No means no: Kenya takes a stand against sexual assault

Madeline Gallegos

Rape is problem that plagues every society in the world. It’s an issue that harms women, men, and their families. Even though the United States is making great strides to eradicate sexual assault and violence, we, like many countries, still face hardship in doing so. Although it’s widely argued that education about rape prevention and sexual activities at an early age is key, we are failing to effectively communicate to young people what is acceptable and what is not. Unfortunately, most school sexual education classes do not cover sexual assault- something that has created ripple effects in our society.

However, despite this fact, other countries have taken a different approach to rape prevention. Over the past few years, officials in Kenya have implemented a soon to be widespread educational program offered for both men and women. The program was created when the Kenyan government was reporting that one in every four women and girls in Nairobi had experienced sexual assault.

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In it’s infancy, the governmental program, No Means No, was merely a self-defense course for girls and women. Teaching them basic skills, the class was designed to help women protect themselves, all while empowering them- especially survivors. However, in speaking with women, instructors found that, in Nairobi, the people who were most frequent sex offenders were family members and boyfriends– men that women should not have to fear.

From this discussion with women, the Kenyan government saw an immediate need and approved a new class– this time for boys and young men. The program, Your Moment of Truth, is taught in schools and aims to teach boys that there is no excuse for rape. Although it is common belief in some parts of Nairobi that raping women is acceptable if they are your dates or wives, if they are dressed provocatively, or if they are unaccompanied while going somewhere. By teaching younger boys that these beliefs are unacceptable and not true despite societal norms, there has been an incredible impact upon how young men view rape.

Through the Your Moment of Truth program, boys’ interventions to halt sexual assault have increased 185% during the past year (Reuters, 2015). Less than a week ago, a group of Kenyan boys saved a young woman from being raped when they successfully confronted a man who had taken her hostage. In addition, according to Media Global, rape via boyfriends has decreased an estimated 20% because of the Your Moment of Truth educational program. Meanwhile, the No Means No training has dropped rapes by an overall 40%. By 2017, every student in Nairobi will have gone through the rape prevention educational program.

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Photo courtesy: Upworthy

These statistics go to show that not only is education necessary, but education for both sexes is incredibly important. Rape isn’t just a woman’s problem. Rape is something that affects men, women, and children. Educating everyone about what is acceptable and what is not- even if it defies societal norms- is a key part in eliminating sexual assault. By creating a safe environment that empowers men and women to make a change in their society and stand up for what is right, we are simultaneously making a better environment for everyone. We are reminding women that rape is not their fault and we are reminding men that rape is never excusable, but most importantly, we are helping future generations make a change that is vital to our wellbeing. We have a choice to make, so let’s make sure it’s a good one.

 

Madeline Gallegos can be reached at blogs@collegian.com and on her Twitter page @MaddieGallegos

Featured photo courtesy: The Examiner.