Why Thousands Of Women Marched In The Streets Of Kenya This Weekend | CBC Radio

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Thousands of people marched in cities and towns in Kenya during protests Saturday over the recent slayings of more than a dozen women.

At least 14 women have been killed in Kenya this month alone, local activists say

Sheena Goodyear · CBC Radio

· Posted: Jan 29, 2024 6:26 PM EST | Last Updated: January 29

Women call for an end to femicide during a protest in Nairobi, Kenya, on Saturday. (Monicah Mwangi/Reuters)

As It Happens7:39Why thousands of women marched in the streets of Kenya this weekend

Audrey Mugeni says there have been times when she felt like she was the only person who cared that women are being murdered in Kenya at an alarming rate. 

But she says Saturday’s massive, nationwide protests against femicide, the killing of women and girls, have fuelled a new sense of community, solidarity and hope.

“It was very energetic. It was very affirming,” Mugeni, an advocate for women’s and girl’s rights, told As It Happens host Nil Köksal. 

“To look around and realize that I wasn’t just the only person who felt like this was an issue that needed to be spoken about, I was emotional, and I could feel the emotions … running through all of our veins.”

WATCH | Protest in Nairobi: 

Thousands march against femicide in KenyaProtesters march in the streets of Nairobi on Saturday, Jan. 27, to demand an end to femicide in Kenya. The protest was part of a nationwide demonstration against gender-based violence in the country, where local media has reported the murders of 14 women this month alone.

Mugeni is the co-founder of Femicide Count Kenya, an advocacy organization that tracks homicides against women in the country.

The United Nations defines femicide as “intentional killing” of women and girls “with a gender-related motivation” that “may be driven by stereotyped gender roles, discrimination towards women and girls, unequal power relations between women and men, or harmful social norms.”

Femicide Count recorded 152 killings in 2023, the highest tally since the group began tracking the stats in 2018. Because they rely largely on media reports and the public, the actual number could be higher.

Already in 2024, Kenyan media outlets have reported the slayings of at least 14 women, according to Patricia Andago, a data journalist at media and research firm Odipo Dev, who also took part in the march.

Thousands of people marched in cities and towns in Kenya during protests Saturday over the recent slayings of more than a dozen women in January 2023 alone. (Brian Inganga/The Associated Press)That surge in killings inspired thousands of people to march in cities and towns across Kenya on Saturday. 

“This is an issue that has been going on for so long and yet nobody’s saying anything about it,” Mugeni said. “Now we are angry. Now we are all coming together.”

In the nation’s capital, Nairobi, protesters wore T-shirts printed with the names of women killed this month. The demonstrators — mostly women — chanted “Stop killing us!” as they brought traffic to a standstill.

“We are tired of government institutions that are not working to prevent and where necessary promptly punish femicide,” march organizer Melvin Obollah said during the protest. 

2 high-profile killings this monthTwo recent high-profile killings have dominated media coverage in Kenya this year.

On Jan. 14, the dismembered and decapitated body of 20-year-old university student Rita Waeni was found in a trash bag in a Nairobi rental apartment. A week later, a head was found near a dam, along with Waeni’s phone and other missing items. Two Nigerian men were arrested in connection with her death.

Before that, on Jan. 3, the body of 26-year-old Starlet Wahu was found in an Airbnb apartment with several stab wounds after she went there with a man she met online. 

Police are holding that man in custody, and Mugeni says several Kenyan women have since come forward to say they had previously reported the same suspect for assault, to no avail. 

Audrey Mugeni says the energy was palpable at Saturday’s march in Nairobi. (Monicah Mwangi/Reuters)That’s part of a broader pattern of authorities not taking women seriously, she said. Kenya has good laws against gender-based violence, she says, but they are not being adequately enforced.

“We signed on to international treaties, on to regional treaties. We have also written very nice, very good laws,” she said of her country’s rules against gender-based violence. “But then when it comes to practice, it’s not very good.”

Esther Passaris, Kenya’s parliamentary representative for women, tried to address protesters in Nairobi on the weekend, but was met with accusations that she’s been silent during the latest wave of killings. Protesters shouted: “Where were you?” and “Go home!”

Passaris did not respond to a CBC request for comment.

Mugeni also took issue with local news coverage of the recent killings, noting that several local outlets focused on reports that Wahu was wearing a short, red dress the night she was killed.

“Most definitely they were, you know, victimizing her, [saying] it was her fault that this happened to her,” Mugeni said.

Some men joined in the demonstrations as well. (Brian Inganga/The Associated Press)She credited the men who marched alongside them on Saturday.  

“We’ve gotten really good allies in men. But then there are still others who are still saying, ‘You know what? You women need to shut up. You’re not going to eat our money and think that we are not going to kill you,'” she said.

“There are still men who are speaking like that. Even after all these deaths, they’re still blaming the deaths on the women.”

According to Amnesty International, more than 500 women were killed in Kenya between 2016 and 2023. The majority, the human rights organization said, were women under 35, killed by intimate partners or people known to them.

“It needs to get to a point where we are all understanding that this is not just a women’s issue. This is a societal issue,” Mugeni said. “We are literally killing off a generation of women.”

With files from The Associated Press. Interview with Audrey Mugeni produced by Katie Geleff

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