On April 10, 2020 nation. africa published an article where Ms Wairimu Munyinyi-Wahome urged Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, to integrate gender-based violence (GBV) messaging in his daily Covid-19 briefing.
The executive director of Coalition on Violence Against Women-Kenya (Covaw-K) observed that Mr Kagwe had the influence to change people’s attitudes by reminding them that “staying at home doesn’t mean you perpetuate violence against your loved one.”
By then, there was a horrifying global surge in domestic violence standing at an average 30 percent, prompting UN Secretary General António Guterres to call for a ceasefire.
Here in Kenya where GBV lifetime prevalence for women is 38 per cent and 20.9 per cent, for men, the numbers had blown up by 42 per cent.
Then on April 14, Health Chief Administrative Secretary Dr Mercy Mwangangi mentioned the spike in GBV, especially sexual violence perpetuated by relatives and guardians, and warned the offenders that the law “has not been suspended” and so it will catch up with them.
The following day, Mr Mutahi also reiterated the call to end the violence, calling on religious leaders to intervene and counsel people against rising GBV.
Ms Wahome says the Health ministry officials’ response had a ripple effect as then “interventions were designed to amplify mitigation and response against GBV.”
Ms Wahome and Covaw-K is among the feminists and associated organisations that shaped Kenya’s response to GBV in the mix of Covid-19, a pandemic that has horrifically thrown women and girls into burning flames of physical, sexual, economic and psychological violence-most perpetrated by intimate partners, relatives and guardians.
On April 22, a consortium of feminist organisations petitioned the government calling for a 30 per cent allocation of Covid-19 funds to GBV response.
They were Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness (Creaw), Federation of Women Lawyers-Kenya (Fida-Kenya) and Covaw-K.
Others included Equality Now, Groots Kenya, Sustainable Development Goals Forum Kenya and Kenya Female Advisory Organisation.
The funds would be split into supporting shelters to keep safe and provide survivors with basic necessities along with medical care, psychosocial and legal support.
This has not happened till now but three months ago, the government listed shelters and safe houses as essential services. The providers can, therefore, acquire special passes to operate during the curfew hours when the violence is most prevalent.
The continued outcry drew the attention of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who then directed National Crime Research Centre (NCRC) to probe the spike.
Its findings indicated a 92.2 per cent rise between January and June, 2020, where 71 per cent of the 2,416 cases of GBV recorded during the period were perpetuated on women and girls. An equivalent of 10 females were violated each day during the six-month period
Similarly, data from national helpline 1195 – one of the more than 25 hotlines established by government ministries and departments and civil society – showed 5,009 cases had been reported from January to December, 2020, compared to 1,411 the previous year.
Nairobi, Kakamega, Kisumu, Nakuru and Kiambu counties led with the highest number of callers.
But while other countries such as South Africa and Canada extended financial hand to women’s rights organisations to support GBV survivors and rescue shelters, in Kenya such crucial facilities were cash-strapped to closure, with no government support in sight.