The Women Who Defend Human Rights - Victoria Atieno, Ruth Mumbi and Gathoni Blessol


Bunge La Wamama Mashinani (Grassroot Women Parliament in English) is a Kenyan social movement enabling grass-root women in informal settlements to engage with each other, have access to education, information and training opportunities. Bunge La Wamama is also a platform that amplifies the struggle of marginalized communities.

Protection International met 3 members of the movement: Victoria Atieno, Ruth Mumbi and Gathoni Blessol, and discussed with them about protection networks.


Protection International: Can you tell us something about the Bunge la Wamama project?

Victoria Atieno: Bunge la Wamama started in 2008 as a platform to give a voice to women, as they were excluded from the economical and political life. Organising ourselves in a network gave us the possibility to engage with the main issues that affected our communities.

Ruth Mumbi: Women in Kenya are excluded from the constituencies[1], so the movement made it possible for them to engage and to make their voice, which has lacked so much in Kenyan history, heard. For example, we wrote a declaration on the constitution and started the Warembo Ni Yes (Young beautiful ladies saying yes to the constitution in Swahili) campaign, meant to make young women understand their increased rights in the proposed Constitution and vote yes.


PI: What are the main issues you deal with in the field of protection?

Gathoni Blessol: Security. The country has become more and more repressive and male-dominated. Women in Kenya cannot express themselves and they live in a constant state of fear. They are silenced through sexual harassment and violence, malicious prosecution and attacks.

RM: The cases of brutality are increasing. Minors have been specifically targeted. We tried to take action liaising with Human Rights organisations and exposing the facts on the media. As a result, our members have been targeted and have been victims of several attacks, I was almost attacked myself, a week ago. Unfortunately they are always filed as normal crimes, although obviously it is not the case. Our members are targeted because they are part of a movement that challenges society and fights openly against injustice and social abuse.

VA: Most of the times our families are also targeted.


PI: Do you think that being in a network makes you stronger and better protected?

RM: The network does definitely make us stronger. We support each other, and that is our strength. We have our own communication system: information is sent from the local network to all members, up to national organisations. Everybody is constantly informed of what is happening at all levels.

GB: But in a way it also puts us at risk, because through the network we are in the spotlight. Bunge la Wamama is a movement that constantly challenges society. By writing and publishing reports, it puts in the spotlight not only the victims of brutality, but the members of the movement itself as well, making them easy targets. If someone wants to attack the movement, they know who to target.


PI: What is collective protection for you?

GB: Collective protection is having a connection among institutions and individuals. We work with women groups, feminist groups, other NGOs and organisations, in order to build a larger network and a solidarity environment. Currently we are trying to build solid links with the middle class, they would be precious allies for our campaigns.

Collective protection for Bunge la Wamama is the capacity of building a network around issues that matter. We have worked with different organisations on different issues. The result is a greater capacity to connect: we are connected among ourselves and we are connected with other realities. This makes us better protected.

Victoria: I also believe that this constant connection between us makes us stronger. We know each other’s phone numbers and places of residences by heart, we hear from each other on a daily basis. We are bound, this is our strengthConnection is a form of protection.

[1] Constituencies in Kenya are geographical regions that are used to elect representatives to Parliament.

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