NJOKI Nelly : « Sexual Violence and Conflict: Finding forgiveness in spite of the pain »

Nelly Njoki : « Sexual Violence and Conflict: Finding forgiveness in spite of the pain »

This post is the second post by Nelly Njoki as part of the Gender Across Bordersevent for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.

Anna (not her real name) speaks softly as she tells her story of pain and forgiveness.  Sometimes she is barely audible. Anna lives in Mathare, an informal settlement on the outskirts of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. For more than 20 years communities co-existed. However, that changed in 2007/ 2008 during Kenya’s post-election violence. Inadequate housing, unemployment, poor sanitation, inadequate social services, insecurity, social fragmentation and poverty characterize life in Mathare. Due to frustration and desperation, idle youth often turn to crime and violence in order to make a living.  They readily welcome any opportunity of earning some money, even if that means becoming “thugs for hire”.  That they did, during the inter-communal violence that gripped Kenya, following elections in 2007. It was then, the night of elections; Anna tells me ever so quietly, that her life changed.

I was home with my family. We prayed that the tension evident in the community due to elections would diminish.  But it did not.

After the polls were announced, there was an outpouring of people in the streets, mainly male youth threatening to kill anyone who they perceived as the “other”. A gang of them knocked on our door but even before we could open, they had broken into the house. They seemed either drunk on high on drugs. But it didn’t matter. They were after my family.

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About the author

Nelly Njoki holds Bachelors in Law (LL.B) from Moi University and is completing her MA in Armed Conflict and Peace Studies at the University of Nairobi.  Nelly has worked with grassroots organizations in Kenya on peacebuilding and human rights specifically focusing on women and youth.  She has extensive know-how, experience and networks from her participation in conferences including as a delegate to the UN Commission on Status of Women in New York as a notable young woman peace builder of Africa.  Nelly also volunteers with Make Every Woman Count, where this article was originally published.