CREAW, Author at CREAWKENYA - Page 2 of 2

Teen-Pregnancy-1280x853.jpg

January 30, 2020by CREAW

When 16 year old *Kadzo met her boyfriend, she was smitten; she did not in anyway think her life will change completely.

She says, “he promised to marry me and I believed him.” But today, her melancholic look tells the tale of a wound that she has long reconciled with. From the experimental sexual relationship, came pregnancy.

All through her childhood, her grandparents were the sole providers. They had so much hope in her completing her schooling but the tables had turned and now they wanted her out of their home. Swiftly, they married her off to the father of her child.

And as she tells of her ordeal, she fidgets and mumbles some words. The shock and disappointment of being a teen mother is written all over her. Apart from her pregnancy, she was forced to cope with her abusive boyfriend who came home each night drunk and would threaten to burn her alive.

“The scariest of all was when he took a kitchen knife and wanted to cut off my neck. I managed to escape,” she recalls of her deadliest experience at the hands the lover turned foe.

Teen mum trekking from school to their home in Ganze, Kilifi County. PHOTO/CREAW

Once again she was back to her grand parents home, forced to fend for herself and adjusting to the reality of being a mother of a three months old baby with the future unknown.

*Mbodze on the other hand started dating her boyfriend at the age of 14, she was in class six. Now aged 16 and a mother of two moths old baby, she is juggling between nursing her baby and classroom.

Her story bore similarity to that of Kadzo; they are both teen mothers only that one dropped out of school and the other rose through stigma and household poverty to continue with her education.

“I come to school at 8am and leave at 12 noon to go nurse the baby, “she says.

When we set out with her to her home, it takes 30 minutes to navigate through the village paths surrounded by thickets and maize plantations. She usually walks through the 7km journey to Dzitsoni Primary School.

“My dream is to join Ngara Girls after completing Kenya Certificate of Primary Education. I want to be a lawyer so that I can help other girls in my community,” she says.

Mbodze come from a family of five and her parents have since separated.

Hadly a kilometer away is 17 year old *Rehema, Mbodze’s classmate. She is a mother of a seven days old baby.

“I met my boyfriend at the funeral night vigil in the nearby Swere village. I used to call him through my mom’s phone and we would arrange to meet after school. He is a form three student,” says Rehema.

She says, “ when I became pregnant, I informed my boyfriend and he denied responsibility. From there on, I never wanted to see him or have anything to do with him.”

Rehema is lucky that her parents have been very supportive; when she is in school, her mom takes care of the baby.

“I want to learn so that I can have a good life,” says Rehema.

Why so many teen mums?

The life of Kadzo, Rehema and Mbodze mirrors the life of many teens in Kilifi and by extension across Kenya who are now forced to transition to mother hood at a young age. Their situation is not an isolated one. Over the last three years, Kilifi County has drowned under the weight of high numbers of teen pregnancy.

Statistics from the Kilifi County Ministry of Health shows that in 2017, 12,790 girls fell pregnant. In 2018 the numbers skyrocketed to 17,866 and in the period of January and March, 3102 girls were pregnant.

The Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014 indicated that one out of five (18%) girls aged 15-19 years were pregnant or were already mothers. By February 2018, the County had approximately 203,094 teenagers.

In 2017, statistics from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) indicated that 378,397 adolescents in Kenya aged between 10 and 19 got pregnant. It is this worrisome statistics that continues to wipe out the future young girls.

Supportive systems

For the 11 years that Olive Nyawana has been a teacher at Dzitsoni Primary School, the school has never experienced high numbers of teen getting pregnant but in 2018 and 2019 the numbers came as a shock.

“Previously we’ll have one or none. In fact for the last four years preceding 2019 we had none. This year we have four who are candidates,” explains Olive.

Olive Nyawana is a guiding and counselling teacher and a refugee to many young mothers who seek her counsel at Dzitsoni Primary School. PHOTO/CREAW

Olive who is a guiding and counseling teacher interacts daily with the Rehema and Mbodze, teen mums from the school. She says that she has been encouraging them to continue with schooling.

“I continuously talk to parents to be supportive of their children till they finish school,” says Olive who is also the Deputy Chairperson of the Beacon Teacher Movement in Kilifi.

As a Beacon Teacher, she has undergone trainings on child protection and GBV laws that are supported by CREAW’s Haki Yetu Jukumu Letu project in Kilifi and Meru Counties.

In her guiding and counseling sessions, Olive has adopted the use of materials that are child friendly and fun to hold conversations with pupils in her school. She teaches them on age appropriate sexuality issues.

As a teacher she has nurtured an environment where pupils are free to approach her with any challenges they experiences at home and while in school.

“Aside from the speak-out boxes that we have installed in school, we also have session with the boys and girls so that they are able to speak out freely,” says Olive who is also the Deputy Chairperson of the Beacon Teacher Movement in Kilifi County.

But why so many teen mums?

The 2016 Plan International report cited the root causes of teenage pregnancies in Kilifi as cultural practices, poor parenting coupled with broken marriages, poverty and inadequate sex and family planning education.

On cultural practices, the research touched deeply on the issue of funeral discos. It also cited long-held beliefs that girls’ work is to give birth in the society upon reaching puberty. The report noted that it is regarded as normal when a teenage girl gets pregnant before marriage. Some girls are exposed to drunkards at their homesteads, where mnazi (palm wine) business is done. This is more so in rural areas, where strict rules of establishing palm wine clubs away from home are not followed.

Ending teen pregnancies

In the wake of this, duty bearers continue to grapple and ponder on the appropriate redress mechanisms. Recently, there have been talks of introduction of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in schools to ensure healthy sexuality and reproductive lifestyles for adolescents as in countries like Netherlands, Switzerland and Denmark where such initiative has proven to be effective.

In 2014, a Reproductive Healthcare Bill was introduced in the Senate. The Bill sought to provide children as young as 10 with condoms and birth control pills. The bill also proposed unhindered access to CSE and confidential services to adolescents. Ideally this would have gone along way in building the knowledge of children on pregnancy among other reproductive health issues and as fate would have it, the Bill was shot down on grounds that it would promote moral decay.

Fast forward, here we are with the ballooning statistics on teenage mothers wiping out the potential of our girls. Who would blink first? Parents, government? And is the society ready to change and create room for unrestricted access to reproductive health services including information to the young ones?

The government of Kilifi is however well aware of the bigger problem that child pregnancy posits to the development of its citizens. As such, the County Government of Kilifi constituted a taskforce constituting line state and non-state actors to look into the matter.

“The culture of silence make it difficult for perpetrators to be held accountable and punished for their harmful actions. It shows how sexual violence against children has been normalized making it difficult to shield girls from sex predators especially at family level,” says Saumu Mwadime who has been representing Women on the Move Against (WIMA) GBV at the taskforce.

WIMA is women led accountability group that has been working closely with CREAW in educating communities and spearheading actions geared towards increasing transparency, responsiveness and accountability for public service delivery by the county governments.

As an anti-GBV crusader, Saumu notes, “even with the existing laws and policies to curb the menace, the roaring statistics on child pregnancy are nothing to write home about.” She says.

“I look forward to the Kilifi government enacting a gender based violence policy to ensure that the needs of survivors are well catered for and the vice mitigated,” adds Saumu.

Under the auspices of the Haki Yetu Jukumu Letu project supported by the Embassy of Netherlands in Kenya, CREAW has worked to empower women groups such as WIMA on gender based violence and the existing redress mechanisms postulated by the law. The knowledge to which they have used to sensitize communities to challenge norms and attitudes that promotes sexual violence against children and other forms of gender based violence.

Over the last three years, CREAW has been working within communities to end sexual violence among children among other forms of gender based violence. We have continuously engaged the custodians of culture to eliminate the barriers that put girls at harms way and build equitable societies for women and girls to realize their rights and thrive in their communities.

To address child pregnancies, WIMA members are continuously conversing with parents on good parenting skills. They have also been holding mentoring sessions in schools around Kilifi, speaking to girls on their sexual and reproductive health rights and way they can report sexual violations.

For girls who fell pregnant while in school like Kadzo, Rehema and Mbodze, WIMA members have formed a supportive system to address their needs while in school and at home. For example, they have approached the office of the Women Representative to sponsors girls like Kadzo to continue her education. This year alone, the Office of the Women Representative has sponsored 91 girls in various secondary schools through the affirmative action funds.

Writing by Christine Ogutu


Wima-launch-2-1280x853.jpg

January 28, 2020by CREAW

Dressed in purple and white; a sign of royalty and peace- they all came to witness the climax of the journey they had travelled so long. 12th September 2019 it a was! A new dawn reckoned and the little known women group, Wima Women Empowerment network (WIMA), was now a fully-fledged community based organisation.

Launch of WIMA in Kilifi. PHOTO/CREAW

Three years ago, 33 WIMA members came together with a soul purpose to eliminate cases of gender based violence (GBV) that was ailing communities in Kilifi. At the time, GBV matters were only spoken in undertones and most cases would go unreported because of the cultural constrictions.

It is such barriers that also continue to chain women voices- and when the silence was too loud, WIMA’s actions to change societal attitudes and norms became louder. Through their network, they continued to build momentum, galvanising support from the various community (chiefs, Kaya elders, women) and county government structures to free women from the chains of gender inequalities.

And as Helda Tujara tells us, the community dialogues they have held in the community have created spaces for men and women to reflect on power imbalances at family level and how best to parent children- giving them equal educational opportunities for better future.

“Pictorial exhibitions showcasing the effects of domestic violence have helped stimulate conversations, educated communities and translated into change of perceptions and community support in actions geared towards addressing violence against women and girls,” a happy Helda tells us.

Unveiling of the WIMA registration certificate. The organisation is now a fully established community based organisation. PHOTO/CREAW

Helda and other members of WIMA are proud to have been supported by the Haki Yetu Jukumu Letu project implemented by CREAW in Kilifi and Meru Counties with the support from the Embassy of the Netherlands in Kenya.

Through the project, WIMA members were trained on the laws that appertain to gender based violence, citizen-led social accountability, budget monitoring and accountability. From the knowledge, they have built collective agency, risen to break the silence and demanded for accountability in GBV service delivery.

Helda who has been the chairlady of WIMA since its onset, explains to us that the passion to protect women and girls from the scourge of GBV drove them to work with a unity of purpose.

PHOTO/CREAW

 

 

“We wanted girls to thrive and women to live in peaceful households with their families.

Currently, the skyrocketing teen pregnancy statistics hoovers over our heads. We must start over and parent our children properly,” says Helda noting that it is that moment that actors, parents and community as a whole took action.

As the chairlady, she speaks strongly on inclusivity. “Women and girls are a critical mass in communities. Thus, they also have a voice in the decisions that affects the larger community. We do it not for us but for the benefit of the entire community,” she says.

At the core of their work is empowerment; as they strengthen their knowledge and build confidence on community work, they have also ensured that other line stakeholders and county structures are enjoined in their activities.

“As GBV champions, we are well known in the community and the county also recognizes us. During the budget making processes, we are given chance to participate and present our issues,” says Sophia Suleiman also a longtime member of WIMA. Such endeavours have helped in improving government responsiveness to the needs of women and girls.

For the first time in Kilifi since the onset of the devolved government, a fully fledged gender department was established owing to the efforts of WIMA. And as Sophia tells us, theirs is a vision that calls for a responsive government and a supportive community to address the plight of survivors.

“Among us, are also the referral champions who continuously receive cases from communities

Last year, WIMA was among the stakeholders appointed by the County Government of Kilifi to look into the issue of teen pregnancy- and even though the report of the task force is yet to be made public, they are happy to be part of the team that would deliver change to many young girls in Kilifi.

“We hold conversations with bodaboda riders to change their behaviours since they have been the largest perpetrators of sexual violence against children. With that, we are making them champions and defenders of the rights of women and girls to reduce child pregnancies,” says Saumu Mwadime who represents WIMA at the teen pregnancy task force.

WIMA’s progressive endeavours are not only felt by the women and girls but the entire community. They lobbied and advocated for good infrastructure within their localities to improve safety and security. Last year, their actions saw the establishment of the Chasimba Police station- the first in Chonyi since time immemorial.

Apart from that, they have also been supporting survivors through their legal journeys; providing psychosocial support and legal information. These has gone along way in helping survivors navigate the often tedious justice system, hold perpetrators accountable for their actions and help survivors heal from the harm done to them.

Fast forward, here they are- living in the moment and helping their communities build sensitivity to the rights of women and girls. Continuously, they network with line partners to device local solutions to the emerging issues in the county.

“We have the power and thus change is the only thing that is inevitable. Our work continues,” concludes Laura Wawuda who represents the youthful wing of WIMA.

Writing by Christine Ogutu

 


Women-Protest-1280x764.jpg

January 20, 2020by CREAW

Source: Daily Nation

By Kamau Maichuhie and Moraa Obiria

The changes in government announced on Tuesday by President Uhuru Kenyatta have raised a ray of hope for a gender balanced public service.

In the fresh changes, Mr Kenyatta appointed Betty Maina as Industrialisation Cabinet secretary and 15 new chief administrative secretaries (CAS) — eight are women.

The nomination of Ms Maina raises the number of women in the Cabinet to seven. They are Amina Mohamed (Sports, Culture and Heritage), Margaret Kobia (Public Service and Gender) and Farida Karoney (Lands and Physical Planning).

Others are Raychelle Omamo (Foreign Affairs), Sicily Kariuki (Water) and Monica Juma (Defence).

The CAS include Rachael Shebesh, Maureen Magoma and Winnie Guchu. Others are Wavinya Ndeti, Linah Jebii Kilimo, Ann Martha Mukami, Mercy Mukui, Mumina Bonaya and Nadia Ahmed Abdalla.

However, pundits say seven women in a 21-member Cabinet is still far from achieving gender equality compared to other countries in the region such as Rwanda and Ethiopia.

QUALITY IS IMPORTANT

Mr Chryspin Afifu, a gender and governance policy adviser, however told the Nation that the changes are a win for women in their quest for gender parity in public service.

He said the new appointments raise the ratio of women in the Cabinet to 30 per cent.

“We need to see a lot of policies being put in place among them women and sports, water, women and lands and property rights, employment in Middle East countries where reports of women being mistreated continue to come in,” he said.

Mr Afifu added that the push for gender parity should not only be pegged on numbers, but also on whether the women will do a good job.

Kenya has made progress in appointing women to powerful Cabinet positions. However, the Treasury seems to be still under the men’s stranglehold.

Since 1963, no woman has been appointed to head the ministry even as the country inches closer to achieving the two-thirds gender parity in Cabinet composition.

POWERFUL DOCKETS

Prior to 2013, the ministries of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Commerce — considered powerful dockets — were headed by men.

In his first Cabinet appointments, Mr Kenyatta took a laudable step towards the constitutional requirement of two-thirds gender representation by opting for women to head these crucial ministries.

Raychelle Omamo made her maiden entry into the Cabinet as CS for Defence. Foreign Affairs was handed to Amina Mohamed while Phyllis Chepkosgey headed the East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism.

Women have held the substantive ministries of public service, education and health in succession. And now Water and Industrialisation ministries would be held by women should Parliament approve their appointment.

Still, men have a firm hold on Finance. Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa with a $376.3 billion gross domestic product (GDP), has had three women running the Finance ministry consecutively since 2011.

Ms Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala headed the ministry between 2011 and 2015, handing it over to Kemi Adeosun, who in 2018 passed on the mantle to Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, the incumbent.

RWANDA LEADS

Other 16 countries in Africa with past or present female Finance ministers include Tanzania, Uganda, Liberia, the Gambia, Namibia, Togo and Mozambique. Others are Zambia, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Burundi, Chad, Benin, Lesotho, Guinea and Tunisia.

Mercy Jelimo, an officer at the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness-Kenya, said women are capable of holding powerful positions, adding that time was ripe for the President to entrust them with the responsibilities.

She said that the appointment of seven women to the Cabinet is good progress considering Kenya’s history of marginalising women in leadership.

Rwanda is one of the countries in Africa with the most gender balanced Cabinet as women form half of the 26-member Cabinet.


Pastor-Maina-1-1280x853.jpg

January 16, 2020by CREAW

As we approach the New Life Tabernacle church in Nkubu, a sweet, soothing melodious sound fills the air. We are mesmerised! The heavenly tones are weaved in such a beauty that creates an aura of peace and serendipity.

Saturday evening and the sunset has filled the sky with deep red flame, setting the clouds ablaze. Inside the church, the red and sky blue curtains drapes around the iron sheet thatched walls, illuminating our minds to a rather conversational evening.

Seated at the right corner is Pastor Anthony Maina, deeply consumed in the melody. His fingers run over the piano keys so gracefully and he closes his eyes as he feels each melody he plays. He looks up and smiles to welcome us to the pulpit that has been his way of life for the last 20 years.

Maina’s calling goes beyond the pulpit; and as he tells it all, his vision has been to see an empowered society- his voice from the pulpit not only feeds his flock scripture wise, but also transfers words of nobility that mobilises his flock to address the plight of the community.

“For me, an ideal society is where everyone is aware of what is good and what is bad. I believe that everyone is gifted to make a difference however small their actions are,” he says holding his head a little higher; depicting hope for better.

Three years ago, Maina and 80 other pastors formed the Imenti South Pastors Association (ISPA); bringing together clergymen and women from various denominations with a common goal of uplifting the society and providing support to one another.

“We realised that we needed a collective voice to speak out on issues that affects our community,” he says.

Maina now the chairperson of the ISPA says he was privileged to be part of the community actors who were trained by the Center for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) on how to map out gender based violence, mitigate it and work with other county structures to ensure that women and girls are better protected and able to thrive in the community.

As a religious leader, Maina is an influential member of the community and as such his opinion on social matters is held with high regard.

Pastor Anthony Maina interacting with the New Life Tabernacle Church faithfuls. PHOTO/CREAW

His order of day entails daily church summons and pastoral visits in the community. It is here that he converses against social ills such as gender based violence (GBV) and advocates for respectful relationships among men and women.

As such, CREAW’s Haki Yetu Jukumu Letu initiative in partnership with the Netherlands Embassy works to capacity build religious leaders like Maina to continuously engage in conversations on matters GBV at the pulpit and in wholesomeness to shun bad behaviors and encourage community to coexist peacefully.

“Talking about GBV is not easy. Talking about it to a population that is highly patriarchal is even harder and requires skill, patience, charm and persistence,” says the Reverend whose calm, cheerful and friendly demeanour continue to bestow community confidence in him.

During our interactions, his community oriented perspective draws us to the personality and qualities that has enabled thrive as the man of cloth for decades, carving out a niche for himself as a much trusted ear of confession, shoulder to lean on and from whose lips wise counsel can be found by hundreds of his flock in the neighborhoods.

In the community, his deeds and that of fellow clergy in the ISPA speaks loud- a Kilometer away is the Nkubu Police Station where they are currently putting up a holding cell for women.

In one of the Court Users Committee, which he is a member, he got a report about a seven months old baby who died in the police holding cells.

“It is very undignified to lose a young life in such a manner. I engaged my fellow pastors and together we visited the station to ascertain the condition. To our surprise, adults were being made to share cells with children in dilapidated condition,” he narrates, explaining that they made a resolve to raise funds to establish a standard cell with sanitary structures, beddings and child friendly cells for women at the station.

He says the CuC sittings have enlightened him on the operations of the legal systems. More so, he has been able to understand the Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms through the various court training. With the knowledge, he has been helping families resolve land feuds amicably.

“Every year, we map out the immediate social needs in the community, raise funds to actualise it and give it to the community,” say the Reverend.

In 2018, the group visited Meru Women Prison and saw the need for a more women friendly space. Again the ISPA through their table banking monthly contributions, bought mattresses, sanitary towels and other personal effects. This has gone along way in improving living conditions for Women in prisons.

One of the issues that Meru Community grapples with is the disinheritance of women especially when it comes to land ownership. This the Maina, attributes to lack of awareness on the law and inheritance.

“It is unfortunate that when husbands die, their widows are disinherited and left without means to build their livelihoods- we end up with a community where women are oppressed and a generation that is hopeless. Such is a source of disharmony. We must advocate for equal share of land,” explains Maina.

and about the future?

“We are looking forward to establishing a Counselling Center to help women and children deal with psychological trauma. We want to prevent cases of femicide and other forms of GBV. Thus we are engaging like-minded organisations and government structures to support the initiative,” he says.

Writing by Christine Ogutu


33944918_2171883972828533_6094932650315743232_o-1280x853.jpg

January 15, 2020by CREAW

Meru Youth Arts Program (MYAP), have revolutionised their skits to not only build a buzz but also rally their communities against retrogressive cultural practices that promotes violence against women and girls.

Amid the wheat tucked in greenery fields, Meru stands tall as one of the counties that has enacted a sexual and gender based violence policy geared towards the prevention, response and management of gender based violence but beneath the milestone, the youth who form the larger population of the agricultural rich region still stare at a myriad of challenges, perpetuated by the societal underpinnings.

MYAP members at their youth center in Meru. PHOTO/CREAW

From unemployment, mental health issues, female genital mutilation to unwanted pregnancies, and now the skyrocketing cases of femicide pitying the youth at the mercy of their own struggles.

But is it a case of a failed system?

Not exactly, as MYAP tells us during the recent interview with CREAW. Despite the grueling challenges, the MYAP are turning the tides, amplifying their voices to push back the ills that bedevil their peers and the community at large. To them, dramatized conversations are just a starting point to change.

“As we speak about reproductive health issues among young people, we are also addressing the gendered inequality that brings squabbles to the community,” explains Santa Kagendo, the Organizing Secretary of MYAP.

“We came together to galvanize our voices through arts. In this, we knew the society would identify with the issues that mostly affect them. Key among them; female genital mutilation that denies young girls bodily autonomy and put their lives at risks,” adds Santa.

For MYAP, the power of creative words cannot be underscored when addressing gender violence; a topic that is a taboo in most household. Activism through art not only gives them the power to empower their peers but also change societal attitudes regarding issues such as female genital mutilation and domestic violence.

“Dramatizing issues in local dialects brings to touch the issue at hand with the community. People are not only able to understand but also internalize what repercussions violent actions could bring to families,” says Santa.

Every week the MYAP group has two days set aside to develop their skits based on the issues that emerges in their localities. Most of them are not only activists but also change agents in their own rights.

On this particular Saturday morning when we meet at their usual youth center tucked within the Family Care Medical Center, they are having a discussion about the wave of femicide that has rocked their peers.

Leading the conversations is Jamila Mohammed as the young men and women take turns to voice out their opinions. After, they head on to Gakoromone Market; some two kilometers away where they mesmerize the onlookers with their multicolored costumes and props. Soon, the crowd builds up.

“It always begins with an icebreaker,” says Clinton Mwenda alias Skinny

“Their skit is set in a household with a family of six. The couple in their fifties at first paints a picture of a happy home but behind the scene, the husband is hooving around with a 20 year old clandestine who is also in a romantic affair with the son.

After awhile, the wife is made aware of the husband’s meanderings and the home turns chaotic with revelations of HIV infections.” – Such paints the reality of household marred by domestic violence. How then do they address it?

“Conversations with market sellers that follows the street theatre, gives them an opportunity to query the violent actions and discuss bad behaviours collectively. They begin to understand that violence is unacceptable and adopt positive actions,” says George Kimathi.

The end game to them, is that women and men foster respectful relationships. “From where we stand, we believe each person can be part of the solution,” explains George.

Apart from the street theatre, MYAP also holds community dialogues in the villages and behavior change conversations in high schools and universities around Meru. They also use mass media to create awareness on GBV issues.

“So far the reaction has been good especially the youth who are now more comfortable to report and discuss issues affecting them,” he says.

Beyond their artistic prowess, their successes are also depicted in the manner in which they build partnerships with key GBV actors and county government structures for effective and quality service delivery to the populations that their group exists to serve.

“For a long term the most facilities in the County lacked youth friendly centers. Most youth were shying away from seeking health in hospitals because the spaces were not favorable for them and so we petitioned the county and now we have two centers that serve the youth,” explains Santa.

Writing by Christine Ogutu

 


Lucy-Nkatha-1280x853.jpg

January 15, 2020by CREAW

“ Physical disability does not mean you’re mentally challenged.”

These are the words of Lucy Nkatha as she reflects of how  tough  it was for her to gain access education due to her physical disability. Today she is eloquently challenging the barriers that underpin the growth of differently abled persons and more so women and girls.

Lucy Nkatha participating in a learning forum on gender based violence in Nairobi. PHOTO/CREAW

As most children with disability growing up in the remote areas of Meru, going to school is an out of reach dream. Most schools are physically inaccessible to children with special needs like in the case of Lucy back then. She ended up spending most of her childhood in an orphanage just so she could get education. But even with that, her dream long journey to ascend to tertiary level of education proved futile- life at the orphanage was a hard one.

“My childhood was tough. I don’t feel I was able to realise my full potential,” says Lucy.

She says, she was discriminated by the community she was born and bread. From her experiences, she understood that change could only happen to other children who are differently abled if she used her voice to make it better for them.

Lucy Nkatha standing on the ramp at the Igembe Central CDF offices. Her actions saw the ramp established ease PWDs movement in the premises. PHOTO/CREAW

“Because of the stigma, families see persons with disability (PWDs) as a burden, thus most children are not able to get equal opportunities as other children,” she explains.

As a result, she founded the Kiengu Women Challenged to Challenge, a Self Help Group to advocate for the rights of Persons With Disability. To date, the group has attracted a membership of 30 other advocates who share in her passion.

Through the group, they continually engage the county government and the local administration to improve schools for children with special needs and to enact disability friendly policies to create a level playing field where PWDs can actualise their rights and lead better livelihoods.

“We realised that we have so many children in y village who were not able to go to school and so we approached the head teacher of a nearby school and together we did a proposal and was awarded Sh300000 which we used to fund the construction a dormitory,” she says while explaining that they continue to fundraise to ensure that they have a fully fledged special school in the next two years.

Lucy is thankful to CREAW for enhancing their skills and building their confidence to speak out and engage better with their community on issues of rights and equality.

Her successes also spread to the manner in which she also advocate for the improvement of public spaces to accommodate the needs of PWDs. The highlight of it all is when she and her group were able to successfully petition the Office of the County Development Fund in Igembe Central to construct a ramp to enable PWDs access the offices.

What did it take?

“When I saw the building I was enraged and I thought we needed accountability for our rights to be recognised. It took months exchange of letters and meetings. Finally the ramp is a reality and we are able to access all the floors in a two story building,” she explains.

She says the other part of the work that remains is to maintain the momentum in conversing with the community more so, parents about the needs and rights of PWDs to stem out the stigma completely.

and for the future?

“We want to spread beyond Igembe Central to other parts of the county. In the next five years we want to be a community based organisation that would make inclusion a reality in our community,” she says.

“It is time for people to focus on our abilities not our disabilities,” she concludes.

Writing by Christine Ogutu

 


Makadara-Dialogue-2-1280x757.jpg

January 15, 2020by CREAW

Thursday afternoon, men and women are gathered at the Tom Mboya Hall in Makadara to converse on rather difficult subject that is mostly unspoken in the households, the silence is even louder among the communities.

Tom Mboya Hall is synonymous with community gatherings that called for liberation in the clamour for independence in Kenya. And so, I gather that the ground where we are seated is symbolic enough; from the conversation, freedom calls- it is a day to let free and openly talk about domestic violence and by extension, other forms of gender based violence.

But first, a skit is dramatised…

“The play is set in a household with a family of six. The couple in their fifties at first paints a picture of a happy home but behind the scene, the husband is involved in a romantic affair with a 19 year old  who is also in a romantic affair with the son.

After awhile, the wife is made aware of the husband’s meanderings and the home turns chaotic with revelations of HIV infections.” –for a minute, a sharp silence follows, the melancholic faces connotes the realities that women and girls are forced to contend with in the various households.

Slowly and slowly, the murmurs transitions into a buzz of discussions. Ken Odaga a Community Champion leads the conversations.

From the conversations, it emerges that silence around gender violence makes women and girls more vulnerable and often compounds their sufferings. Today is a day to break the silence; notes Odaga.

Odaga, a long time resident of Makadara understands that the stigma around gender based violence (GBV) has contributed greatly to survivors not speaking out on their perpetrators and hence they are not able to get justice and heal from the harm done to them.

“In the conversations, we are making communities aware of their rights and the existing GBV related laws. This is a sure way of ensuring communities are involved in actions that addresses the vice,” he says.

Odaga also explains that, the skits makes it easier to communicate what would have otherwise been difficult to talk about given the social norms around issues like intimate partner violence that exists among communities.

The conversations are spearheaded by community champions under the Linda Haki project implemented by CREAW in partnership with the United Nations Development Programs.

The Linda Haki project aims at educating communities on their rights as provided for in the constitution to enable them seek legal redress and stem out gender based violence in Nairobi’s informal settlements of Kibera, Kamukunji and Makadara.

Under the project, Odaga and 60 other community champions were trained on the existing legal frameworks and GBV. From the knowledge, they have taken the initiative locals within their localities.

“Following the dialogues, community members are now opening up and debunking the myths around intimate partner violence and supporting survivors to deal with the violations,” says Odaga.

The community conversations have also instilled a growing interest among community members on the available laws that protects women and girls from gender violence.

Writing by Christine Ogutu


Linda-Haki-Launch-18-1280x853.jpg

October 10, 2019by CREAW

October 3rd 2019 marked a new dawn for the women and girls residing in Nairobi’s informal settlements as the Linda Haki project was launched.

Locals pose for a photo during the Linda Haki project launch. PHOTO/CREAW

The Linda Haki project implemented by CREAW with the support from the United Nations Development Programs aimed at increasing access to justice and legal aid services for the poor and vulnerable women in the informal settlements of Nairobi.

Speaking during the launch, the Nairobi County Director of Gender, Culture and Social Services Jane Waruguru lauded the efforts to enhance access to legal information, noting that the initiative is timely and will go along way in ensuring that the rights of women and girls are well respected.

“I am happy that the project will bring power to the people and empower them to enhance protection for women and girls in the households and around Nairobi,” said the Director.

Universities signs MOU with CREAW to provide legal aid in Nairobi’s informal settlements. PHOTO/CREAW

She said that the County Government of Nairobi, is concerned about the plight of residence who face challenge in accessing legal information and representation and thus is open to partnerships geared towards helping residents realize their rights.

Echoing in her sentiments was the CREAW’s Director Wangechi Wachira who called on the GBV stakeholders and duty bearers to work together and enhance actions towards eliminating gender based violence in the informal settlements of Nairobi.

The Kamkunji Sub-County Assistant County Commissioner Fred Ndunga reiterated the need to address defilement matters which are sky rocketing in the community. He said, the silence around the matter is worrisome and must be addressed to protect children from repeated attacks.

“I am concerned that some Chiefs conspire to solve defilement cases at familial level. We must stop this,” said Ndunga who also called on the locals to take responsibility and report violations for perpetrators to be held accountable.

During the Launch, CREAW got into partnership with three universities law schools in provision of legal aid services to poor and vulnerable members of communities in Kibera, Makadara and Kamukunji areas in Nairobi County. The universities involved includes; Strathmore University Law School, Kenyatta University –School Of Law and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture And Technology University-Law School.


82187188_2403240913136600_395673518546616320_o.jpg

June 26, 2019by CREAW

Meru County has become the first county to domesticate model legislation on Sexual and Gender Based Violence.

The policy developed with the support from CREAW is designed to help accelerate and reinforce efforts towards the elimination of all forms of gender based violence (GBV) and improve the quality of life for women and men, boys and girls in the county.

Speaking during the launch of the policy, Meru County Governor Kiraitu Murungi reiterated his commitment to end all forms of gender based violence (GBV). The governor praised stakeholders for their support in addressing the vice in the county.

“I have a dream to make Meru great but we cannot do this with women being battered and oppressed yet they constitute half of the population,” said the Governor, while recognizing that women play a critical role in the development of communities they live in.

Governor Kiraitu explained that “the county government will increase access to quality and comprehensive response and support services across sectors and facilitate the establishment safe houses.” This will go along way in improving accountability SGBV service delivery.

In 2018, Meru County launched the Twaweza initiative to enable women build strong livelihoods and a voice to challenge oppressive norms that denies them the opportunity to lead.

“I commit to providing the necessary support- financial and human resources to ensure that the policy is well implemented. I am a womanist and I support the liberation of women and girls from all forms of violence and discrimination,” he said.

The adoption of the policy comes at a time when media reports are awash with cases of women being killed by their intimate partners and girls forced to undergo female genital mutilations.

The Gender and Special Development County Executive Member (CEC) Nkirote Kailanya bemoaned the high prevalence of SGBV in the county. Surveys have indicated that about 66.7 per cent of women have experienced GBV in the preceding 12 months.

“This policy was developed on the principle that SGBV represents not only a human rights violation, but also a hidden obstacle to economic and social development. Domestic violence not only entails private costs for the victims and their families, but also wider social and economic costs, which in the end slow down the rate of development of a community,” Kailanya said.

CREAW’s Executive Director Wangechi Wachira lauded the county effort to ensure that women and girls are better protected and are able to lead dignified lives.

“It is a great time for survivors. With the police more power and voice has been accorded to women and girls. We will continue to work with the County and stakeholders in ending GBV,” said Wangechi.

Stakeholders present at the event lauded the move stating that the policy will ensure that GBV services are better coordinated.

Writing by Christine Ogutu