Kenya: New Kenyan Play Targets Gender-Based Violence

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Nairobi — Kenya saw a jump in cases of gender-based violence (GBV) during its COVID-19 lockdowns, which heightened social and financial stress. To address the problem, Kenyan authorities are turning to the dramatic arts.

At the Kenya’s National Theatre in Nairobi, some 65 young people are putting their acting skills to use, as part of Kenya’s latest strategy to educate the public about the evils of gender-based violence.

Titled “A Little Girls Worth,” the one-hour play by Kenyan playwrights Derrick Waswa and Tommah Sheriff, is a new production co-sponsored by the Ministry for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs. It tells a story of how despite their extraordinary contribution in society, women suffer disproportionately.

Derrick Waswa, the play’s director, said the goal is to sensitize the public on violence against women, which he said stems from cultural beliefs that a woman is part of a man’s possessions.

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“Basically people are blaming the violence and not looking at the cause. What we are trying to explain is that the African cultural nature has made women to be submissive. From the bible, you are told to submit to your husband as it is to the Lord, and in this African set up where a man has to pay dowery for you, it means they are technically purchasing you,” he said.

A February 2022 report by the Kenya Federation of Female Lawyers (FIDA Kenya) shows that cases of gender-based violence rose sharply during the pandemic, to the point where they made up nearly half the cases reported to the federation.