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Njeri Wa Migwi, founder of Usikimye

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In Conversation With Njeri Wa Migwi, The Founder Of Usikimye

All about the work she does and gendered abuse.

BY Beryl Karimi-La Patrona

Dec 08, 2022, 10:44 AM

Photo of

Njeri Wa Migwi, founder of Usikimye
A night of poetry can change your life forever. It can bring you to a journey of healing and it can also propel you to a journey of helping others heal. That is what happened to the Founder of Usikimye, Njeri wa Migwi, six years ago. She went to a poetry set that changed the trajectory of her life forever. 

Njeri wa Migwi, first shared her story in all its rawness in 2016. She had just come from hosting a poetry event with a set by, Gufy Dox-a Kenyan poet, dubbed #MisimuZangu, which means my seasons.

Misimu Zangu helped people speak the unspoken. It helped them tell their intimate stories and it went viral because we all have a painful story inside us and the hashtag gave people the courage and the safe space they needed to share what they had been through in different stages of their life. For Njeri, that story was about the abuse she experienced in her first marriage and at the time she did not know that she would be running Usikimye six years later.
Njeri's Story as narrated by her in 2016.

Usikimye is an organization that was started by Njeri wa Migwi and Stella Khachina in 2019. Usikimye means "do not be silent" in Swahili, And through her social media posts, Njeri often encourages everyone of us to raise our voices against Gender based violence while encouraging the victims of gender based violence to walk out.

Usikimye as an organization works towards ending the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence (GBV) in society. They have several safe houses where they house women and girls escaping abuse while giving them the material support they need to rebuild their lives. 

Usikimye has rescued thousands of women and girls, and even men, and children since its inception in 2019. On average, they get approximately 150 rescue requests a day on social media, email, and on-call.

I had a conversation about gender based violence with Njeri wa Mwigwi where she illuminates light on the things we do not know about gendered violence while letting us in to understand the struggles of women escaping abuse.

Q: On average it takes a victim 7 attempts before they leave an abusive relationship completely. Has any of the survivors you have rescued ever gone back?
A: Yes, quite a number go back. On average we can say about 25% of the rescues done

Q: How does that feel? And what advice can you give people who are dealing with a victim who keeps going back?
A: It is disappointing, however, I understand the pressures of societal expectations. Please support your friend even if they keep going back. It is never their fault.

Q: What does that support look like? 
A: Support is being a listening ear. Support is being there even when you don't understand why they keep going back. Support is showing your friend referral pathways for help gently. Support is still telling them, look, I understand that it's hard to leave, I love you and I want you out of this situation because it's not healthy for you or the kids.

Q: What do survivors need the most from their immediate friends and family?
A: Survivors need understanding. Survivors need safety, a safe space where they can be listened to.

Q: And what does that look like in practice? 
A: Be compassionate when talking to them and do not judge. Also offer practical support like taking them to hospital or the police to report.

Q: What is the most frustrating part about the job that you do? 
A: Lack of access to justice for survivors. Less than 10% of cases get to court.

Q: Why? Where does the system fail?
A: The system fails from the point of reporting, there is such apathy especially when it comes to Intimate Partner Violence.  Because lots of survivors go back to their abusers , and lack the capacity to push their cases forward ,the police also have no good will either to push and an overworked force doesn't help

Q: What should the government do to mitigate this?
A: We need an increased  trained force that's gender sensitive , trauma informed and survivor centered. We need easier access to signing of P3 in public hospitals and domestic violence cases shouldn't be charged for p3s as it's not the same as physical assault.

Q: What do you wish people understood about the nature of gendered abuse?
A : Gendered abuse is rooted in harmful norms and gender inequality.