On 19th October 2018, stakeholders in Kenya came together in the sprawling Kibera Slum to officially mark the International Day of the Girl Child. The theme for the year was With her: A skilled work force. International Day of the Girl Child is usually observed on the 11 of October each year and is a day that is marked to highlight the challenges that girls face. It is a day which the stakeholders take stock of the progress in terms of advancement of rights and freedoms for the girl child.
Lucien Kouakou, Regional Director, International Planned Parenthood Federation Africa Region (IPPFAR) joined over five thousand girls and boys from primary schools around Kibera to commemorate this day. The joyous celebrations were held at Lutheran Church grounds, Kibera, Nairobi. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Kenya and Polycom Development Program were the key conveners of the event. Polycom Development Program is a community-based organization that works to end Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and empowers girls in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya.
Also present at the event was the Nairobi Women Representative Hon. Esther Passaris - Women Representative, Nairobi County, H.E Nicolas Nihon - Ambassador, Embassy of Belgium, Mrs. Rahab Muiu - Chairperson, Maendeleo ya Wanawake, Dr. Francis Owino - Principal Secretary, Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, Dr. Ademola Olajide – UNFPA, Kenya Representative and Women 4 Women platform members.
Speaking at the event, Lucien urged the girls to take charge of their lives, "Your future is now, take control of it!" he said. He expressed that he was aware of the challenges that they endure in their quest to achieve their dreams. These are challenges such as lack of quality healthcare services and sexual and gender-based violence. He pledged to work together with the other stakeholders that were present at the event to ensure that no girl is deprived of their rights.
A call to speak out
Nairobi Women Representative Hon. Esther Passaris, advised the girls to courageously SPEAK OUT by reporting cases of sexual and gender-based violence regardless of the status of the perpetrator. “Do not fear to report sexual violence cases to your teachers, parents and the police.” She said. “It doesn’t matter who the person is, be it your teacher, parent, neighbor; please report. Do not fear intimidation,” she pleaded.
She stressed on the urgency to address and end the rampant cases of SGBV that occur in our society and especially in Kibera. Esther mentioned that she was aware that most families solve gender-based violence cases amicably at home, thereby interfering with the rightful avenue for seeking justice for the victims. She called upon the police and the judiciary to diligently exercise their mandate by arresting and prosecuting offenders of SGBV.
Esther mentioned that the county government of Nairobi is, at the moment, working on setting up safe houses around Nairobi to accommodate survivors of SGBV who flee their homes and those that require safety from their abusers.
A speech read on behalf of the Permanent Secretary - Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs highlighted the projects that the government is currently focusing on to better the life of every child across the country. The projects included; free primary and secondary education, Universal Health Coverage and affordable housing under the current Big 4 Agenda that is under implementation by the National Government. The Principal Secretary recognized the importance of children in the society and their contribution to development.
“Children are a sign of hope and continuity of generations, they are fundamental to the growth of any country, their rights must therefore be jealously preserved, ” read the opening remarks of the speech. The PS underscored the economic burden of SGBV and its ramifications to the economy of the country.
“The economic burden of SGBV is estimated to be at KES 46 billion, the cost of post-rape care services in public health sector alone is estimated KES 236 million. These are monies that can be channeled into other development projects, if we end SGBV in Kenya,” read the speech
The talking boxes
To curb cases of SGBV, Polycom Development program uses talking boxes. Talking boxes are small metallic boxes where girls in primary schools drop secretive notes onto which they express issues that they may be going through, including SGBV. The notes are later retrieved and read by a school counselor. Follow up is then done to help curb/solve the case.