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Christina works in the peanut butter factory in Mukuru slum, Kenya. The factory was set up by ActionAid-partner, the Wangu Kanja Foundation, to empower survivors of sexual violence.

How peanut butter is empowering Kenyan women

Sarah Murphy – Digital Communications

Peanut butter is a miracle spread. It makes smoothies creamier, bagels crunchier, and sauces richer. Oh, and melted peanut butter trickled over ice-cream is a life-changer. But for a group of Kenyan women, this humble spread is changing lives in a very different way. 

The spread is empowering women in Kenya who have set up a business to produce and sell peanut butter in their local community. Set up by the Wangu Kanja Foundation, an ActionAid partner, the peanut butter factory is helping women who have experienced sexual violence achieve financial independence and have the skills and knowledge to be their own boss.

Two girls making their way to school in Kenya. Many young girls living in poverty are subjected to harassment on their journey to school. This leaves them feeling vulnerable, frightened, and has a negative impact on their education.

"Hey, sexy!" Millions of women and girls around the world will have heard that phrase - or something like it - cutting into their daily lives, unwanted and uninvited, as they walk to work or get the bus to school. 

Some might say that it's harmless, just a joke, or perhaps even a compliment. But catcalling is none of those things. It's an explicit demonstration of power, one that is intended to frighten or intimidate the person it's addressed to. It is based in deep-rooted gender inequality, which sees women's bodies as not their own. 

Mary is a member of the Nyarongi Women’s Network and the Chairperson of their paralegal team

Women and girls living in the poorest parts of the world are vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence. Only a tiny minority of survivors report their cases to the police. Many are too afraid to speak out because of stigma, because they don't know their legal rights, or because they don't trust the police. 

Our Not This Girl appeal, supported by UK Aid Match, is empowering local women in Kenya to support survivors of sexual violence and bring perpetrators to justice. ActionAid is training local women, so they have the knowledge, skills and confidence to support survivors through the legal process. We want to introduce the police woman and empowered paralegals, who are helping survivors of violence and sexual abuse get the support they need.

Gender Defenders from Mukuru slum, Kenya (left to right): Veronica, Jurusha, Alice Waruniguru, Patience, Nancy, Rukia

Gender Defenders are courageous community volunteers, trained by ActionAid, who stand up to sexual and gender-based violence in Kenya. It's a name they came up with themselves, and one they bear with pride.

From helping survivors reach hospital to navigating the legal system, each one – women and men – plays a vital role in preventing and responding to violence. Some are mums whose daughters have been raped. Others have personal experiences, like Alice, whose story I'd like to share with you.

A poster encouraging people to report cases of sexual and gender-based violence to the helpline run by ActionAid and the Wangu Kanja Foundation in Mukuru slum, Kenya

The helpline getting justice for rape survivors

Kiran Gupta – Project Information Manager

Wangu Kanja is something of a pioneer. Years before the #MeToo movement, she was speaking out about sexual violence in the tough, urban context of Kenya's capital, Nairobi. Wangu was carjacked and raped in 2002 and when she went to report it to the police, she found they would not take her seriously.

From this knockback, she realised that many of the poorest women in Kenya don't know what to do after surviving sexual assault - and never get the support and justice they deserve. This is made worse by stigma, shame and a culture of silence that stop women from asking for help. She decided things needed to change.

Mary, 3, lives in the Mukuru slum

Growing up in Mukuru slum, Nairobi: in photos

Sarah Murphy – Digital Communications

Mukuru slum in Nairobi, Kenya is home to over half a million people - many of whom live in extreme poverty. Low wages, insecure employment, limited education opportunities and poor sanitation are just some of the challenges facing local communities. 

Through our Not This Girl appeal, ActionAid is working with local women's groups to help prevent girls being abused and enable them to stay in school. All donations to the appeal before 7 June will be matched by the UK government as part of UK Aid Match. Find out what life is like for girls growing up in the Mukuru slum, and how you can help change their lives for good.