Youth Voices: Lydia Tabuke, Every Hour Matters Champion and Youth Advocate Ending Violence Against Women and Girls

In her home country of Kenya, Lydia Tabuke is a Project Manager at Sisari Women’s Initiative Group, leading sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) programming. She is a TfG Every Hour Matters (EHM) Youth Champion, working to bring together youth to support their peers in quickly accessing post-rape care. As an EHM Champion, Lydia contributed to Kenya’s EHM Youth Engagement Toolkit, which serves as an educational resource for youth to facilitate discussions around supporting survivors and ending sexual violence. Lydia joins Together for Girls (TfG) at the Women Deliver Conference in Vancouver, Canada, to speak about her work ending violence against women and girls during the concurrent session, Sex and Power: The Dynamics Between Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and Gender-Based Violence (GBV), taking place on Thursday, June 6, at 1:30 pm PST.

Can you share a bit of your story and how you became an advocate for ending violence against girls in Kenya?

At a young age, I witnessed women in my village being mistreated by male relatives, friends, and even their own husbands–most of these men were acting out when drunk. It was a very bad scene to watch women being battered and abused by those who are supposed to protect them. I found it very saddening because some women were raped by people who were very close to them. There were also many incidents of rape and unmet SRHR needs for adolescent and teenage girls.

 

When I began university, I started to speak out against violence against women and girls. I didn’t want to see any girl go through what I saw happening back in my village. When I have children, I don’t want my daughter to ever go through the same. I also knew there were millions of girls out there who had no one to speak for them. If it wasn’t going to be me, then who? I started to speak out, I started to shout. I began to advocate for an end to all forms of violence against girls in my village and in Kenya.

Tell us about your work with Sisari Women’s Initiative Group. What are some resources and programming that Sisari provides for women and girls, especially those who are survivors of sexual violence?

Sisari Women’s Initiative Group (SWIG) addresses the harmful norms, stigma and stereotypes women and girls encounter in Western Kenya. Our actions include community sensitization workshops on women’s rights, engaging young men as change agents to end sexual violence and advocating for the meaningful engagement of young women in decision making and leadership processes.

 

 

SWIG also engages local duty bearers in enforcing laws and policies that protect women against violence through capacity building, knowledge sharing, advocacy, and initiating income generating ventures for women.

 

 

SWIG provides direct support to survivors of sexual violence through transportation to hospitals and post-rape care counseling. We also support survivors in seeking justice through facilitating police reporting and following up to ensure that every girl is supported to the full extent of the law. SWIG honors survivors’ accounts of events, validates their feelings, withholds judgment, and refrains from sharing their story without their consent.

 

 

My work in SRHR programming with SWIG has enabled me to conduct outreach with many girls in my community, promoting violence prevention and response. As an Every Hour Matters Youth Champion, I work to increase the community’s awareness of the critical importance of quickly accessing post-rape care. Specifically, I have been able to educate peers and community members on the different aspects of care, including emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for HIV prevention.

 

 

The Every Hour Matters Youth Engagement Toolkit is a unique resource that has enabled SWIG to deliver information on post-rape care to youth in the form of educational training workshops using the “training of trainers” approach. Our activities using the toolkit have led to significant increase in young women seeking post-rape care within the community, hence improving access to services for many survivors.

How can communities best discuss the issue of gender-based and sexual violence with children and youth? How can youth-led advocacy be integrated into global effort to address these issues?

There is no doubt that within the home, the topic of our gender-based violence is shrouded in taboo. In seeking health services at clinics, young people, including survivors of sexual violence, are often told that they are too young to need contraceptives, or that the services they want are not available. At schools, young people are not provided with education about preventing and counteracting gender based and sexual violence. Myths and misconceptions are the only source of consistent information. Instead of being given lessons on preventing and countering GBV, young people instead watch the public shaming of their pregnant peers as they are paraded through the halls of school before being beaten and expelled. This reality must change.

 

To enhance dialogue on ending GBV requires coordination from many different actors within our communities:

  • Young people should be meaningfully engaged in policy discussions regarding GBVso their voices can be heard and included. This improves youth ownership, success and uptake of policies by young people. Youth-led initiatives which feed into global efforts must be recognized, appreciated and supported. This will help in ending violence against women and children globally.
  • Parents should discuss the topic of GBV openly with their sons and daughters to counteract harmful norms and protect their children against all forms of violence.
  • Educators should provide their students with the knowledge to make informed decisions in regards to protecting and promoting women’s rights.
  • Health care providers should offer non-judgmental health care services and counseling to survivors of GBV when seeking services.
  • Politicians and key opinion leaders should publicly support laws and policies criminalizing all forms of violence against women and girls in efforts to support a safe, violence-free world for the new generation.
  • Every woman and girl deserves the opportunity to live a life free from violence and discrimination.  It is everyone’s responsibility to make this vision a reality.

Every woman and girl deserves the opportunity to live a life free from violence and discrimination.  It is everyone’s responsibility to make this vision a reality.

Lydia shares why she is an advocate for ending violence against women and girls

To learn more about Together for Girls’ Every Hour Matters campaign visit the EHM landing page on the Together for Girls website.

 

Lydia Tabuke, Every Hour Matters Champion and Youth Advocate

 

As part of her role at Sisari Women’s Initiative Group, Lydia leads many community trainings on the topics of gender equality and access to services for survivors of sexual violence.

 

 

Lydia leads a community training on gender based violence for SWIG in Western Kenya.

 

 

Lydia with an event attendee during a SWIG affiliated event