Trigger warning, rape and gruesome details about the deaths of women.
Picture this, you, a woman, taken ill at 4. a.m so you decide to call a taxi to take you to the nearest hospital. You don’t make it to the hospital. Instead, you go missing for 6 days before your body is found at the city mortuary, a wound on the forehead, another on the cheek, a cut on your abdomen and fractured legs. Can you see it clearly in your head? Looks and sounds like a crime television series or a hurriedly written crime novel.
Let’s take our imagination a notch higher. This is still you, young, full of life, expectant, probably excited to meet your new baby then one night while in your house with your husband, your neighbours hear you scream for help. You are definitely in pain. You scream and say that he is killing you. You proceed to scream for help for exactly four hours…you, pregnant, being beaten to a pulp, screaming for four hours. Absolutely no help. So you die. Your autopsy says the cause of death is strangulation. Hmm, it probably still sounds fictional, no? I mean, who would beat up an expectant woman?
Okay, still with me? Last one. We are an imaginative lot, aren’t we? You, in your twenties and expecting the governor’s child, definitely excited, in love even. You are lured to a meeting and the next thing we know is your body is found in a thicket, stabbed in the neck, back and abdomen and, according to the post-mortem, bled to death. Your unborn child also stabbed through the spine and the knife exiting through the stomach. I know. It sounds like it’s straight from one of Stephen King’s horror novels.
I wish it was. I wish with all my heart it was fictional and false. I wish all these stories were from crime tv series or from books. These stories are real. These deaths actually happened. Before I type any further, I will say their names.
I will also speak for the big number of Kenyan women who have died preventable deaths. This year alone, statistics from Counting Dead Women Kenya-2019, an organization that does the incredibly difficult work of collating the number and stories of Kenyan women who are killed through violence reported that 21 women have been brutally murdered so far. All the women were killed between 2nd January and 25th February. These are the only reported deaths. I get livid when I think of all the unreported deaths of women who have died previously before 2019. Every few hours a woman in Kenya is killed. From these stories, it’s clear that a large percentage of perpetrators are people they know, people who live with them at home.
And this is the reason why I and other women will march.
We march because these women’s stories are important and deserve to be told.
We march because we want to say their names.
We march because our slain sisters did not deserve to die such preventable deaths.
We march because these women were black like us, mothers like us; Kenyans like us, young like us, old like us, human like us.
We march because we want our demands to be tabled with the government and a National Action Plan against Femicide and Violence against women be developed.
We march for the future generation of women and girls who will not have to wonder when, how and at what point they lost their voices.
We march because we want to be assured of our safety when we get into a taxi.
We stand in solidarity with the slain women because we want to date and have partners without constantly being scared that we will become the next statistics of intimate partner violence.
We march because we want Kenyan women to feel safe in their country. At the moment, we are unsafe and it’s a problem no one is willing to talk about.
We march because we want Kenyans to have an open and honest conversation about violence against women. We do not want Kenyans to hide behind excuses like “she was procuring an abortion so she deserved to die” or “She was immoral and deserved her fate”…speak honestly and say that as a nation we are not concerned about these deaths.
We refuse to be silenced. We will raise our voices; shake these tables until someone listens.
Stop killing us!
The writer is organizing the #TotalShutdownKe protest in Nairobi on 8th March 2019 against Femicide and Violence against Women.