GENDER ACTIVISM: Male riders have been identified as a source of danger, hence the risk of being robbed and raped
BY PHILIP TIANDA
Kajiado Maasai women have recounted sad tales of harassment in public spaces during activities led by ENAI Africa to mark the 16 days of Activism.
The annual campaign runs between 25 November and 10 December. It seeks to highlight violence against women and girls as a human rights issue and provides a platform for state and non-state actors to be held accountable.
In a women’s forum organized by ENAI Africa in Sajiloni, Kajiado County, women called upon the government and non-government agencies to rescue pastoralist women from harassment and the threats they face in their daily routines.
Emily Mulata, a local women’s leader, confirmed her fears towards harassment meted towards women in the area.
She said there was only one matatu that plied their road and at specific times. Therefore, both men and women heavily rely on it as a means of transport from the interior of the community to the marketplace during market days to sell their products and make purchases.
ENAI Africa Executive Director Lanoi Parmuat in a meeting with Sajiloni women.
Due to the high demand for this vehicle, both genders compete to use it. However, men being stronger overpower women, who are forced to use motorbikes yet the nature of the roads is bad, with forest cover and long distances from the market to the community.
This renders women unsafe at the hands of male riders, hence the risk of being robbed and raped. She said many cases in the area ranging from rape to other different cases of harassment have been reported as women use motorbikes. Yet, it is the only available means of transport and is particularly unsafe for them at night.
Christine Neboo, an assistant chief, emphasized the length of the distance covered from the interior to the market and how unsafe the road was, with the motorbike being the main form of transport.
Women are the majority of customers plying the route to the shopping centres to sell their produce and purchase other products. In the process, they face a lot of harassment ranging from verbal abuses to being overcharged for fares.
Esther Shapashina, a women’s leader, recommended that women should join men riders in the business because they can save female passengers from the troubles they endure from male riders.
Students interviewed expressed their worry while at school — especially in dormitories, classes, fields, and in the dining halls.
One of them, Sandra Peno from AIC Girls, recalled that during morning prep the watchmen go into the student dormitories to waken up students, which she feels unsafe. She would love to remain behind after evening tuition but the fear of male watchmen walking around makes her uncomfortable.
She suggests that-teaching staff, especially watchmen, should be sensitized to adhere to the established boundaries by the school.
On her part, ENAI Africa Executive Director Lanoi Parmuat said that gender-based violence can take many forms, from physical to mental, and has a long-lasting negative impact on women and girls’ wellbeing that prevents them from reaching their full potential. Lanoi, while addressing over 200 participants, sensitized women and girls on gender-based violence and its ramifications upon individuals and families — and the community by extension.
She reiterated that the designated 16 Days of Activism provide an opportunity for the community to come together to reject violence and encourage conversations about preventing violence against women and girls.
She emphasized that these 16 days of activism will help the community and stakeholders explore the notion of respect, demonstrating the ways we can all shift and question misguided and outdated attitudes that allow gender prejudices to fester, creating a climate where violence is more likely to occur — especially when women use public spaces.
Lanai reiterated that gender inequality has been identified as a key driver of family violence and violence against women and girls.
She further sensitized the participants on the importance of speaking out against violence and exposing the perpetrators and survivors of family violence to identify effective prevention strategies to end violence.