Amplifying Voices, Healing Wounds: A Survivor’s Journey to End Childhood Sexual Violence

Amplifying Voices, Healing Wounds: A Survivor’s Journey to End Childhood Sexual Violence

By Florence Keya, Founder of Maisha Girls Safe House and Co-founder of the Brave Movement

In the quiet corners of trauma and resilience, my journey began – one marked by the scars of childhood sexual violence. Today, as the founder of the Maisha Girls Safe House in Nairobi, and a co-founder of the Brave Movement, I find solace in standing alongside fellow survivors, united in the fight against the global epidemic of childhood sexual violence.

Creating Safe Spaces: Maisha Girls Safe House

My healing journey led me to found the Maisha Girls Safe House – a sanctuary for girls who, like me are survivors of childhood sexual violence. Beyond shelter, we provide a haven for growth, investing in their physical and mental well-being. At Maisha Girls, survivors receive medical care, education, support in seeking justice and a community of empathetic peers. We want to help girls with their healing journey.

Collaborating for Change and The Birth of the Brave Movement

Collaborating with local communities, governments, and policymakers was no easy feat. Initially met with skepticism, we persevered, building bridges with child welfare associations, governments, and non-profit organizations. Through sharing data and experiences, we’ve created a network combating both childhood sexual violence as well as gender-based violence (GBV). Our collaboration has not only raised awareness but also empowered our cause and has allowed us to secure funding for the Maisha Girls Safe House.

Recognising the need for a global campaign against childhood sexual violence, a group of survivors of childhood sexual violence got together and the Brave Movement emerged. It unites survivors and allies worldwide, fostering collective action to fight this cause. Through shared experiences, we amplify our impact, advancing our fight with a sense of unity and purpose.

Being a part of the Brave Movement has given visibility to my work in Kenya, fostering collaboration, learning from each other’s lived experiences, sharing data to improve our impact with facts, ideas and funding opportunities. The strength derived from this global network empowers our local efforts, making the fight against childhood sexual violence feel less daunting. I share the same vision as the other  SAGE (Survivors Advocate Globally Empowered) members who are the steering group behind the Brave Movement, which has given me a sense of belonging and helped me in my healing journey.

The prevailing response to violence against girls falls short. It’s crucial to distinguish between issues affecting girls from those affecting women. Justice delayed contributes to prolonged suffering which hinders proper healing. There is a pressing need for support programs that acknowledge the crime of childhood sexual violence and provide avenues for healing, resilience, and traditional education.

Investing in Prevention and Education and a Call for Action

To truly eradicate childhood sexual violence, we must invest in preventive measures. Initiatives promoting sexual/reproductive health rights from a young age are essential. Education is our greatest weapon in empowering girls, instilling resilience, and dismantling harmful cultural norms.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us acknowledge the urgency of investing in girls because if we invest in keeping girls safe, they will grow into healthy, confident and educated women. Increased funding, awareness, and empowerment are paramount. Recognise survivors as catalysts for change and involve them in decision-making processes. Womanhood begins with the safety and support of young girls.

Survivors must lead the fight against childhood sexual violence. Our lived experiences should guide policy decisions, ensuring a more nuanced and effective response. To secure a future for women, we must prioritize the safety and well-being of girls.

For real change, women must be at the forefront of this fight. Inclusion and representation are non-negotiable. Survivors must be given a voice in the cause they champion.

In the collective pursuit of ending childhood sexual violence, our actions should speak louder than our words. Together, we can dismantle the structures perpetuating harm, creating a world where every girl can blossom into a resilient woman.