MUHURI is equipping men to join the frontline in the battle against sexual gender-based violence (SGBV), which has impacted women and girls the worst.

Victims are more isolated and vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

SGBV cases spiked after coronavirus pandemic hit and restrictions imposed, gluing victims to where harm is.

In most abuses, men — some depressed by job cuts and income loss — stood accused of brutally attacking their spouses, either sexually or physically.

Other physical attacks turned fatal while sexual assaults resulted in at least 50,000 teenage pregnancies and 5,000 rape victims all over Kenya.

“Ending gender-based violence in our communities requires the involvement of everyone,” MUHURI Program Manager, Collins Mwahendo, says.

“But it is critical that men and people of all genders are active participants and promoters of changes to the current status quo.”

MUHURI has trained men – who will be Trainers of Trainers (ToT) – to at least bolster the force behind crippling violence against women and girls, victims who are poor and underprivileged.

Such training has occurred in Taita Taveta and Kwale between October 6-8. Others will be in Lamu, Tana River, Kilifi, Mombasa, and Garissa.

MUHURI’s Topister Juma trains Taita Taveta men on sexual gender-based violence. Photo: Collins Mwahendo.

An upsurge in violence against women and girls forced President Uhuru Kenyatta in July to order a crackdown. The abuses Uhuru referenced were rape, domestic violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage – all which are prevalent in the counties MUHURI schedules to cover.

“It is said that violence against women is a ‘men’s issue’ because it is men’s wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends whose lives are limited by violence and abuse,” Mwahendo, who led the training, says.

“It’s a men’s issue because a minority of men treat women and girls with contempt and violence, and it is up to the majority good men to help create a culture in which this is unacceptable.”

Taita Taveta training attracted over 30 men.

“Our objective was to help them acknowledge that violence is also an issue that concerns men and boys and to challenge violence against women and girls by intervening safely, including offering support to victims at the community level,” Mwahendo says.

Through campaigns, the manager notes MUHURI intends to put men and boys in long-term sustainable actions that crush SGBV.

“We wanted them to boycott and resist sexist, homophobic and violent behavior, and activities such as inappropriate jokes and pornographic media,” Mwahendo says.

During the training, various myths, and misconceptions about SGBV got demystified, with different gender-related concepts expounded and contextualized.

The legal framework on Sexual Offences Act got emphasized, with stresses on specific jail terms and fines for each offence.

Taita Taveta assistant county commissioner, Dennis Juma, said the approach MUHURI has taken is productive.

“This training is timely and critical,” he said.

Taita Taveta assistant county commissioner, Dennis Juma, during SGBV training. Photo: Collins Mwahendo.

Juma urged aggressiveness by men in protecting women and girls.

“Every man and every boy have the role of protecting the woman and girl next to him, whether this woman or girl is your mother, sister, neighbour or a total stranger,” the Juma said.

MUHURI and trainees will map out stakeholders, identify SGBV hotspots, and collaboratively fight abuses through community sensitization, advocacy and even law suits.

This training is under MUHURI’s Social Accountability Project (SAP), which the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, funds.

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