On 4thDecember 2019 DREAMS Challenge organized an exhibition and award ceremony for 16 individuals from various counties in Kenya who are doing excellent work in their communities to eradicate Gender Based Violence (GBV).

The ceremony which took place at University of Nairobi was attended by DREAMS partners and various distinguished guests including;

  1. The Chief Guest, Hon. (Dr.) Amina Mohammed, CS Education
  2. Ambassador Robert Godec, US Ambassador to Kenya
  3. Hon. Esther Pasaris, Women Representative, Nairobi
  4. Prof. Julius Ogeto, Head of Academic Affairs, University of Nairobi
  5. Mr. Dr. Kevin DeCock, CDC Kenya Country Director
  6. Tamu Daniel, PEFAR Kenya

The ceremony started at 5pm with an art exhibition where guests were treated to photographs of the individuals who are doing exemplary work in their communities to end Gender Based Violence.

These spectacular images were not only beautiful but showed the diversity and work of this courageous people from across the country displaying determination and inspiration.

Opening Remarks by Pro. Julius Ogeto, Head of Academic Affairs, University of Nairobi

Prof. Julius Ogeto read the opening remarks on behalf of Prof. Peter Mbithi, The Vice Chancellor, University of Nairobi commending the 16 brave individuals who were being celebrated saying that he hoped their stories would inspire many.

In his speech, he gave prominence to the steps that the University is taking to tackle with gender-based violence within the campus which is of great importance to the administration citing policy development and training as some of the strategies they are deploying to deal with gender-based violence.

Panel Discussion; The state of gender-based violence in Kenya

This interactive session was facilitated by the event Master of Ceremony, Victoria Obadini who paused questions to the 4 panelists working closely with gender-based violence in Kenya

Pacific Orato – GBV Nurse

Pacific, who has been a GBV nurse for over 10years in Kibera explained her ordeal after the Post-Election Violence in Kenya. She recalled the many cases of gender-based violence at the time but no protocols to deal with the perpetrators. Nurses refusing to go to court and testify prompted her into action. She has since testified numerous times in various courts in Nairobi where she is now well known. She is happy that justice is now being done.

What she has found most perturbing in her career as a GBV nurse is the number of cases of minors perpetrating minors; a 5-year-old perpetrating a 2-year-old. She always wonders why and ponders whether the perpetrator was once a victim. She urged the Government to introduce a Forensic Nursing Program to increase the number of trained nurses in this field, step up justice for minors and People Leaving with Disabilities (PLWD) and encouraged clinicians to stop avoiding the court rooms especially in matters of GBV.

Kezi, – Founder, Fresh Cut Foundation

Kezi opened up his barber shop as a safe space for street boys on street who have no one to help them and mentor them. They have taken it upon themselves to be the solution to these children who are mostly orphans, under-privileged.

So far, they have 250 young men on life & duty skills and secured employment or business for 70.

“We cannot do this work alone,” he asserted, “We need to work together with others including professionals who can help us deal with HIV issues.”  

Mary Ojwang – Chairperson, Women Student Welfare Association (WOSWA)

Mary declared that majority of the cases of GBV reported were when students were under the influence of alcohol and drugs or in power positions.  Taking us through their well-defined process, Mary told the audience that after the incident is reported anonymously to them, the first step is to get treatment for the victim; PrEP and counselling. Thereafter, they assist with obtaining a police report for legal action through FIDA.

She believes that though they are doing great work, there are still gaps. Many cases go unreported due of fear or threats from the perpetrator, in some cases the victim withdraws the case midway and in worse cases, perpetrators are released early from custody free to intimidate the victim.

She requested for formulation of even stronger policies in campus to deal with GBV and a rescue centre for survivors. She also advised her fellow students not to be silent in the face of violence as their silence only applauds the perpetrator. 

Grace Wairimu – LCVT GBV Program Officer

 “Violence is a risk factor for HIV. If you don’t tackle violence, HIV will continue to spread.” said Grace Wairimu, LVCT GBV Officer.

Speaking on the work LVCT is doing to deal with GBV, she said that they identify and train change agents right from the community level, health care providers who collect forensic evidence as well as the law enforcers who seek justice for the victims.

She urged the Ministry of Education to equip teachers with skills to support victims of GBV especially at the lower levels of education.

Message from PEFAR on the DREAMS Challenge

“2000 young women have benefitted from the DREAMS Challenge.” declared Tabu Daniels from PEFAR while speaking about the DREAMS Program that was launched globally in 2015 With support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationGirl EffectJohnson & JohnsonGilead Sciences, and ViiV Healthcare with an initial funding of $385 million.

Guests were treated to a touching video, shot by the DREAMS girls who had graduated fromthe program. The stories told were of girls who had previously dropped out ofschool due to lack of fees and gotten married seeking a better life or whoseparents had died leaving them with limited options for financial independence.Most had a child or two they were struggling to take care of after the spousewho was supposed to be the breadwinner disappeared, leaving them to do odd jobsor even turn to drugs.

After the program, they went on to be trained in various skills like ICT, Photography, Motor Vehicle Mechanics and Electrical & Electronic. They are now gainfully employed and are now leaving a better life thanks to the DREAMS initiative.

Remarks from Ms. Esther Pasaris, Women Representative, Nairobi County

She began by shunning people who believe in backward practices and myths like virgin cleansing, the belief that having sex with a virgin girl cures a man of HIV/AIDS. She maintained that these practices have perpetrated Gender Based violence leading to increase in child rape.

Disheartened by the stories that come from GBV safe houses every other day, she said that GBV and HIV are very connected.

She declared her love for DREAMS and the good work the United States is doing in Kenya, calling for a more integrated approach with support from Government.

“It is a shame that most successful social programs are donor-driven and donor-funded. We (the government) need to bring our money and our resources to the table and work with what is already working,” she said in closing, “We will win the battle from GBV to HIV if we do this.”  

Remarks from the US Ambassador to Kenya, Robert Godec

“As we honour the accomplishments of this great country; the athletes, Kenya Airways and even the creators of MPESA, we must honour the 16 champions of the Gender-Based-Violence agents of change, he said, “We are here to celebrate the individuals who are working to reject it, deal with it; the ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the face of GBV.”

He urged us all to keep our promise to the most vulnerable members of our society and deal with any threat to their innocence by ensuring all children go to school and are not exploited in any way.

Remarks from the CS, Education, Hon. (Dr.) Amina Mohamed

“Gender-Based-Violence is the most humiliating form of human rights violation,” said Ms. Amina Mohammed, “with more than 30% of women agreeing that domestic violence is okay. This is attributed to culture.”

She went on to say that that culture exists in every country and every religion, where culture continues to dehumanize and degrade women and insisted that women cannot continue not to matter when they make up more than half the population.

“It is found attractive for men to batter their wives; Culture cannot tell us we have no rights, we must be battered, we must be silent,” she asserted, urging women to support each other, “we must also get the support of men as women do not batter themselves.”

With adolescent girls being 6 times more likely to contract HIV than boys the same age, she emphasized that her ministry has implemented policies like zero tolerance on student abuse or administration cover up as well as controlled school hours where no child should be in school before 8am or after 4pm to reduce exposure to these children.

As part of her legacy she announced that she would leave schools safer and introduce safe zones that deal with the menace.

As she came to the end of her speech, she reminded the guests how difficult it is to be a child today. Even parents never know when their children are safe as gender-based violence is so widespread with the people violating these children the very people they should trust.

“Children of nowadays will never know what if feels to be raised by the village and to call every elder aunty or uncle,” she sighed. 

She concluded by urging everyone to roll up their sleeves in the fight against gender-based violence and not let our future be one filled with people who have been abused; especially by their relatives.

The Award Ceremony

Closing remarks by Dr. Kevin DeCock, CDC Kenya Country Director

In closing, the CDC Kenya Country Director, Dr. Robert Decock thanked the organizers and everyone who made the event a success. He cautioned that of the women who die from violence, 47% of them die from a family member perpetrating the violence, “It is remarkable how society can accept the unacceptable.”