I have been deployed in Kenya to work on gender issues in a village called Shianda, in the Western part of the country, with Western Focus Community Organisation (WEFOCO). This community-based organisation is composed of several women’s groups from different areas around Shianda and has been developing projects on agriculture, education as well as capacity-building and income generating activities, for more than fifteen years. WEFOCO aims to empower the communities by developing and strengthening their skills and resources. However, sensitive issues such as discrimination against women, gender-based violence (GBV), early pregnancy or menstrual precarity, have been identified as a barrier to empowerment. This is why the organisation has started developing projects addressing these issues and one of them consists in raising awareness on GBV to prevent it.
During a needs assessment session with some members of the women’s groups, the latter shared that they wanted to increase their knowledge on GBV and have the legitimacy to stand up against GBV. To this end, I organised a two-day training on GBV with the help of another volunteer. It aimed to provide resources for participants to identify, respond and prevent GBV at the community level. Participants were introduced to social and legal avenues to deal with GBV, such as community entry, counselling, national laws and policies, and referral systems available in their areas. It was necessary to work with local facilitators, here two experts in human rights and counselling from the Community Capacity Building Organisation (CCABO), as they know the context and how to work with communities. As there were also uneducated people, the training was in Swahili, the national language with English, and in Luhya, the local dialect, to make all participants comfortable and ensure that they understand everything.
The training included presentations, discussions and group works such as short role plays and case studies. Participants also shared and worked on situations they experienced, and felt more confident in addressing them at the end of the training. They developed an action plan focused on their own communities to put into practice during the coming months the acquired skills. They committed to take action by visiting the chamas (banking groups) and administrators, as well as offering GBV services to their communities. The idea also is that they are now able to train their group members so that the group can then further the community outreach. A follow-up meeting with the participants, WEFOCO and CCABO will be organised later to discuss the implementation of this action plan and the obstacles they may face.
I feel positive about this training and its outcomes. However, it is challenging to come as a foreigner, a “Mzungu”, to volunteer for a short period of time in a rural area where resources are limited and English is not spoken by everyone. Developing projects that the local organisation is not familiar with does not help either. Nonetheless, the interesting part of the work is connecting local people with each other, including those with the expertise with those in need. This is what will ensure the sustainability of the results. Indeed, participants in the training have not only received a certificate amongst others, they have also become the foundational basis of a network dedicated to tackle GBV in which CCABO constitutes a key resource. Participants have now acquired advocacy tools to raise awareness on GBV as well as basic legal knowledge that will enable them to bring a case to the local organisation that can then take legal action and try to provide justice for victims. Indeed, in Shianda, and in Kenya in general, the rate of reported GBV cases is low and they are mostly addressed at the community level. Therefore, people can now refer to these new GBV ambassadors and expect serious consequences in case of GBV including accountability.
"Connecting local people with each other, including those with the expertise with those in need, is what will ensure the sustainability of the results."