Media, police link with lobby groups to advocate for women rights
Police, media and lobby groups in Bungoma County have embarked on a 16 day campaign to advocate for the rights of women and girls.
The campaign aims at minimizing cases of violence against women after it emerged cases of defilement and rape were rampant in the county, with Mt. Elgon region leading the pack.
Media practitioners in Bungoma, police officers attached to the gender desk, Rural Women Peace Link (RWPL) and the County Government have joined hands to sensitize the community against women battering, rape and defilement.
The exercise launched on Sunday at Cheptais police station in Mt. Elgon region saw most women confessing that they were being regarded as children by the community, and that they were not allowed to make decisions affecting the wellbeing of the community.
The women blamed the escalating cases of defilement and rape in the area on the remnants of the Sabaot Land Defense Forces (SLDF) who are on a revenge mission for losing their loved ones during the massacre that took place in 2007/08.
The targeted are families suspected to have been spying on SLDF militia members and giving information to the army.
It also emerged that the girl child was at risk since most parents use them to smuggle coffee to Uganda at night and that some of them get raped on their way back home.
Speaking at the event, Mt. Elgon Maendeleo ya Wanawake Chairperson Eunice Jepchumba said the misplaced notion that someone who is living with HIV/Aids virus and had sex with a young virgin girl below the age of 13 years would be cleansed and get healed was also putting young girls at risk.
Jepchumba said this year alone, they have handled 126 cases of defilement and rape saying they are now being considered as rebels by the community for fighting these vices, which were more rampant in Cheptais, Chesikaki, Kopsiro, Kipsigon and Kapkateny.
She revealed that last Friday, a class two girl aged 12 years was defiled overnight by a man who has two wives.
The suspect, Pius Wanyama is alleged to have waylaid the young girl when coming back from Uganda to sell coffee at 7.00pm and spent the night with her at his house.
The suspect is said to have escaped to Uganda but Cheptais Assistant County Commissioner, James Namwamu promised to pursue him.
The RWPL Director, Emmah Mogaka said some members of the society were out to interfere with investigations, on the grounds that it would embarrass the family.
“To end such vices, there is need to involve women in top leadership positions who were better placed to push for their agenda,” she said.
The County Director of Gender and Development, Moses Chebonya said plans were underway to train concerned area police officers on how to handle cases of violence against women, in partnership with Aphia Plus.
Meanwhile, the County has set up a rescue centre to rehabilitate victims of defilement and rape. Another centre is set to be built in Chepkurkur in Mt. Elgon early next year, where victims will be rehabilitated.
The County Women Representative, Catherine Wambilianga said the rescue centres will have medics, police and peer counsellors to help victims recover from trauma, adding that they will also offer short courses such as tailoring, carpentry, catering, and computer packages and weaving.
Wambilianga also announced that all girls in public primary schools in the county will start receiving sanitary pads from January next year, through the Affirmative Action Initiative, to ensure that they do not miss classes during their menstrual periods.
By Roseland Lumwamu