Gifts of safety and dignity

December 19, 2013

Simple health and hygiene knowledge helps women in Kenya protect themselves from rape and sexual abuse

“You know, there are many dangers in the bush,” the Kenyan woman shares with me. “So we need to stop going there.”

I’m surrounded by a group of eight woman in Kenya’s Tana River district. My team is there to share the importance of digging latrines and the dangers of open defecation in contaminating the community’s already meager water sources.

But I quickly learn that there are other threats that come with open defecation, too.

“The bush is full of very bad animals,” one woman shares. Another pipes in, “And there are bad men in the bush, too.”

I was taken aback. As I wait for further explanation, a younger woman named Abia* answers.

“A lot of women get raped in our community when they fetch water, go for firewood, or help themselves in the bush,” she says, “especially young women, and even our daughters.”

Only women surround me, so I can safely ask the question—“How many women suffer this fate?”

“Many, many” is their reply.

I was stunned. I struggle to wrap my mind around the fact that these women face rape every time they relieve themselves or care for their feminine hygiene needs in the bush.

In that moment, I discover why the women in this community—whose culture has deemed defecation a taboo topic—have so readily dug latrines.

Yes, they want to protect their water from being contaminated. But on a deeper level, they are also fiercely protecting the safety and dignity of themselves, their daughters, and their community.  

Then Abia speaks again.

“We are very much excited for us and even our children to use these latrines, because they don’t have to go to the bush anymore,” she says with excitement.

“Now we won’t send our daughters far away, but we can go where there are no dangers!”

I left that community encouraged to the depth of my soul. The work of Samaritan’s Purse and countless Canadian donors is addressing real needs.

Through our health and hygiene training, we are not only helping protect the health of rural, impoverished people—we are also empowering vulnerable women and girls with real solutions to protect themselves and lower the risk of rape.

This Christmas, please help dramatically change the lives of these “many, many” women through our Gift Catalog.

And may you be encouraged by the words of the prophet Isaiah this holiday season: 

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

(Isaiah 61:1-3, NIV)


*Name has been changed to protect privacy