Linda Kelley PEPFAR KENYA
Campaigns

Champions for change

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things to fight gender-based violence in Kenya

We all have a role to play in ending violence.

From a hairdresser-turned-activist to a boda boda driver, a police officer to a trauma nurse, ordinary individuals are doing extraordinary things to fight gender-based violence in Kenya.

In 2018, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), traveled across Kenya collecting stories of individuals working to end gender-based violence across sectors, regions, and disciplines.

The photo exhibition, “Champions for change”, brings together these personal stories showcasing how individual action can lead to a collective and forceful nationwide movement against gender-based violence.

Angella Nzillani, peer educator and community volunteer

“I lost my sight 13 years ago and almost died from depression. I was shunned by members of my family and community and was deemed useless and unworthy. My husband is currently in jail for assaulting me. I am passionate about standing up for others like me who are living with disabilities. I now educate patients on how to overcome abuse.”

Angela Peer Educator PEPFAR KENYA
Pacific GBV Nurse

Pacific Oriato, gender-based violence nurse

"At the clinic, I tell my patients that it is their right to receive treatment and to press charges against their abusers. To date, I have testified over 200 times in courtrooms across Kenya on behalf of my patients. It has become part of my life and seeing my clients win cases keeps me coming back to court. I encourage nurses to support other survivors of gender-based violence.”

Watiri Community Child Protector PEPFAR KENYA

Margaret Watiri, community agent for change

“It is not unusual for me to break down doors to rescue children once a case has been reported to me. Together with my friends, we go door-to-door sensitizing our community on gender-based violence. Many would not even dare touch a child because they would have to deal with us. Even though I am almost 60 years old I do not plan to retire from doing this.”

Ann Trauma Nurse PEPFAR KENYA

Ann Onderi, trauma nurse

“I have counseled hundreds of people who have been defiled or raped. Sometimes our clients are as young as two years old. I encourage them to get treatment and even speak to a paralegal to try to arrest the perpetrators. On any given day I counsel about 20 victims of violence. It is a tough and traumatic job, but I am not about to retire from it.”

Carlos Benard Motorbike Boda Boda Operators PEPFAR KENYA

Carlos and Bernard, boda boda operators

“Being boda boda operators is what we do to earn a living. However, the boda boda culture is one that can be very harmful, especially to children. In many instances, we rescue children and take the perpetrators who are often our fellow boda boda operators to the police. The community knows us and calls us when they are in danger. They know we will fight for them.”

Linda Kelley PEPFAR KENYA

Linda Kelley, Standard 8 student

“I was born and raised in the streets. I do not know who my parents were. I did not even have a name. I named myself. I was abused and beaten more times than I can recall in the streets. An opportunity to go to school was the highlight of my life. I advise my classmates to focus, stay in school, and not be swayed by things that will lead them down a destructive path.”

Ruth Hairdresser PEPFAR KENYA

Ruth Mango, hairdresser

“I was always passionate about hair. When I started working at the YMCA, I realized it was my tool to impact lives. To date, I have trained over 100 girls in hairdressing. Most of these girls come from vulnerable backgrounds including sex work. After training them, I help them get placements and this way they are able to earn their own money and become self-reliant.”

Dougie Maasai Moran PEPFAR KENYA

Douglas Meritei, Maasai moran

“I have spent the last five years going door to door sensitizing our community on the dangers of FGM — such as bleeding to death or being exposed to HIV — as the same knife is used to cut many girls. We are beginning to see our girls working in hospitals as doctors and nurses. I am proud of our women. What a man can do, a woman can do too.”

Abdihakim Police Constable PEPFAR KENYA

Abdi Hakim, police constable

“People say that we police are not helpful and that our response rate is slow. I cannot stand bullies and make an effort to expedite cases of abuse and follow through to ensure justice is done. We need safe spaces at the police stations for rescued children. When they are brought to us, we end up locking them up in cells with adults. This ends up being very traumatic for them.”

Grace Paralegal PEPFAR Kenya

Grace Aketch, paralegal

“As a paralegal officer, I help survivors get justice. This year alone, we have arrested 259 perpetrators and 84 of them have already been convicted and are currently in jail. We have seen a big difference as the community trusts us and the number of reported cases has more than tripled in the last year. We leave no stone unturned in our pursuit for justice.”

Margaret DREAMS PEPFAR KENYA

Margaret Waithera, businesswoman

“I am a businesswoman and rear chickens. At weekends, I mentor young girls aged 10-14 years old. It is not easy for someone who is being abused to speak up. When I notice one is uncomfortable during a session, I come up with games or take them for a hike where they relax and open up. I was a DREAMS girl and I learned a lot that I want to pass on.”

Rita Activist PEPFAR KENYA

Rita Mutheu, business owner and activist

“Change begins with me! I began the “My dress my choice” movement after a video went viral on social media of a woman being stripped naked for wearing a mini skirt. We protested on the streets against unfair treatment of women. Following this campaign, the sexual bill was amended and the individuals on that viral video were sentenced to 20 years in jail.”

Omangas Community Volunteers PEPFAR KENYA

Hezekiah and Wambui Omanga, founders of Nyabende Support Group

"When we first moved to the village, we heard many people say untrue things about people living with HIV. Many were abused and beaten and some would shun the partner they believe brought the disease to their homes. We made a decision to be open about our HIV status and demystify these myths as well as advocate for the well-being of women and children.”

Gladways Community Center PEPFAR DREAMS Kenya

Mary Wamaitha, founder of Gladways Community Center

“I take in abandoned and rescued children without even thinking twice. I do not have much, but I am committed to teaching, feeding, and counseling them, making sure they are safe. The police call me and bring them here. For many, I take them in until the courts make a decision on their cases. The children are happy. They are safe. And they know they are loved.”

Isaiah Gender Officer PEPFAR Kenya

Anastasia Mashindana, founder of Anastasia Women's Group

“Instead of cutting girls we — as the older women in the community — promote the benefits of girls staying in school and getting an education. We educate communities that still practice FGM and advocate for "Alternative rite of passage" (ARP). Today, men in our community have accepted that women play a big role in changing the status of a community positively.”

Amina Gender Police PEPFAR KENYA

Amina Mohamed, child protection officer

“I have worked in various departments including crime and traffic, but I discovered my passion when I was placed on the child protection desk. I deal with a lot of defilement cases on a day-to-day basis. I take it upon myself to walk the victims through the process, including collecting forensic evidence and making sure they are getting treatment and legal support.”

K Zee Musician PEPFAR Kenya

K’Zee, Musician, barber, and founder of Fresh Cutz Foundation

“Someone took a chance on me, and I am now taking a chance on others. It is more than just cutting hair, but a space where young men can have open conversations. These boys are now walking away from crime, drugs, and even gangs that rape women. The boy child has been forgotten, there are many programs that empower the girl. I’m standing up for the boy child.”

Data

Data

The government of Kenya prioritized reducing violence against children and adolescents, understanding how the many intersections of gender-based violence and violence against children can perpetuate cycles of violence in communities. In 2010, the government conducted the first Violence Against Children and Youth Survey (VACS) and in 2011 they released a comprehensive Response Plan. Results from a second VACS report were released in 2020, showcasing a reduction in overall rates of violence – but there is still work to be done.

Action

Action

In 2011, Kenya passed the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, criminalizing female genital mutilation. Kenya also passed the Marriage Bill 2011, which consolidates all marriage laws to remove any discriminatory provisions with respect to boys and girls, such as different ages for marriage. Kenya’s Vision 2030 outlines child protection as one of the areas of intervention under the objectives for gender, youth, and vulnerable groups, with a focus on strengthening child protection systems.

Partnerships

Partnerships

Gender-based violence continues to increase the risk of HIV infection and is a barrier to HIV prevention, treatment, and care. Over the past 15 years, PEPFAR has helped save and improve millions of lives, while also transforming the global HIV/AIDS response. One program focused on preventing gender-based violence is the DREAMS partnership, which aims to reduce new HIV infections and violence among adolescent girls and young women aged 10-24 in 10 sub-saharan countries. (Read stories from DREAMS Girls, Kenya).

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There is still work to be done.

Although we have seen great progress in Kenya, the data shows that sexual violence against girls and young women remains unacceptably high. A problem of this magnitude requires an equally powerful response.

By working together, we can create a safer, healthier world for every girl.

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