March 7, 2024

BREAKING THE CYCLE OF GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE IN KENYA: Do We Protect Our Daughters or Do We Educate Our Sons?


The air in Kenya hangs heavy with grief, thick with the echoes of a collective scream ripped from the throats of our daughters, sisters, and mothers. The recent spate of brutal killings of women, allegedly by men they either trusted or encountered online, has shaken the country to its core. These atrocities have exposed the ugly reality of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) that still plagues our society, and have ignited a wave of outrage and activism, calling for justice for the victims and an end to GBV. Amidst this turmoil, a crucial question has arisen:

How can we ensure the safety and dignity of our women and girls, and the accountability and transformation of our men and boys, to prevent and put an end to Gender-Based Violence?

This question reflects the two main approaches that are often proposed and debated when it comes to addressing Gender-Based Violence (GBV):

  1. The first approach is the Protection Approach, which advocates for providing women and girls with safe spaces, legal and psychosocial support, and empowerment opportunities, to shield them from GBV and enable them to cope and recover from its impacts.
  2. The second approach is the Education Approach, which advocates for engaging men and boys in challenging their harmful masculinities, promoting positive and respectful relationships, and holding them accountable for their actions, to change the norms and behaviours that fuel and justify GBV.

Both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses, and both are essential, but are they enough to break the cycle of GBV in Kenya? In this article, we will examine both approaches and suggest a balanced and holistic approach that integrates both protection and education strategies, to achieve a lasting and sustainable change in society. We will analyze these approaches in relation to the context and challenges of addressing violence against women and girls in Kenya.

PROTECTION APPROACH: Why Do We Need to Protect Our Daughters?

The first approach is the one that calls for the protection of our daughters, the ones who bear the brunt of GBV in our society. This approach argues that we need to create a safe and supportive environment for women and girls, where they can live free from fear, harm, and discrimination.

This means providing them access to quality education, health care, economic opportunities, and legal and psychosocial services. It also means empowering them to speak up, report, and seek justice for the violations they face.

This approach believes that by protecting our daughters, we are not only safeguarding their rights and dignity but also enhancing their potential and contribution to society.

The Importance of Protecting Our Daughters

Proponents of this approach have a strong and valid point. Protection is indeed a vital and urgent need for our daughters, especially in a context where GBV is rampant and normalized. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), GBV is a major public health and human rights issue, affecting 1 in 3 women globally. GBV has serious and long-lasting consequences for the physical, mental, sexual, and reproductive health of women and girls, as well as their social and economic well-being. GBV also hinders the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially those related to gender equality, health, education, and peace. Therefore, protecting our daughters from GBV is not only a moral duty but also a strategic investment for the development of our nation.

The Challenge of Protecting Our Daughters

However, this approach also has some limitations and challenges as protection alone is not enough to prevent and end GBV:

  1. Protection can be reactive, rather than proactive, meaning that it often intervenes after the harm has already occurred, rather than addressing the root causes and drivers of GBV.
  2. Protection can also be paternalistic, rather than participatory, meaning that it can reinforce the notion that women and girls are weak and helpless, rather than strong and capable.
  3. Protection can also be exclusive, rather than inclusive, meaning that it can exclude or alienate the other half of the population, namely men and boys, who are often the perpetrators, but also the potential allies, in the fight against GBV.

EDUCATION APPROACH: Why Do We Need to Educate Our Sons?

The second approach is the one that calls for the education of our sons, the ones who are often the source and the solution of GBV in our society. This approach argues that we need to transform the norms, attitudes, and behaviours of men and boys, that fuel and justify GBV.

This means challenging the harmful and toxic forms of masculinity, that promote violence, domination, and entitlement over women and girls. It also means promoting the positive and respectful forms of masculinity, that value equality, empathy, and responsibility towards women and girls.

This approach believes that by educating our sons, we are not only changing their minds and hearts but also changing the culture and the structure of society.

The Importance of Educating Our Sons

This approach also has a strong and valid point. Education is indeed a crucial and effective way to prevent and end GBV. Education can be proactive, rather than reactive, meaning that it can address the root causes and drivers of GBV, rather than the symptoms and consequences. Education can also be participatory, rather than paternalistic, meaning that it can empower men and boys to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. Education can also be inclusive, rather than exclusive, meaning that it can engage and involve all members of the society, regardless of their gender, age, or background, in the collective action against GBV.

The Challenge of Educating Our Sons

However, this approach also has some limitations and challenges as education alone is not enough to prevent and end GBV:

  1. Education can be slow, rather than fast, meaning that it can take time and resources to change the deeply ingrained and widespread norms and behaviours that sustain GBV.
  2. Education can also be superficial, rather than deep, meaning that it can focus on the individual level, rather than the institutional level, of change.
  3. Education can also be resisted, rather than embraced, meaning that it can face backlash and opposition from those who benefit from the status quo, or who fear the loss of power and privilege.

INTEGRATION APPROACH: How Can We Protect Our Daughters and Educate Our Sons?

The two approaches – protection or education – are not mutually exclusive, but rather complementary and interdependent. So, what do we need to do?

  • We need both protection and education to break the cycle of GBV in Kenya.
  • We need to protect our daughters and educate our sons, and vice versa.
  • We need to integrate both strategies in a balanced and holistic way, that addresses the multiple and intersecting dimensions of GBV, such as gender, age, class, ethnicity, religion, and disability.
  • We need to adopt a human rights-based and gender-transformative approach, that respects the dignity and agency of women and girls and challenges the power and privilege of men and boys.
  • We need to foster a culture of peace and non-violence, that values diversity and inclusion and promotes dialogue and collaboration.

An integration approach that combines protection measures for daughters with education for sons will be essential in addressing GBV. This approach recognizes the importance of providing a safe environment for girls through measures such as strengthening laws against violence, establishing support systems, and promoting gender equality. Simultaneously, educating boys about consent, respect, and gender equality is crucial in challenging harmful societal norms and preventing the perpetuation of GBV. By combining these protection measures for daughters with education measures for sons, we can work towards creating a society that values and respects all individuals, regardless of their gender.


The answer, then, is not a binary choice between “protecting our daughters” and “educating our sons”. It is not about daughters versus sons or protection versus education. It is about weaving these threads together, creating a tapestry of vigilance and understanding, of empowerment and responsibility. We must not only equip our daughters with the tools to navigate the world but also empower our sons to be allies, not bystanders. We must build a nation where self-defense classes are complemented by workshops on healthy masculinity and where legal frameworks for protection are matched by cultural shifts towards gender equality.

However, putting an end to GBV will not be a simple or straightforward task. It will require a comprehensive and holistic approach that addresses the root causes and drivers of GBV, which are often rooted in patriarchal norms, attitudes, and behaviours that devalue and discriminate against women and girls. It will also require the involvement and participation of all stakeholders, including the government, civil society, media, religious leaders, and communities. Most importantly, it will require the engagement and empowerment of both women and men, girls and boys, as agents of change and allies in the fight against GBV.

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