Meet Josephine Charo, a member of Sauti Ya Wanawake – Garashi Sub-chapter who shares her experience;
“I joined Sauti Ya Wanawake in 2011 during its inception. ActionAid then had just come to our location. To say the truth our girls were not going to school and cases of child marriages and pregnancies were rampant. The culture that we were brought up in does not recognize the importance of taking girls to school. The high poverty levels also did not make things any easier. Some parents abdicated their responsibilities leaving children to fend for themselves. This left them vulnerable to people the village considers rich like the teachers and “ boda boda “ (motorbike taxi) riders. The biggest culprits were the “ boda boda” riders who were used to giving the girls easy money to buy sanitary towels , inner wear and lunch in exchange for sexual favors. In some households school girls that cared for their families financially using such money.
This situation has been slowly changing, all thanks to the efforts ActionAid in partnership with the community is putting into education. We initially received trainings on leadership, paralegal teachings, child rights and reporting mechanisms. After the trainings ActionAid facilitated us to carry out village to village community outreaches on the back to school policy. We used such avenues to sensitize the community on child rights, importance of education especially to the girl child and why we should do away with cultures that harm us. The outreaches are also carried out in school where we get to talk to pupils (both girls and boys on the importance of not keeping quiet when abused and teaching them where they can reach out for help when abused. These efforts are bearing fruits as more and more cases of sexual violence are being reported.
When we started, there were only two cases that had been reported to the police but had only ended up at the Occurrence Book (OB) and no follow up had been done. Most cases were being handled by the village elders and chiefs who were more than willing to “talk” and “settle” doing more harm than good to the victim. Currently the two locations of Garashi and Dagamra have 6 cases of defilement in court, 3 more are yet to appear in court but have the Police Form 3 (P3) forms filled and more girls are voicing out issues on sexual and gender based violence in the girls forums that we help facilitate. The awareness creation has also resulted to increased enrolment and retention of girls in school. A case I like to refer to is that of class seven at Garashi primary school that has over 60% more girls than boys.” Concludes Josephine
The Safe School for Girls overall aim is to ensure that girls are able to enjoy their right to education and participation in a violent free environment for better learning outcome. From the continuous efforts that Sauti Ya Wanawake through the support of ActionAid has put in awareness creation and creating avenues to report Gender based violence, reporting of cases, retention and enrolment has improved tremendously. As a result of the interventions being carried out a survey done by Actionaid in the midterm review of the safe schools for girls project found out that 50% of boys and 85 % of girls in Marafa know of the actions that girls can take when they happen to experience any form of violence.