Elderly women in Kenya exchange karate against sexual assault in slums

In poor Kenyan communities the rates of sexual assault are staggeringly high but also hard to quantify because most of them are never reported. However, a group of grandmothers has had enough and they are fighting back literally.Korogosho is one of the many informal settlements in Nairobi.

It is there that a group of grandmothers is using elements from wrestling and karate to protect themselves and each other as part of a program that tries to prevent sexual assault.

Ferocious grandmother, 74-year-old Beatrice Nyariara, is in the middle of training karate.

“It is very unsafe because before we started this group of old women like me, a lot of old women used to be raped by young men. They take drugs, alcohol and when it enters their head, they can’t differentiate between their elders and young girls,” Ms Nyariara said.

Most of the women in this group have either been sexually assaulted personally, or they know someone who has.

Kenya police estimate that 85 per cent of sexual crimes are not reported.Jane Waithegeni was gang-raped more than 10 years ago. She was abducted from a public bus.

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“They removed my shirt and blindfolded me. I was taken to a second car, then to a third car. I was held for three days and raped. They gave me HIV,” Ms Waithegeni said.

Now Ms Waithegeni is a physical trainer for these women, but she is also a counselor for rape victims.

“If there is a girl, they will open up to me. I’ll say to her, ‘It’s good to tell me’, because even if you tell me a little, I will understand. I can take you to the right people for treatment. Keeping quiet only makes it harder,” she said.


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