Taking a survivor-centered approach to gender-based violence is essential for addressing the needs and rights of survivors and ensuring access to justice. The Centre for Rights Education Awareness (CREAW) and the County of Nairobi Gender Focal person recently organized a two-day capability building and awareness creation event for gender advocacy stakeholders in Kibera/Langata. Center for Innovative Community Advocacy and Development (CICAD Kenya) and other participants included human rights defenders, gender-based violence responders, the NGAO, and representatives from the criminal justice sector attended the two-day workshop at Ngong Hill Hotel.

Gender-based violence, as defined by the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, encompasses any harmful act perpetrated against a person will be based on socially ascribed gender differences. Shockingly, approximately one in three women globally experience physical or sexual violence by an intimate or non-intimate partner during their lifetime. However, many cases go unreported, and survivors often face stigma, rushed proceedings, or mishandling of their cases. Survivor-centered approaches are crucial for providing integrated services, supporting collective action, and ensuring accountability to improve access to justice in gender-based violence cases.

One key development that the participants applauded is the establishment of POLICARE Centers in informal settlements, which are hotspots for gender-based violence. POLICARE, derived from “POLICE” and “CARES,” is a National Police Service (NPS) integrated response to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in Kenya. These centers act as one-stop service providers, bringing together various professionals such as police officers, forensic investigators, health providers, psychologists, legal representatives, gender experts, and correctional personnel under one roof. The objective of POLICARE is to enhance the NPS’s capacity to prevent and respond to SGBV cases through the establishment of victim-centered support centers that involve multiple agencies.

Another significant effort in promoting a survivor-centered approach is the establishment of specialized Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) Courts. In Mombasa, Kenya, with the support of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), a specialized SGBV Court was established at the Shanzu Magistrates Court in 2022. This court, the first of its kind in East Africa, is dedicated to hearing cases of SGBV. Since its establishment, the court has provided services to 448 justice seekers, resolved numerous cases, and instilled confidence in women that they can seek and access justice.

Increasing the representation of women throughout the justice system is another crucial aspect of a survivor-centered approach. While progress has been made, the number of women in the judiciary remains low. IDLO is working to bridge this gap by supporting policies to accelerate gender equality. They have developed a strategy to introduce gender-friendly policies in Kenya’s judiciary, including the establishment of dedicated gender and human resources offices. IDLO also collaborates with the International Association of Women Judges to mentor young women aspiring to pursue careers in the justice sector.

Engaging men, who often perpetrate gender-based violence, is vital in transforming attitudes and behaviors. Programs targeting men should aim to reduce toxic masculinity, transforming them from perpetrators to protectors and ultimately reducing gender-based violence.

In conclusion, adopting a survivor-centered approach to gender-based violence requires multiple strategies and collaborative efforts. Establishing integrated support centers, specialized courts, promoting gender equality within the justice system, and engaging men are all essential components of this transformative approach. The Centre for Innovative Community Advocacy and Development believes by prioritizing survivors’ needs, empowering them, and holding perpetrators accountable, society can strive towards a future free from gender-based violence. We at CICAD Kenya are calling for your financial support of any kind to help us bridge this gap and create more awareness and share the survivor centered approach to many stakeholders working in the gender sector.

Contribute today to enhance safe spaces of women and children.

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