We the undersigned women’ rights organizations and allies working towards advancement of gender equality and women’s empowerment in Kenya and beyond strongly condemn the recent outrageous, regressive and disempowering utterances by the chairperson of Maendeleo Ya Wanawake (MYWO) Rahab Mwikali during an interview on 28/10/2017 on national station KTN Kenya that out rightly advocated for and normalized violence against women and girls, treated women as second class citizens while affirming harmful and toxic masculinities.
We call for an immediate public retraction of the statements by the MYWO leader and her subsequent resignation for betraying the cause on ending violence against women. This goes against our values as a movement and long term goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
On an interview on KTN’s “Kivumbi 2017” News hour, Ms. Rahab while discussing domestic violence shockingly stated that” sometimes women (within abusive marriages) ask for violence”. She also stated that some women “ask to be beaten when they are not patient or are too stubborn and need to recognize and differentiate their roles from professionals to wives”.
Outrageous and disempowering sentiments
In an outright retrogressive approach that advances violence against women and girls and reinforces negative masculinities, Ms. Rahab Mwikali emphasized during her interview that “Men are like bibles- they never change” and thus women (even those being abused within relationships) should not expect these men to change but they instead must be “patient” in the relationship.
“We are extremely horrified that a woman leader of Ms. Mwikali’s stature could go on national television and use her power and influence by going against the vision of her organization that works to advance women’s rights” said Dr. Joan Nanyuki, the Executive Director of the Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW). “By advising young women to be patient in abusive relationships and justifying the men’s behaviour, Ms. Mwikali is victim-shaming. She is in contradiction with the laws of Kenya, regional and international laws and policies that protect and promote gender equality and are in place to end violence against women”.
Dinah Musindarwezo, the Executive Director of the African women’s Development & Communications Network terms the utterances by the MYWO Chairperson as absurd and extremely damaging and goes against all the efforts on ending violence against women and girls.
“Her message is so damaging and has potential to undo many years of work by Women’s Rights Organisations, CSOs and governments. As a leader it is likely that she has many young women who look up to her as a role model, and essentially what she is telling them is that it is okay to be beaten and abused and that they cannot aspire to be equal within a marriage Institution. This is in total contradiction of ideals of gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s rights as agreed upon in the global, regional and Kenyan laws and policies, said Dinah Musindarwezo.
Stamping out violence against women
Under the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in 1993, Sexual and gender-based violence is defined as; Any harmful act that is perpetrated against one person’s will and that is based on socially ascribed (gender) differences between males and females. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental, or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
According to 2015 statistics from the Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC) 45% of women between ages 15 – 49 in Kenya have experienced either physical or sexual violence with women and girls accounting for 90% of the gender based violence (GBV) cases reported. One in five Kenyan women (21%) has experienced sexual violence. In the recent past, seemingly spiralling cases of gender-based violence resulting in deaths and dire physical disabilities. Women are being killed and maimed right in their own homes in the spectrum of domestic violence.
While we accept the apology made by the MYWO this week on Facebook we the undersigned reiterate and emphasize that our organizations work towards all women’s rights regardless of sexual orientation, creed and religion thus do not see it fit to justify behaviour based on one religion.
We believe that women’s rights are human rights and in this light if we cannot condone one man hitting another then why should we condone a husband hitting a wife?
There is NO JUSTIFICATION for any form of violence; not immaturity nor impatience. The statement also obliterates the experience of survivors of Violence against women and girls. This is especially given the intensity, magnitude and proliferation of violence against women and girls which is an epidemic of global proportions as evidenced by the global #MeToo campaign.
“A society in which all women have equal opportunities, and are empowered to make choices in matters that directly affect them socially, economically and politically”.
For More Information and/or to request an interview please contact:
Maureen Mukalo, COVAW Head of Programmes
Tel: 0722594794 email@example.com
Endorsing organizations and indivdiuals:
- Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW) (Kenya)
- African Women’s Development & Communication Network (FEMNET)
- Wangu Kanja Foundation (Kenya)
- Young Women & Girls Movement for Development (Malawi)
- Network of African Youth for development on SDGs
- African Women & Child Features Service AWCFS (Kenya)
- Trust for Indigenous Culture & Health, TICAH (Kenya)
- Young Women’s Christian Association (Uganda)
- HIVOS (Kenya office)
- Action Aid Kenya
- Community Advocacy & awareness Trust CRAWN (Kenya)
- Nairobi County Gender Department Project Linda Jamii (Kenya)
- Women Empowerment Link WEL (Kenya)
- Karibu Jeunesse Nouvelle (KJN ASBL) South Kivu RDCONG
- Zambia National Men’s network (Zambia)
- Niger Delta Women’s Movement for Peace & development (Nigeria)
- DSW (Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung (Kenya Office)
- WiLDAF West Africa (Togo)
- Inter African Network for Women, Media, Gender and Développent/ Réseau Inter Africain des Femmes, Médias, Genre et Développement , FAMEDEV (Senegal)
- Réseau MUSONET (Mali)
- Dandelion Kenya
- Women & Law in Southern Africa WLSA (Mozambique)
- Vision Spring Initiative, Lagos ( NIGERIA)
- Echoes of Women in Africa (ECOWA)
- Njoki Njehu – Daughters of Mumbi Global Resource Center (Kenya)
- Steward Women (South Sudan)
- Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre (MHRRC) (Malawi)
- NGO Gender Coordination Network (NGOGCN) (Malawi)
- Muthoni Muriithi (Kenya)
- Mercy Njue (Kenya)
- Kavinya E. Makau (Kenya)
- Sophie Dowllar (Kenya)
- Priscilla Kangai (Kenya)
- Wairimu Kamene (Kenya)
- Nebila Abdulmelik (Ethiopia)
- Joan Birika (UAE)
- Kamuru (Kenya)
- Kerubo Abuya (Kenya & USA)
- Ngwatilo mawiyoo (Kenya)
- Faith Word in Action (Democratic Republic of Congo)
- Yvonne Oduor (Kenya)
- Regina Mutheu (Kenya)
- Fatuma’s Voice (Kenya)
- Sheila P Wamahiu (Kenya)
- Nakhungu Magero (Kenya)
- Faith Word in Action (Democratic Republic of Congo)
- Akina Mama wa Afrika (Uganda)
- Eunice Musiime (Uganda)
- Perry Aritua (Uganda)
- Ivy Kimtai (Kenya)
- The Young Clover Media (Kenya)
- Salome Nthenya Nzuki (Kenya)
- Damaris Odeny (Kenya)
- Bernadette Muyomi (Kenya)
- Hellen Owiti (Kenya)
- Laura Rwiliriza (Rwanda)
- Mary Wandia (Kenya)
- Young African Women in Leadership Kenya (Kenya)
- Richard Kananga (Rwanda)