On the 20th of June 2023, PS Kenya and the Danish Embassy paid a courtesy call to the offices of the County Government Minister for Community Development, Culture, Social Services and Talent Management, Hon. Francisca Kilonzo. The main objective of the meeting was to check on the progress of the Accelerate Program in the county with the aim of meeting the three ICPD25 zeros, that is, zero unmet need for contraception, zero preventable maternal deaths and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices.
Seven out of ten women in Kwale County are victims of gender-based violence due to factors such as traditional patriarchal roles that create a gender imbalance in the society, early marriages and pregnancy, poverty and unemployment and inadequate legal protection frameworks. The perpetrators of these crimes are usually their fathers, husbands, uncles and brothers who still believe in the traditional set up of men being superior to their female counterparts. In the event that the women do speak out, the cases are handled in a traditional justice system also know as Kangaroo Courts where justice is rarely served, leading to the question; what happens after reporting?
According to Hon. Francisca Kilonzo, the gender-based violence bill is currently awaiting adoption by the County Assembly on the establishment of shelter houses and recovery centers in the County. Currently victims are only able to be sheltered for a maximum of two to three days after reporting abuse at the gender desk, after which they have no choice but to go back home where more often than not the perpetrator awaits them creating a pattern of abuse that sometimes has grave consequences.
“Kwale County does not have an operational gender-based violence recovery center. The buildings do exist but they require renovation which we would be happy to do in collaboration with DANIDA once the bill is adopted,” stated the County Government Minister.
Hon. Francisca Kilonzo further pointed out that Msambweni sub-county would be the ideal location for the renovation of a building that would act as the first recovery center due to its proximity to the Msambweni County Referral Hospital. Thomas Hansen, Head of Programs in DANIDA, shared that they would be happy to contribute towards the establishment of the recovery centers and are in line with the renovation of pre-existing buildings.
We also visited the Diani Health Center, where the DANIDA officials had a sit down with five Community Health Promoters (CHPs) who are attached to the health center and cover Msambweni sub-county. The role of CHPs in educating against GBV is of utmost importance in challenging societal norms, promoting awareness, and fostering behavioral change. By utilizing their trusted position in communities, CHVs can effectively disseminate information, raise awareness, and provide crucial support to survivors.
Through the Danish Embassy, PS Kenya will continue to support gender-based violence recovery services in Kwale County in partnership with the Gender Violence and Recovery Center (GVRC), and invest in the establishment and enhancement of shelter houses where survivors can rebuild their lives with dignity, strength, and hope.