African Great Lakes 

TCSC Kenya Responds to Rise in Gender Based Violence on Mt. Elgon

One of the lead facilitator at TCSC address teenagers in one of the listening session in Mt. Elgon. PHOTO: Erastus Chesondi

Listening Sessions

Listening sessions is a tool that was develop after the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007. The tool was designed to facilitate listening sessions with empathy exercises to enlarge deeper understanding of an issue or problem of others, and give them help in solving these issues. It gives effective listening skills and help participants to open up from their frozen pain and past. It invites them to take an active part in the growth process and gives the participants permission to admit a need for help and to seek it appropriately. It is from this session that facilitators helped the participant to get help through our programs with include AVP, HROC, Mediation, Counseling and many others.

In the sessions we discovered that violence against women amidst this pandemic has been a violation of women’s human rights. Many forms of violence against women have been perpetrated by close family members and the community at large. Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in early March, gender based violence has created many potential negative health consequences for women and their children. Violence against women in Mt Elgon has resulted in injuries and serious physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health problems, including sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and unplanned pregnancies. In extreme cases, violence against women has resulted in death. Coupled with restricted movement and social isolation measures, this have led to an exponential increase in GBV. Many women are in “lockdown” at home with their abusers while being cut off from normal social support services.

Listening session with women and girls. The most affected group during this Covid-19 pandemic were women and young girls. PHOTO: Erustas Chesondi

In Mt Elgon, there have been a rampant number of gender based violence cases. Some of these cases have been reported, but many remain confined at the mercy of the elders hence denying the victim’s access to justice. A case of women being stubbed to death over missing a meal has been witnessed. Young and innocent girls being waylaid on their way back from their jobs is on the increase in Chepyuk, which borders Mt. Elgon’s forest. The number of women on the run because of sour marriage has increased. All this has raised alarm and not much is being done. Trauma has engulfed the residence of the area due to this sharp increase in GBV cases.

Involving leaders and local administration in creating awareness and voicing out violation of women human rights and child abuse

We managed to do five listening sessions with women and young girls who have experienced violence especially during the difficult times of Covid-19. From these sessions, we were able to identify women who have experienced traumatic experiences and help them get psychosocial help. We provided a safe space for women and children to share and hold perpetrators accountable with the use of police and local administration. Then, due to some sensitive cases we helped provide platforms for referrals for medication and professional counseling.

A team of volunteers lead by area chief walking towards Mt. Elgon Peace Center. When it rains the roads are impassable.

During the training we had heavy rains and the road were impassable, however the team was forced to walk for long distance considering motorbikes could not be used.

As we finalize the listening session the country was hit by the second wave of infection that forced us to embark on government health protocols thus reducing our public gatherings.