March 21st, 2019
Sammy kihiu, Documentation and Communication
On the 8th of March 2019, KANCO joined the international community to Mark the International Women’s Day. A day set aside to celebrate and champion for women’s rights. In Nakuru County , a Gender based cluster group that focuses on Gender issues, the Nakuru East and West GBV Cluster which KANCO is an active member of, held a women’s forum where that saw women share and learn from each other as well as engage a multi- stakeholder that featured the various representatives from the different county departments. In social was lit with informational materials: blogs, promotional videos etc. under the theme #BalanceforBetter. all manner of well-deserved celebratory messages were shared in recognition of women as a world without women is unimaginable!
While for centuries women have struggled with political and social cultural challenges that continue to be addressed, what stood out significantly on this day was the issue of gender based violence and the resounding calls to ensure all girls and women are protected. According to the Kenya Domestic Household Survey (KDHS) 2014, 38 percent of women aged 15-49 reported physical violence and 14 percent reported having experienced sexual violence. Further in 2013, the Kenya Police Service received 3,596 defilement cases; 913 of rape; 242 of incest and 124 of sodomy. LVCT Health report 2015 cites 5,143 cases of GBV from 131 sites across the country. Out of these, the most affected are girls aged between 12-17 representing 41 percent of survivors followed by women aged 18-49 who make up 32 percent.
While women have been predominantly the face of gender based violence encompassing, physical, sexual, psychological assaults and sometimes murder, there is need for special consideration for women who are in the key population groups as they face a heightened risk of exposure to GBV. Careful not take the day away from women, its paramount to note that women cannot be celebrated without talking about men, especially in the African Patriarchal society, as they are central to creating an enabling and conducive environment for women to thrive, but also worth noting is that men too bear a brunt of GBV especially those who identify as key populations. Consequently gender based violence needs to be addressed holistically looking at both men and women who are faced by this adversity.
Women who inject and use drugs are particularly vulnerable, over and above the heightened stigma and marginalization, many of them engage in transactional sex to meet their drug use and other needs, and this further predisposes them to violence and blood borne infections. Even though the challenges of GBV is more compounded among key population groups, the general population is also not spared, with incidences meted on both men and women making headlines.
Womens biological, behavioural, and other structural factors put them at higher risk for HIV transmission further compounded by a range of policy barriers around drugs and drug use making access to ham reduction services difficult especially for women who use drugs. Some of the factors that increase women who use drugs vulnerability include:
- Stigma, marginalization, and gender roles pose barriers to asking for sterile injection equipment and maintaining safer sex practices.
- Female PWID are more likely to be initiated into drug use by male partners.
- Women have increased physical vulnerability to sexual transmission of HIV.
- Women are more likely to have partners who inject drugs than men.
- Women are at higher risk of gender-based violence and sexual abuse
“We are all products of women and I want to assure the women that as a county government we are committed towards addressing the challenges they face through empowerment programs. I also call on male gender to ensure they play their role of protecting women rights,” Dr.Kityenya, Nakuru County, International Women Day 2019
Ray Drop in Centre in Rongai is among the many places where KANCO has a direct touch with the community, especially women who use drugs. The centre provides HIV prevention services including: issuance of both male and female condoms, lubes for men having sex with men (MSMs), screening for STI’s services, prevention with positives (PWPs), and follow- ups to ensure adherence to ART among other services. In the quest for realization of a healthy people and empowered communities, which is the driving mantra for KANCO.
Mr. Fredrick Muturi, the regional co-ordinator Ray Drop-in Centre, observes that GBV cases among the Key Populations (KPs) are prevalent recording an average of 2 cases a month among the Key populations cohorts managed by the Facility. According to UNIFEM report, domestic violence stands out as one of the most prevalent forms of GBV; violence occasioned by male partners in relationships amounts to 70% of reported cases; wife battering occurs regularly in 85% of all cultures. One of the reasons especially amongst the KP’s is the fear of getting HIV from the partners. Fredrick however, noted that, they do the first line response for presented cases (medical support) and do referrals to other partners that KANCO works with. He also noted that KANCO has a KP’s technical working group that lobbies with the Kajiado County Government for the support and care of the KPs and also through networking with other CSO’s and security forces KANCO is able to refer cases to the relevant offices for better assistance and support.
Women who use drugs have human rights and rights to health. They should access health services without discrimination be it in Government or private hospitals’- Mr. Fredrick Muturi.
Despite the pressing need for HIV drug treatment, harm reduction, and hepatitis services, a variety of factors restrict WWID’s access to such services including:
- Societal marginalization, stigma, and stereotyped gender relationships. In many countries, women are less likely to seek services because the label of “drug user” holds greater stigma for women than men.
- Services designed for men. Harm reduction programs serve mostly men and do not cater for the needs of female drug users.
- Lack of integrated services. Failure to integrate drug treatment and harm reduction with other health services restricts access to comprehensive care that meets WWID’s health needs.
- Limited access to legal services. Expanded access to legal services for women who inject drugs could help protect them against abuse from law enforcement and health providers.
We can change the narrative. Yes, you and me by ending the discrimination against women and especially women who use and inject drugs, through taking short but deliberate steps in acknowledging their rights as human beings and their right to health and thereby creating a conducive environment for them to enjoy these rights at all levels.