May 2010

If you have ever wondered the any of the following things…

1) What is this “IJM” that Betsy traveled all the way to Africa to work for?

2) Why do they do casework in developing countries – shouldn’t we just invest more $ into traditional relief and development?

3) What does the term “broken public justice systems” even mean and why does it matter?

then this article by Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros from the May/June 2010 edition of Foreign Affairs Magazine is a must read!

Helping construct effective public justice systems in the developing world, therefore, must become the new mandate of the human rights movement in the twenty-first century. “

So tell me… what do YOU think about the Big Idea?


In college it was mice.  And a rat.

In my first Nairobi apartment is was mold.

And now… something new is threatening to invade my life and my kitchen drawers.


At approximately 11:30 pm on Monday night Jenn and I declared war in our kitchen.  It was the first battle of what I presume will be an epic war that will go down in history books (or just my moleskin) as The Death of the Cockroaches.

Looking back on it, while it felt like a horror film, this was probably more of a comedy than a tragedy: picture two muzungu girls running in and out of the kitchen armed with cans of Raid and Doom screaming “evacuate!” and “I need backup in here!”  (Our coworkers just gave us blank stares when we retold the story, as if to say, “what is wrong with you and why are you are surprised by this?”)

The nightmare started with one little bug – and they just kept coming.  Out from behind the cabinets.  In the drawers.  Under the sink.  On top of the cupboards.  When we went through our first can of Raid I made a midnight run for reinforcements – two extra-large cans of DOOM.  (It sounded more imposing. That’ll show ’em, right?)

Evacuation began around 12:30, when we weren’t sure what the outcome was going to be.  They were just so dang resilient.  And disgusting.


Spices and boxes and pots and pans were thrown into garbage bags.  The refrigerator and the burner and the microwave were scooted into the living room.  Pots and pans and plates and cutlery were hustled out of there like casualties of war.  I could barely see Jenn through the cloud of Raid and Doom that had formed, but I am happy to report no man, cup or box of cereal was left behind.

When everything was out, we made one last, desperate attempt to attack the nasty little invaders: fumigation.  We closed the window, coated every crack, corner and surface with bug killer, locked the door and stuffed the space underneath with towels.  Looking back, it was probably not the most intelligent decision to cover our entire kitchen with poison, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

All in all, we probably found more than 20 critters overturned the next morning.  Success… for now.

Current Score:

Muzungu girls: 1

Cockroaches: 0

Tonight is phase two: an acid party.  Boric acid that is.

If you have any tips on boric acid – we’ve heard about everything from dusting to boiling to making little balls of death – or other ideas for how to kill cockroaches, please share!

On Saturday and Monday, The Daily Nation, a leading national newspaper in Kenya, ran a two-page spread highlighting one of the majors hurdles we face when fighting for justice for girls who are victims of sexual assault – the P3 form.

(A few quick facts:  The P3 form is a police document that, according to standard practice, must be filled out in order for investigation and prosecution to proceed in cases of criminal assault, sexual or otherwise.  There is currently one police surgeon who will fill out this form for assault victims for the whole city of Nairobi – that’s one doctor for more than four million people.)

In the past, victims of violence had to go through the painful process of filing P3 forms, but they had no guarantee that this would speed up their quest for justice, especially for sexual assault.

This could change with the entry of the PRC1 form, whose revised version was rolled out on April 22 by Public Health and Medical Services ministries during the launch of the National Reproductive Health Strategy 2009-2015. Gender violence analysts consider Form PRC1 as just what the doctor ordered for victims of sexual violence.

Ms Christine Nkonge, a legal officer with the International Justice Mission says, the beauty of the PRC1 form is that any qualified nurse, clinical officer or doctor can fill it and use it as evidence in court. Curiously, on the day the revised Form PRC1 was being unveiled, Dr Kamau was not sure it would replace the P3 form.

He described it as “a Ministry of Health document”, which he had “never dealt with”. Ironically, officials linked to Kenyatta National Hospital’s Gender Violence Recovery Centre (KNH-GVRC) thought Form PRC1 was already helping Dr Kamau, who was supposed to attach it to the less detailed P3 form.

In is understandable why Dr Kamau, who examines 100 to 120 violence victims a day, would find it daunting to correlate the PRC1 to the P3. In an interview with Dr Gathari Ndirangu, a gynaecologist and obstetrician, who is also a reproductive health and technical advisor to KNH’s GVRC, he extolled the virtues of the new form.

The centre documented 111 cases between January and March, 61 being women. Girls numbered 30, while the rest of the victims, about 20 per cent, were men and boys. Dr Ndirangu stressed the holistic and comprehensive nature of Form PRC1, unlike the P3, which compresses the victim’s details on one-third of an A4 page.

The P3 only catches “the physical state of and any injuries to the genitalia with special reference to labia majora, labia minora, vagina, cervix” and also notes “presence of discharge, blood or venereal infection, from genitalia or on body externally”. However, Form PRC1 is designed with the best interests of the victim in mind.  (More…)

Dr Ketra Muhombe of the Nairobi Women’s Hospital believes it will be a long time before women who have been raped are assured of speedy justice.

Successful prosecution of rape cases requires clinical evidence, which is often elusive in adult women. By the time they are examined by the police doctor, who is supposed to confirm reports from registered medical practitioners, any soft tissue injuries they may have sustained in the attack will have healed.

The prosecution has to rely on incidental and corroborative evidence — “because if you go by clinical evidence, the case is thrown out,” Dr Muhombe says.

According to the doctor, whose hospital was the first to set up a gender violence recovery centre that has since been replicated by a busier one at Kenyatta National Hospital, the best way is to do a DNA test where the rapist is known and samples can be taken for analysis.

Overworked doctor

‘Circumstantial evidence’ tends to be unfair to women, “because it is the victim’s against the perpetrator’s word,” she says.

Given the situation in Nairobi, where rape victims have to rely on one overworked police doctor, Dr Muhombe says: “Sometimes our medical report gives different evidence from the P3; I wonder if the police doctor really examines these people properly. The only time our reports seem to coincide is when it is a child who has had bad tears sewn up. There is no way the doctor can avoid seeing that.” (More…)