An estimated 300 athletes from Nyandarua and Laikipia counties converged at Nyahururu DEB Primary School in Nyandarua on Friday as Athletics Kenya held their fifth leg of countrywide consultative meetings.
The meetings are the first step towards eradicating the hurdles in the athletics fraternity, which pose a threat to the growth and blossoming of talent in the country.
Gender-based violence against male athletes was a recurring theme during the deliberations as many speakers spoke of how this vice leaves many of the victims powerless and lose respect from community and spouses.
Many urged Athletics Kenya and other stakeholders not to forget male athletes inasmuch as most empowerment efforts are concentrated on their female counterparts.
Among them, former world indoor 800m champion Collins Kipruto, said many male athletes are suffering in silence because they lack channels to seek help for their predicaments.
“This often leads to domestic violence, depression, abandonment of families, and other tragic consequences,” he underscored.
He added: “That is an area that requires a lot of engagement with our athletes since it is not a one-off issue. It is something that develops gradually until it finally explodes if not solved early. We need to have this kind of conversation.”
Kipruto also urged male athletes to come up with their own forums or safe spaces to share their woes with one another.
“I’m glad here in Nyahururu we have a welfare system that basically addresses the issues that affect us, be it being there for our sick colleagues or even standing with them in times of bereavement. Also there are issues that can only be discussed among men, it might seem a small thing but it goes a long way,” he added.
The forum was also graced by Mary Ngugi who finished third at the 2021 Boston marathon. Ngugi, founder of the ‘Women’s Athletic Alliance’, is seeking to bring female athletes together in a safe space to support those who are suffering abuse as well as highlight the immense success of women’s sports in East Africa and the globe.
“Women should know that they are entitled to have their own say while also knowing that they have full control of their destiny,” she said.
Consultative forum team leader Barnaba Korir said he was impressed by the turnout during the ongoing sessions insisting that the views of all stakeholders will be taken into consideration. “This has been an eye opener for all of us. Athletes, coaches, managers and other stakeholders have been helpful in our fact finding mission since we started the exercise in Ngong town on Monday where the attendance rate exceeded our expectations, before heading to Machakos, Tharaka Nithi and Nyeri, which were equally impressive,” he said.
On gender based violence, Korir agreed that many athletes have suffered in silence for long and therefore the ongoing sessions will be the beginning of healing for them.
“Both genders are suffering for a fact and we are not in any way ignoring the male gender. But Indeed it is true that statistics support the fact that women make up the majority of victims of gender-based violence and discrimination. However, men and boys are also victims so the conversation is ongoing,” he added.The consultative fora takes a weekend break before the second round of meetings in Bomet, Kisii, Kericho and Keringet (Nakuru).