The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened risks that Kenyan women and girls are facing during their normal lives.
Fortunately, key stakeholders are consolidating efforts to lower the vulnerabilities by providing legal, medical, psychosocial and logistical support to the female gender.
The stay-at-home order, partial lockdown in five counties, the dusk to dawn curfew and closure of many businesses has negatively affected women and girls as sexual and gender-based violence(SGBV) has spiked, women are dying with their infants due to complications associated with delivery since they cannot reach hospitals in time while girls are exposed to transactional sex for survival.
On April 2, Kenyan Chief Justice David Maraga raised concerns over the increase of sexual offenses since outbreak of the disease in Kenya on March 13.
The cases accounted for 35.8 percent of the crimes committed since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Kenya.
Rape, sexual assault and defilement are among the serious crimes that the courts are giving priority as directed by the Chief Justice.
“We are worried about the many girls and women who are undergoing sexual and gender-based violence but can’t open up or report due to fear,” Kwamboka Oseko, Legal Associate with Coalition on Violence against Women (COVAW) told Xinhua during a recent interview.
“We have more than 50 community activists across the country and on a daily basis, we receive two to three cases reported from their areas,” she added.
Her organization has stepped in to counsel the survivors for free through its network of counselors. It has also engaged lawyers to help them get justice at no cost.
“We are encouraging the women through our community activists to reach out to us. If need be, we refer them to our partners who assist them especially if it involves someone who needs to be urgently rescued,” said Oseko.
To protect the girls’ sexual and reproductive health rights during the COVID-19 crisis, Amref Health Africa is distributing 16,000 pads to 5,333 girls in four counties.
Mette Kinoti, group programs director at Amref Health Africa, said that COVID-19 predisposes girls to transactional sex to afford menstrual products further risking their lives.
The provision of sanitary pads will ensure young girls enjoy their menstrual health while keeping safe during the pandemic.
The pads were donated to Amref Health Africa by Procter and Gamble on April 23.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Women have already warned of COVID-19 disrupting sexual and reproductive health services and urged countries to integrate them in their fight to contain the disease.
The UN agencies appealed to countries to include the provision of menstrual products to vulnerable women and girls to safeguard their dignity.
Even before the COVID-19, The number of Kenyan girls in need of sanitary towels were already high with UN statistics indicating that more than 2.6 million girls in the country need support to access these critical commodities.
Both public and private entities have partnered to give expectant women a new lease of life amid the risk of viral respiratory disease.
The Wheels for Life initiative launched on Tuesday offers a logistical solution to pregnant women during the curfew hours.
The initiative which currently benefits women locked in Nairobi links the women to a cab transporting them for free to a hospital or connects them to a doctor offering free consultancy.
Ministry of Health and Nairobi Metropolitan Services are also part of this noble initiative to promote the health of pregnant women.
The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) has also enlisted in this initiative.
Carole Karuga, chief executive officer of KEPSA, said the initiative responds to the crucial needs of pregnant women during this period of restricted movements.
She said there are plans to secure additional partners to be able to expand the initiative and benefit millions of expectant women.
Kenya’s maternal mortality rate remains high, at 488 per 100,000 live births, according to the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey. Enditem