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Accelerating the voice against gender-based violence

 Accelerating the voice against gender-based violence (Photo: iStock)

“I have been a victim of gender-based violence (GBV) and I am asking that we don’t judge anyone as just like me and other participants here who are now runway models, many people have been victims, but have been silent about the vice. This is why we are here tonight as Kilifi County Government in partnership with the African Renaissance and Diaspora Network (ARDN) to launch the Red Card campaign through this fashion show,” says the moderator.

The campaign, one of its kind in Kenya aims at increasing awareness with the fashion show shining a spotlight on the critical issue of GBV. It seeks to engage the fashion industry and private sector allies committed to fighting the vice and empowering survivors by giving them a platform to showcase their talents and skills.


It is a 12-month venture supported by the ARDN Red Card Campaign, a global initiative dedicated to eradicating gender-based violence and discrimination against women and girls. 

It has among its partners American Mayors and the National Association of Black American Journalists (NABJ), an organization with 4,000 members in the mainstream media across the United States of America as well as the local and national governments.

For years, Kilifi County has borne the brunt of gender-based violence.

According to statistics, the youngest victim of SGBV was a two-year-old baby girl. Reports have it that 80 percent of cases are usually settled by village elders.

“I’m very happy to note that Kilifi is the first of the 47 Counties in Kenya to launch the ARDN Red Card Campaign through the fashion show,” said Dr Djibril Diallo, President and CEO of ARDN.

He praised the commitment of Governor Gideon Mung’aro in eliminating all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls in the community.

He said the launch of the ARDN Red Card campaign is a reminder that, individually and collectively we can bring about zero tolerance to gender-based violence.

According to data, in Kenya, 15 percent of women aged 15 – 19 have been pregnant. And even though teenage pregnancies in most GBV-prevalent counties like Kilifi have been on the decline in the past year as the level of education increases, there is still a lot of work to be done.

Some counties still retain high percentages of women aged 15–19 who have ever been pregnant in Kenya: Samburu (50 percent), West Pokot (36 percent), Marsabit (29 percent), Narok (28 percent) and Meru (24 percent). The annual number of pregnancies involving girls between 15 -19 years old is 260,000.

“As a young girl, I have experienced discrimination and violence in the society, first hand through sexual violence orchestrated to me by people I know,” said Lydia Matesi, one of the models and a GBV survivor.

“Due to cultural norms and stereotypes that make it hard for victims to report cases of GBV, I can confirm that the issue is very prevalent here in Kilifi and that is why I have come out to raise my voice through the Red Card campaign and declare enough is enough,” said Matesi.

She is not alone. Two other models are also sexual violence and discrimination survivors.

One narrates how she fled home after her father planned to give her away into marriage while she was still in high school.

The other had a traumatic upbringing after she was forced out of school after her father opted to use available resources to school her brother.

 Dialo, Suzanne and Sharon at the red card event 


Christabel, a model and a nursing student in Kilifi, says many underage girls who get pregnant are forced to procure abortions as the perpetrators of sexual violence, some of their relatives, force them to remain quiet about the matter.

She says some end up in the hospital, weak and desperate after the abortions go wrong. Even then, she says, they rarely give up their threatening molesters, making it hard to follow up.

Kilifi County, which has faced long-standing challenges related to GBV and teen pregnancies, has witnessed a substantial transformation in the last year.  

Today, the rate of GBV stands at 13 percent, down from a concerning 30 percent in 2019.

“Our girls represent the very essence of our future. They embody the promise of a brighter tomorrow. Ensuring their safety, access to quality education, and empowerment is not merely a matter of human rights; it is a strategic investment in the prosperity of our community and our nation as a whole,” said Governor Mung’aro.

“When our girls are liberated from fear and violence, they can unleash their full potential, thereby contributing significantly to the growth and advancement of our society,” he added.

He said the Red Card campaign calls for collective action—a united stand against gender-based violence. 

“It demands that we challenge detrimental norms and stereotypes, that we educate ourselves and others, and that we extend our unwavering support to survivors,” he said, sentiments that were echoed by the county First Lady Susanne Mung’aro.

According to a 2019 World Bank report, GBV, or violence against women and girls is a global pandemic that affects one in three women in their lifetime.

The report said 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and (or) sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.

Globally, seven percent of women have been sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner while as many as 38 percent of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner. Two hundred million women have experienced female genital mutilation.

Dr Sharon Okubo, the ARDN Red Card campaign ambassador said world over, there is a need to shed light on various forms of discrimination and violence such as GBV, unequal access to education and healthcare, economic disparities, and harmful cultural practices.

She said there is a need to promote initiatives and advocate for policies that empower women and girls ensuring they have equal opportunities for education, economic participation, leadership roles, and decision-making.


“According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, 45 per cent of women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence, and 14 percent have experienced sexual violence. Harmful practices like female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage persist, with 21 per cent of women aged 20 - 24 being married before 18 and approximately 21 per cent of girls undergoing FGM. These statistics underscore the urgent need for initiatives like this one to promote gender equality and create a more inclusive society in Kenya and Africa,” said Dr Okubo.

 By leveraging established networks and forming strategic partnerships, she said, various players can pool resources, share expertise, and coordinate efforts more effectively, maximising the impact of common initiatives.

Dr Ruth Masha said subjecting women and girls to GBV is a gross violation of their fundamental human rights that undermines self-esteem and personal confidence.

“Survivors require care and support to cope with the ordeals they face. Some might not want to share the ills, but still, they will need counselling as well as medical care. The perpetrators should be held accountable and brought to book,” Dr Masha said.

She said there is a need to create public advocacy campaigns as well as rescue centres and safe spaces for survivors can be empowered without being made vulnerable.

Noni Mbugguss, a GBV survivor who now runs an NGO that advocates for an end to GBV, said the trauma that comes with sexual violence can cause a lifetime of depression on survivors, adding that survivors should not be subjected to public judgement.       

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