Women and children bear the brunt of anti-government protests

By Seliphar Machoni

Many compared the recent three-day demonstrations to the 2007 post-election violence. To others it even brought back memories of the post-election violence that they are trying so hard to forget. To others it triggered trauma and healing wounds.

As much as human rights groups preached and advocated for peaceful demonstrations, which is a very important segment in any country. It should be noted that demonstrations that were witnessed in the past two weeks have had adverse impact on the vulnerable groups like children and women.

To women and children, the demos negatively affected their mental health, physical, psychological and even emotionally.

Children’s daily activities were disrupted. Some were caught up in the demos.

Children’s normal routine of playing with their peers, attending school was untimely disrupted in some parts of the country. As it was advised by the Minister of lnterior and National Administration Prof. Kithure Kindiki for schools in Mombasa and Nairobi to close temporarily during demos to prevent pupils from getting affected as it was with the 12th of July demos in Nairobi where more than 50 students were affected by the teargas. Temporary closure of schools leads to learning loss, may also increase school dropout cases and disrupt learning process.

In Nairobi areas such as Mathare and Kibra most of the children were indoors. A break from a normal child’s routine can interfere with the normal development of the child. Mental stress caused by an unrestful environment and education may have long term effects on the mental well-being of children.

Demonstrations witnessed in Kenya have inflicted injuries on some children. We have seen children who have been physically injured. There is a saying in swahili that says Mtego wa panya hunasa waliokuwa na wasiokuwa. Children know nothing about demonstration, but they have become victims of circumstance. They are innocent with no offense committed. Images of young children injured, and tear gassed during demos will forever haunt our hearts.

Children and women have lost their loved ones. Children have lost their breadwinners and family providers who went out on the streets to protest the high cost of living and high taxes. Who will take care of the children left behind? Will the government compensate them? These will remain a nightmare for them. It can also make them develop both negative and positive survival tactics in order to provide for themselves which will affect their growth.

Children are easily moved by what they see. Disturbing demonstrations, images and videos that are freely shown on social media and mainstream media have a diverse effects on children since they affect children’s developing brain. They are more vulnerable to images and videos which shape their developing brains. Some have even witnessed their parents, neighbour’s being tear gassed, even shot, beaten, and injured by the police. It will be difficult for such scenes to erase from their minds.

The demonstrations have greatly affected and disrupted normal activities, functions, and service delivery to citizens. Health services and transportation are sectors that were interfered with. Health services were unreachable. These affected women and children who needed medical attention.

It was so heartbreaking and sad to see mothers mourning the unplanned and untimely deaths of their children.

Destruction of property and violence witnessed during the demonstrations have greatly affected women and children causing long term impact on families in the country. Women, children, and the youth are facing safety risks caused by the demos which creates an environment which poses danger mentally, physically, and emotionally on vulnerable people.

Some women are the backbones and bread winners of their families and owners of small businesses in Kenya. The negative impact on the economy is directly affecting women and children because it disrupts business. The violence and deaths that are associated with demonstrations are greatly disrupting and killing their small businesses. Low and loss of income negatively impact their livelihood.

The growing rift and enmity that is created between communities and tribes in Kenya because of the ongoing anti-government protests is undermining and hindering efforts to address critical issues affecting women and children.

The society has a bigger role in protecting children and women from the aftereffects of demonstrations. It should find a way of sensitizing the effects of violence.

Media to also be very careful about what they air and stream since children can easily be harmed by what they see and hear.

Parents should always be careful with what children see and be at the forefront to protect children from visuals to prevent mental problems.

The opposition side should find another way of solving the ongoing problem of taxes and high cost of living with the government and pose the demonstrations as it is causing much harm than good to children, women and youth in the country.

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