These Kenyan Schoolboys Show Everyone What "No Means No" Really Looks Like

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

"No means no." These words reverberate around the world.

In Nairobi, as Reuters reported on Tuesday, two young men saved a school girl's life after another man tried to assault her. This was no accident: The boys were trained in school about how to intervene upon witnessing a classmate being harassed or assaulted. 

Reversing the numbers: Across Kenya "more than 30% of female respondents and nearly 20% of male respondents aged between 18 and 24 reported having experienced sexual violence during childhood," according to a 2010 UNICEF report

To fight the trend, the government enacted five laws aimed at combating gender-based violence and sexual assault. However, they had a marginal statistical effect. But as Standard Digital reported, the number of reported rape cases dropped from 953 to 893 last year, which suggests while enacting legislation is an important step towards cultural and social change, laws alone cannot eradicate any country's epidemic of violence against women.  

That's why local organizations are filling the gap in Kenya and other countries. Charities like Ujamaa, an organization that works with communities in Tanzania, have created a school program to teach girls and boys about sexual violence. It is only when people learn how to treat each other, independent of the law, that a culture changes.

According to Reuters, Ujamaa has created two educational programs for girls and for boys: "No Means No Worldwide" began in 2010 to teach girls how to protect and assert themselves. More recently, they created the program "Your Moment of Truth" for boys, not only to teach them how to respect women's bodies, but also how to intervene as a bystander if they see a girl or woman in danger.

Every single child in secondary school in Nairobi will attend a six-week program educating them how to "prevent violence against women," Reuters reports.

These programs have had significant statistic and social results. Researchers told Reuters that schools where Your Moment of Truth training took place, instances of "rape by boyfriends and friends of girls dropped by 20%" and more boys stepped in to stop verbal harassment.

Changing the culture of violence against women demands that boys and men take responsibility for their actions — education, safety and prevention, isn't just a woman's responsibility. As Collins Omondi, who teaches the Ujamaa boys' program told Reuters, "Our main focus on the curriculum is positive masculinity for the boys, positive empowerment, and actually making them gentlemen on issues to do with the prevention of rape and standing up for the rights of women."

h/t Reuters

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Marcie Bianco

Dr. Marcie Bianco is a Staff Writer at Mic, a Contributing Editor at Curve Magazine, and an adjunct associate professor at Hunter College. She has contributed to AfterEllen, Feministing, The Feminist Wire, The Huffington Post, Lambda Literary, XO Jane, and The Women’s Review of Books. She writes and lectures about ethics, from feminism to race relations. Her current writing projects include a manuscript about lesbian academic affairs and a collection of feminist essays.

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