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Joining the fight against gender-based violence in Kenya

Male Volunteer Dash Bare Sagar on the right and Osman Bare (Community Worker) during the interview

Gender-based violence prevention volunteer Dash Bare Sagar on the right and community worker Osman Bare during an interview

Dash Bare Sagar arrived in a Dadaab refugee camp in 2011 following continued clashes in his home area of Jilib, Somalia, which left his uncle dead. He managed to escape with his mother, wife, as well as five children (two from his deceased uncle) and travelled to Kenya where he became a community leader in his camp and a Kenya Red Cross volunteer.

Life in the Kenyan camp was not easy since Dash was illiterate and couldn’t get a job so he chose to arbitrate cases in the community on a voluntary basis until he was selected to be part of the Maslah leaders by the community leaders. Being a Maslah leader entailed solving all community disputes ranging from rape, defilement, domestic violence, tap stand disputes, physical assault, clan disputes and awarding compensation to the survivors.

When ‘Habiba’ (not her real name), a refugee from Somalia residing in the camp was raped by her neighbor in January in broad daylight, her only hope for support and justice was the block leader whom she expected would accompany her to the hospital and later to the police to report her case. Little did she know her community elders had summoned the block leader to warn her against reporting the incident. A congregation of eight Maslah leaders, Habiba’s brother and uncle plus the perpetrator convened to resolve the issue to avoid conflict between the perpetrator’s and the survivor’s clans. A mere 1200 Kenyan Shillings ($20 CAD) was given to Habiba as compensation of which 700 KSH went to her brother and uncle.

This ordeal tormented Dash who was among the Maslah leaders who passed the verdict.
"Justice was not served to this lady but my hands were tied since if I spoke against the verdict, the elders could have accused me of propagating for violence between the two clans. I chose to keep quiet but I had to pay dearly by constant reminders of the atrocity committed to this lady whenever I see her and the thought of what if she was my daughter, wife or mother?"

Male volunteers in violence prevention trainingWhen the Kenyan Red Cross was looking for male volunteers for gender-based violence (GBV) prevention activities, Dash expressed his interest. He was selected to be among 100 male volunteers, later became one of the 30 chosen to work with the Violence Prevention Project and now heads the camp’s west team.

"Through information dissemination to the community on violence, referral mechanisms, clinical care for rape survivors, the community is now more aware of their rights and where to go in case they are violated."
Due to the cooperation that Red Cross has forged between the Maslah leaders and GBV volunteers, cases are being resolved fairly as they now recognize the damage violence against women and girls has on the entire community.
"I am so happy with the Kenyan Red Cross Society Violence Prevention Project and more so with the male volunteers initiative, the women in the blocks are now willing to report cases to us with the hope that we will be able to resolve the disputes in a more harmonious way without favoring any one."

Find out more about how the Canadian Red Cross is helping improve the lives of people in Kenya.
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