Standing Up to Stop Gender Based Violence in Slums

Rose Syombua (left) with other gender defenders during the silent march #16DaysofActivism

‘Leave no one behind, end gender-based violence now’ is a slogan Rose Syombua strongly believes can bring positive impact in a society struggling to achieve gender equality, dignity, and justice for all.

Syombua, a phenomenal woman willing to stretch herself beyond limits in defending gender rights, hails from Korogocho – an informal settlement that seats in the eastern part of Nairobi, Kenya. She is among the brave women we are celebrating for her remarkable human rights work at the grassroots.

“I believe in a just society and the only way we can achieve this is by ensuring that everyone enjoys equal rights. Unfortunately, due to the hostile environment experienced in slums and informal settlements such as the one I live in, human rights are not enjoyed by many of the residents, especially by women and children.

According to Syombua, cases of violence such as rape, defilement, physical assaults and discrimination met against women and children are rampant and have caused detrimental effects on survivors and their families.

“Almost every week there are cases of grave sexual and gender-based violence in Korogocho, unfortunately, most women and girls fail to report SGBV cases because they believe that justice would not be on their side because they are poor.”

“One recent case I recall is that of a young girl, who was snatched from her mother while on her way to school, she was abducted and gang-raped for two days, then returned to her parents. Though we reported the case, perpetrators are still at large.”

“I have faced a lot of discrimination while working to defend the residents of Korogocho against violence. However, this has never deterred me from demanding for justice for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. I chose to be the voice of the voiceless and the less fortunate in the community.”

Despite the challenges, she has also been able to achieve a couple of milestones in her bid to defend human rights. She has been able to file five SGBV cases in court; three of these cases have been concluded with, two dismissed and one successful.

“Unfortunately we lost two cases due to the lack of adequate evidence. The two families of the survivors were allegedly given money by the perpetrators hence abandoned the cases in the middle of the hearings that led to their dismissal.  For the case that was successful, the judge ruled in favour of an 11-year-old rape survivor; the perpetrator was sentenced to a jail term of 7 years, the family had been cooperative and gave enough evidence.”

Through SGBV awareness forums and training, Syombua says there has been a lot of change in the community with more people willing to report cases of sexual and gender-based violence and openly discussing the vice. Through the forums she has held, community members have been enlightened on the procedures to follow when one is violated.

According to Syombua being brave, is taking the bull by its horn, people will never be happy with what you are doing. There are people benefiting from violation of human rights. One has to do what they have to do to ensure a just society for all.