#StoryOfResistance - Kenya: Solidarity to end violence against women and girls
“They ganged up against her to seize her property. They even hired a group of boda boda [motorbike] riders [to threaten her life].”
Sheila Adoyo, a community paralegal officer in Migori county, was describing how a woman had been evicted from her home by her husband and sons, who Sheila then helped leave the situation of violence.
In Kenya, despite great strides by the government to prevent and address violence against women and girls, many women continue to face violence, with women and girls living with disabilities being particularly at risk of severe violence and marginalization.
Women Challenged to Challenge
Women Challenged to Challenge (WCC) is a small women’s rights organization pioneered and led by women living with disabilities with a goal to unite and elevate the voices of women with disabilities in Kenya. Supported by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) under the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative, WCC is working in three rural, ethnically diverse locations in Kenya to reduce violence against women and girls with disabilities and increase the rate of conviction of abusers. They work with service providers and first responders to improve attitudes, protection mechanisms and multisectoral services.
As part of its project, WCC engages community women in empowerment activities to provide training on referral services for women survivors of rape and on leading advocacy activities to end violence against women and girls at the local level. Sheila is one of those who became involved. A rape survivor herself at the age of 11, she then relived her trauma when her eldest daughter suffered the same crime. Sheila then decided she needed to transform her suffering into activism:
“I couldn’t stand watching that injustice happening in front of our eyes. I mobilized women in our community, and we made pressure on the police to act.”
As chair of the Migori women’s group, which involves 85 women from eight sub-counties in Migori county, Sheila wants to protect community women, especially women living with disabilities, from violence. Under her leadership, the group has supported local women and girls experiencing or at risk of violence to reclaim their rights and access justice.
Referring to the incident involving the boda boda riders, she said:
“I am happy to report that … the woman is back in possession of her own house and the abusive husband and sons are in prison. This is the power of our solidarity.”
Through champions like Sheila, WCC has empowered women to advocate for themselves and others, strengthening a grassroots network for change. Jackline Bartenge, Programme Manager at WCC said:
“One of the ways which WCC has contributed to the global feminist movement is by mobilizing women and girls with disabilities both at community and national level to make them be self-advocates of the change they want to see in society.”
Meeting the challenges
As a small organization, WCC faced heightened pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic not only to respond to the rising violence against women, but also to meet their need for basic survival supplies. Food and economic insecurity put many women at risk of starvation and intimate partner violence.
With the UN Trust Fund’s additional support, WCC reallocated its funds to supply food and hygiene kits to 150 families, helping women regain negotiating power. The organization also adapted by equipping its office and staff with facilities and skills to conduct project activities virtually, which enabled its outreach to communities and stakeholders. This support is crucial to their work, explained Jackline:
“There is a need for different stakeholders and partners of organizations of persons with disabilities to be deliberate in speaking and recognizing the work done by [these organizations] because it is very easy to forget their efforts in ending violence against women and girls with disabilities.”
This #16Days, please commit to safeguarding the lives of women and girls with disabilities by supporting organizations such as WCC.
#StoryOfResistance is an editorial series during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence 2022 of the UN Trust Fund. The series features the important, lifeline work of women's rights organizations in ending violence against women and girls, in the context of overlapping crises and rising pushbacks from anti-rights and anti-feminist movements.
 UN Women, SDG Gender Fact Sheet 2021 – Kenya.
 World Bank, Brief on Violence against Women and Girls with Disabilities, December 2019.