NAKURU, Kenya, (Xinhua) -- While gender-based violence (GBV) continues to affect many women and men in Kenya, the anti-vice proponents are championing for use of technology to curb its occurrence.
Based on data from 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, 45 per -cent of women and 44 percent of men aged between 15-49 have undergone physical violence, reflecting a rather high occurrence of GBV. For Cliff Moturi, an anti-GBV campaigner and computer scientist, a combination of awareness creation and adoption of technology such as mobile applications in the fight against GBV can be a solution to changing the scenario. "We can address the problem of GBV if people are aware of the telltale signs of the GBV and have a means of seeking out for help at their disposal, " said Moturi in an interview with Xinhua. Moturi has developed an anti-GBV mobile application known as Bonga App which means Speak Up with a combination of useful information relating to GBV, help-lines and access to counseling, medical and security assistance.
Unlike many years before, now major national and county hospitals have Gender Recovery Centres where victims receive not just medical attention but also counselling to relieve the psychological trauma. Also, police stations have gender desks with continuous efforts being made to equip them with officers trained mainly to handle those who have been abused either physically or sexually. Considering the urgency that comes with incidents of GBV, the mobile applications designed to address the vice, can assist victims or those potentially at risk to get quick assistance, Moturi said.
The Bonga App has a feature for creation of trustworthy emergency contacts which an individual can send an alarm text or chat to should they sense danger, a provision which Moturi says if utilized effectively can prevent women, girls and even men from danger, and facilitate immediate action on perpetrators from relevant authorities, he said. However, achieving total elimination of GBV from Kenyan society would require other interventions especially educating communities on impacts of the violence and how it affects their development, Moturi observed. "It begins with how people perceive GBV. If they change their attitude and begin to speak against it and stand strong to fight against it from homes to open spaces, then we will not have these incidents happening," he said."But that requires a lot of sensitization. The law also has to take its course so that the perpetrators are arrested and prosecuted," he said.
Globally, GBV is considered a violation of the human rights of the victim and women and girls have for decades been subjects of the vice such that Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women came to be in which countries are obliged to end GBV as its one major form of violence. Damaris Parsitau, Director of the Institute of Women, Gender and Development Studies at Egerton University said "technology is the new way to fighting gender based violence." "Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) from its data shows a huge penetration of mobile use in the country and so capitalizing on mobile applications can really help in addressing this issue anywhere around the country and thereby significantly reduce their occurrences," she said.
Parsitau said GBV is detrimental to a country's socio-economic development as it keeps off the victim and close family from active productive activities. She believes use of anti-GBV applications can significantly help in tackling the social problem both in the rural and urban areas.Parsitau also recognized the necessity of educating students at the universities on the vice since they are also at risk of GBV and can be agents of change in the urban and rural communities.