The pain, anger, fear and frustration captured in the statement was palpable.
Women were saying they were under siege, with no-one and nowhere to turn to in the face of what was becoming normalised physical and other abuse.
It was a desperate cry for help from our sisters, but was anyone listening?
We have failed our sisters by our acts of abuse, our justification of abuse, our refusal to own up to abuse.
Towards the end of February 2019, a group of women activists organising under the umbrella of Feminists In Kenya published a memorandum of demands addressed to President Uhuru Kenyatta and the 47 County Women MPs.
In the detailed document, the authors demanded that the government, among other things, ought to declare violence against women a national disaster, outlining that the State needed to ‘‘start an open and honest discourse around it and develop a national action plan on violence against women.’’
The move was a precursor to a series of public marches across the country slated for March 8, whose climax would be the delivery of the said memorandum to concerned State agencies.
These efforts by women to be heard by their elected representatives and by society at large were part of marking the globally celebrated International Women’s Day, in which the world takes a moment to evaluate gains made in the area of women’s rights, recognising and safeguarding gains already made and articulating and championing whichever existing and emerging challenges against the rights and freedoms of women across the world.
Mobilising under the hashtag #TotalShutdownKE, the women spoke in a singular, unequivocal voice, saying enough is enough, bearing witness to how women continue living in fear of violent attacks both in their homes and in public, wondering why despite the tens of reported cases of murdered and abused women, no one was taking note.
The memorandum concluded with a nine-point way forward, including a call for the President to address the nation on the matter, with an ultimatum for the Head of State to do so by March 30.
The pain, anger, fear and frustration captured in the statement was palpable. Women were saying they were under siege, with no-one and nowhere to turn to in the face of what was becoming normalised physical and other abuse, coupled with a growing number of gruesome deaths in the hands of men, including those they are related to, those they turned down who transformed into stalkers, as well as complete strangers.
With every passing day, the women’s default position was for them to eternally look over their shoulders, not knowing who will be attacked next, where the attack will occur, how terrifying the abuse or how gory the murder will be, and by which weaponry the act shall be committed.