YAWI: Freeing African Women From Violence

Across Kenya, YAWI is fighting hard to end gender-based violence with innovative techniques. We caught up with them to find out more.

Thanks to the work of YAWI, women in Kenya, Naukuru enjoy a better life, and hopefully one day a life without gender-based violence and discrimination.

Meet the Young African Women Initiative (YAWI), a women lead and women focused human rights organisation promoting, protecting and advocating for the rights of women to live free from all forms of violence and provide them with tools and resources necessary to move from poverty to stability.

One of YAWI’s aim is to raise awareness of gender based violence with a focus to end violence against women and girls. 

Through a programme dubbed Elewa Haki Yako (Translated: Know your Right), using a human right based approach, YAWI organises forums, workshops, use of social media platforms and dominant media to raise awareness on gender-based violence (GBV) and how GBV violates human rights.

“Use of human rights based approach by YAWI is about empowering women to know and claim their rights and increasing the ability and accountability of women and institutions who respect, protecting and fulfilling rights,” says Fidelis Wambui Karanja, Executive Director of YAWI, while speaking exclusively to Youth Time.

In this piece, she sheds light on their key programmes, on how youth can support the organisation, as well as how YAWI engages men and boys in its endeavours for gender equality. 


Human Rights Violations 

She believes understanding the experiences of female survivors in terms of rights and their violation is creative and brings insights, and can give survivors and their helpers valuable tools. 

According to her, there are a few underlying principles which are of fundamental importance in applying a human rights based approach in addressing GBV.

These are:

  • participation
  • accountability
  • non-discrimination and equality
  • empowerment and
  • legality.

The work YAWI is doing is about creating a possibility for the women to take back their dignity, feel that they are worthy humans, that they can deal with the feelings of shame and humiliation and move beyond the human rights violations.

“We work so women can see themselves as active in combating the consequences of severe human rights violations because of GBV.”


Paving a Better Life

Karanja further elaborates on their programmes.

Through the program Expecting and parenting teenagers in your community, YAWI offers sexual and health education to school going teenage girls, and psychosocial support to victims of teenage pregnancy. 

Besides sending them back to school, sort for justice for rape cases, child support, offer technical skills for those who cannot go back to school because of stigma, lack of basic school supplies and baby sisters. 

They also offer online training to ensure teenage mothers access education online and there are no gaps. 

Through the formation of virtual classes ensuring that pregnant teenage girls will not miss out on completing their curriculum and syllabus classes and getting ready for their National examinations.

YAWI volunteers and staff access the assignments online or in print and deliver the assignment to the teenage mothers at their homes. 

The teen mothers do the assignment, which is later collected by YAWI volunteers, and delivered to specific teachers who are working in collaboration with YAWI for marking and grading. 

YAWI Freeing African Women From Violence 1
Discussions: YAWI hold events for others to talk about issues that are important to them

When the teen mothers need special attention, YAWI provides a safe space where they can come with their children and get support from teachers and volunteers for a few hours. 

YAWI shall continue providing relief food packages to the teen mothers, psychosocial support and facilitation to access health care services. 

It also centred the project on the family unit with community members mobilised into Community Advocacy Groups (CAGs) as support structures. 

Selected families are sensitised to the harmful effects of teenage marriage and teenage pregnancies as well as provided with primary aim to create awareness on gender-based violence and provide social platforms using technology and media to end gender-based violence, using a human rights approach (HRA) model.  

Through workshops and forums where the same messages are streamlined on social media to reach many young people who are experiencing GBV, especially in higher institutions of learning.


Men and Boys Part of the Journey 

In this part of the interview, Karanja focuses on how they include men and boys on this journey.

We engage men and boys in community forums where we raise awareness on gender based violence and human rights violation.”  

“Giving men and boys platforms to share their understanding of GBV and human rights violations and the perception that men and boys are the main perpetrators of GBV.” 

YAWI engages men in different economic sectors such as men working in the transport industry, especially motorcycle raiders popularly known as boda boda riders, as well as Matatu industries.  


A Brief Background of Women’s Rights in Kenya

According to the women’s bureau in Kenya, a department in the ministry of Culture and Social Services, there are over 14,000 registered women groups in the country.

Some groups make up associations or larger organisations.  Organisations such as the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK) are termed as apex organisations because they affiliate with more than 6,500 groups. 

We could categorise these organisations as religious, human rights/advocacy, economic empowerment and professional’s organisations. 

“Although many people know that these organisations of women groups exist, and often refer to them as NGOs, Kranja goes on, only a few of them are aware of their goals and scope of their activities.  

“This is proved because presently there is no publication available which offers comprehensive information specifically on the women’s associations in Kenya,” she adds, in this way contextualising their crucial efforts.   


Youth Supporting the Important Work of YAWI

Young people can support YAWI’s work in the following ways. 

  • Programme exchange in Leadership and Peer education for youth in different context 
  • Fundraising for young adolescent girls and women projects e.g. supporting teenage mothers in your community, e.g. mobilise for equipment such as computers, sewing machines, play items for children, etc.
  • Sale of items made by survivors of gender based violence e.g. bags, aprons, etc. 
  • Networking and partnerships building for like-minded organisations abroad.  

Click here to donate for YAWI so it can continue the positive impact in the community, or you can donate with Paypal.

Here’s another story from Kenya:

Transforming Education across Kenya – Angaza Elimu Initiative

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