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Interview with Patricia Nafuna - Part 2

By Jennifer Timmons, Safe World Editor, December 2011

Patricia Nafuna (formally known as Cyrilla Nafuna) suffered and survived severe domestic violence while continuing her nursing training.

She helped sustain her family economically and emotionally, and eventually left her abusive husband to start her own a community-based organisation, Initiative in Poverty Eradication, Aids Control and Food Security Movement (IPEFAM), so that women and girls would learn how to take care of themselves through community development, life skills training, and education for girls.

Despite many challenges, Patricia persists in her quest to help others through years of abuse, and beyond.

Jen Timmons of Safe World interviews Patricia Nafuna about her work:

How bad is the problem of domestic violence in Kenya? Can you provide any statistics to give an idea of the extent of the problem?

Cyrilla-Nafuna-3Domestic violence and discrimination among women is bad in Kenya, especially in the rural areas. I don’t have any survey data or specific figures for the same, but about 20% of women are discriminated and face domestic violence. 

Are there laws now in Kenya to protect women from violence and discrimination?

Cyrilla-Nafuna-3Yes! There are laws in Kenya to protect women from violence and discrimination but they are not enforced. During the drafting of the new constitution, IPEFAM was one of the organisations chosen to represent the grassroots community at the national level on land questions and property ownership.

We contributed that women have rights to own land and property. The new constitution is good, but implementation is the challenge. 

If so, are they enforced at all? And if not, why do you think the laws are not enforced? Is it a lack of judicial interest, lack of women represented in the judicial system, or cultural attitudes that prevent enforcement of laws to protect women, or something else?

Cyrilla-Nafuna-3Cultural attitudes are the most contributory factors across all tribes in Kenya. Judicial representation of women is inadequate.

What do you feel is the cultural attitude towards violence against women in Kenya? Do you think it has changed at all during your lifetime?

Cyrilla-Nafuna-3The culture has not changed, even with the new constitution. More advocacy has to be done continuously. Civic education – especially at the grassroots, should be maximized.     

Are there any options for women in domestic violence situations to seek help in Kenya? Is there anywhere for them to seek help and refuge?

Cyrilla-Nafuna-3There is no other option for women to be represented adequately at different levels, eg. judiciary, parliament, educational institutions, and local government.

Why do you think violence against women still continues today, even as many people may publicly condemn it?

Cyrilla-Nafuna-3Men feel superior to women –  and are also envious, wanting women to be under them .The men also feel threatened when women excel. They want to be served by women as servants.

What do you want your government and community to do to protect women from violence? What do you feel is a top priority?

Cyrilla-Nafuna-3Women to have adequate education to be competent to hold responsible jobs, know their rights,  and give civic education  to women in rural areas.  Reinforce  laws protecting women from violence.

You are a mother –  do you teach your children about violence against women? What do you tell them?

Cyrilla-Nafuna-3I tell them to respect others. Know their rights, including reproductive rights. Refuse any form of violence, whether domestic, at their place of work, or at public places. Above [all]  that, to have adequate education.

How has your life changed since you left your abusive husband? Do you feel completely free from any threat of violence now?

Cyrilla-Nafuna-3My life changed because I was able to work again, and take loans from the banks for school fees. I am able to take care of my children, educate them, and now am training them. 

I feel free from threats of domestic violence because I know my rights.

Do you suffer from long-term health effects from his beatings, either physically or emotionally  now?

Cyrilla-Nafuna-3No!  I have no physical effects, but when I remember the plot and the land he sold –  then used the money, I feel bad that he has taken me underhandedly. We don’t have a home. I have to start thinking ofgetting a home for my children and myself.  

In your professional experience as a nurse, what do you feel are the most pressing issues afflicting  women in girls in Kenya?
  1. Domestic violence sometimes leading to deaths.
  2. Most women are rendered homeless by their husbands, especially those affected by HIV.
  3. Rape, especially in rural areas.
  4. Transmission of HIV infections.
Are there human rights violations involved in women and girls seeking reproductive health care and others issues like HIV/AIDS care?


In the place where I am working, some women seeking to know their sero status are refused by their husbands.

Some women who are HIV positive are refused by their husbands to take drugs or ARVs (antiretroviral drug), so they have to swallow [the drugs] at a neighbor’s house or in the field.

Can you describe what kind of discrimination exists towards women and girls, particularly those afflicted by HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses?
  • Not allowed to test for HIV.
  • Being refused to take ARVs by their husbands.
  • To remain housewives.
  • Not to be associated with people living with HIV.
Do they lack medical care? Or, if they get care, what kind of care do they receive and who delivers that care: the government? NGOs?

Cyrilla-Nafuna-3Care is by NGOs through programs in mission hospitals, e.g AIDS relief, the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH), APHIA PLUS (a government grant program) and community based organizations like IPEFAM. Money comes from USAID and the UN Global Fund through the government of Kenya. They receive ARVs, health education, counseling, and testing and sometimes they are given food.

How big of a problem is maternal and infant mortality in Kenya? Is anything being done to address that situation?

Cyrilla-Nafuna-3Maternal health has improved in most areas in Kenya, leading to reduced infant mortality except in hunger-stricken parts where there is prolonged drought and  lack of  transportation . Kenya is working hard to improve the transport and irrigation schemes to enable adequate food production.

What does Kenya need to do to improve the health care needs of women and girls?

Cyrilla-Nafuna-3Kenya needs to reinforce the laws – especially those that make women feel at home.

Women in town are enlightened, but those in rural areas need to be taught prevention of diseases affecting them, depending on their places of residence or geographical areas. To increase awarenesss on their sero status.

You founded a community-based organisation,  Initiative in Poverty Eradication, Aids Control and Food Security Movement (IPEFAM), in 2004 – what exactly made you want to start this organisation?

OrphansOrphans with care providers

I started this organization to learn more when participating in different forums and networking meetings.

I wanted also to teach women and girls to take care of themselves and their children. Innovative ways of searching for adequate food for their families. Behaviour change communication to new infections of HIV. Care for orphans and vulnerable children.

Briefly, what are IPEFAM's vision and mission?

Providing-wheelchairIPEFAM providing a wheelchairIPEFAM’svision isto scale up the youth forum activities though acquiring land to establish a youth centre for training young women in community development and life skills, and enhancing education for girls. We are looking for a volunteer fundraiser who could raise funds to build a youth centre.

Our mission is ensuring that [having] HIV-free young women leads to  a healthy and stress-free community.

Your greatest challenges today, with IPEFAM? How do you think your challenges can be met?
  • Lack of the premises to carry out activities. Rented premises; landlords undermine the organization by harassment through claiming high rates, leading to loss of property and equipment.income-generatingIncome-generating activities
  • Community ownership. The community does not readly accept ownership  of the project in  giving financial support.  Most  people want ready-made things to grab.
  • Lack of finances to meet the demands of the activities of the project.
Do you have a message for women who continue to suffer  from domestic violence today, as well as for those who survived violence and left it behind, as you have?

HIV-Positive-ChildrenHIV Positive children gather for food & counsellingI advise the women girls not accept domestic violence because they have equal rights like their male counterparts.

They should seek legal actions for assistance. They should have adequate education and employment to give them good income that will facilitate payments for lawyers should they be needed. They should be alert to recognize any form violence and refuse torture.

What do you want most for the women and girls of Kenya?  And yourself and your children?

Offering-clothes Offering clothes to vulnerable children.I would like the women and girls of Kenya to know their rights – especially reproductive, and teach their children about their rights.

Be vigilant to fight stigma, discrimination, and violence in general, against women and girls.        


About IPEFAM (Initiative in Poverty Eradication, Aids Control and Food Security Movement)

In 2004, Cyrilla Nafuna founded a community based organization [CBO] called IPEFAM- [ Initiative in poverty Eradication, Aids control and Food security Movement].

The organization was largely funded by Cyrilla's earnings from the clinic.
The goal of the CBO was working towards better health for all women and children with special emphasis on their rights.


  1. Increase knowledge on women and children’s rights.
  2. Improving the health of all women and their children.
  3. Improving living standards of women with low income.


Proposed Activities

  • Advocacy and sensitization among women on their Reproductive, property inheritance and child rights.
  • Counseling, Care, and treatment of women and children living with HIV/ AIDS.
  • Encouraging income generating activities.


Lack of funding has been an ongoing challenge and meeting the rental fees for the premises is a constant struggle.

Cyrilla's Vision:

  • Immediate:- Buy land with a building for the office.
  • Short term:- Register IPEFAM as a National NGO
  • Long term: Build a women's hospital for treating women with gender and domestic violence and children and a youth centre for training women in life skills for income generation


To find out more about the Initiative in Poverty Eradication, Aids Control and Food Security Movement (IPEFAM), please email:  ">

Interview Part 1: Cyrilla Nafuna - From Victim to Advocate for Kenya's Women and Girls


AMPATH – Kenya