lt is the dream of every mother to raise her children in a safe, caring and loving environment. However, this dream is cut short for many mothers by escalating cases of gender-based violence (GBV) in Kenya. GBV is the most extreme expression of unequal gender relations in society, and a violation of human rights, as well a major hindrance of the achievement of gender equality. lt dents the dignity, health and personal security of its victims as well as survivors. lt is equally detrimental to the development of the society in general leading to a negative effect on the economy of states in the long run.
Purity is one of the thousands of women who undergo violence in Kenya. She is a mother of 3 children and was happily married before her last child was born.
In the maternity room, she waited eagerly to hold her new-born child. She was elated when she was informed it is a baby boy. Her other 2 children are girls. In some Africa cultures, boys are given higher recognition than girls and earn a woman greater respect in the family and the community - another form of gender-based violence against girls! Years later, her joy turned into pain. Her last born child, Samson, was autistic. He was blamed by the husband and his relatives for bringing in a curse in their family. This was the beginning of endless insults, ridicule and even beating. She hanged on, hoping that one day things would improve. Then her husband attempted to secretly murder their son. Sensing the worst would happen, she left with her 3 children to her maternal home, 500 kilometres away with nothing other than the clothing they had put on that day.
After a few days of a warm welcome, her mother informed her that there was no space for her and her autistic son. She was told to take Samson back to his father. Purity moved out and rented a single room in a nearby town. While she was away for casual work, she locked her son in the room. Her 2 daughters were out of school and they became a source of cheap labour for their grandmother. Any attempt by their mother to rescue them was futile. After months of suffering, the plight of the 2 girls came to the attention of a St. Martin community volunteer trained by the Programme for Peace and Reconciliation to support the realisation of the rights of the children in the community. She intervened and sought to understand why they were out of school. This marked a new beginning for Purity and her children. She reported the case to the area's social work and together they worked to restore the dignity of this family. Purity was reconciled with her mother through a series of mediation. She was welcomed back home. The community volunteer in liaison with other volunteers mobilized the community to put up a house for purity and her children. The children were reinstated back to school and Samson was enrolled in a special school. Today, the 2 girls participate in family chores that correspond with their age as members of the household but not as child labourers. The programme supported the mother to start an income-generating project and today she can sustainably meet the needs of her family. Moving forward, there are plans, to visit her matrimonial home and create awareness on disabilities and perhaps reconcile the family