[ethnically] targeted. Even a few teachers left the school, and half of our students remained at home for three months, too scared to come to school,” added Muguti.
In the last national elections, as supporters of different candidates turned on one another, violence swept much of the country, and more than 1,200 people were killed. In Kawangware, scores were injured and property was destroyed. Today, the school has undergone a revamp, and boasts colourful buildings, lush lawns, and a huge new hall. However, many children at the school still face poverty and other challenges outside the school gates.
Besides the theatrical competition, children were encouraged to write essays or prepare drawings to raise awareness of violence in their society. Photo credit: UN Women/Felix Eldridge
Mary Aluel and Eugene Kwizera, both 14 years old, are members of the Kinyanjui Road School’s Kings and Queens for Change club. Eugene recently won an essay competition run by the Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC), which also organized the theatre competition. Eugene’s essay argued passionately for domestic violence and child abuse to be dealt with publicly and become a top priority.
“The community needs to know that abuse is not character-building — it can destroy a child’s future,” he says. “People try to hide these cases, but if they see authorities will support them, then they will report the crime.”
In the winning play, a key role was played by the local chief, a source of traditional authority, whose leadership in ensuring justice through formal channels was instrumental in its resolution. Mary says the play showed young people what to do if subjected to abuse: “If someone came to me, I would report it to an older person, and if they hesitated, I’d go straight to the police.”
In the aftermath of the 2007 election, the GVRC handled 653 cases of violence, including 523 cases of rape. In the lead-up to the 4 March vote this year, the GVRC –in collaboration with UN Women– is working to map and promote health, legal and other providers across the country so that survivors of violence can access services.
The children at KinyanjuiRoadPrimary School spoke in hushed tones after the theatrical competition, which brought up issues that were far too familiar for many. Photo credit: UN Women/Felix Eldridge
A Gender Violence Hotline has been launched so that GVRC can provide immediate medical and psychosocial support to survivors, including collecting evidence, providing medical expert witnesses, and completing a post-rape care form, which is admissible in court. So far this year, the GVRC has run awareness-raising events in schools and communities across the country, like those at the Kinyanju iRoa dSchool.
“The children in places like Kawangware are learning to speak out against violence,” says Wangeci Grace, the GVRC’s Executive Director. “It’s every Kenyan’s responsibility to ensure peaceful elections. We must nurture our children from a very young age to be patriots and to learn the value of peace and participation in the development of their country.”