The Coalition On Violence Against Women is a Nairobi-based registered non-profit making women's rights non- governmental organization. COVAW was founded in 1995 as a response to the silence of the Kenyan society to addressing violence against women.
COVAW works to promote and advance women's human rights through working towards a society free from all forms of violence against women. Here we talk to COVAW about their organization.
What is your mission?
Our mission is to build social movements of change in the communities that are opposed and greatly committed to eradicate violence against women.
What are the goals of your organization?
COVAW's goal is to see a society that is free from all forms of violence against women.
We have successfully led a campaign known as Justice for Liz where a 16 year old girl was raped in Busia. The case hearing is set for late June 2014 and we plan community mobilisation before the case to create awareness on the level of VAW in Busia.
The organization filed a petition on behalf of post-election violence SGBV victims. We, along with three other organisations have been able to get the government to answer the petition.
COVAW commissioned a study titled the "Experiences of Women during Childbirth by Women and their Care Providers" to capture the perspectives of women and their care providers towards childbirth in the aim of further improving approaches and services for mothers. The experiences pointed to some gaps in policy implementation and the practice of health care providers especially those in health institutions. The study indicated the need to address maternal health issues as human rights concerns and use a human rights framework in getting women and care givers to understand that certain practices are violations of women's rights.
The organization faces numerous challenges and one of them is the culture and attitude towards gender rights. We also face security threats as human rights defenders. It is tricky to challenge the government on matters concerning human rights where and you might find that the leaders who were voted into power are fighting against their cause. Also, traditional cultures like female genital mutilation are difficult to fight and it takes time for communities to change their attitudes and shun the practices. More challenges include the silence of women who live in abusive relationships and lack of reporting incidences of rape which gives perpetrators more power and conviction to do it again.
How does your org make African women count?
Legal aid is offereed to VAW victims under a Access to Justice and Women Rights initiative. AJWR initiative provides free Legal Aid and Advice to survivors of violence. This is done through Awareness forums and Legal Aid clinics where women and girls are educated on Gender Based Violence as a whole and the legal frameworks involved and their rights. This includes access to health care services, reporting procedures and follow up of cases during litigation. COVAW has in the past three (3) years offered Legal Aid and advice to 1,624 (106M 1,518F) beneficiaries in Nairobi, Nakuru and Kisumu.
The AJWR initiative adopts an integrated Referral system when it comes to assisting survivors of violence. This includes legal, Health and Psycho-social support. As a result, a Referral Network has been established over the years. In terms of legal support, COVAW has a database of 32 Pro Bono Advocates who are involved in the litigation process. The Advocates represent survivors in court and assist with any other procedural tasks required. In addition, there are 54 (24M 30F) Paralegals trained in Nakuru, Kisumu and Samburu. The Paralegals assist survivors through the different points of service provision and ensure that cases are followed through to finality. COVAW's partnership with Gender Based Recovery Centres at Kenyatta National Hospital and Nairobi Women's Hospital in Nairobi, Rift Valley Provincial Hospital in Nakuru and Nyanza Provincial General Hospital in Kisumu also greatly strengthens the referral system with the AJWR team being able to refer survivors for Free health care services and for Psycho social support.
COVAW has over the years aimed to build the capacity of service providers who survivors interact with in their quest for justice. These include Health Care Workers, Law Enforcement Agents, Media and members of the judiciary. The AJWR team aims to have everyone involved educated on Gender Based Violence (GBV) as a whole and the legal frameworks surrounding it. This is done through training workshops that address GBV together with the social and cultural practices that condone it. This is done with the belief that social and cultural change is a slow process that begins with understanding Patriarchy and the negative effects of GBV on families and in turn communities as a whole.
Another Project handled by the AJWR team is that of Intellectually Challenged Women and Girls which is done in partnership with the Kenya Association for the Intellectually Handicapped (KAIH). The aim of the project is to ensure access to justice for Intellectually Challenged Women and Girls who are survivors of sexual violence. COVAW has enhanced access to justice for ICWGs survivors of sexual violence by offering legal aid services at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital. In the past year, three (3) legal aid awareness clinics have been held to sensitize community members, women and girls with intellectual challenges and their families on the rights of persons with intellectual challenges as well as offer one-on-one legal aid. Through the legal aid awareness clinics, COVAW has reached a total of 268 persons (209 women and 64 men), from whom twenty seven (27) women and girls have sought legal aid. Sixteen (16) (3 women and 13 girls) ICWGs have received legal aid through the COVAW office.
We also engage women and men in the communities to be promoters of VAW free societies by community mobilisation efforts in a initiative known as Movement Building and Community Activism. MBCA uses the SASA! SASA! model in its work under the MBCA strategic initiative to build movements of change agents who are opposed to and committed to prevention of VAW. The SASA! model is a community mobilization approach that focuses on the imbalance of power between men and women as the root cause of Violence Against Women(VAW). Over 130 COVAW trained Community Activists (CA's) spread out in our project areas, have been very proactive in responding to Violence Against Women and its connection to HIV/AIDS. Through the use of all four strategies of SASA; Local Activism, Communication Materials, Media & Advocacy and Training have allowed CA's as well staff to engage and influence change of community norms. The major achievements attributed to the implementation of SASA! are the fact that CA's are the role models at the grassroots level. They have emphasized on the importance of not only raising awareness on VAW/GBV but also training other Community Based Organizations (CBO's) in using the communications materials to start up conversations on prevention VAW/GBV. Another major achievement is the fact that community members are able to start having these conversations in their spaces and thus owning the process of changing community norms to more positive ones. This has been most effective as we see communities taking responsibility in preventing and responding to GBV at the community level.
SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS (SRHR)
On Female Genital Mutilation(FGM), COVAW's main focus is on addressing the existing gaps in the implementation of the Prohibition of FGM Act 2011 and adopting a community approach to advocacy that involves building the capacity of the community to understand why the practice is a human rights violation, its health effects on women and girls especially the intersection between those effects and maternal health, explore the possible ways to create awareness on the law and develop action plans on how to address the issue and mitigate the possible conflicts between the law and the community understanding of their cultural rights. The main aim of community advocacy on eradication of FGM is to link the community awareness and advocacy efforts to the national processes of implementation of the law and other processes at the Regional level that level country specific commitments by Kenya.
We do engage both national and international media in promoting policy and information dispensation as well as running campaigns and public awareness on SGBV issues. Part of our great highlights is the Justice for Liz case which had great number of coverage from both Local and international media. We do engage in media training on issues related to SGBV and the laws governing the different facets of Gender Based Violence.
Our online engagement is our main platform to pass information and convey our agenda. The social media has been a great tool to get policy makers to act.
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