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Kenya's People Daily Features Work of WDN member Rachel Kamweru and her fight against gender-based violence
Last year, Nairobi special-elect Member of County Assembly Rachel Kamweru received a rather distressing call. Her sister, who lived in Harambee estate told her that a neighbour had been beaten up by her husband and chased out. She needed help.
Kamweru quickly rushed to her aid and shortly after, they arrived at the Buru Buru Police Station to report the matter. “After going through the formalities and recording a statement, the police assured us they would take the necessary measures to amicably deal with the crime,” says Kamweru.
Thinking that they had dealt with the situation, Kamweru says, they were faced with an unprecedented predicament. The woman told them she could not return home since she feared a repeat of the physical assault.
“I promptlwy asked the police what we should do because it was obvious her safety at home was not guaranteed. To our surprise, the police blatantly told us to accommodate her until things calm down because they had nowhere to keep her.
At the Buru Buru Police Station, there is only a Child Protection Centre. I took in the woman and her children until the domestic matter was resolved. And that is when it dawned on me that there was a void that needed to be addressed,” she says.
The incident changed Kamweru — and now a member of the County Assembly, she focuses on gender issues and after a lot of soul searching, she constantly found herself asking what can be done to protect survivors of Gender Based Violence.
She engaged stakeholders and grounded with figures and facts, Kamweru presented a motion at the County Assembly, to put up safe houses or shelters for survivors of GBV. “When I was on the floor of the House, I brought in the scenario of the man being physically abused and chased out by his partner.
Since a majority of our MCAs are men, I had to make them aware that they can also fall victim to domestic violence. So I asked, ‘what happens if the men are beaten up, because it happens and most of them suffer in silence?’
The MCAs realised that violence cuts across the genders and that is how my motion got overwhelming support. It was subsequently passed,” she adds.
According to Kamweru, she envisions a holistic approach where the safe houses comprehensively have trauma units that offer counseling services, legal aid and a referral mechanism by police who handle GBV cases.
“If this idea is realised, then it will elevate Nairobi to another status. I am concerned that we rely so much on our development initiatives such as roads, water and security yet we do not put progress on our human capital.
It is the highest time we give Nairobians an opportunity to focus on their social welfare. Incidentally, the passing of her motion coincided with the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence (a campaign that ends today — International Human Rights Day).
Kamweru is confident the implementation will enhance the status of Nairobi under the UN-Habitat’s Safer Cities Programme. As the county budgeting begins, she is proposing to have 17 safe houses, one in every constituency.
This is doable by renovating wasted facilities devolved from the defunct city council. This she says, can be replicated in other counties. Last week, Kamweru was named Duty Bearer for Nairobi County: Keeping the Promise to End GBV, a campaign by the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC).