It's time to get in formation

No woman, girl or child chooses to become a victim – someone preys on them

Linda Okero

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who lived in the sixth century once said, "The only thing that is constant is change." Going by this quote, the fact that mindset and behavioral change related to forms of gender-based violence against women remains elusive in our communities, we need to change our approach to deal with this menace.

We may not fully understand the intricacies and impact of gender-based violence, but no woman, girl or child chooses to become a victim – someone preys on them. While tweeting and posting about it is a form of action, it is no longer enough. We all know a victim or survivor of gender-based violence and we owe it to them to no longer be reactive bystanders. We need to actively call for action – for laws and policies governing the rights of women, girls and children against acts of gender-based violence to be backed up by strong structural and implementation systems to ensure that justice is served.

It is typical and reactionary for our leaders to hold press-conferences and issue statements on social media. This is not the kind of action we need. We need leaders – government and civil society – to get in formation and collectively make this agenda a high-priority in our everyday conversations, reporting and national reflections. The frameworks, systems and structures in place need to be reviewed and assessed to establish where the gap is, what needs to be strengthened and how to get public participation to fight this menace. We cannot keep on counting statistics as history reminds us of a powerful saying, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

As a society, we also need to be accountable. We often pass judgement – consciously or subconsciously – of such ordeals through confined personal lenses of ‘woulda, coulda shoulda’ narratives targeting the victims, it is time we focus on those committing the heinous acts and hold our systems socially and legally responsible to tackle gender-based violence. It takes courage to break the silence against this vice, we should not use this strength as a weapon to bring down victims, but as a building block to build them back stronger.

Individual and collective action and accountability is key to fighting this. In the same way we encourage equality – that girls and women are meant to be seen and heard – both men and women must stand up in solidarity, not as a way of turning a blind eye to violence against men or other identified genders, but as a way of preventing further oppression of a gender that has for years had its voice stifled.

We must create safe spaces to encourage victims to speak out and have systems and structures that protect them when they do. Disappointed as we may be at what is happening in our society, we must be resilient and have enduring spirit. We must get in formation and make those responsible for change to listen. If they cannot hear us, it is time to ROAR.

If you or a person you know has been the victim of sexual or gender-based violence we encourage that you report the matter at your nearest police station. For further assistance in seeking legal redress contact any of the below organizations:-

  1. Gender Violence Recover Centre, Nairobi Women’s Hospital
  2. Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA)
  3. The CRADLE – The Children Foundation
  4. African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN)
  5. Advantage Africa
  6. Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW)

(The Author, Linda Okero, is a communications and development enthusiast who has been enhancing socio-economic transformation in Micro-Finance, Government, Business Acceleration and Advocacy space. She is the Coordinator of the UNCTAD Youth Action Hub – Kenya, a YALI Alumni and Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society.)

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Pulse Live Kenya.

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