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UEA student returns to Kenya to tackle social issues

Grace Muchunu

University of East Anglia (UEA) student Grace Muchunu’s decision to study for a Masters in International Development will not only have an impact on her own life, but those of many people back in her home country, Kenya, when she returns in a few weeks’ time.

After graduating in Sociology from Moi University, Eldoret, in 2012, she began working at the Gender Violence Recovery Centre of the Nairobi’s Women’s Hospital. “The Centre is a charitable trust offering free medical treatment and psychosocial support to women, children and men who’ve suffered physical and/or sexual violence in Kenya,” she said. “Healthcare in Kenya isn’t free which, together with the shame and fear of social exclusion that many victims feel, means many people don’t seek help when they’ve encountered abuse and the size of the problem is hidden. We supported more than 3,000 survivors a year, all of whom had harrowing stories to tell.

“The work was extremely rewarding but I wanted to be able to do more to tackle the problem from a wider perspective, so I applied for a Chevening Scholarship to study here at UEA as a way to get the skills and knowledge I need.”

The Chevening Scholarship programme is the UK government’s international awards scheme aimed at developing global leaders and is funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and partner organisations. Recipients are personally chosen by British Embassies and High Commissions throughout the world through a rigorous selection process and come to the UK to study before returning to their home country.

“Tuition fees and living costs in the UK can be prohibitive to many international students across the world, so I was delighted to be awarded the scholarship” said Grace. “Studying at UEA has not only given me the knowledge I need but has been a completely transformative experience. Being part of the Chevening network has enabled me to meet academics and development practitioners from diverse backgrounds and it’s been especially interesting to examine Kenyan developmental opportunities and challenges as part of the course. I can’t wait to go back and apply what I’ve learned.

Grace aims to do this by working in policymaking with development agencies in the area of health-related poverty. “I’m very interested in pursuing social development opportunities that enable me to challenge the underlying inequalities of power that people face on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “It’s absolutely vital that charitable organisations across the world continue to work closely with local beneficiaries and the state to overcome cycles of poverty. I saw that myself working at the Centre, where women and children continuously faced societal norms and institutions that aggravated their susceptibility to violence. When I go back, I hope to be able to help make a difference thanks to what I’ve learned here.”

For more information about the Gender Violence Recovery Centre go to http://gvrc.or.ke/

The Gender Violence Recovery Centre