Exploring the intervention efforts in helping women survivors of sexual violence in the aftermath of the 2007/2008 post- election violence in Kisumu county, Kenya.
Makau, Esther Mwongeli.
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During Kenya’s 2007/08 post-election violence, sexual violence in form of single and gang rape was rampant with women bearing the brunt of it. The deteriorating levels of insecurity not only in Kisumu but in other parts of the country that witnessed intense violence and the inability to access support services worsened the experiences of the women who had suffered sexual violence. Many women endured immense pain as the physical, psycho-logical and socio-economic effects of the violence took a toll on them. As a result, the government and other stakeholders initiated several interventions with a view to alleviate the suffering that the female survivors of sexual violence had experienced. This study aims at exploring the intervention initiatives that were put in place to address the needs of the female survivors of sexual violence in Kisumu County. Even though research on intervention strategies for female survivors of sexual violence during and after conflict has been widely researched in countries that have experienced conflict, in Kenya, it remains under-researched. In this regard, the study utilized qualitative research methodology in order to explore the effectiveness of the intervention strategies by relying heavily on the perspectives of the female survivors of sexual violence as well as other key informants. Thirty- five women participants (survivors of sexual violence) were interviewed as well as nine key informants who were exclusive of the thirty primary participants. The study examined how the women traversed through the various agencies in order to access the support services made to address their needs and the challenges they encountered during this process. It also examined the challenges faced by the various actors in offering support to the women, how they countered them as well as the inter-linkages that existed among them. Three theories were employed in this study: the feminist theory of rape, the conflict transformation approach and the socio-ecological model of intervention. Key study findings established are; as the women interacted with the formal support structures in finding help, in some instances, they experienced positive reactions while in other circumstances, it was adverse. However, despite the undesirable responses that they received, they were able to adopt various coping mechanisms that helped them to remain robust. In the course of the study, what was further established was that, sexual violence as was experienced by women survivors in Kisumu County was rooted in inequality, discrimination and male domination that was rooted and engrained in indigenous Kenya, was solidified during the colonial period and transited through post-independent Kenya. Despite the intervention strategies initiated, the female survivors of sexual violence perceive themselves as a neglected category by the state whom they quantified should take the lead in addressing their plight.