Sauti ya Wanawake: The women’s rights organisation tackling gender-based violence

07 December 2023 by

Sauti ya Wanawake means ‘the voice of women’. The organisation bearing this name began life as a local women’s movement in Kenya in which women could safely discuss issues affecting them. Sauti has worked with Action Aid as part of the GEC’s Education for Life project.

As part of the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, we take a look at the ways in which Sauti ya Wanawake (Sauti for short) has worked to prevent violence and the impact it is having in communities and beyond.

Over time, Sauti has built the confidence of members and a huge movement of women activists now work within communities to prevent gender-based violence, promote girls’ education and champion women’s rights. Sauti works to end gender-based violence (GBV) in the following ways:

  • Community sensitisation that identifies, challenges and transforms gender norms that underpin GBV.
  • Facilitation of safe spaces in which women and girls can open up and share their concerns.
  • Engagement with men and boys as allies in ending GBV.
  • Mobilisation of activists within the Sauti movement to build their skills in lobbying and advocacy. This has resulted to new laws that facilitate the protection of women and girls.
  • Collaboration with other like-minded stakeholders and government to ensure a survivor-centred approach and facilitate a multisectoral approach in addressing GBV.
  • Direct work with in-school and out-of-school girls to create awareness of their rights and on how to report and refer GBV.
  • Training women to be case managers who can conduct case follow-up and support survivors in attending court.
  • Provision of psychosocial support where appropriate.

Sauti is unique because their large network of women activists allows them to provide localised support for survivors and ensure that community-level cases are referred appropriately. Survivors can be supported by women from their own community, who speak their own local dialect and understand their circumstances and needs. Their status as a woman’s rights organisation gives them deep credibility: survivors, communities and protection actors trust them to appropriately prevent and respond to GBV. The movement and network aspect of Sauti’s work has also allowed them to encourage and cultivate women to become political and social leaders, thus also contributing to women’s participation and creating more space for those advocating for the advancement of women and girls’ rights.

At the grassroots level, Sauti has supported the formation and strengthening of the county and sub-county gender working groups in Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi County. Together with other partners, Sauti have advocated for improved GBV policies and a GBV Act. Sauti has also worked to challenge social norms and harmful practices such as child marriage and FGM/C.

At a regional level, Sauti supports a GBV toll-free hotline that has enhanced GBV reporting and response in partnership with the county government of Mombasa.

At the national level Sauti has played a role in the development of national laws related to GBV, such as helping to review the Sexual Offences Act. As part of implementation of the Protection against Domestic Violence Act 2015, Sauti also sits on the national technical working group.