Moments of Courage

Speaking out against sexual violence in East Africa’s largest slum

In a recent survey, 43% of sexually active young women in Kibera, Kenya—one of Africa’s largest urban slums—reported that their first sexual experience was forced. Determined to bring that statistic down, Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), a community organization that runs a tuition-free girls’ school, health clinic, and other community services, launched a Gender Development Committee (GDC) in 2011. Tasked with curbing Kibera’s gender violence epidemic, the GDC is composed of caseworkers who respond to citizen reports of rape or domestic violence with counseling, shelter, medical treatment, and legal advocacy. They currently take in hundreds of cases per year.

SHOFCO runs a variety of community services in Kibera, Kenya, and with its Amplify grant is working to increase the reporting of gender-based violence to its caseworkers.

In our Women’s Safety Challenge, SHOFCO proposed building on its success addressing gender-based violence by expanding their programming to engage men and boys throughout the community in their work. Gender violence, they explained, is often viewed as a women-only issue, and men are relegated to the sole role of perpetrators.

Together, SHOFCO and designed reporting tools and an outreach strategy to engage the entire Kibera community—including men and boys—in preventing and reporting sexual violence in their community.

It started by bringing SHOFCO staff members and community leaders together to discuss the current state of affairs and brainstorm potential solutions. This helped form the foundation for our first prototype: a Speak Up Box.

SHOFCO shows an increase in reports each month and a more engaged set of advocates for ending sexual violence in the community.

By providing a simple system to allow victims and allies to report sexual violence in a convenient and confidential way, we hope to extend awareness of SHOFCO’s services in the community and encourage the entire community to raise its voice. By placing the boxes across the 13 villages of Kibera, we sought to remove a major barrier to reporting: distance. Why should a moment of courage be lost simply because you’re not near SHOFCO’s office?

Prototypes for the initial Speak Up Boxes included a sturdy design and key community messages.

After running a live prototype of 49 Speak Up Boxes for several months, SHOFCO learned a few key lessons. The Speak Up Boxes, it turns out, were extremely effective in raising awareness of the GDC services, but many victims expressed interest in a more human interaction when stating their case. Because of this, many victims called the hotline listed on the box directly or reaching out to the business owner where the box was mounted instead of filling out a reporting slip. Low literacy rates also led to errors in filling out slips, making following up with victims more complicated.

Learning from these results, and SHOFCO evolved the design of the outreach and reporting system to a full pilot in early 2016. Speak Up Boxes now focus on connecting victims with a person who can guide them through the reporting process, and SHOFCO has trained two volunteers per box to act as resources in each location. We also created a second version of the Speak Up Box for local government primary schools, specifically designed to help young victims report their crimes anonymously to SHOFCO, and designed a sexual violence screening system to support SHOFCO’s clinic in surfacing and referring cases to the GDC through their triage system.

Early indications from SHOFCO’s enhanced pilot show promising trends—an increase in reports each month and a more diffuse and engaged set of advocates for ending sexual violence in the community.

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