Improving Capacity to Address Gender- Based Violence in Kenya: A Cross- Sectoral Conversation About Achieving Justice.

From this event, we will hear from a public health student, GBV researcher and expert, and legal expert about public health and legal approaches to GBV interventions in Kenya.

October 05, 2020

This event shared initial findings from the Program on Global Health Justice, and Governance’s research focused on access to justice and GBV in Kenya during the COVID-19 pandemic and legal and public health approaches to interventions. The Columbia Global Centers President’s Global Innovation Fund (PGIF), enabled public health students in summer 2020 to research the state of GBV prevention and response work across Kenya, with a particular focus on interventions that provide access to justice. The students situated this research in the context of the COVID-19 public health crisis.

From this event, we heard from a public health student, GBV researcher and expert, and legal expert about public health and legal approaches to GBV interventions in Kenya.


Program Moderator:

Terry McGovern J.D. – Professor and Chair of the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.



Dr. Mary Mwangi – Gender Consultant.

Dr. Charlotte Roy – Fellow in Global Emergency Medicine and MPH candidate at Columbia University.

Ife Osaga Ondondo J.D.- Head of Legal for Sub Saharan Africa at Google.


Webinar Highlights:

Terry McGovern J.D.– Gender-based violence is highly prevalent in Kenya with 40.7% of women have experienced some form of GBV in their lifetime, this was already widespread before COVID. Since the onset of lockdown measures according to UNICEF there has been an increase in calls to GBV hotlines. The Kenyan government did not deem GBV services essential at the start of the pandemic while maternal care was considered essential services. (Time frame from minute 09:39- 10:14)

Dr. Mary Mwangi – Addressing GBV is a complex process and Kenya has deliberately used a multi-sectoral approach to address GBV, we have good leadership from the state department of gender in the ministry of public service and gender that leads and coordinates both state and non- state actors. (Time frame from minute 15:37-16:04)

Dr. Mary Mwangi – Kenya has come up with a multi-sectoral solution in GBV monitoring and evaluation framework and an electronic database at the ‘National Gender and Equality Commission’. This work was done by all the sectors together, the idea was that every sector would send their data to the ‘National Gender and Equality Commission’ database which would provide a clear picture of what the issues are, the same data would help in terms of advocacy and resource mobilization (Time frame from minute 19:07-19:48)

Dr. Mary Mwangi – Kenya is one of the few countries in Africa that has actually conducted two waves of the violence against children survey, these are surveys that tell us what is happening to children during their childhood years, there was recently launch of the 2019 survey, the findings were a decline in sexual violence but COVID is currently writing a different story. (Time frame from minute 20:06- 20:40)

Dr. Mary Mwangi – Kenya has an ambitious goal of making sure that there is no FGM by 2022 in Kenya which is exactly 8 years ahead of the global goal to end FGM by 2030, part of this ambitious goal is because we have a fully dedicated anti- FGM board whose work is to pay attention to FGM issues  (Time frame from minute 20:55-21:20)

Ife Osaga Ondondo J.D – Kenya subscribes to several international instruments that address violence and Kenya is a signatory to the universal declaration of human rights also at the regional level to the protocol of the African Charter on human and people rights on the rights of women as well as rights of children. (Time frame from minute 42:25-42:56)

Ife Osaga Ondondo J.D – Courts take a long time to resolve cases and as time passes, a lot of things happen. There is needless tampering, loss of information, loss of evidence and that makes it very difficult to convict the perpetrators. (Time frame from minute 43:37-43:54)

Ife Osaga Ondondo J.D – Health facilities in Kenya lack adequate resources, knowledge and skills, collection and processing of forensic evidence as well as equipment, very few centers have rape kits and this affects the ability of people to get justice because they are not able to provide evidence to support their case (Time frame from minute 52:00-52:24)

Dr. Mary Mwangi – COVID-19 has laid bare the weaknesses in Kenya’s GBV prevention and response systems, in terms of preparedness, there was a lack of preparedness because the COVID-19 response plan was initially gender blind, it paid attention to gender and GBV when there was a surge in cases (Time frame from minute 53:25-53:47)

Dr. Mary Mwangi – The closure of schools in Kenya is equated as the closure of safe space particularly to the girl child, there has been a rise in defilements, teen pregnancy, early marriages in specific communities (Time frame from minute 54:17-54:30)

Dr. Charlotte Roy – Cases of COVID-19 in the Nairobi high courts as recently as July have led to closures for weeks and this caused closure in lower courts which led to increased delays and worsened the backlog of increased GBV cases, most cases going to high courts are getting their cases scheduled in 2021 (Time frame from minute 1:00:10-1:00:45)

Dr. Mary Mwangi – There has been intensified public awareness and sensitization, in the communities where FGM was happening, county leaders and local leaders have walked door to door to make sure that FGM is not being carried out. (Time frame from minute 1:05:30-1:05:50)

Dr. Mary Mwangi – One of our weaknesses in the GBV agenda is to leave out men, we need to get men on board for if not so, the job will be halfway done (Time frame from minute 1:18:03-1:18:20)

Dr. Mary Mwangi– Living in Kenya, our memory is so short, GBV will become an issue and the next month we will move on to something else, sustaining that advocacy is something we really need to work on and this is where the civil society helps a lot (Time frame from minute 1:20:09-1:20:32)

Ife Osaga Ondondo J.D – Kenya should continue to have the multisectoral approach to ensure that everyone is involved to deal with the issues of GBV for everyone has a part to play (Time frame from minute 1:22:45-1:23:08)

Dr. Charlotte Roy – There is a need for preparedness, in Kenya the lockdown was announced abruptly, not many organizations had a plan in place, preparedness both on the government and also on the individual organization level, being ready for an event like this in the future and creating a plan that follows on how to respond to gender issues during emergencies and pandemics (Time frame from minute 1:24:35-1:25:00)