Femicide: A Kenyan Woman's POV
I woke up this morning grateful to see another day. As a young woman in Kenya, each new day is a gift. Our lives here are filled with joy - time with family, raising our children, and sharing meals. But they are also filled with a lurking darkness—the threat of violence that could take away everything we hold dear.
As I made breakfast for my family, my mind turned to the latest femicide statistics that had been released. The numbers were staggering. Over 3000 Kenyan women were murdered last year by current or former romantic partners and 19 days into 2024, there have already been 10 femicides. Thousands more suffer rape, assault, and psychological torment at the hands of men who claimed to love them.
As much as I try to push these thoughts aside and focus on the light, the darkness creeps in. It terrifies me to think that the man sitting across from me at the breakfast table could make me one of those statistics. We married for love five years ago, but how well do I know him? How well does any woman genuinely see the man she links her life to?
After kissing my husband goodbye, I sent the children off to school with an extra tight hug. I was soaking in their little faces, hoping they would be spared from becoming a number—a nameless victim forgotten by society. On the short walk to meet my sister at the market, I made eye contact with every woman I passed. I wondered if she, too, felt the gnawing fear that festers within us. The constant threat that any man - whether stranger or loved one - may decide we are disposable.
My sister and I chatted lightly about our families, work, and the weather as we shopped for vegetables. But our conversation felt hollow, like a delicate shield to hide the truth; that we were both rattled to the core by the violence against us that now felt inescapable. On our way home, we passed by a memorial erected for the women who had lost their lives lately to angry men. Their names, ages, and photographs stared back at us. There is tangible evidence that this threat lurks much closer than we care to believe.
I weep for those sweet souls, now gone forever. I cry for their mothers who so lovingly raised them, only to have their precious daughters ripped away. Moreover, I weep for those of us left behind. The survivors who somehow have to carry on knowing such darkness live inside our brothers, husbands, and friends.
I have been told that speaking out about femicide brands me as an enemy of men. That voicing the truth makes me bitter or radical. But how can I stay silent when three thousand sisters lost their lives last year alone? When does the threat hang heavy over every woman and girl in this country? Does caring about our right to feel safe and valued make me anti-man? Or simply pro-woman?
I do not want to hate men. I want to trust in their goodness. But with each new violent act, that becomes more difficult. The latest victim was a girl of only 20 years old, who was brutally murdered her body mutilated and her severed head taken, in an Airbnb in the heart of the city. The one before that was a young girl who was stabbed severally following a meeting in an Airbnb with a potential mate. Those men are outliers, I try to tell myself. Their actions do not define every Kenyan man or husband.
Yet if these complete outliers number in the thousands each year, how can I sleep soundly? When will the fear stop gnawing at my soul whenever my husband comes home late from work or the children misbehave? How can I greet each new day as a gift rather than a countdown to when the lurking darkness will arrive at my doorstep?
I hope that speaking this truth will prompt more dialogue between men and women across Kenya. That shining light on the darkest corners will force a reckoning. It is not enough for us women to whisper our worries only to each other. The hearts and minds of all Kenyans must turn toward solving this crisis, this sickness infecting our communities.
We women dream of a Kenya where we need not keep one eye open at night. Where our daughters can walk freely without fear of being the next name memorialized. We envision a Kenya where femicide is a distant memory rather than a daily threat. The change begins with open eyes, open minds, and open hearts. We are love.
May that love heal these wounds so we can reunite as brothers and sisters again.