A feminist and human rights activist, Winnie Obure is a member of the Young Women’s Leadership Institute (YWLI), our partners in Kenya. As part of her commitment to community mobilisation, during the 16 Days of Activism Winnie shared her experiences of community advocacy with victims of sexual violence in Kiambui.
In late November 2016, Winnie Obure marched on Shauri Moyo police station to protest the rape of a 15 year old girl by local police officer, Njogu. Although the rape had been reported by the girl’s father, the station refused to record it to protect their colleague. Backed by other community activists, Winnie demanded the incident be recorded in the station’s Occurrence Book (OB). For their demands the women were arrested. Phones confiscated and prohibited from seeing visitors, they spent the night in jail.
Early the next morning they were charged in court for ‘creating a disturbance at a police station’ . However, their names and files were missing from the court registry and records. To date, each time they appear in court they are told their ‘files are missing’.
In her attempts to secure justice for the girl, Winnie discovered that the victim’s aunt had received 5,000 shillings (50USD) from the police for her silence. Negotiation and even collusion with abusers is an underlying form and cause of gender based violence which prevents justice being enacted and undermines the worth and esteem of the victim. In poor communities where the cost of legal action is too expensive financial pay-offs can be a lucrative, and seemingly beneficial, alternative.
Yet despite these challenges, Winnie did not give up on the case. Taking her protest to social media with the hashtag #ArrestNjogu the case caught the attention of hundreds. With mounting pressure the officer was finally arrested. The case is currently ongoing.
Standing up against violence in the community is not an easy task. As a young human rights defender Winnie has regularly found herself in precarious positions even to the point of having to move house as a result of intimidation and threats. However she is adamant that real change occurs when we involve many people. Alone and isolated activists can be left vulnerable, but together we rise.
At the end of 2016 Winnie Obure was one of five recipients of the Integrity Champions Award presented by the Society for International Development. She is a true hero – we salute and stand with her.
Words by Felister Gitonga, (@ywli_info)