This program considers that violence against women goes beyond beatings. It includes forced marriage, dowry-related violence, marital rape, sexual harassment, intimidation at work and in educational institutions, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, forced sterilization, trafficking and forced prostitution.
Such practices cause trauma, injuries and death. Female genital cutting, for example, is a common cultural practice in parts of Africa. Yet it can cause "bleeding and infection, urinary incontinence, difficulties with childbirth and even death," reports the WHO. Abusers of women tend to view violence as the only way to solve conflicts and typically have a history of violent behavior, grew up in violent homes and often abuse alcohol and drugs.
For Safe Womanhood, the biggest challenge is changing the social attitudes and beliefs that confine women to an inferior status. We work to get more women to know their legal rights. We teach our beneficiaries why it is important to protect women and how it benefits the entire community when women are afforded better protection. Educating both men and women is critical.
By engaging both men and women, we seek to send a message that domestic violence is not an issue just for women, but a problem affecting the whole community. Mindsets must change; such change can only be achieved through dialogue and debate, advocacy, community participation and the concerted mobilization of civil society. Too many women are subjected to violence and made to feel shame . . . for crimes committed against them!
Selected Case: From The Frying Pan Into the Fire - The Abuse of Muna Hawa
The promise for peace, safety and some education in Nairobi Kenya drove young Muna Hawa – eleven years – to leave Somalia for Nairobi with some relatives. All went well and soon she found herself in the Nairobi she longed for. She was under the absolute care of the said relatives. Nairobi, for her, was serene and very caring in comparison to the hard life she led back in Somalia. She could visualize greater life in future if indeed she was able to join school in Kenya. She dreamt of a better Somalia if she made it through her education and got to serve her motherland. But little did she know that all this would never come to pass.
As time went by, days turning into weeks and even months, life started changing for the worst. She realized that school was just but a dream. Her hosts were never keen or interested at all in taking her to any school. She remained at home performing household chores. She had quickly been converted into a house help under extremely hostile conditions. She was now being abused in the most serious ways. She had to withstand constant beatings and torture by her host mother. In some instances, she was even threatened with death. Being away, far away from home and her people, she had to learn to be as submissive as she could so as to secure a place to lay her head and to eat. That is what her tender life had been reduced to. Her case was that of “jumping from the frying pan into the fire”!
One time when Muna had had enough of the suffering that she had long endured in eerie silence, she opted out. She had no idea where she was going, but she was sure about where she had come from. Too much in pain and with a few cold coins in her hand, she approached Safeway Medical Clinic to purchase any amount of painkiller tablets that her few coins could afford. Hers was to relieve her pain. This encounter brought her face to face with Fardhosa Ali, the Director at Safeway Medical Clinic and Safe Womanhood. As a medic, she quickly discerned that young Muna was in so much pain.
She invited her into the clinic for closer examination and physical assessment. It was then that Fardhosa discovered how much injury had been inflicted on young Muna by her caregiver-hosts.