Hundreds of women met at the University of Nairobi yesterday evening to denounce increasing violence against women and girls.
From families that have lost their loved ones in the most callous ways, to young women, activists and leaders, all were united by a common sense of loss and grief. They expressed hope that the killings of nearly 40 women across the country in the past few months would end.
Colouring the university grounds with white and pink attire, the overwhelmingly female attendants decried the killings of women, and other forms of gender violence in the past one year.
The event began with a series of entertainment pieces – poems, songs and skits – that celebrate women and highlight the challenges they undergo.
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But it was Hellen Mtawali who really moved the crowd with her song, which amplified the message and theme of the night: “Her Life Matters”.
“This meeting is to think about how women have been undermined,” said Beatrice Elachi, Nairobi Speaker.
“Why do we have an anti-stock theft unit yet we have no police to take care of us as women? We are here to ask critical questions,” stated a member of Equality Now, one of the organisations involved in planning the event.
The event was organised by Embrace Women, a group of women leaders, who partnered with, among others, The Standard Group.
Embrace Women Group comprises female leaders and organisations such as UN Women, Equality Now, Creaw, Ngaaf and Black Light, among others.
Yesterday’s event was also attended by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi, Public Service Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia, Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai and Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss George Kinoti.
Also in attendance were the wife of opposition leader Raila Odinga, Ida, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, former Gichugu MP Martha Karua, Supreme Court judge Njoki Ndung’u, Woman Representatives Esther Passaris (Nairobi), Rosa Buyu (Kisumu), Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay), Sabina Chege (Murang’a), among other female leaders.
At the same time, the event served to provide free counselling offered by the Gender Violence Recovery Centre to attendants who may have encountered trauma as a result of gender-based violence.
For some of the women who have lost their daughters to gender-based violence, the event offered them the opportunity to speak to the nation.
From Sharon Otieno, murdered last year and her body abandoned in a forest, to Ivy Wangechi, the Moi University medical student killed weeks ago and Hellen Kwamboka, a police officer stationed in Parliament found dead a week ago in her house in Umoja, Nairobi, all the mothers of the victims united to speak out against femicide.
“I want to speak out so these murders stop. It is so painful to lose a child. My daughter was still very young, she was not even married yet and didn’t have a child. She was the one taking care of me. I don’t know how I will go on but I know God will give me strength,” Ms Elizabeth Moraa, Kwamboka’s mother told The Standard.
She said that it was important for the nation and leaders to hear from the mothers and families of the victims.
University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor Peter Mbithi called for research on societal problems to find their root causes. This, he said, will help bring about reforms and help men and women to co-exist.
He said strong women were able to face challenges, noting that the university had produced its first female student leader in a world class institution of higher learning.
“She (Ann Mvurya) is our role model,” he said.
Mvurya, Sonu chair, said the mistake of the women was to love fellow human beings.
“We should forge a working partnership with the men. We need them to work in unity and purpose,” she said.
Passaris said the women leaders have had many engagements with the DCI.
“We need to address this and get the perpetrators and even get repeat offenders. Forty is a big number. Relationships should not result in death, they should be loving and supportive. Enough is enough, we need justice and we have a lot of work to do,” she said.
She said she was hopeful that in June, there will be a meeting with survivors of gender-based violence.