The Founder Tour begins
The first stop on the Founder Tour was at the Kerio Rights Organisation in Kapseret town in Eldoret, Kenya. There, the team met for a brief introduction and to plan the activities for the tour. The Kerio Rights Organisation is among the seven organizations that have earned the Lightup Impact Badge and were shortlisted to participate in a joint crowdfunding campaign and the Founder Tour Program. Using donations from the crowdfunding campaign, the Founder Tour aimed to initiate collaborative research and impactful projects between Lightup Impact and its member organizations.
More about the Keiro Rights Organisation
The Kerio Rights Organisation is a community-based organization based in Kapseret, Uasin Gishu County, Kenya. It was founded by a network of female volunteers in 2010 to promote human rights and access to quality sexual reproductive health care services among girls, women, the youth, the LGBTQI community, and other marginalised and underserved communities. Keiro Rights addresses women’s rights and health-related issues through education, research, capacity building, and advocacy services. Director and Founder Caroline Rotich and Programs Officer Fred Siele lead the Kerio Rights team. Together, they use their knowledge and expertise to establish partnerships and collaborations through networking, to help give women and girls the knowledge they deserve to make informed decisions about their health and well-being.
Activities during the Founder Tour
Kerio Rights is acutely aware of how important it is to join forces with governmental branches to drive forward their initiatives, especially at the local level. Such collaborations include their work with the Uasin Gishu County government, village elders, community leaders, religious leaders, and village chiefs. With time, as trust is built, these groups allow the Keiro Rights team to be part of essential decision-making processes.
Technical working groups are essential in this type of collaboration, bringing together stakeholders to tackle the issues that affect their communities: identifying and discussing gaps, and suggesting solutions. The Lightup Impact team was privileged to join the Kerio Rights technical working group at the count commissioner’s office, chaired by the National Aids Control Council (NACC) team. Here, they met with different stakeholders working on issues related to HIV and AIDS in Uasin Gishu County. They also got the opportunity to meet the NACC North Rift Regional Coordinator, Nickson Chepkwony, who provided a brief of what his office does within the areas of HIV and AIDS and gender-based violence (GBV).
International Women’s Day
In celebration of International Women’s Day 2022, Kerio Rights, Lightup Impact, and other partners organized an event in Turbo Sub-County. The event kicked off with a march through Turbo Market in Eldoret to show solidarity for women and girls. It was themed ‘BreakTheBias’, and the whole community joined in and assembled in the marketplace for a short celebration afterward. The day concluded with the distribution of sanitary pads and magazines on sexual reproductive health and rights.
Collaborative research on GBV
Lightup Impact, in partnership with Kerio Rights, wanted to understand more about GBV in a community like Kapseret, including its implications, causes, access/barriers to support and services, and the solutions and needs of those affected. Focus group discussions with female community champions, opinion leaders, key stakeholders, and GBV survivors provided that insight.
Focus group discussion with community champions
Ten community champions came together for the focus group discussion, shedding light on their roles as women rights defenders who support survivors of sexual offenses and GBV, especially in ensuring law enforcement is involved. These champions are volunteers from all walks of life, including people living with disabilities, village elders, counselors, and professionals.
From the discussion, it was clear that the champions value Kerio Rights’ role in the community. The facility in Kapseret is a safe place for women to speak freely and become empowered with the proper knowledge of their rights. Because of Keiro Rights, women in the Kapseret community are offered “a refuge, hope, and a place to address issues and find solutions”, as one of the community champions pointed out during the focus group discussion. Unique to Kerio Rights is their inclusion of people with disabilities in their discussions. Given that they are among the most vulnerable groups in most societies, they are often victims of violence and too often forgotten and excluded from the conversation. Thanks to Caroline and her team, people with disabilities are front and center in the fight against GBV.
Focus group discussion on HPV and cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is the 4th most common cancer in both incidence and cancer-related mortality among women. Lightup Impact wanted to investigate some of the reasons why the uptake of cervical cancer screening in the high-risk population of HIV-positive women in the Langas and Kapsaret Ward is so low.
As a research activity, nine participants shared their experiences through a focus group discussion to assess the level of basic HPV/Cervical cancer knowledge, men’s influence, and access to testing services.
Some key points from the discussion included:
- Participants shared how they knew that cancer is not a deadly disease if diagnosed early.
- Eight participants confirmed they had been screened in the last six years.
- The participants stated that they were somehow informed about cervical cancer screening but needed to be more empowered, especially financially, to access cervical cancer screening services and potential follow-ups and referrals.
- Challenges such as lack of finances played a key role for most women who could not access the necessary services as they did not have permanent jobs.
- The screenings would often take place in facilities too far from their homes.
- Some solutions they proposed were that the government should organize more frequent screenings and awareness campaigns locally in the communities, not only during cancer awareness day.
Focus group discussion with GBV survivors
The 3rd focus group discussion was held with nine GBV survivors in Langas Ward, Kapseret, to explore the implications of GBV in the region. During the session, participants gave insight into the types of GBV and their causes, access to services, reporting, and solutions.
The women shared their personal stories emphasizing how alcohol, drugs, poverty, and culture play a crucial role in GBV cases. They also pointed out that although chiefs and village elders are aware of the situation and receive reports of GBV cases, corruption often prevents the victims from getting justice. Furthermore, survivors struggle with finding people they can talk to because they fear people won’t listen or understand, making it even more difficult to share their experiences with GBV.
Intergenerational knowledge transfer on sexual reproductive health
One unique activity that Kerio Rights organized, captured our attention. It was an intergenerational knowledge transfer on adolescent sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR), bringing together 12 girls aged 13-20 from Kapseret and Langas Ward. In this setting, a respected female elder from the community named Gogo (89 years old) was invited to talk and share her past experiences with the younger generation. She spoke about how things were different back when she was younger and how the younger generation can use her knowledge to live a better life today. During the question and answer session, some of the girls revealed that they had friends who were raped, affected by sexually transmitted diseases, or discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. These girls often do not know who to talk to or where to go for help. Kerio Rights offers support by providing the correct information, direction, and support to anyone facing such challenges.
Community sensitization forum on GBV with opinion leaders
The last activity during the founder tour was a community sensitization forum on GBV with opinion leaders in Langas Ward. The opinion leaders present were village elders, religious leaders, and community leaders – nine in total. The opinion leaders were sensitized on GBV and informed about the different types and causes of GBV and how to deal with such cases in their community. They were open to learning how to handle these cases, which has not always been easy for them to do. The facilitator mentioned that they should not only be sensitized but become empowered, as that is key to taking the right action.
Lightup Impact is happy to have collaborated and partnered with Kerio Rights during the three-week-long Founder Tour. It was a great experience being involved in the activities offered by their partners. We learned so much about the needs of the Kapseret community and Uasin Gishu County.
We would like to thank everyone who participated in the fundraiser. Through the donation of 500 euros, Kerio Rights sensitized ten women’s rights defenders and champions at the community level to ensure that sexual and GBV cases are reported to law enforcement. In addition, they sensitized ten community gatekeepers on sexual and GBV response to support and act as enablers to survivors in accessing justice. The last activity that the fundraiser supported was the mentorship and support of 12 adolescents and young women through organized intergenerational knowledge transfer from an elderly respected woman of the community.
The passion and commitment that the Kerio Rights Organisation has for the Kapseret Community are evident. With the right support, we are sure that they can scale their impact to reach even more women and girls in their community to achieve an empowered and healthy society.
Author: Jeniffer Mugunda