Tackling violence against women and girls isn’t just about supporting survivors. It’s about changing attitudes and challenging the inequalities at the heart of gender-based violence.
Thomas Ochieng is doing just that. He’s the station manager at Ruben FM, a community radio station in Mukuru - a large slum to the east of Nairobi. Alongside ActionAid partner, the Wangu Kanja Foundation, Thomas and his team are raising awareness about gender-based violence. They're using the airwaves to challenge sexual violence and get ActionAid's message out into the community.
The radio station speaking out against gender-based violence
When Thomas first started at Ruben FM in 2016, there was no studio — just an office with a laptop. Now the station reaches over 700,000 people.
“What makes Ruben FM special and different from other community radio stations is content,” Thomas explains. “Commercial radio stations are profit orientated, but community radio is supposed to empower the community.”
Thomas lives just over a mile away from Mukuru slum, whilst another presenter, Daniel Mutet, was born there. They know the issues affecting the local community and this is reflected in the station’s programmes. “We agree as a team,” Thomas says, “Is this topic relevant to the community?”
Tackling sexual violence over the airwaves
It was the station’s commitment to serving local people that led Thomas and his team to tackle the issue of gender-based violence. Mukuru has some of the highest rates of violence against women and girls in Kenya. Because of the stigma and the lack of awareness about women’s rights, many of these incidents go unreported.
The station decided to work with ActionAid partner, the Wangu Kanja Foundation, to raise awareness in the local community. The Foundation was set up by rape survivor, Wangu Kanja, and helps survivors of sexual violence access medical, psychological and legal support.
UK (@ActionAidUK) May 9, 2018
Sending the message out into the slum
“The partnership was very beneficial,” Thomas says. “The community opened up. They used to call in, send messages, interact with the presenter on Facebook and experts from Wangu Kanja Foundation.” He continues:
“When you get one or two organizations coming on board to address the same issue, it means it really has to be addressed in the community. It’s really affecting people.”
“You can just imagine,” Thomas explains. “When you say, ‘We have to stop sexual and gender-based violence’, in one minute the message has already reached 700,000 people in Mukuru.”
How ActionAid is helping survivors to speak out
In partnership with the Wangu Kanja Foundation, ActionAid has set up a free helpline that enables people to report cases of sexual and gender-based violence. Through a team of courageous volunteers, it also distributes awareness-raising messages and posters.
By giving a regular gift, you can help expand the helpline to three other counties in Kenya - Kilifi, Homa Bay, and Garissa — that have high levels of violence against girls. With your help, we can carry out awareness-raising work so that twice the number of girls have the knowledge and confidence to report abuse.
If you donate by 7 June, the first three months of your regular gift will be doubled by the UK government, pound for pound. Together, we can reach twice as many women and girls in need.
Photo credits: Sheldon Moultrie/ActionAid, Karin Schermbrucker/ActionAid