“I work with young women. Young mothers, vulnerable ones. Because once I was vulnerable. So that is what motivates me to work with these women. […] It doesn’t matter what time, what age, I’ll come out and help you. I do it because I love what I’m doing.”

 

Hearing Editar Adhiambo Ochieng talk about her work, her commitment to supporting women in her community is self-evident. Editar is a woman human rights defender (WHRD) from Kibera, an urban settlement in Nairobi, who runs the Feminist for Peace Rights and Justice Centre. She has been working as a WHRD for nearly ten years.

 

Growing up in Kibera was a very privileged thing”, Kibera is the biggest settlement in Africa, “life is difficult in Kibera and we live in poverty here, but this place makes a woman strong and I believe that I am strong today because I grew up in Kibera.”

 

I was so persistent and nobody could even stop me when I was talking about this issue because I was speaking about these issues based on a personal story.” Editar’s drive to advocate for women’s rights comes from her own experiences. “I had sex for the first time through defilement and at that time I was six years old and it was a very painful experience for me.” For Editar, these experiences show the strength of women but also highlight how gender-based violence is normalised. “When I was 16 years old, I was gang raped. […] they were telling everyone and they were doing that for fun.”

 

People have normalised rape. Women don’t want to speak about it”, Editar tackles this head on in her work, by encouraging women to speak out about their experiences. It’s through these discussions that the commonality of their stories has become clear which forms the basis of awareness-raising and support. “I decided to dissect our issues as feminists and coming up with this community-based organisation, […] which is Feminist for Peace Rights and Justice Centre, Editar explains in an interview with PBI UK’s Director, Susi Bascon. Editar has created a network of support for vulnerable women through the Feminist for Peace Human Rights and Justice Centre, for example, through the rescue centre for women leaving abusive relationships.

 

The social justice centres are a radical model for driving change in the settlements in Nairobi, tackling issues from extrajudicial killings to socio-economic rights. The Feminist for Peace Rights and Justice Centre (FPRJC) is distinctive due to its primary focus on women’s rights. “So many women have come from different places in Nairobi, just to sit with us and share their experiences in feminist forum.”

 

Editar’s work spans a range of issues faced by women in the community, she provides sanitary products to vulnerable women, advocates for the inclusion of women in peace and security plans by pushing for the implementation of UN Resolution 1325, educates women on their constitutional rights, and conducts sessions on wellness. Editar is also a Toolkit Organiser with PBI Kenya where she collaborates with WHRDs from different settlements in Nairobi. Her work is not without recognition, in June 2020, Editar was named as the first winner of the unsung hero campaign by the Wangari Maathai Foundation.

 

During COVID right now, it has been very difficult for everyone in the world, everyone is suffering, but when you come in Kibera, where I am staying right now, it is even worse for women.” The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of these issues, which Editar has been addressing in her work – providing soap to vulnerable community members, mapping the most vulnerable areas of the settlement to prioritise food and relief and creating a Feminist Library to educate children who cannot go to school due to the pandemic.

 

Despite the current challenges, Editar remains positive, “being in the field for almost ten years, it has been amazing because every day we manage to get different results and they are very positive results.”

 

To hear more about Editar’s work, watch PBI UK’s webinar on grassroots defenders in Kenya and read her profile on the Toolkit Organisers’ website.