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• Manyatta, Obunga and Nyalenda are the hotpots, says Gender officer Pamela Olilo
Meg* (not her real name), a mentally challenged 13-year-old girl, was repeatedly raped by her father, and now she is six months pregnant.
She is one among other survivors seeking shelter at one of the safe houses in Kisumu by the Community Forum for Advanced Sustainable Development (Cofas).
Cofas is an NGO working to eradicate gender-based violence and food insecurity in the Nyanza region.
Cofas programme director Martin Oloo said Meg was repeatedly defiled in the presence of her 10-year-old brother.
The family lived in a bed-sitter and sleeping on the same bed. Meg's brother narrated how his father would push him aside in the middle of the night as he was sleeping in between them and and rape his sister.
The brother admitted that after sometime, he also developed the desire to do what his father was doing to his sister.
Oloo says the middle-aged father would sometimes lock his daughter in the house without food, despite her being mentally challenged.
A community health volunteer eventually came to her rescue, developing a rapport with her since she was ill and could not easily open up to anyone but later described to the volunteer what her father would do to her.
Her father was arrested and is still in custody, Oloo said.
DEFILED BY COUSIN
Another survivor, orphan Jane*, 13, narrates how her 36-year-old cousin has been defiling her since she moved into his single-room house two years ago, where he is staying with his wife and three children in Manyatta slums, Kisumu.
"He took me in his house in 2018 when my mother died, saying he would take care of me since I became a total orphan.
"The first time occurred when we left with his wife for their child's graduation. The house was closed and I was told to go back to give him the house keys. And that's when he defiled me.
"The following incidents, he would tell his wife he had stomach pains, so he would sleep on the floor where I was sleeping with his children, and he would defile me as the wife slept on the bed."
The wife, 24, said one Sunday morning, she woke up around 4am to wash clothes. When she went back to the house, she found him where the girl was sleeping. She confronted him and he denied but later accepted after she talked to him.
“I never had that thought that he could do such a thing. When he tells me he has stomach pains and he would want to sleep on the floor, I didn't think this is what he was doing,”she said.
Mary Akoth*, the mother of a 13-year -old girl, recounted in tears how a person known to her family and former neighbour defiled her daughter on her way home from a posho mill.
Akoth said the perpetrator, who has known her child since she was born, had called the minor like a person who wanted to send her to the shop.
Being that she knew him, she went to his kiosk. He told her to undress while pointing a knife at her. She refused but then he forcibly removed her clothes, placed some books on the floor and ordered her to lie down.
He then placed a cushion on her face to cover her mouth to prevent screams from being heard as he defiled her.
“He was, however, caught red handed by some two girls, my daughter's agemates, whom he tried to bribe with Sh100 not to report him, but they refused and went ahead to tell their parents," Akoth said.
"She was brought to the house by one of the girl's mothers who told me what had transpired. My daughter did not speak but cried the entire night."
HUNT FOR JUSTICE
The next day she was taken to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital, where tests were done and she was treated.
Akoth said she even reported the matter at Obunga police station, and before the perpetrator was arrested, he went to her house with a friend and tried to bribe her with Sh10,000, saying that would persuade her because she was poor.
However, Auma says the suspect was later arrested and released on bond, and the case has been dragging in court until now.
“The perpetrator is confident and says the case will not go anywhere because he has a good lawyer,” she said.
"He continuous to brag around the area and things are becoming worse because, despite writing down a statement of what transpired, the children who witnessed the incident cannot appear in court because their parents refused.
“I don't know whether they have been threatened or what changed, but I'm left in pain and wondering whether my daughter will get justice.”
In Kisumu county, there are no active safe houses funded by the government. The only ones in operation are run by NGOs, which makes it difficult for survivors to get justice.
Oloo the Cofas programme director said the number of new cases is overwhelming, hence the need for more safe houses to be put in operation.
Currently, they have more than 12 girls and women who have suffered sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), and there are still more cases that need shelter but they are overwhelmed.
“Most survivors have also been turned away in some of the safe houses in Kisumu, which have closed as a measure to combat Covid-19, forcing us to integrate some of the survivors to the community and other family members.”
He said this continues to be a challenge in cases of incest, where the suspects are the survivor's fathers, brothers and even cousins.
"The only solution would have been if the county government had a rescue centre, since as a small organisation, we do not have the resources to hold a child here for long," Oloo said.
He said they are getting some help from the Kisumu Medical and Education Trust, which brings them food weekly.
SURGE DURING PANDEMIC
A recently report released indicated the number of sexual and gender-based violence cases are surging during the pandemic.
Equality Now campaign officer Florence Machio said this leads to awkward moments after a child is defiled.
“Imagine a parent taking their daughter to the hospital for treatment then later police station, all the counseling done, and at the end of the day the survivor goes back to the same community or home where the incident occurred," Machio said.
She called for government-run shelters where everything is done for the survivors as they keep safe and wait for justice to be served.
Machio attributed the lack of safe houses across the region to a lack of seriousness when it comes to handling SGBV cases.
“The resources are not being pushed where they are supposed to be put. But at the end of the day, it comes back to political will,” she said.
That Makueni became the first county to have a government-run safe shelter is a source of hope, she said.
Machio said it is unfortunate that years down the line, Kisumu is yet to have an operational safe house, despite starting construction and even allocation being made towards the same.
The organisations have called on the county and national government to ensure safe houses are operationalised within the region to shelter the victims.
The county government acknowledges the lack of safe houses is a problem, says the governors' Press Unit director Aloice Ager.
“We are working on acquiring a facility to use as a safe house in Kisumu,” he said.
They are also working with partners who have expressed an interest in how the facilitates will be managed once they have been acquired.
“Negotiations are in top notch and I would not want to give much information on this, but rest assured that something is being done and within this financial year, the facility will be in place.”
Edited by T Jalio