Source: Capital News

The Kenya Parliamentary Caucus on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Business now want gender issues and protection of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) survivors prioritised in all sectors.

Kenya Parliamentary Caucus Chairperson Gideon Ochanda who is the Member of Parliament for Bondo said combined efforts and a multisectoral approach is needed in fighting the menace, while emphasising on the need to human rights.

Ochanda pointed out that GBV has greatly contributed to rising cases of mental health in the country hence the need to address it.

"This issue is broad and we are seeing reports of increased mental cases on a daily basis. It is not a government issue only, but all of us. We need to join hands and save lives together," he said Wednesday during a forum organised by Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) that runs the Voice for Women and Girls' Rights-Kenya project.

Rangwe MP Lilian Gogo said with more women in Parliament, gender issues will be given more prominence.

Nairobi Woman Representative Esther Passaris said the effects of COVID-19 have pushed people to the wall and immediate help should be made available for them.

"It is sad that even in our police stations we do not have enough safe places for survivors of violence. When they seek help there, they are housed in the cells with prisoners. Don't we all think these people who are treated this way may end up being mentally disturbed? We have a lot to do and this will require all of us to work as one," she said.

Capital FM runs an online platform known as Bonga that encourages people suffering from mental health challenges to speak out.

Sammy Muraya, the Project Director at Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) that runs the Voice for Women and Girls' Rights-Kenya project, said "the gender agenda should not be left to women because men too have a role to play in curbing gender-based violence."

Winnie Syombua, the Gender Lead at Voice for Women and Girls' Rights-Kenya project called on the government to ensure that safe shelters for gender and sexual-based violence survivors are available in all the 47 Counties to act as their safe haven.

"All we are asking for is that there will be safe places in our country to accommodate survivors of gender-based violence. It is a pity that we only have one government-owned shelter which is in Makueni County. This cannot accommodate all the survivors across the country," Syombua said.

According to research by JHR, 11,917 people reported to have either been physically or sexually violated in November last year and in January this year 1,458 reported to have been physically violated.

As the world marked World Suicide Prevention Day in September 11 last year, the government announced plans to set up a tele-counseling and tele-pyschiatry center at the Mathare Hospital to assist Kenyans with mental health issues resulting from various situations in their lives

Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman said the centre will have a free toll number which will be operational day and night to assist even those who have been mentally affected by COVID-19 pandemic.

"This 24/7 facility will enable the adequate utilization of the scarce human resource for mental and psychosocial support. The callers will receive both emergency and non-emergency support. The hotline will be operational and continue to be operational post-COVID-19 pandemic to address all mental challenges that we face as a nation," said Aman.

Depression is the most common mental illness worldwide.

The World Health Organization's 2014 report ranked Kenya at position four in Africa with 1.9 million people who have the condition.

According to the Kenya Mental Health Policy (2015-2030), 20-25 per cent of outpatients seeking primary healthcare presented symptoms of mental illness.

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