• The sexual abuse of elderly women in our societies dates back to ancient times. Until the advent of initiatives to address child abuse and domestic violence in the last quarter of the 20th century, it remained a private matter, concealed from public view. Initially seen as a social welfare issue and subsequently a problem of ageing, sexual abuse of the elderly, like other forms of violence, has developed into a public health and criminal justice concern. These two fields – public health and criminal justice – have therefore dictated to a large extent how abuse of the elderly is viewed, how it is analyzed, and how it is dealt with.

    Older people are often reluctant to reveal incidents of sexual violence because discussion of any sexual activity is often deemed inappropriate, rendering the disclosure of abusive situations even more taboo and inconceivable. The question is how can we end the shameful sexual abuse of our mothers and grandmothers?

    The Ujamaa self-defence program in Kenya has one of the most effective ways to put this to an end.

    Across Nairobi, more than 200 elderly women, aged up to 105, are learning self-defence to protect themselves against rape, which is widespread in Kenya, particularly in its slums.

    Research by the charity Ujamaa, which runs the programme, shows that one in four women in Korogocho, one of the most dangerous slums in Kenya's capital, has experienced sexual assault.

    Here are the pictures of the training in progress.

    Instructors from the Ujamaa self-defence program train a group of women to protect themselves against rape at the Muku Kwa Njenga slum in the capital, Nairobi.


    A woman walks across a street at the Mukuru Kwa Njenga slum in Nairobi.


    Mary Njoki Wainaina, 85, forages for recycling material among rubbish at the Dondora dumpsite close to the slum of Korogocho in Nairobi.


    Totally focussed! An elderly woman attends a class run by the Ujamaa self-defence program teaching women how to protect themselves against rape.


    The class is full! Elderly women attend a class run by the Ujamaa self-defence program.