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How Mothers' Union and Anglican Communion are championing GBV in Kenya

Mothers’ Union works in many communities worldwide advocating for gender equality and the end to gender-based violence (GBV). As a movement, Mothers’ Union works with different organisations and individuals to extend our reach to help as many people as possible.

11 May 2023

Recently, we spoke to Mandy Marshall, the Director for Gender Justice for the Anglican Communion. She is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of Restored, a UK-based international charity working to end violence against women and girls, and also on the Advocacy Board of Mothers’ Union.

In March Mandy was invited by Mothers’ Union to attend a trip to Kenya to highlight GBV and educate against it. Since her last visit before the Covid-19 pandemic, she noted the beliefs of some people in the country have sadly gone backwards regarding GBV, but this trip was overall a positive one.

Generally, in Kenya a wife is seen as the husbands property; always available to them with no option to decline the husbands requests. Marital rape is not considered a crime and therefore there are no consequences for the actions of the husbands. This belief is deeply engrained in society and does little to help the stem of GBV. Due to this it is and will be a lot of work to change the rooted attitudes in the society.

During this trip to Butere, Kenya, Mandy held a 3 day workshop alongside Mothers’ Union educating about Gender Based Violence. The 3 day workshop was attended by approximately 40 men and women across five dioceses. A 1 day training event was also held and participants consisted of 108 men and 113 women. KAMA - The Kenya Anglican Men’s Association - was present and are strong supporters of the movement. KAMA is challenging leaders to hold discussions with men to change their mindset. The importance of talking about masculinity in regards to society and the idea of what it means to be a man cannot be underplayed. It is encouraging to see men in Kenya also wanting to address GBV and help fight against it.

Participants and facilitators of the training marched to the church in their blue Mothers’ Union uniforms where the workshops took place, which created visibility and sparked an interview about GBV on local news, Wes TV. Mothers’ Union is known across Africa and Mandy acknowledges that ‘Mothers’ Union is a force to be reckoned with’ and a ‘force for change.’

Bishop Rose Nnereah Okeno of Butere Diocese works with Mothers’ Union. Bishop Rose says,

Our culture has given men a lot of power over women, they use it to perpetrate violence against women … We, the Anglican Church of Butere, say no to gender-based violence

Mandy explained that the workshops involved reading the Bible together and discussing how it addressed power, the use of that power and relationships. The attendees mapped out the power they had and how they use it in a wider context. The groups are a space to discuss and challenge ideas. Mandy stresses that it is about changing the attitude of the population but, ‘It is important to bring people along with us rather than alienate them.’

One of the key issues perpetuating gender-based violence is that sex is not discussed. There is a shame and stigma to the act that means it is not talked about in churches. During the workshop, sex and relationships were discussed; it was a safe place for open and honest discussions about sexual relationships and participants were able to challenge each other. Mandy said the workshops looked at what a happy and healthy relationship is and involves, then compared it to relationships the people experience or see around them day to day. This then highlighted the difference. It was the start of important open conversations, which ultimately aim is to stop GBV.

After the 3 day workshops and training, the attendees went away challenged, having learnt a lot and thinking differently. They have action points of how to move forward and address GBV in their communities.

They plan to get together in November to discuss progress and next steps.