Sunday, September 2, 2012

We are not victims, we are survivors!

We were invited into to the Gender Violence Resource Center (GVRC) in Nairobi to witness a center that is already functioning.


 It would be great to learn how the center in Lodwar might have an impact on the lives of individuals.  Why is this topic so important?  Because in Kenya 83% of women and girls report one or more episodes of physical abuse in childhood. 

Women of the Lodwar Church greeting us. 
75% of the women report having suffered from gender-based domestic violence in the homestead.  46% report at least one incident of sexual abuse as a child, and 36% of rural women report having experienced Female Genital Mutilation (FMG) with 25% report losing their virginity by force (http://sai-dc.com/gvb-drive.php).  But it was in the Nairobi clinic that we saw the faces behind the statistics.

Poster on the wall of a Youth Center in Nairobi.
We walked into the hospital room and there was a mother sitting at the beside of her six-year-old daughter.  The little girl looked up at us rather shyly and gave us a sweet smile.  The mother had previously been gang raped, the results so damaging that she had to undergo a hysterectomy and reconstructive surgery.  During her time of recovery the little girl had been placed into a children's home, an intended safe-haven for children.  Little did anyone know that the man who ran the home regularly violated the little girls who were under his care.  When mom came to retrieve her daughter, she discovered a little girl who had been raped and was now suffering from STDs.  She went to the authorities to report the crime, but they warned her that it might be dangerous to accuse this powerful man of any wrong doing.  She insisted that he be held accountable for at least ten other children had confided that they too were victims of his abuse.  The result?  Mom was drugged and again gang raped.  On Friday morning she told us her story as she and her little girl are recovering from their physical wounds.  The beautiful little six year old has had to undergo reconstructive surgery and is being treated for STDs.  Mom says she does not regret reporting this crime -- she has the face of a very brave woman.

Pastor at the Lodwar Church of the Nazarene.
The women of Kenya refuse to be called victims, but rather have purposely chosen to be called survivors.  They refuse to put a negative term on what they have experienced, but instead are vowing to fight back.  They are survivors, and they want to help others to be survivors as well.  The drought and subsequent famine in the northern area of Turkana has increased the incidents of GBV in the region.  In the midst of it all, the church has NOT been silent.  As the hands and feet of Jesus we cannot look the other way when our sisters and brothers in Christ are suffering.  The local Church of the Nazarene in Lodwar is an example of those who are choosing to make a difference.  Over the last few months these people have given out of their poverty to be able to purchase 50 acres of land so that they can begin community farming.

The land the Church is purchasing.
They have raised $4000 -- an unthinkable amount of money, and yet they feel called to be the hands and feet of Jesus!  This amount has already been matched so that a well can be dug and the property fenced and within a month or two they will be ready to begin planting.  The very hands and feet of Jesus at work within the life of a needy and hungry community.  Simply addressing hunger will decrease the number of GBV cases, but for victims of GBV in the Lodwar area there is no place to go.  Lodwar is the main city in a county called Turkana that has 850,000 people -- and for the survivors of abuse, they are left to suffer, usually on their own. 

We have the privilege of being the hands and feet of Jesus by partnering with the local government, UNICEF, and IRC (International Rescue Committee) to establish a GBV resource center right there in Lodwar.  Women, like the one I met in Nairobi would have a place to come to receive the help that they need -- that help to be a survivor, and not a victim! 
The wing of the Lodwar hospital which will become the Turkana Regional GBV resource center.
That Friday morning in Nairobi -- we were able to join hands with this mother and her six-year old daughter.  We prayed together and wept together.

Rondy Smith praying with "mom."
As followers of Jesus Christ, who are called to be his reflection in this world -- to be his hands and feet -- I know that I cannot be silent on this issue.  I cannot allow my sisters in this world to be victims, if I can help them to be survivors.  The women of the New Testament which Jesus touched are not remembered as victims, but for all of history are remembered as survivors.  We have been invited, specifically as a faith-based organization, to make a difference in Kenya.  There are many ways in which to get involved, but one is financially.  Some have asked how they can help.  Simply follow the link….and see what God might be asking you to do!

http://servantforge.org/kenya-gbv-partnership

1 comment:

  1. I am crying now. But so grateful for the work being accomplished there! Thank you for sharing this story.

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