VOF Week1: (Lucy M)
Women in Kenya remain a marginalized segment of the society yet they form majority of the population. This is largely due to the patriarchal society, retrogressive cultural practices and laws that continue to further women’s discrimination. As a result, women in Kenya continue to face domestic violence in their homes, various forms of sexual violence in their communities, exclusion in various leadership and decision making positions, and various other discriminative practices.
A case in point is female genital mutilation. Despite its criminalization by the Children’s Act of 2001, the practice is still rampant in many communities in Kenya and is often conducted in silence and under a shroud of secrecy. Misplaced beliefs in cultural customs and practices highly contribute to these barbaric traditional rites which result in the maiming or death of many girls. The excuse given is that it is a rite of passage aimed at preparing the girls for marriage. What many who practice do not know, is that the practice is related to many health problems that are facing their women and girls.
The traditional media such as newspapers have not been effective in sharing out information on issues relating to women as they are male dominated and mostly do not write on issues affecting women. In cases where these media have shared information on women's issues it has mostly been one way information with no feedback from communities affected by issues reported. This is why persons working to eradicate harmful practices such as female genital mutilation need to start thinking of using the new media and web 2.0. The new media can provide an opportunity for persons or communities working towards eradication of female genital mutilation in Kenya to form networks and communities with others around the world for the purposes of sharing knowledge on strategies they are using to eradicate the practice.
What is exciting about the new media is that it brings together persons who have a passion on a particular issue or intend to bring change on a particular issue. It provides instant exchange of information between people and it also creates a forum where friendships can be created. It is also a forum where a video or write - up on an issue that is seen to be controversial in a particular cultural setting can be posted and direct feedback and exchange of ideas can follow on the issue. It can provide a forum for even those opposed to the issue to give their opinions and the change agent can use the same forum to change people’s perception on the issue. The forum can also be used to sign a petition or form a strong network for the issue that being fronted. The opportunities which the new media provides are immense and could provide an avenue for many women rights defenders to being change in their countries.