At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Kenya imposed restrictive measures to contain the pandemic including partial lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, scaling down of physical delivery of government services among others, included. These efforts unfortunately brought devastating socio-economic impact. VAWG/GBV incidences shot to unprecedented levels including in the Coastal counties largely in the informal settlements in Mombasa & Kilifi.
The VAWG/GBV referral pathway was literally disrupted leaving victims and survivors shot of obtaining the much needed medical and psychosocial help and justice.
The Mombasa County Gender Technical Working Group convened and conceptualized the Mombasa Situation Room to ease the burden on the survivors. REINVENT supported the creation of the initiative through its downstream partner Sauti Ya Wanawake as the first community led intervention that structures SGBV reporting and referral to other criminal justice agencies. This is done in collaboration with other partners viz; Action Aid, MUHURI & the County government of Mombasa directorate of gender. The situation room is a physical space provided by the County Government complete with a toll-free hotline to specifically facilitate call in by the most vulnerable and marginalized persons; and a team of volunteers and social workers from SYP & County Government and who are also gender champions to receive and link callers to the requisite support services.
Nearly two years later, the innovation has presented itself as an indispensable tool for tackling VAWG/GBV. Between May 2020-March 2022, the situation room has linked nearly 800 cases/survivors of GBV/VAWG to various support services including securing justice for survivors most of whom could not access justice with ease because of the situation presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation room has not only helped support women and girls as originally envisaged but also male survivors of GBV with nearly 30% of the survivors supported being male. It clearly demonstrates the contribution of this intervention in amplifying the male voice and participation in tackling VAWG/GBV and which could have a bearing in helping challenge social norms and beliefs that promote normalization of GBV/VAWG.
The situation room is additionally offering Alternative dispute resolution for cases that cannot be resolved through the ordinary justice system. The Tononoka children court and the Tononoka police stations are major collaborators in this having referred multiple cases for ADR at the situation room. The idea has gained so much traction that other institutions including county governments are coming to benchmark with the intension of replicating the same in their respective counties. The Changamwe SYP Chapter has already established a situation room to help localize the response to VAWG/GBV.
A process is already underway at the county assembly of Mombasa to establish an SGBV law that will among others help to guarantee the sustainability and scalability of this initiative. The SGBV bill. It is envisaged that this situation room will continue to play a vital role in addressing electoral related cases as the country prepares for the General Elections.