The rising cases of gender-based (GBV) and sexual violence against women is causing a major concern. In some cases, the victims are left to suffer the trauma of rape, defilement and even physical abuse.
However, in Nakuru Town, Love and Hope Centre, a Catholic Church-run institution, is giving hope to the victims.
The St Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa centre at Section 58 Estate helps girls and women who have been sexually abused to overcome emotional trauma.
Started three years ago by Sister Patricia who is also the director, the centre strives to help GBV victims rebuild their lives.
Since the centre was opened, it has rehabilitated 600 female gender-based violence victims. Some of the beneficiaries at Love and Hope centre have moved on with life.
“I had lost hope in life after I was raped by my stepfather. I even contemplated committing suicide but when I was brought at the Love and Hope Centre, I was counselled and changed my mind. I was enrolled in a dressmaking course and today I am earning a living,” said Ms Grace. (not her real name).
Another survivor, Ms Trufena (not her real name) said the tailoring skills she learnt at the centre has enabled her to fend her two children after being raped by a relative.
“I have bought a sewing machine through merry go round group after I was trained at Love and Hope Centre and today I earn my daily bread and my two children don’t go hungry,” said Ms Trufena.
Ms Njeri (not her real name) is now a waiter at one of the hotels in Nakuru.
“I was gang raped. However, after I was introduced to Love and Hope, I received counselling services and after I healed, I was sponsored to attend a hospitality course and today I am now employed as a waiter in one of the hotels in town,” said Njeri.
The centre relies on donors and well-wishers such as United Nations Trust Fund project to run its projects. It offers counselling services, witness support programmes, and education on life skills to rebuild the lives of the victims.
The centre project coordinator John Wanyoike says: “Through the centre, some of the victims have been taken through the legal justice system and perpetrators of sexual violence have been arrested.”
He said that about 300 victims (mostly school dropouts) have attended vocational training at the centre.
They have learned skills such as tailoring, dress making, beauty therapy, catering and hospitality. After completing their courses, some of the young women have secured jobs in the hospitality industry in Nakuru Town.
“We have convinced young girls, especially sexual abuse victims, to go back to school,” added Mr Wanyoike.
Using business skills learnt at the centre, some of the women have set up groceries, curio shops and other small businesses.
The institution has volunteers who report rape and defilement cases to the centre.
“We have about 40 community advocacy champions, volunteers and other committed residents who are committed to end gender based violence against women and girls in Nakuru County,” said Mr Wanyoike.
The institution also receives referrals from Nakuru Level Five and Nairobi Women hospitals.
“We are training about 500 women and girls on how to cope with the aftermath of the gender-based violence,” said Mr Wanyoike.
He says they are worried by the increasing cases of gender-based violence against women and girls in the county. He blamed the increasing level of depression in the society for the increasing cases of violence.
“We have a mental health crisis in Kenya which needs a national conversation,” he said.
He says during the 16-day Gender Based Violence campaign which ends on December 10 is for the country to mobilise resources and fight GBV.
“We must stop blaming the police and keep on reporting GBV incidences,” said Mr Wanyoike.
The centre’s greatest wish is for the government to enhance its referral systems and make them work.
“Survivors of GBV should have a one stop shop where they report the sexual assault without being referred to hospitals and police stations. A police officer should be stationed at hospital to enhance justice,” concluded Mr Wanyoike.