Every ten minutes a woman is killed at the hands of a partner or family member. Determined not to be a statistic, Emily walked 100km to escape her abusive husband. Now, at 28, she is part of a network of 2,800 women in Kakamega County in Kenya’s Western advocating for the protection of women and girls.
At the age of 11, Emily was forced into an arranged marriage and things quickly became violent. She assumed this treatment was normal and accepted it until one assault by her husband and his peers left her hospitalised, fighting for her life. She knew she had to leave the marriage.
She walked for three days along deserted paths under scorching sun until, hungry and exhausted, she reached Shipalo village where she found a distant relative who took her to a hospital where she could recover.
“Once I was discharged from hospital, the relative introduced me to a woman who is a member of Good Health Community Programmes, a local partner supported by PATH Kenya,” said Everlyn.
During rights training at Kakamega MNCH Alliance women’s space, Emily was surprised to learn that the gender-based violence she experienced was a violation of her human rights.
As a regular attendee at the Kakamega MNCH Alliance trainings over the next two years, Emily says the program has empowered her with knowledge about her human and economic rights. Now, she has joined the Good Health Community Programmes in campaigning for women’s rights, speaking to women at Village Savings and Lending Association meetings.
“In the last two years, my life has been transformed tremendously. I now have a business in the market, and I managed to get all my children from my parents’ home, and they are all now in school.”
Emily speaks bravely about her traumatic experiences and is determined to change the cultural norms that subject women and girls to violence. She is encouraging women to speak out and lobby the government for policies that protect women and girls from violence.
“At the women’s group, we are pushing for the enforcement of the existing laws to protect the rights of these vulnerable groups,” said Margaret, another member of Good Health Community Programmes.
The women’s network runs awareness trainings on women’s rights, boys’ and girls’ forums, and training for community members on agricultural practices and financial inclusion through village savings and loan associations.
Women’s leadership benefits the entire community. Despite facing violence and adversity, Emily is rising up to lead her community and create a better future for generations to come.