Archive | August, 2013

Syrian conflict-way forward

31 Aug

By Wanjala Wafula


Greetings from the luxuriant Savannah next to the Maasai Mara here in Kenya hoping you are all well and safe. We watched in uttermost horror when evidence emerged of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war, with hundreds of people exterminated and thousands impaired. It was a scene to abhor and no one should be allowed to practice this sadism at this time. Any assault on civilians is a misdemeanor, and I plainly denounce the use of chemical weaponry by any government or armed group.

I stand corrected, but I have also seen pictures of abandoned US made chemical weaponry from rebel strongholds, thus begging the question as to which side of the conflict is telling the truth. I know my detractors will say that I have enough problems in my region and that a conflict in Syria should concern me the least. Alas, we now exist in a much interconnected world where a situation on one side of the globe affects us all, albeit varyingly.  

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration’s reaction to this sadism is more brutality. The United States and France are planning air strikes against targets they determine as associated to the Assad regime’s military competence. This is a call the world has heard to many times in the recent past and the experts think it’s time we stood up to be counted as citizens of the universe. Bombing Syrian government facilities will only intensify the conflict and deteriorate the suffering of the people of Syria. US air strikes will not lessen the probability of chemical weapons being deployed again. That is if only we could be objectively told who deployed them in the first place. I submit here without fear of contradiction that a US/NATO invasion could well trigger a massive escalation of the war as it has happened in too many places that I restrain myself from mentioning. Instead, the US and France on one side as well as Russia and governments in the region must stop sending weapons into Syria.

I propose that the best response to the disgust of chemical weapons is to bolster a push for the Geneva II peace talks. The US should engage with Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia, key allies of the regime and the rebels, respectively, to put pressure on armed actors to implement a ceasefire and to participate in talks. Engagement with Russia requires US assurances that the US does not seek unilateral regime change in Syria but is prepared to support talks with the Syrian government aimed at a negotiated transition. I have started to believe that many Americans think that wars are just a reality show and entertainment. Why is it that the Democrats who opposed Bush/Cheney wars are suddenly quiet when Obama is doing the killing and escalating the wars around the world? WHY!

I am only a third rate columnist but a friend of mine from the US affirmed to me that Americans and taxable entities are currently paying about $2.2 trillion a year in federal taxes. It’s been recently reported that 56 cents out of every tax dollar collected goes to the military and the wars. Recently, CNN recently reported that the cost to maintain one US soldier is between $850,000 and $1,400,000 a year (and rising). I fear to say this, but the numerous US led wars continue to hungrily consume their prosperity. Social commentator Ron Paul said “We’re in 130 countries. We have 900 bases around the world. We’re going broke.”. Please tell me if its true that Obama is still a liberal Democrat who was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize?

The US must also cease from efforts to prohibit Iran from the negotiations. All militaristic parties and their backers are needed in diplomatic efforts to agree an end to the civil war. For any peace talks to yield genuine outcomes, women, youth and the elderly must be included at the table. Women and children make up the majority of refugees spilling over borders into neighboring countries and this must stop! Mr. Obama is attempting to make the moral case for the anticipated invasion of Syria by invoking the intellectually fashionable but legally dubious rationale of the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) Syrian civilians. Which civilians have been protected by the US invasions anywhere in the world?

The number of refugee children has hit a disastrous milestone: one million children. The scale of this crisis demands an urgent increase in funding for relief, not more military spending and more death. Anthony Walton once said “America’s greatest strength, and its greatest weakness, is our belief in second chances, our belief that we can always start over, that things can be made better”. I really hope so!


The writer is a Founder and CEO of The Coexist Initiative, a not for profit synergy of men and boys organizations committed to eliminating all forms of sexual/gender based violence and enhancing HIV prevention in Kenya. Visit:  Facebook: wanjala Wafula Skype: coexistinitiative: Tel: +254-712653322



A Campaign to Save 500 Kenyan Angels

29 Aug

Please help save the lives of Kenyan girls from child Marriage

Girls as young as twelve are being forced to lose their childhoods for a life that is defined by isolation, violence and illness. Child marriage is an outcome of the official tolerance of insidious cultural, societal and customary norms that shape and govern the institution of marriage and family life.

The goal of the campaign is to mobilize and build the capacities and competencies of men, boys and communities towards the eradication of child marriage in Kenya.

This can only be made possible with your support. Visit the link below and donate to support the campaign. $15 will help save a Kenya Angel

Also visit for more details about our work.


I see who I want to be, in my daughter’s eyes..Bency Omonding 1979

Thank you so much for your considered support.



Wanjala Wafula


Coexist Initiative

Please save 500 Kenyan Angels- By Wanjala Wafula

26 Aug

Project Title

Save the little Angels of Kenya


 Topic sentence

To Mobilize and build the capacities and competencies of men, boys and communities towards the eradication of child marriage in Kenya

 Why we care

Girls as young as twelve are being forced to lose their childhoods for a life that is defined by isolation, violence and illness

 How we’re solving this

 Community level capacity and competence building

  • Advocacy and aggressive lobbying
  • Aggressive media campaigns
  • Mobilizing all social structure elements including men and boys
  • Social media campaigns
  • Developing and distributing IEC materials
  • Hosting public dialogue forums

 Project description

 In Kenya, as it is in other parts of the developing world, girls are being forced to lose their childhoods for a life that is defined by isolation, violence and illness because of several key factors. They include poverty, lack of education and job opportunities, insecurity in the face of war and conflict, and the force of archaic customs and traditions that devalue women and girls and discriminate against them. Child marriage is a gross violation of human rights and a barrier to girls’ health and social well-being. It severely impedes Kenya’s development efforts including undermining initiatives to raise girls’ education, to reduce maternal mortality, and to increase employment and enterprise levels. Child marriage is an affront to all development efforts as defined by the elusive millennium development Goals and Kenya’s own Vision 2030.

 In our view, child marriage is an outcome of the official tolerance of insidious cultural, societal and customary norms that shape and govern the institution of marriage and family life. Child marriage is culturally packaged as a social necessity, but in many cases it amounts to socially licensed sexual abuse and exploitation of the girl child. Child marriage is more common in rural communities. This is because rural households tend to have more entrenched traditional attitudes and customs, are less affected by external influences, and have fewer livelihood options for young women. It is one of the most persistent forms of sanctioned sexual abuse of girls and young women among the Maasai of Kajiado County in Kenya.

In a nutshell, the cost of child marriage in Kenya is too expensive to disregard. The Kenyan society cannot progress when even the common practice of marriage dooms girls and women to a life of poverty, ignorance and agony. National indicators on maternal health, education, food security, poverty eradication, HIV/AIDS, and gender equality are all negatively correlated with high child marriage rates at the grassroots. We insist that Marrying at a young age has lifelong consequences which unfortunately have been largely ignored by communities where the practice is prevalent. Early marriage thwarts girls chances at education, endangers her health and cuts short her personal growth and development

For the last eight years, the Coexist Initiative has pioneered work around working with men, boys, communities and local organizations towards eliminating child marriage. Many success stories have emerged from our work and we have learned many lessons.  We mobilize and build the capacities of men, boys and communities in general. For continuity, we work with young people especially boys so as to help them understand and build peer support on the idea of preventing child marriage.

The Angel Project is a grassroots initiative that is participatory in nature and utilizes the expertise and tools that are respected by the target community for purposes of galvanizing support towards the eradication of child marriage. The project endeavors to spur change through a culturally sensitive, human rights-based approach that promotes collective abandonment of the practice with men, boys and communities taking a lead.

Why target men, boys and communities

 Because of the non-existence of explicit resources, tools and guidelines that directly target men and boys in efforts to eradicate child marriage

 Because in most African communities, everything that relates to marriage and sexuality is taboo and girls have been forced to cope with it on their own bodies and lives whereas men have maintained a more distant perception on the practice yet remain the main beneficiaries.

Because social and cultural barriers (including patriarchy and male-female power relations) have continued to dominate discussions around child marriage and minimum efforts have been made to mainstream male engagement in child marriage programming

Because of misconceptions and stereotypes that men do not need to be involved in child marriage eradication other than oversee its continuation and the further torment of girls in diverse communities



 To achieve an overall 10% knowledge increase and understanding of child marriage eradication/ prevention and public support at the community level by mobilizing and empowering a total of 3000 men and boys

 To contribute to a 12% the reduction in the practice of child marriage in by addressing the drivers of the practice which include patriarchy, power dimensions dominated by masculinity, negative traditional beliefs and practices.

To engage the formal and informal media channels in the fight against child marriage at the grassroots.

To contribute to the reduction of fallacious justifications towards the continued practice by 9%.

Project Outcomes

15% involvement of men in anti-child marriage activities in the target region

14% increased community awareness about the negative social and health consequences of child marriage

Established community based safety networks managed by men and boys to result in enhanced security for  girls at both the community and family level increased by 15%

Media practitioners levels of awareness about child marriage raised and their capacities to objectively cover child marriage improved by 25%


New communication and advocacy materials, including media training kit, brochures, fact sheets, banners and video produced.

  • A solid reach of over 4000 men and boys as drivers of the campaign against child marriage achieved
  • Approximately 10,000 community members (male, boys, girls and women) made aware of the negative impact of child marriage on girls, women, and their partners’ sexuality, and made aware of abuse of human rights.
  • Media mainstreamed towards child marriage coverage through the formation of the child marriage media club that shall be continuously monitored and evaluated by the Coexist Initiative and its networks




Unit cost


Total  (Ksh.)


Total (US $)


I.C.E Material production and distribution


Hand bills




























fact sheets














Audio Visual Media:  (streaming of presentations)







Media (local media channels)







Group Discussions: (2 groups each 5 participants)







Training:  (3 trainers)







Venue and meals (trainers and participants)







Grand request





Administrative support





Total project cost






Why did we have to be slaves!!!

24 Aug

Why did we have to be slaves!!!

Dehumanizing, humiliating, awful an barbaric


After the shooting, violence stays with the kids

11 Aug

After the shooting, violence stays with the kids

For reasons violence should never have a place in our lives and society

The curse that is domestic violence —- By Wanjala Wafula

9 Aug

Recently, the Coexist Initiative, an organization that I founded about ten years ago published the 2012-2013 domestic violence report whose content warrant this elaborate rejoinder. The report unveils that domestic violence is one of the leading epidemics facing families, women, girls, boys and lately men in Kenya. The report asserts that reported and documented cases have gone up by 100% in just one year making 2012-13 the most vicious year in Kenya. A total of 36,000 cases were reported compared to 17,000 in 2011. What is most horrifying is the brutality involved in the majority of these cases.

Brutal expressions of masculinity remain widespread with a 2012 Future Concern report revealing that violence against women affects one in three women in Kenya[1]. A current World Bank report confirms that women between the ages of 15 and 44 in Kenya are at a greater risk of rape or violence than cancer, malaria, war or car accidents. I have over the years insisted that domestic violence commences when one partner feels the need to control and govern the other. This is frequently as a result of low self-esteem, intense protectiveness, difficulty in regulating rage and other strong emotions. I have spoken to thousands of abusers across Africa who confessed that they abuse their partners because they feel inferior in education and socioeconomic conditions. I intermingle with numerous other men and boys with very traditional beliefs and who think they have the right to control women, and that women aren’t equal to men. I recently met five women serving a three year sentence for battering their husbands.

The report rightly acknowledges that domestic violence takes the form of emotional, physical or sexual abuse. Studies suggest that violent behavior often is caused by an interface of situational and person factors. That means that abusers gain knowledge of violent behavior from their family, people in their society and other cultural influences as they grow up. I have learned that we socialize boys to be violent and we compel girls and women to remain silent and tolerate it. They may have seen violence often or they may have been victims themselves.

 Children who witness or are the victims of violence learn to believe that violence is a reasonable way to resolve conflict between people. I grew up in the villages of Bungoma County in Western Kenya and I know firsthand what witnessing violence at an early age can do to children. While growing up, we were taught that women and girls are not to be valued or respected. At one point, I heard a man say that women and girls have less value than the goats and cows with which they use to pay their bride price. Boys who see violence directed against women do the same when they grow up. Girls who witness domestic violence in their families of origin are more likely to be victimized by their own husbands. The report quotes a women who confirms that “violence is part and parcel of being a woman and wife in Africa”

Alcohol and other chemical substances whose use has been declared a national disaster are directly contributing to violence both at home and in public spaces. I hold believe that alcohol does influence the user’s competence to distinguish, assimilate and process information. This misrepresentation in the user’s judgment does not cause violence, but amplifies the risk that the user will misconstrue his partner or another’s activities contribute to aggressive conduct. A drunk or high person will be less likely to control his or her violent impulses.

Here are my ten commandments of eradicating violence in our homes and in public spaces. I do not however claim autonomy these ideas as other have dwelt with the subject on the past.

  1. Treat gender violence as a MEN’S concern by involving men of all ages and socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds. Look at men and boys not only as perpetrators or potential criminals, but as authoritative eyewitness who can tackle cruel mates
  2. If you know anyone who is violent to their female partner — or is ill-mannered or abusive to girls and women in general — don’t look the other way. If you feel comfortable doing so, try to talk to him about it. Urge him to seek help. Or if you don’t know what to do, consult a friend, a parent, a professor, or a counselor. You should never ever remain silent
  3. Let have the audacity to look inward. Let’s question our own attitudes. Let’s not be defensive when something we do or say ends up hurting someone else. Try hard to understand how your own attitudes and actions might involuntarily perpetuate sexism and violence, and work toward changing them.
  4. If you suspect that a woman close to you is being abused or has been sexually assaulted, gently ask if you can help.
  5. If you are emotionally, psychologically, physically, or sexually abusive to women, or have been in the past, seek professional help immediately.
  6. Be an ally to women who are working to end all forms of gender violence. 
  7. Recognize and speak out against homophobia and gay-bashing. Discrimination and violence against lesbians and gays are wrong in and of themselves. This abuse also has direct links to sexism (eg. the sexual orientation of men who speak out against sexism is often questioned, a conscious or unconscious strategy intended to silence them. This is a key reason few men do so).
  8. Attend programs, take courses, watch films, and read articles and books about multicultural masculinities, gender inequality, and the root causes of gender violence.  Educate yourself and others about how larger social forces affect the conflicts between individual men and women.
  9. Don’t fund sexism. Refuse to purchase any magazine, rent any video, subscribe to any Web site, or buy any music that portrays girls or women in a sexually degrading or abusive manner. Protest sexism in the media.
  10. Mentor and teach young boys about how to be men in ways that don’t involve degrading or abusing girls and women. Volunteer to work with gender violence prevention programs, including anti-sexist men’s programs. 

The  writer  is  a  Founder  /  CEO  of  The  Coexist  Initiative,  a  not  for  profit  synergy  0f  men  and  boys community‐based  organizations  committed  to  eliminating  all  forms  of  Gender  based  violence  in  Kenya. Visit    or    email‐    facebook‐wanjala    Wafula‐ skype: coexist.initiative.  Tel:  +254712653322

[1] Future concern, gender analysis 2012

Spotlight on harmful traditional practices and customs in Kenya–

4 Aug


By Wanjala Wafula


This article documents and analyses the manner in which harmful traditional and cultural practices contribute to the persistent gender inequality and the rampant violence against women and girls in Kenya and explores ways and means of reversing the trend. I make this submission fully aware that culture, customs and traditions are never static in any society and that they are transformed by many influences and value systems. The modification of tradition by social and regulatory forces demonstrates that custom, culture and tradition are capable of both negative and positive transformation1

Traditional cultural practices reflect values and beliefs held by members of a community for periods often spanning generations. Every social grouping in the world has specific traditional cultural practices and beliefs, some of which are beneficial to all members, while others are harmful to a specific group, such as women and girls.2

The socializing processes observed for boys and girls are designed and rigorously applied to instill a feeling of superiority to boys while girls are groomed to accept subjugation and inferiority with apathy. This established patriarchal system has long endured the passage of time cutting across geographical boundaries as well as religious and class differences. An attempt is made in this article to give examples of socially constructed forms of violence which have been long accepted as tradition.

 These harmful traditional practices include, events associated with male circumcision in many regions across Kenya. Other traditional activities include the “Notorious” burial ceremonies, female genital mutilation (FGM); Early or forced marriages; son preference, widow inheritance, wife battering; early pregnancy; and dowry price. Despite their harmful nature and their violation of international human rights laws, such practices persist because they are not questioned. Furthermore, they take on an aura of morality in the eyes of those practicing them.

 The bleak reality is that the harmful traditional practices specified in this article have been performed for male benefit. Female sexual control by men, and the economic and political subordination of women, perpetuate the inferior status of women and inhibit structural and attitudinal changes necessary to eliminate gender inequality in the region. It’s our assertion that negative cultural practices thrive in an environment where women and the girl child have unequal access to education, wealth, health and employment as is the case in Western province of Kenya.

Many communities in Kenya face a deeply founded patriarchal society. Men dominate the socio-economic and political machinery and organizations. Men are regarded as natural leaders, who are superior and born to rule over women. Women are considered weaker vessels-extensions of men and secondary human beings. The pride and dignity of women are derived from and dependent on men.3

 The traditional male circumcision ritual is a very significant rite   of   passage   for   the   young   teenage initiates as it effectively signifies the transition from childhood to the league of adulthood. On the contrary, the ritual also acts as a  medium through which the initiates are exposed to messages that are highly sexualized and gender-stereotyped. They are encouraged to demonstrate sexual prowess and “hunt” together, using monetary gifts procure sex. They are taught how to be “tough” with women (wife battering) and how to make women work hard for them.


The boys are brain washed with messages which include fallacies like men being superior beings,  women  being  born  slaves  of  men,  never  allowing  women  to  own  anything, women only understand things when they are beaten and never to have one girlfriend or wife.    They are taught about how supporting a girl is like watering the neighbor’s garden and how the place of a woman is in the kitchen.


Across Kenya, one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some other way4. One such tradition is the “fire crossing” ritual which involves a man battering his wife as a sign of “love”. Among the Bukusu of Bungoma County in Western province, a wife who has been battered seeks “forgiveness” from her husband by serving him a delicacy of chicken stew5.

 Gender-based violence both reflects and reinforces inequities between men and women and compromises the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims. It encompasses a wide range of human rights violations, including sexual abuse of children, rape, domestic violence, economic exploitation, sexual assault and harassment, trafficking of women and girls and several harmful traditional practices. Any one of these abuses leaves deep psychological scars, damage the health of women and girls in general, including their reproductive and sexual health, and in some instances, results in death.

Disgracefully, FGM still forms an important part of the rites of passage ceremony for numerous communities across Kenya. The Somali, Kuria, Sabot, Maasai, Pokot, Samburu, Rendile, Meru and many others still practice FGM. They insist that FGM controls sexuality and ensures a woman’s virginity before marriage and chastity thereafter. On the contrary, FGM imposes a catalogue of health complications and untold psychological problems let alone international human rights laws including the right of the child to the “enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health”, as affirmed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

 In Kenya today, bull fighting is synonymous with the Luyia community in Western province. The sport which was a past time activity for the men and boys in the past is currently a leading tourist attraction for the region. However, the sport like many other have now become an avenue of propagating all the attributes of masculinity including propagating messages that inhibit on the rights and freedoms of women and girls. The sport has been an avenue for misinformed men to attribute courage and proficiency to men and cowardice and ineptitude to women and girls.  It’s through the sport that messages about uncontainable sexual craving is hailed and wife battering praised. The sport is currently associated with excessive alcoholism, wife battering, rape and unprotected sex. Ikolomani constituency in Mumias Butere District is the leading bull fighting destination in Africa.6

One of the principal forms of discrimination in Kenya and one which has far-reaching implications on women and girls is the preference accorded to the boy child over the girl child.  This practice denies the girl child good health, education, recreation, economic opportunity and the right to choose her partner. Vastly, a female child in Kenya is disadvantaged from birth thus subjected second class parental care and non extent investment in her development.

As result of archaic traditions and practices, women and girls in the region are still portrayed as inert and domestically oriented, while men are depicted as dominant and as breadwinners. In the process 40% of girls in the region continue to be denied the right to reach their education optimal thus reducing the opportunity to be less dependent on men in later life. The decentralized funds indicator puts the inclusion of women and girls in the decision making process in terms of the recently increased decentralized funds at 0.2%. It is accurate to insist that women in Kenya are victims of unrelenting economic marginalization.

Early marriage is another severe predicament which 30% of the girls undergo in Kenya. The practice involves giving away girls for marriage at the age below the mandatory 18 years.   The main motivation for this are concerns about the girls’ virginity and the enduring allure for bride-price. As a result, early pregnancy has led to profound harmful consequences to both young mothers and their babies7. The numerous cultural practices, including nutritional and dietary taboos, ensure that women and girls are deprived of essential nutrients. For example, in many parts of Kenya it’s still a taboo for women to eat eggs, some parts of chicken, liver and nutritious traditional vegetables. The aftermath of this has been ever increasing child mortality rates, mal-nutrition and deaths.8


In many parts of Kenya, men are encouraged to marry as many wives as possible. In fact, in many communities, men measure their wealth and influence by the number of women   they   have   and   control.   While   the practice is being discarded in many of the world mainly due to demographic factors, it’s on    a    steady    raise    in    Kenya.9. Husband’s death still leads woman in the region to several gruesome and awful traditional funeral rites popularly known as widowhood.


An illustration of the intricacies of polygamy


One of the most pervasive rituals associated with the ceremony is sexual cleansing (sometimes involving spending a night with a dead body) and which is followed by inheritance and the eventual disinheritance. In a nutshell, polygamy is still considered a strong indicator of a man’s virility and need for sexual satisfaction. Nyanza province takes lead on this.


Alcohol consumption was a longtime ago associated with age and wisdom. The consumption was stratified in terms of age group, gender, social status and occasions. In addition, alcohol consumption was a cultural practice that brought people together for an identified purpose. However, the once vital practice has been abused with reports currently indicating that eight out of ten youths in the country are currently abusing alcohol. The consumption of alcohol is known to have numerous effects on behavior and acts as an arousal agent thus increasing the potential for sexual risk through unprotected sex with unsafe partners10.


Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), in its various forms, is endemic in Kenya. Exposure to gender-based violence and sexual coercion significantly increases girls’ and women’s chances of early sexual debut, experiencing forced sex, engaging in transactional sex, and non-use of condoms11. The results which include human rights violations, increased HIV infection and poor AIDS management are all evident in the country12.Violence against women and girls is both a cause and consequence of AIDS. Research has confirmed a strong correlation between sexual and other forms of abuse against women and women’s chances of contracting HIV. In  addition,  the  fear  of violence prevents many women from asking their partners to use condoms, accessing HIV  information,  and  from  getting  tested  and  seeking  treatment,  even  when  they strongly suspect they have been infected. Many women are in danger of being beaten, abandoned or thrown out of their homes if the HIV-positive status is known.


It is imperative to affirm that there are numerous traditional practices and customs that have  not  been  expounded  upon  in  this  submission  but  the  fact  remains  that  they continue to cause extensive damage not just to women and girls but also to men and boys. Sometimes it is much easier to change structures and laws but more difficult to change attitudes, beliefs and practices. This is borne out by the fact that many of the customs  and  practices  have  survived  centuries  predating  Christianity,  traditional religions and Islam. Sadly, in many parts of Kenya, the harmful practices are showing no signs of abating. We are determined to significantly reduce the practice  of  these  traditions  because  of  the  fact  that  these  practices  are  primarily violations of human rights of women and girls and have been known to have immediate and long- term physical and psychological effects on them.


One of the most interesting and challenging experiences I have had as a pro-feminist in the past couple of years has been trying to persuade my people to abandon these horrible and primitive customs. I have tried to   persuade them   to   see   the   need   for progress and improvement in our attitudes, value and society. We must openly examine the traditions we have held and accepted as revered. Many of these traditions are founded on traditional dogma, ignorance, and superstition.14



The  writer  is  a  Founder  /  CEO  of  The  Coexist  Initiative,  a  not  for  profit  synergy  0f  men  and  boys community‐based  organizations  committed  to  eliminating  all  forms  of  Gender  based  violence  in  Kenya. Visit    or    email‐    facebook‐wanjala    Wafula‐ skype:coexist.initiative.  Tel:  +254712653322