Kenya: Women organize after violence
NewsNotes, September-October 2008
The organization “Kibera Women for Peace and Fairness” was started at the peak of the post-election violence that rocked Kenya after the disputed presidential election; the Kibera slum was one of the worst-hit areas. When the police went into the slums looking for boys who had purportedly pulled down the Kenya-Uganda railway line that runs across Kibera and ended up killing eight women and two girls, the women of Kibera decided to tell the whole world what was and is happening in Kibera.
“She makes up the majority of women in the Republic of Kenya yet her participation is next to zero! She is vulnerable to disease, poverty, abuse, name it all, yet her income cannot allow her rescue! She works from 5 a.m to 10 p.m, yet her income cannot change her life, nor can it cater efficiently for her children’s education!,” the statement read. “In case of violence, she is the one who suffers most, as witnessed in the recent post-election violence. She may not be part of the protesting team, but still has to suffer from teargas by the police, property destruction, and assaults by the community youth. These women are finally united to ensure that the world recognizes our presence and helps us come out of our agony. We want a better life.”
Over 400 women are now members of Kibera Women for Peace Fairness, working together on such issues as HIV/AIDS, culture, entrepreneurship, women’s rights and protection, and sports.
To increase their visibility, they organized the Slum Women’s Voice Day on August 16 in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park and articulated some of their goals, including:
1. Community peace forums: “We are looking forward to holding 12 community forums for 100 community persons at every session. These forums will be in the various Kibera villages and coordinated by the community leaders. These forums will hopefully see over 1,200 Kibera residents develop a forgiving spirit and be ready to embrace other individuals and communities, as it was before the post-election violence. We intend to make people aware of better way of protesting rather than destroying property and killing others.”
2. Resettle the slum’s Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs): “Among the slum women some are internally displaced due to the recent post-elections violence. These women have no money to return to their rural areas, and we would like to help them in that regard. Our first phase of implementation will see 50 single women IDPs settled back in their homes and helped to develop a living. This will also help in decongesting slum settlements, which are currently over-congested with IDPs. Most of these women are older and longing to go back and settle in their ancestral lands, which they left some years ago to look for jobs.”
3. Establishment of a revolving fund: “Most of these women have lost their businesses and livelihoods, so this fund will loan to members to help revive their lost businesses. They will return this money with a little interest at the end of the grace period, and the money will then be loaned to others.
“The women will also establish a saving scheme, in a program akin to a pension fund, aimed at giving them some funds to invest with back home. All members will be required to take money once the pension matures, go back home to the rural areas, build a house, and resettle.
“The post-election violence taught women that one should have a home to go back to after town life. Many people who lost contact with their rural homes are still in camps to date as they have nowhere to go. We would like to encourage our women not to cut links with their original home areas. These are women whose life standards do allow them to acquire land in the urban settlements, so it is good they have a place they call home.”
4. Rights awareness of gender-based violence (GBV) workshops: “We intend to hold several workshops to train slum women on human rights and gender-based violence. These women who are mostly the victims of this violence are not even aware when they are being abused, and how to seek justice. All current members of Kibera Women for Peace and Fairness will have a chance to participate in these forums, know more about GBV, and use it to manage their lives positively.
5. “Girls Speak Out” forum for 200 Kibera girls: “The girls of Kibera were very much affected by the post-election violence; some are still IDPs. We want to give these girls a chance to express themselves on how they were affected by violence, how they can move on, and how to be more careful next time such a thing happens. Some of these girls were raped, some lost their parents and people who were very close to them, so they need to heal and reconcile with the communities where they live.”
Kibera Women for Peace and Fairness has mobilized hundreds of women to condemn police brutality and to call for peace and restraint and scores of young artists to draw peace messages all over Kibera. They have held weekly women’s peace talks called “We Speak Out” to help women in the process of healing. They have organized talks on the impact of the violence on people living with HIV and AIDS. They hosted IDPs and talked to their neighbors about receiving them back, distributed foodstuffs to them and escorted them to their houses. Along with International Medical Corps, they have sponsored daily medical camps in various Kibera communities.
According to Kibera Women for Peace and Fairness, “Nairobi is cosmopolitan, our organization has no religious or tribal barriers. We believe that women can change the world. We are completely against projects being imposed on us, we want to be part and parcel of various projects aimed at improving our lives, linked to the Millennium Development Goals.”
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