The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love...Kenya

The contents of this website are my own PERSONAL opinion. They do not reflect the opinions, policies, actions, feelings, or eating habits of the Peace Corps, the U.S. Government, any government, shadow governments, or anyone else, for that matter, but ME.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Life and Learning

I was walking to town today after being away from Oyugis for a couple of weeks, and I was so surprised at just how much I missed my little town, my little house and all my friends at work.   When I get back from such extended absences everyone is like "you were so lost…why were you so lost." And even they knew I was to be away, such a fuss is made when I come back it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside.


I was attending Post Rape Care training through offered through a large Kenyan organization; they fund and support the Post Rape Care program at the district hospital.   This workshop was just amazing.  The guy who was leading it is truly one of the most remarkable Kenyan men I have ever met.   He has worked on sexual violence issues for many years and is very sensitive to the implications for survivors, justice systems, health care systems and cultural barriers.  He just blows me away in his approach to education.  The workshop participants were nurses, doctors and clinical officers (just under a doc) who have worked in the large Nairobi hospital for many years.   They brought with them (as I did) their own ideas, prejudices, attitudes towards treatment of sexual violence survivors and rape definitions.  This guy was mind-blowingly patient and gentle with antiquated ideas of treatment and what is really considered rape (a male OBGYN contended that a wife could not be raped by her husband, and this is a very common notion in most communities).   It was an extremely refreshing educational opportunity.  What was also wonderful is that they are trying to mobilize a national media campaign to both promote the Post Rape Care program (which includes Post Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV, Emergency Contraception, and prophylaxis for STD's as well as counseling sessions) and prevention of sexual violence.   Guess who is well suited to be of assistance with a media campaign…yay me!  Now all I have to do is help come up with some unconventional funding sources for a national media campaign against sexual violence.   One of these days I will realize that I have bitten off more than I can chew.


I don't mean to sound so positive regarding the subject of rape.  It is a staggering problem here.   The latest statistics show that 40 percent of Kenyan women will suffer sexual violence in their lifetimes, compare that to the World Health Organizations world-wide average of 25 percent (which is in line with the American numbers as well).   Either number is just heartbreaking.  In Kenya, 80 percent of those that suffer sexual violence will know their attacker and 96 percent of victims are women and girls!


What is positive is that there are now a few organizations beginning to tackle this problem from both the social/cultural perspective as well as the legal and medical perspectives.   It is no exaggeration that awareness and stigma regarding sexual violence is today where HIV/AIDS awareness and stigma were five or ten years ago.



On other subjects…the new Peace Corps trainees are now in country and it is more concrete proof that my term in Kenya has peaked and I am now on the leeward side of the mountain.   In some ways it is hard to believe that I was in their shoes just a year ago.  I met some of them over the 4th of July weekend as they were getting ready to set out on their future site visits. One girl with whom I had exchanged emails with before she left was uber-kind and not only brought me a bag of Starbursts, but managed to hold on to them, UNTOUCHED, for the five weeks here before she met me.   A champion in my book.  All the trainees had the same pressing questions we had and it was such a walk down memory lane, and a relief to have the answers and not be the one asking the questions.  


Ok, I know I am meant to have posted safari pictures ages ago…I am sorry it is taking so long.  It is such a time/money consuming endeavor (takes ages to load just one picture from my Nikon with these slow internet connections) and I have been putting it off.   Soon, I promise!


Well, I am off, back to my termite ridden mud hut to enjoy some mac n' cheese (though running low, hint hint) and listen to some Morning Edition on NPR.   Miss you all and hope to hear from you soon!


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