korogocho, thoughts of suicide have been regular for her since the untimely death of her parents in 2011. At a tender age of only nine years, the incident almost crushed her desire to pursue education and live a good life. She had to start living with her step brother in the city soon after.

Unknown to her, a place she was now to call home would quickly turn into her worst nightmare. “One evening my step brother’s wife ran away after their frequent quarrels. She was horrified when her step brother came to where she was sleeping late in the night, “He came and started opening my blanket,” tears roll down her cheeks as she recounts the ordeal.

“He had the habit of touching my private parts every time the wife was not around,” She says of the half brother who was now her guardian, adding, “If he had defiled me maybe I could have become pregnant or even contracted HIV/AIDS virus.”

Notwithstanding her tender age, Alice also had to endure heavy household chores and a cruel step-sister. “I was being mistreated and allocated all house chores while my nephews did nothing,” she remarks, adding that any mistake would cause her a night without food. In one incident she delayed after experiencing a long queue at the vegetable vender’s stall, “ My step-sister beat me up senselessly and left a lot of bruises on my body,” she explains amid tears.

The 15 year old last born in a family of three girls and a boy opens up about her plans to end her suffering by committing suicide. “God is my only savior. He has helped me because many times I wanted to commit suicide,” she notes.

She is also quick to commend her teachers for supporting her in overcoming the challenge. “They linked me to a well-wisher who rescued me and with whom I stay with to-date,” she remarks.

The teachers went further and enrolled her in  AMWIK’s radio listening club in the school where she has learnt about reproductive health challenges facing young girls in the slums. “Now I’m free and understand that I can make it in life. With the knowledge I have gained,” she notes, “I wish to mentor and help others so that they don’t go through what I have experienced.”

The Association of Media Women in Kenya has been at the forefront in awareness creation to strengthen sexual and reproductive health and rights knowledge among 13-19 year old teenagers in Nairobi’s Kibera and Korogocho informal settlements. The school-based project supported by the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education, RFSU, has mentored young girls like Alice, by enabling young people in schools to understand the risks associated with underage sex, teenage pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and other STDs, self defense against child defilement and use of contraceptives among other key reproductive health issues.

 

AMWIK Staff with children from Korogocho in AMWIK’s radio listening programs in the area.

 

AMWIK Executive Director Marceline Nyambala says young people and their parents lack information, don’t have the right information, or have misinformation on matters sexuality.

Section 9 (2) of the Sexual Offenses Act 2006 provides that a person found guilty of attempted defilement of a child is liable upon conviction to not less than ten years imprisonment.

Similarly, attempted incest, which involves an attempt to defile or rape a sister or brother, would attract at least 10 years imprisonment if an accused person is found guilty of the offence. Section 22 (1) defines brother and sister to include half brother, half sister and adoptive brother or adoptive sister.

There is need for accelerated access to information for young girls and even boys in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 3 on ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages. Target 3.7 of the goal envisions the need to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education.

Alice is safe but many are not; we hope society, parents and young people will access information and for those requiring justice this will be possible!

AMWIK Members Graduate from WIN Program

In December 2015, five Kenyan women journalists embarked on a life and career-changing journey courtesy of World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WANIFRA). The five: Anne Mbotela, Everlyn Kwamboka, Faith Oneya, Mercy Njoroge, and Wanjiru Kinoti were part of six-month Women in News (WIN) programme whose objective is to bring together media women with potential to equip them with necessary skills so as to reach their full potential in their media houses.

37 women journalists from Sub-Saharan Africa, attended in – house resident trainings in Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Ms. Christine Nguku who is the national coach, WIN Kenya and also a member of the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) spearheaded the Kenya trainings.

On 3rd November 2016, Faith Oneya, Everlyn Kwamboka, Mercy Njoroge, Anne Mbotela and Wanjiru Kinoti (in absentia) graduated from the WIN Kenya  2015/2016 Cohort 1. The event which also doubled up as a Media Round Table Stakeholders’ forum saw key players in the media industry participate. Among the guests were Dr. Harun Mwangi, CEO, The Media Council of Kenya, Ms.Marceline Nyambala, ED, Association of Media Women in Kenya and Ms Rosemary Okello, Programme Officer, FORD Foundation Kenya among senior editors from different media houses in Kenya.

The four who are all AMWIK Members were lauded for their participation in the program and making Kenya and their respective media houses proud. Faith Oneya emerged top among all the candidates in the WIN program for Africa.

 

 

WIN Kenya 2016 Graduates
From Left; Mercy Njoroge, Anne Mbotela, Faith Oneya, Everlyn Kwamboka and Wanjiru Kinoti (Missing in picture)

 

Sharing lessons from WIN – The power of three

Faith Oneya highlighted potential opportunities for networking. Even though many see the requirements needed to participate in the WIN programme as a barrier, such an opportunity presents a platform for networking with professionals from around Africa, sharing of challenges and newsroom experience.

“It provides the Coachee with fresh eyes for learning and impacts you positively.” she noted.

In addition, women in media are encouraged not to be defined by stereotypes. Rather, come up with support groups and be professional cheerleaders where besides encouraging women, personal challenges are discussed and apt solutions gotten.

The WIN programme through peer mentoring also forms the basis for research and funding as Wanjiru Kinoti states. Take for instance the funding of the handbook; WINning Strategies: Creating Stronger News Media organizations by Increasing Gender Diversity which seeks to highlight media success stories in gender diversity.

“Women have interesting stories to tell but do not know how to tell them.” she remarks adding, “As such, peer mentorship comes in to help women in news who feel stifled and challenged to overcome such hurdles.” This is where learning from the boss and getting feedback from peers is crucial, she says noting that such learning enables the coachees to work on their weaknesses and assertiveness.

It’s not an easy road though, as Anne Mbotela concurs, “No action, no movement, no traction.”

The coachees also learnt on how to work with set goals. The Women in News being a management program revolves around time management, change management and financial management aspects thus provides a spring board for coachees to move forward in their careers but managing oneself comes first.

Ann opines that it is vital to understand basic precepts such as who should help you move forward, the expertise involved and values like being disciplined.  “It’s humbling to get a coach because you admit you need help. Above all, it’s a challenging programme but worth the experience.” she concludes.

 

Birth of a blog

The insights and lessons learnt from the WIN programme spiraled into the creation of a blog. “Mercy Talks” blog is an idea birthed by a WINner – Mercy Njoroge. Living in an era of globalization, technological advancements and shrinking media landscape, a blog is fit as a platform to articulate and highlight women issues.