Light of Hope Youth Initiative is raising money to build a safe house for young girls, women, and widows who are the victims of gender based violence. This project will be called Light of Hope Kimbilio. Kimbilio in Kiswahili means refuge. The donations will be put toward acquiring the land necessary to build the center.
Gender-based violence (GBV) is a widespread global epidemic with far reaching consequences and long-lasting effects on survivors, perpetrators, families, communities, and nations. GBV has been defined as any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and that is based on socially ascribed (gender) differences between males and females. It encompasses sexual violence, domestic violence, sex trafficking, harmful practices such as female genital mutilation, cutting, forced early marriages, forced prostitution, sexual harassment, and sexual exploitation, to name but a few. Because GBV is rooted deeply in gender inequality, women (young and old) are primarily affected. GBV disproportionately affects low and middle income countries with an estimated over 90% of all violence related deaths occurring in these settings.
GBV is one of the most persistent violations of human rights across the globe as about 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced violence according to the World Health Organization. In Kenya, a study (May 2018) found that 32% of young women aged 18 – 24 years reported to have experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. Research shows that women who have experienced gender-based violence are potentially up to 3 times more likely to contract HIV. The increased risk has been associated with sexual violence as well as psychological abuse, which leads them to engage in HIV risky behaviors.
In the first two weeks of November 2018, LOHYI visited over six centers across three counties including Machakos County, where over 3,000 survivors of gender-based violence reside, of whom 48% were women, 42% girls, 2% men, and 8% boys. The statistics across these counties show that 45% of women aged between 15 and 49 years have experienced either physical or sexual violence; one in five women (21%) has experienced sexual violence; most violence is perpetrated in family relationships where the perpetrator is known to the victim (strangers account for only 6% of gender-based violence in the three counties), and most violence towards women is committed by an intimate partner.
LOHYI wants to operate a safe house for women and their children because violence against women within the family unit greatly hinders family cohesion; children growing up with no mother or in a violent environment will more than likely reproduce violent patterns and have behavioral problems. In terms of coping capacity at the family level, gender-based violence undermines livelihood strategies and economic alternatives and thus impoverishes the family. This was evidence from various victims and community members we interviewed.
The Kimbilio project of Machakos County is a project under the Light of Hope organization that aims at providing safe and sustainable housing and skill training through provision of the following and more.
· Dormitory-style housing (3 dormitories with a capacity of 30 people each)
· Cooking facilities and washrooms to encourage a normal lifestyle
· A healing center with access to counselling, yoga, and other services for trauma recovery.
· Library for the “Teach a Friend to Read” program to improve literacy
· Fashion and Design (tailoring, making reusable sanitary pads, etc.)
· Leatherwork and Baking
· Music, Dancing, Crafts, Acting, and other creative skills
· Farming to increase self-sustainability of the project
· Mentorship from volunteers and therapy from psychiatrists/psychologists
· Hairdressing and beauty therapy skills
· A self-defense program