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Reaching out to GBV survivors

Written by Henry Kahara
A scene from the play ‘Roots of shame; seeds of pain’ that was organized by Women Empowerment Link. The play was organized to raise funds to build safe houses for GBV survivors. A scene from the play ‘Roots of shame; seeds of pain’ that was organized by Women Empowerment Link. The play was organized to raise funds to build safe houses for GBV survivors. Picture: Henry Kahara

Women Empowerment Link commemorated this year’s World Women’s Day in a unique style.

They opted to use it to raise funds to build safe houses for Gender Based Violence (GBV) survivors by staging a play at Phoenix Theatre.

 The play was aptly titled: "Roots of shame; seeds of pain."

The emotional play revolved around four ladies, who had gone through GBV in their homes, shows how women frequently and severely suffer in the hands of their husbands, parents and relatives and don’t have a place to seek refuge.


The play was developed by Women Empowerment Link (WEL) in collaboration with Phoenix Players, as an advocacy tool highlighting the urgency of establishing safety nets for comprehensive care of women and girl survivors.

The proceeds will go towards completing the construction of the Mama Kenya Empowerment Center, based in Maraigushu in Naivasha, Nakuru County.

The play depicts a young girl, Binti, who goes through Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the name of satisfying her parents’ wish.

After the outlawed practice, Binti finds herself admitted in the hospital with severe complications. She lands in hospital courtesy of Europeans who had gone to visit the area to witness the controversial rite of passage carried out underground in Binti’s community.

Her parents see her as disgrace and a weak person for failing to stand like a ‘lady’ during the cut.

But all in all Binti is fine with what happened as far as she didn’t run away like her elder sister.

“I don’t want to be like my sister, she refused to go for a cut and my father disowned her,” Binti says.

In the hospital no one bothers to visit her. According to her culture, she is a disgrace; her community believes that a lady is supposed to be strong enough to undergo the cut.


At the same time her parents are very involved in the activities in the village therefore they do not have time to visit her.

“My mum is the leader of my age-set and she is busy taking care of them, while my father is the chief and he has a lot of issues to sort out in the village,” says Binti.

 At the end of the play, Binti is overwhelmed by the situation and she passes on.  

Another girl, Veronicah, finds herself raped by her uncle who she lived with. The girl was traumatised and she feared revealing who raped her. When she gathers courage to speak out, her aunt dismisses her claiming that she wears short skirts which made her husband to fall in to temptation.

During her stay in hospital, Veronica wonders where she will go to, for she fears going back to her aunt’s house.  But luckily she finds a woman friend who accepts to accommodate her.

The play shows how many women have suffered from GBV for long and in silence. Many of them are helpless and lack a refuge to run to, even when those vices continue taking root in their lives.

According to WEL’s Founder and Managing Director, Grace Mbugua, many women have continued suffering in the house silently for they do not have a place to seek refuge when assaulted.

“We need to build safe houses where women can seek refuge whenever their rights are violated,” says Mbugua.

 “Many women are still suffering from GBV and there is no one to help them, we need to create more safe houses for them,” she adds.


Mbugua says that some women have gone to an extent of committing suicide while others have left with complications due to the ordeal.

According to a separate survey by WEL, between January and September 2013, Nairobi received 373 reports of sexual and GBV cases and 100 reports of child negligence cases, from Kibra, Kangemi, Makadara, Kangemi and Kamukunji and Dagoretti constituencies.

 Those reports covered 19 per cent rape, 11 per cent attempted rape, three per cent gang rape, 32 per cent defilement, and five per cent attempted defilement, six per cent sexual exploitation and three per cent sodomy.

According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) 2008/2009, about 45 per cent of women between ages 15 -49 in Kenya have experienced either physical or sexual violence with women and girls counting over 90 per cent.

The report further says that one in every five Kenyan woman has experienced sexual violence at one time or another.

In 2012, Child-line Kenya received 1,253 sexual abuse cases out of all reported cases of abuse through the Child Helpline Service (116).

A report by the Gender Violence Recovery Center reveals that most GBV cases are carried out by people known by the offenders, and only six per cent account to strangers.

This article was originally published in the Reject Newspaper Issue 96

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