Clashes between opposing political groups erupted in Kenya as a result of alleged election fraud, committing women to violence, abuse, and rape. Find out how you can help alleviate Kenyan women’s suffering.
Violence erupted right after the Kenyan presidential elections on December 27 last year, leaving at least 300 people dead. Thousands fled their homes, fearing further attacks either from government’s military forces or from the opposition groups. Women, in particular, became most vulnerable to violence.
According to election results, 99 of the 210 legislative seats were reportedly won by the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). Vice-President Moody Awori and 14 of Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki’s top ministers lost their seats. ODM leader Raila Odinga was also leading the presidential vote. However, in an abrupt turnaround, the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) announced that Mwai Kibaki was in the lead. Kibaki claimed he had been re-elected and was hastily sworn in on December 30, 2007.
Post-election violence spread throughout Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret in the Rift Valley, and Kisumu in Nyanza, among other areas. Vigilante groups, protesting the results of the elections, have targeted and attacked members of the Kikuyu tribe, the ethnic group of President Kibaki. There have been horrific incidents, including the burning of a church in western Kenya containing dozens of Kikuyu, including women and children, who had sought refuge there.
Opposition supporters have also been victims of the crackdown by the security forces. Opposition protests have been met with excessive use of force by the police and military. The United Nations now officially estimates that about 180,000 Kenyans are now internally displaced by post-election violence.
The World YWCA, a global network of women leading social and economic change worldwide, is now calling on member associations, civil society, partners, and donors to take the following actions to alleviate the suffering in Kenya, especially those of women:
(1) Donate and support ongoing efforts
The World YWCA and Kenya YWCA are working closely with other stakeholders to respond to the current crisis while maintaining a special focus on women and children. The Kenya YWCA has offered its premises as a safe space for vulnerable women particularly the elderly, pregnant women, and women with young children. Funds are being raised and advocacy work is in place to ensure that the humanitarian response is sensitive to women’s needs, particularly their sexual and reproductive health needs including access to rape crisis facilities and counsellors, HIV prevention drugs, sanitary towels, among others.
(2) Advocate for women’s inclusion in peace building
As the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and the African Union Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality call for the inclusion of women in conflict prevention, resolution, and peace building, the World YWCA is advocating for inclusion of women in the key mediation teams working on a political solution between the Kenyan government and the opposition party. Currently, there are no women in the established mediation teams. While the short-term effort is an end to violence, the long-term effort must focus on building communities of respect, tolerance, and reverence for diversity. The leadership of women is crucial in this endeavour.
(3) Say ‘No’ to impunity for rape and abuse of women
Reports indicated that hundreds of women and children have been raped. Gang rape as a means of retaliation is on the increase and the Nairobi Women’s Hospital has recorded a two-fold increase in rape cases in recent days. The Kenya government last year passed a progressive sexual offence law and it must be exercised at this time.
“Action alert: 250,000 homeless in Kenya after post-election violence” from World YWCA, posted on January 9, 2008, <http://www.worldywca.info/index.php/ywca/world_ywca/ywca_news/association_news/action_alert_crisis_in_kenya>. “Kenya: Review of Elections Needed to End Violence” from Human Rights Watch, posted on January 4, 2008, <http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/01/04/kenya17688.htm>.