Kenya: The quest for upholding human dignity
29 July 2013

In Nairobi, JRS conducts home visits to meet refugees where they live to find out issues affecting them and offer a variety of services such as psychosocial support and pastoral care. (Christian Fuchs/JRS)
What struck me were the endless efforts by JRS in its endeavour to assist refugees from every angle.
Nairobi, 29 July 2013 - In my life, I have heard about refugees, met refugees and even covered a unit course on refugees in my studies. However, none of this measures up to the experience of being with the refugees and sharing their experiences over some duration of time. My 2-month internship experience at Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has been an amazing one.

What struck me were the endless efforts by JRS in its endeavour to assist refugees from every angle. JRS provides a broad range of services to refugees and forcibly displaced persons regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs. These services include: education, emergency relief, human rights protection, pastoral care, peace building, psychosocial support and livelihood services.

In the course of my internship assignment, I have learnt that, sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) is an existing reality that takes various forms in different cultures and has to be addressed. The root causes of sexual and gender based violence vary from political, economic to social-cultural issues. They take five main different forms; namely, sexual, physical, psychological, harmful traditional practices and socio-economic violence. SGBV occurs anywhere and to anyone and the consequences impact the society at large. Women and girls are the most affected by SGBV.

Measures to address SGBV. In Nairobi, issues surrounding SGBV are being addressed from a muti-sectoral approach whereby particular agencies offer specific services to SGBV survivors in the areas of medical care, legal aid, psychosocial care and security. However, the need to deal with the issues of SGBV should not be left in the hands of agencies and the government only. It is upon the society as a whole to report cases of SGBV, the perpetrators and seek justice for survivors. Most importantly, it is crucial to approach SGBV from a preventative angle other than dealing with the aftermath of SGBV.

No human person deserves to be sexually violated regardless of their gender. Sexual and gender based violence is largely rooted in unequal power relations and it should not be condoned for the sake of human dignity and the common good of all. In fighting against sexual and gender based violence, it is important to prioritise and balance the struggle for human rights by upholding human dignity.

By Anne W. Kamau, Intern JRS Nairobi Urban Project

In Nairobi, JRS provides a range of services to new arrivals, asylum seekers and refugees in the most vulnerable circumstances. These services include emergency food and medical assistance, assistance with rent payment, provision of basic non-food items, support for income generation activities, pastoral and psychosocial accompaniment, and educational scholarships for the children of vulnerable refugees. In addition, JRS runs the Mikono Shop based at the Nairobi office, which provides an outlet for refugees to sell and market their handicrafts.