By Kelvin Mokaya
In many corners of this country, a silent epidemic persists, ravaging the lives of countless women and girls living in non-informal settlements. Gender-based violence, a pervasive yet often concealed issue, is not only a humanitarian crisis but also a formidable economic burden.
Gender-based violence, commonly referred to as GBV, encompasses a range of abuse – physical, emotional, sexual, and economic – directed disproportionately towards women and girls. In the Kenyan non-informal settlements, this crisis often thrives in the shadows, shrouded in silence and stigma. These areas, characterized by overcrowding and limited access to resources, present an environment where violence can fester. You would expect this vice, and many others, to be very rampant in such settings.
You will realize that direct impact of gender-based violence in these settlements is on the victims themselves. Women who experience violence often find their livelihoods jeopardized. They are unable to work due to physical injuries or emotional trauma. As a result, they lose income and economic independence.
The cost of seeking medical and psychological help further strains their limited resources, making it even harder to escape the cycle of violence. The economic fallout extends beyond the individual, affecting families, communities, and the wider economy.
When a woman is victimized, the ripples extend to her family and community. Family dynamics are disrupted, leading to instability. Children in these households often bear the brunt of this violence, witnessing and experiencing its traumatic consequences. To an extent, which is very evident, this hinders their educational attainment, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
Moreover, as violence tears apart the social fabric of these informal settlements, which many refer to as Slums or “vitongoji duni au mitaa ya mabanda” in Swahili, community cohesion weakens. Trust erodes, and people become more reticent to seek help or report abuse. The resulting social instability is detrimental to economic development.
Gender-based violence also takes a toll on the broader economy. In the non-informal settlements, where women constitute a significant portion of the workforce, the reduced participation of women in economic activities hinders progress. When women can’t work due to injuries or psychological distress. In this current era, we are moving away from the notion that, only men are supposed to work or rather. Look at a case where the man is the sole-provider in a household and he happens to be ill or something, which means there will be no income to support basic needs in the family.
Increased healthcare costs also strain public resources. The demand for medical and psychological services surges, requiring more significant government expenditure. Over time, these costs contribute to economic inefficiency.
To tackle this crisis, it is essential to consider the root causes. Societal norms and expectations which play a significant role in perpetuating gender-based violence. In many Kenyan non-informal settlements, mostly found in the urban areas, traditional gender roles are deeply entrenched. This has often led to an environment where violence has been tolerated or ignored.
Kelvin Mokaya, NAYA Youth Advocate.