The County Gender Working Group in Taita Taveta is formulating a data collection tool to tackle rising cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the region.
Although Taita Taveta is among counties leading in SGBV cases in the country, there is no official data to assist the design and implementation of effective measures to combat the vice.
Hospitals and police have been the county's main sources of the data, although there are no current figures on the same.
The group has, in the last few weeks, endeavoured to improve data collection of SGBV cases to respond to the rising numbers.
The tool will help in improving their understanding of the vice through evidence-based data to give the issue a priority.
National Council of Population and Development (NCPD) data shows that last year alone (since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic) more than 1,000 cases of defilement that led to early pregnancies among underage girls, were reported.
Taita Taveta County Director of Gender Wallace Mwaluma confirmed that the county has no harmonised data on SGBV.\
Victims get justice
"Accurate data will help us get to the root cause of SGBV and come up with strategies to deal with these cases," he said.
He said the tool will be customised for the county and adopted as a legal one that can be presented in court to ensure victims get justice.
According to the proposal by the team, the data collection will be done through a system that collects, tracks and reports cases in a manner aligned at both the national and county level.
The group also proposes that the data be stored in a centralised location for easier accessibility. It will be collected electronically from different sectors and providers including hospitals, police, courts, children offices, education institutions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) dealing with SGBV matters.
"The data will help us in ensuring that matters of SGBV including development and implementation of programmes, policies, funding among others are based on accurate numbers," Mr Mwaluma said.
He said the tool will also help monitor the impact of interventions being put in place by the government and other stakeholders, and ensure they are effective.
Policy on SGBV
Once validated, the tool will be forwarded to the county assembly for adoption. The county government has also formulated a policy on SGBV.
"The SGBV policy and Child Welfare and Protection policy have been forwarded to the county assembly for consideration," Mr Mwaluma added.
NCPD Coast region coordinator Stephen Mulinge, said data on SGBV remains a challenge due to the scattered recording of cases.
"Some cases are reported to the police and others at health facilities. A harmonised reporting tool is critical in ensuring data is collected at a centralised place for accuracy and credibility," he said.
Stakeholders in the county are also constructing a Sh40 million GBV centre in Mwatate to house victims. It is being spearheaded by the office of Woman Representative Lydia Haika, and a 25-acre piece of land has been identified in Bura, Mwatate Sub-county for its construction.
The centre will prevent victims from stigmatisation and threats by perpetrators, a situation that has resulted to some cases being thrown out by court for lack of evidence. Other cases go unreported and victims remain stuck with their abusers for lack of safe houses.
Sh9 million project
Some perpetrators, often close family members and friends, also approach victims to settle the matter out of court.
Once operational, the centre will offer mental, health, legal, medical care support and food to survivors.
National Government Affirmative Action Fund (Ngaaf) has set aside more than Sh9 million to kick-start the project. The county government has also signed an agreement to sustain the centre once construction is complete.
Taita Taveta is also seeking mentorship from Makueni County to create safe spaces for women and girls facing SGBV. Makueni has a recovery centre that has so far, helped hundreds of women and girls in the county.
In December last year, women leaders in Taita Taveta County led by deputy governor Majala Mlaghui, conducted a forum where they agreed to work together to end the vice.
County Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha has also been in the forefront in the fight against the vice, warning those caught protecting perpetrators with dire consequences including prosecution.
"This is a serious issue that needs a collaborative approach from even the political leaders of this county. I urge everyone to join in fighting this problem," she said Ms Onyancha in Mwatate.