Carpet talk

Day 8 of #16DaysofActivism

 By Jon Hargreaves

“Gender inequality exists throughout Kenya, but it’s particularly bad in this part of the country,” says Harriet Atyang, the manager of HCR partner station Amani FM in Tana River.   In many situations Harriet says women are subjected to abuse and violence, but it is rarely reported, as it seen as a cultural norm. 

Recounting a story where one young girl was given by her parents to an old man, Harriet said, “A woman is often seen as a man’s property.  Many men see the role of women is purely to give birth and look after the home, but they don’t have a voice and are left out of decision-making.” 

It is for that reason that Amani FM has many programmes to promote change like “Jamvi la mwanamke jasiri”, or ‘Carpet Talk’. The idea is that the carpet is a place where people can sit and feel comfortable and confident to share their concerns.  By airing women’s stories, Amani FM is starting a community conversation and they find that men are engaging positively with the issue too.   With the help of other Non-Government Organisations and counselling services, the station is helping women to find help and making the community aware of their rights. 

“Judging by the number of calls we are getting to the programmes, we are having an effect.  Many are calling in and really opening up with their personal stories,” says Harriet. “It is going to take time, but however long it takes, we are going to keeping working with communities and other stakeholders to bring about the change that is needed.”

 Harriet and Esther from Amani FM interview community members.

Harriet and Esther from Amani FM interview community members.

Women: The Givers of Life

Day 7 of #16DaysofActivism

By Celeste Larkins

Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience higher rates of family violence than in the general population. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2018 report found Indigenous women were 32 times as likely to be hospitalised due to family and domestic violence than non-Indigenous women. Indigenous women are also less likely to report abuse. 

Indigenous people in Australia often have higher risk factors for family violence such as poor housing and overcrowding, financial difficulties, unemployment and social stressors. However, it needs to be clear that the perpetrators of this violence are both Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners.

Recently, an Aboriginal Elder spoke to me of his concerns of violence against women in the community. It saddened him, as traditional Aboriginal culture respects women as the givers of life, as nurturers, the same way Mother Nature gives and nurtures us. Both should be respected.

However, it’s evident after not only speaking with this Elder, but many more communities across the Mid West and Gascoyne of Western Australia, that the intergenerational trauma of the invasion of Australia has caused a major impact on the life and culture of the one of the oldest cultures in the world.

At HCR we work with Aboriginal communities to support them to develop their own health messages and campaigns which help deal with many of the risk factors for domestic and family violence. This approach allows local people to share their knowledge in a culturally relevant way for their local community.  

 At HCR we work with Aboriginal people and support them to use their local knowledge, culture and language to develop health campaigns for their local community.

At HCR we work with Aboriginal people and support them to use their local knowledge, culture and language to develop health campaigns for their local community.


   

She is a mother, when she herself is still a child

Day 6 of #16DaysofActivism

By Stephanie Mooney

Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18 (Girls not Brides). Early marriage violates a girl’s rights to health, education and opportunities in the workplace. It can often expose girls to violence throughout their lives and trap them in poverty. This is an issue that cuts across countries, cultures and religions. 

Pakistan continues to rank near the bottom of the gender inequality index, with Pakistani women facing terrible inequality in access to health care, education and work. One of the solutions to assisting girls to escape discriminatory customary practices like early child marriage is providing education and skill building opportunities.

HCR faces these issues in some of the communities in which we work. Recently, in a village in Pakistan, an HCR associate was confronted with child marriage at a women’s empowerment session. A girl, aged 15, had an eighteen-month-old baby and was married to a 45-year-old man. She is a mother, when she herself is still a child. In a culture that tends to be patriarchal, the birth of a son is celebrated as boys are considered assets who will provide support for ageing parents, whereas a daughter is often considered a liability. This traditional culture, along with poverty, reinforces practices like early child marriages.

HCR has made gender a major priority in all its projects. We believe that human rights are essential to the full development of individuals and communities, and that gender equality is a basic human right. In Pakistan we use media to continue to work towards the education of girls and women and target many of the underlying issues that keep them in a cycle of poverty.    

 Early marriage violates a girl’s rights to health, education and opportunities in the workplace

Early marriage violates a girl’s rights to health, education and opportunities in the workplace

'I am a resource for peace!'

Day 5 of #16DaysofActivism

By Stephanie Mooney

Radio Amani was launched in the conflict prone area of Tana Delta in the summer of 2017, ahead of the parliamentary elections in Kenya.  The purpose of the radio station is to promote peace and social development in Eastern Kenya’s conflict-affected Tana River (the northern region of Tana River County).

The station is serving a young lady called Busara* and the many women and men like her, survivors of violent conflict. Jon, the Director of HCR, met Busara during a focus group in a remote village. She kept staring at the floor, shy, almost embarrassed to be there. Many of the others in the group engaged in animated conversation, eager to share their experiences and opinions. But then her voice broke through... and the room was silenced. It was a bold, passionate voice, that was determined to speak out. "I am not a victim," she said, "I am a resource for peace!"

Busara shared how she had been a victim of violence during the time of "the massacre." She and her family had been through hell, but now here she sat in a group meeting, courageously willing to speak up. She shared how, with the support of family, community and trauma counselors, she had turned a corner and was now passionate to help others who had been through similar experiences.

In the setting up of this region's first radio station, the overwhelming message was, "this station is desperately needed and will be a vital part of helping the people of Tana Delta recover and rebuild." Dr Tecla, who runs trauma workshops among the communities of the Delta, told me that peacebuilding cannot really start until people have overcome the past, with forgiveness and grace’. Amani (peace) FM is amplifying the voices that need to be heard.

*Not her real name

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Precious: Her Story

Day 4 of #16DaysofActivism

By Stephanie Mooney

I believe every person has a story to tell and it is often the people who have suffered the most whose stories can affect us the most deeply.

I met Precious* in Kenya and she is a truly courageous and inspirational woman.  She was married at fourteen and had to stop attending school as a result of her marriage. Precious wanted to return to school after she was married, which was not the done thing in her village. After giving birth to two sons, she tried to connect with other young students to keep learning from them and also asked a teacher if she could continue. 

Precious was told she needed to enrol at the education office far from her city. She found a way there and persuaded them to enrol her. By the time that she was registered she had given birth to her third child. She was the first married woman in her village to continue going to school and was the talk of the town. Precious’s husband challenged her and made her suffer for the humiliation. She was beaten, raped and was made to sleep outside. 

Precious had a fourth child and when her fourth child was seven months old she became pregnant again.  Despite all her difficulties, she completed her secondary school education. Precious did eventually leave her husband because her life was in danger. She started running a small business to provide for her family and now all her children are in school. She continues to develop her self and she wants to do more study. She has been a real example to other women in her village. 

At HCR we are creating opportunities for women from different parts of the world to speak about their lives and the issues they face, so that their local communities become aware of these challenges and as a way of creating positive change in both the lives of women and the community as a whole.

*Not her real name

If this article raises any personal issues please contact your local professional services or contact the helplines below.

In Australia: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

In UK: National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247

 Everyone has a story. At HCR we strive to empower women to share their story.

Everyone has a story. At HCR we strive to empower women to share their story.