Page 1

Issue Number 39 • August 2013


Issue Number 39 • August 2013

Women traded for sex

Men in Kwale barter wives for quick money

…By Omar Mwalago Omar


he women are married but none of them is free to make informed choices over their sexual health rights. They are forced by the people most dearest to them, to have sex with other men to earn money. These are not the everyday commercial sex workers, these are honourable women who are being abused by their husbands in the business of sex for money. In this day and age, a group of men in Kinango, Kwale County are forcing their wives to engage in sex with wealthy men in a bid to seek compensation. This was revealed at a Gender Based Violence (GBV) meeting organised by FIDA at Hill Park Hotel in Tiwi Village, Kwale County where it was heard that most men prefer trading their wives for sex instead of engaging in productive work.

Norm According to a youth representative from Ng’ombeni Development Community Based Organization, the men in turn enjoy luxurious lifestyles including drinking free palm wine in posh hotels. “This is highly practiced in Kinango and some parts of our county as men see it as an easy way of generating money for their upkeep without having to struggle,” the young man explained. The meeting by FIDA was organised under the auspices of Peace Initiative Kenya (PIK), a project of International Rescue Committee that is supported by the United Stated Agency for International Development (USAID). The initiative was launched in November last year and ends in September 2013. It is made up of several partners who include FIDA, African Woman and Child Feature Service, Rural Women Peace Link, COVAW, PeaceNet, Well Told Story and Sauti ya Wanawake Pwani.

Peace The project seeks to rapidly create a more protective and peaceful environment the woman and the girl child. The PIK project is designed to support a sense of Kenyan identity that overrides ethnic and

Top: Kwale residents follow discussions during a GBV meeting organised by FIDA under the auspices of Peace Initiative Kenya (PIK), a project of International Rescue Committee that is supported by the United Stated Agency for International Development (USAID). Below: Deputy Governor Fatuma Achani addresses the meeting. Nominated ward representative Kwale county Fatuma Salim Nchizumo during the meeting. Photos: Omar Mwalago Omar gender schism. It targets large numbers of people at the grassroots level in four of the most conflict prone regions in Kenya — Rift Valley, Nyanza, Nairobi’s informal settlements and the Coast. PIK has been working throughout the country equipping women’s groups and networks with

skills to advocate for peace in their communities. It also aims at engaging communities in peace messaging and ending Gender Based Violence. It is noted within PIK that women and girls are

especially vulnerable violence. According to Fatuma Salim Nchizumo, a Continues on page 4


Kenyan women, stand up and be counted in national debates


s the debate over how best to implement devolution as stipulated in the three-year-old Constitution rages on, the gender dimension seems to have been forgotten in the cacophony of the noise. No one is talking any more about the two thirds principle that is enshrined in the supreme law as an affirmative action approach to gender equality. This is despite the fact that most of the 47 Counties have not adhered to the gender rule in appointing members of the County Executive (Cabinet) as per the gender rule. It is also unfortunate that over 100 days since they took office following the General Election, most of the elected and nominated women leaders to the Senate, national and county assemblies are yet to be heard raising these issues from their decision making positions.

Thanks to the Constitution, each County was allocated one slot to elect a woman’s representatives to sit in the National Assembly in addition to the tough women who fought their way during party nominations and General Election romping home to victory. The debate on whether to hold or not to hold a referendum has been reduced to a male-affair with the women watching from the sidelines. Women must entrench themselves in speaking on national issues. This is not acceptable and Millie Odhiambo, Rachel Shebesh, Cecily Mbarire, Priscilla Nyokabi, Mary Wambui, Esther Murugi and Alice Wahome among others should stand up and be counted. The underlying issues other than the budget allocation controversy are just a tip of the iceberg. Sources at the Transitional Authority have revealed that some of the functions that

are not going to be handed over to the Counties include procurement of anti-retrovirals among other medical supplies, family planning and the Global Fund programmes among others. Rising cases of gender based violence as highlighted in the media daily cannot be wished away. These cases are annoying, shocking and frustrating with babies, toddlers and grandmothers not being spared by the perpetrators. It is very sad that in this day and age some women are still protecting and promoting human rights abuses in the form of Female Genital Mutilation which has been outlawed worldwide. Cases of married women going behind their husbands to take their daughters for the rite of passage have been reported in parts of Rift Valley, Nyanza and North Eastern parts of the country. Even more disheartening are the many cases

of schoolgirls dreading to go home for holidays for fear of being forced into FGM and marriage. However the anti-FGM lobby is still strong with women leaders like Maison Leshomo, Naisula Lesuuda, Zipporah Kittony and Beth Mugo. These are expected to keep the pressure on so that the authorities can fight the vice head on as they get the support of the respective communities. These are issues close to the hearts and minds of every ordinary woman and girl out there and their expectations are high that their leaders would soon address them on their behalf. Time has now come for the women leaders to stand up and be counted in the constitutional debate and not leave it to the political heavyweights (read as men) to battle it out over whether Kenyans should be subjected to another referendum or not.


Issue Number 39 • August 2013

Violence used to oppress women in Kisii

…By Bob Ombati


s women clad in lessos and veils sell their goods under the scorching sun at the sprawling Daraja Mbili market, Kisii County, one can be forgiven to think that this is a women’s market. They have turned to be bread winners and scores display their wares in a way that reveals their urge to alleviate poverty through small businesses. The adage that men are bread winners is slowly fading out in Gusii community as majority of women defy cultural barriers and odds to compete with men to put food on table. Markets have become forests where women gather food to feed the family amid shrinking land in the community. This has, however, brought its share of challenges as men who feel intimidated by their wives resort to violence in the name of conforming to cultural norms. Although, genderbased violence, especially in rural areas is decreasing, some men still continue to batter their spouses in a bid to exude their power over them. It is against this backdrop that the Coalition on Violence Against Women, (COVAW) a non-governmental organization has partnered with local leaders and the media the fight against gender based violence to ensure peace at both the family and community level.

Imbalance COVAW assistant program associate, Yvonne Godia notes power imbalance between men and women causes family disputes which trickle to the community and threaten peace, unity and development. Godia, who, jointly with community leaders conducted a random interactive session at Daraja Mbili market recently came face to face with the reality of some psychologically troubled but determined women out to work and feed their families. She said COVAW, under the Peace Initiative Kenya (PIK) project is concerned with prevention and mitigation against violence targeting women and has trained community activists to enhance campaigns against the vice. “The activists inspire and question the power imbalance between men and women,” says Godia The activists use COVAW’s communication materials to reach out to the public and spur critical observations, thinking and action.

Focus The PIK project, notes Godia, focuses on the risks that women and girls face during conflict and efforts they make to promote peaceful society. The project was started in September last year to address violence against women and girls in the grassroots and bring social change through community initiatives. During the session, the women revealed that they have had to contend with their cruel husbands for the sake of children, adding that they drink illicit brew to escape family responsibilities. The women disclosed that they are forced to give money to their idle husbands as this helped to cement relationships and maintain peace at families. “I give my husband money to buy chang’aa (illicit brew) and spare some

to buy food and uniform for our children,” said Gesare Makori, who has been in the business for two decades. Gesare laments that she has to stay in the marriage for the sake of her three schooling children, adding that she wants to see her children complete universities, get jobs and are independent. The businesswoman says she combines farming and business to raise adequate funds to support her children, adding that she cannot abandon the man since she cannot get land to produce food and cash crops.

Ignorance Gideon Gikenyi, a chief in the area says that domestic violence is due to ignorance by both men and women. He challenges men to discard retrogressive cultures and embrace women as equal partners in development, saying women should be supported to enhance peace and hasten the country’s social and cultural development. “Women are overworked and yet they do not enjoy the fruits of their labour since men receive tea and coffee payments,” he noted. Gikenyi notes that if the trend does not change, the girl-child will continue suffering owing to the outdated cultures which consign women to kitchen and baby-sitting while men assume the roles of king’s. During a recent workshop at Sameta lodge, Gucha district, leaders noted that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was rampant in Nyamira and Kisii counties under the cover of preserving the community’s cultural values. Yet the cut is not only a form of gender based violence but also an abuse of human rights. Interestingly, besides the girl-child being a victim, perpetrators of the vice are middle-aged women who collude with traditional circumcisers and nurses at private hospitals and clinics to perpetuate the practice. Stephen Obiri, Kisii County CO-

Community activists trained by Coalition on Violence Against Women, (COVAW) under the Peace Initiative Kenya (PIK) project participate in campaigns to fight against gender based violence to ensure peace both at the family and community level. Below: Jane Matiabe, a second hand clothes dealer in Kisii town. Kisii women are striving to empower themselves economically through small businesses. They no longer rely on their husbands for household items and food. Photos: Bob Ombati VAW coordinator and human rights activist said parents subject underage girls to FGM, thus exposing them to stress. Obiri said traditionally they used to sing them an FGM song ‘Obeire mo’kabamura (she qualifies to be married)’ to please the girls, embolden and motivate others to follow suit, saying they categorize them to ensure FGM graduates to command great respect in the community. Violence against women is even extended to the older ones. Obiri notes

that elderly women were being branded witches and lynched. “The trend has created fear among aging women, who feel insecure to enjoying their sunset years.”

Witchcraft According to Reverend Arita Mokua, chairman Borabu, District Peace Committee the killing of innocent aging women is linked to land tussles and witchcraft is merely used to justify the vice. “Killing women and battering

them disorients families because they suffer physically as well as psychologically and this spell doom to the families,” Mokua notes. He adds: “Women and children are traumatized. Children drop out of school due to instability in families and end up begging for food in the streets.” He challenges women to know their rights and defend them whenever they are violated, saying it will force their husband to respect them lest they face legal consequences if they violate them.

Issue Number 39 • August 2013


Bar maids called by any other name but their own …By Jane Godia


uhoroni looks like a nondescript town, lying on the foot of Nandi Hills. The greenery is appealing to the eye as you approach this town that lies within the sugar belt. It is an old town and the buildings which tell the story of its age. It has an urban population of 13,664 and a total population of 31,148, according to the 1999 census. However, there are other things within the town that makes a visitor curious. There are many factories that are to be found within this town that lies in Kisumu County, Nyando subcounty. These include the Muhoroni Sugar Factory, Agro-Chemical Food and Homaline among others. According to Philip Ondeng’, a community activist based in Muhoroni, the area has so many issues around gender based violence and the major ones being rape and domestic violence.

Risks Ondeng’ notes: “Prostitution is rife in the area. The fact that Muhoroni is surrounded by many factories makes it more prone to prostitution and a high prevalence of HIV.” He explains: “There is a high circulation of money because there are various categories of payments being done. These include those who are paid on a daily basis, weekly, fortnightly and monthly.” He gives an example of those who weed the farms who are paid every five days, while those who cut the cane are paid on a daily basis. While there is no red district that can be mapped out in the town, the bar maids also serve as commercial sex workers. However, they do not negotiate their terms in the contemporary style of prostitution. When serving drinks, the bar maids are also bought beer. In the end, the highest bidder, who is the person who will have bought her the most drinks, is the one who ends up going with her. “This then is the beginning of problems for the bar maid. The fact that she also accepted drinks from the other men will automatically lead to her being beaten, or the men fighting over her,” Ondeng’ explains. This is because every man who has bought beer expects sexual favour from her. By the time the bar closed at 11 pm, patrons think that they have hit their target, but the woman can only go with one man. “Men fight over these women to the point that they kill each other from time to time simply because one’s expectations was not met,” explains Ondeng’.

Negotiation According to Margaret Omondi, a paralegal from Kisumu County, the women do not view themselves as prostitutes. “Men in Muhoroni do not believe in buying a woman a drink for free. They must have sexual favours in return,” says Omondi. She adds: “The women also do not view themselves as prostitutes because they are working and serving these men as clients in established premises. They do not even have the power to negotiate for the terms of service.” While violence is very rife especially on the days men have earned and would want to have their sexual needs fulfilled by the bar maids, the women suffer more verbal abuse than anything.

Muhoroni town where prostitution is rampant due to the fact that it is surrounded by many factories and thus high circulation of money. Below: Community activists during a platform organised by the Coalition for Violence Against Women (COVAW) under the SASA Model. They are not addressed by their names even within the bars, but are instead referred to as ‘ochot (prostitute)’. “A man will enter a bar, although he knows the bar maid by name, he will instead be heard shouting, ‘where is that prostitute who serves here?” explains Ondeng’.

Intimidation These bars maids are women who have come from as far as Uganda and Tanzania as well as other Kenyan towns like Eldoret, Kisii and Busia in search of employment. Here they do not have any rights because they are not from the local communities who are mainly Luo and Nandis. They also feel intimidated especially those who have come from Uganda and Tanzania because they do not even have work permits. They are poorly paid and earn as little as KSh40 per day. When this is totalled at the end of the month, these women earn only KSh1,200,” says Ondeng’. He adds: “To make ends meet, they resell the alcohol they were bought by clients in exchange for sexual favours and this then becomes the beginning of their problems because they want to maximise on what these customers are giving them.” While the woman may be beaten by another man because of beer, woe unto that man if this woman has a relationship with a police officer. “If a woman linked to a policeman is violated, the police are able to intervene and the perpetrator is charged,” Ondeng’ says. However, at the police station the

“Men in Muhoroni do not believe in buying a woman a drink for free. They must have sexual favours in return.”  Margaret Omondi

P3 form is given for free. However, when they get to hospital, the women are asked to part KSh500 for the doctor to fill the document. “Most women cannot afford to pay this amount which at times is pushed up to about KSh2,000 and the bar maids who are violated do not have the capacity to raise this amount,” says Karen Wambui Kiarie, also a community activist in the county. The activists were speaking during a community activists’ platform organised by Coalition for Violence Against Women (COVAW) under the SASA Model. According to Yvonne Godia, a programme associate at COVAW, the SASA Model they are using has been borrowed from Raising Voices, a nongovernmental organisation in Kampala Uganda.

Origin “This a toolkit for activists borrowed from Raising Voices in Uganda being used to discuss issues around power and questioning violence being experienced by women within communities,” explains Godia. Within Nyanza Province, COVAW has been working with around 90 community activists who are based in Kisumu, Kisii and Migori counties. The model is a community mobilization strategy. SASA is an acronym for Start, Awareness, Support and Action. It interrogates power imbalance between men and women that causes violence against women. It also aims to prevent violence against women in

the community by thinking about the power within oneself, the power over knowledge and information, power with support from others to change and power to action. The tool uses four strategies that include training, local activism through; dramas, community action groups, community conversations and quick charts, communication material strategy which employs; card games, posters, comic sheets and picture cards and the media strategy which emphasize on the use of community local radio station. The meeting held in Muhoroni, brought in 30 community activists from Kisumu County and was held under the Peace Initiative Kenya (PIK) project. During the local activism in which the activists physically visited the community in their places of work as well as police stations. The SASA activists use posters to get the people they are addressing understand their intention. The SASA model has been well received in the re-

gions where we work,” explains Godia. “People tell us that they would like us to hold more of these activities.”

Privacy However, on this day in Muhoroni, one woman said she had a lot of problems in her house but she would not speak about it in public. She recommended that the SASA activists should hold door to door activities to enable privacy prevail and people to speak more openly about issues of gender based violence. It emerged clearly that violence in the region is rife. It was noted that while violence against women was high, men were not spared either. The sugar cane cutters were pointed out as the most vicious lot among the men in the region. “They will easily kill a supervisor who is frustrating them,” Odeng’ explained. He added” It is not strange to find dismembered bodies within the sugar plantations. Hardly a day passes before one has been slashed.”


Issue Number 39 • August 2013

Social marketing tackle violence …By Robert Nyagah


ender Based Violence community activists in Kilifi and Tana River counties have intensified campaigns to create awareness on the need to avoid violence against women and girls. The activists are also widening the scope of their coverage to avoid the stereotype that it is only women who suffer gender based violence by encouraging men subjected to violence to speak about the vice. Grabbing opportunities at social gatherings including day to day forums at the community level, the activists are slowly and surely winning the hearts of many residents who would have otherwise in the past have taken violence against women and girls for granted. After undergoing several phases of training by experts drawn from the Coalition on Women against Violence (COVAW), the activists admit that they have over time gained wide skills in conducting social marketing campaigns.

Scope In one of the latest awareness events for the community activists coordinated at Marereni Trading Centre on the border of the Kilifi and Tana River counties, Esther Kimani, a Programme Officer at COVAW indicated that the activists had fully familiarized themselves with what was expected of them. Kimani noted that COVAW was keen to continue widening its awareness scope and identify means through which cases of abuse against women would be reported and dealt with legally. “Through wide ranging community activism, we aim to mobilize our partners to be part of breaking the cycle of violence against women in Kenya,” Kimani reiterated. She noted that the activists needed to mature into a movement of change and become real agents of change to stop violence against women at various levels through cooperation with lawyers and security forces. After release of summarized reports from various regions covered by the activists enumerating success and challenges, the Kimani distributed various newly designed message and topic posters to the activists.

Discussions Like in the past forums, the posters have drawings and images of settings associated with people at community level which are normally distributed for display to the public during different social gatherings. Through observation of the images and interpretation of related messages, the posters end up spurring discussions on various issues which lead or are associated with violence at family and social level.

Before the community activists poured out into the streets of Marereni and brought business into a near-standstill during awareness session, Jillo Dakacha, an activist from Chamwanamu sublocation in Tana Delta District declared: “I am very happy to be part of this project by COVAW and to be deeply involved in campaigns to improve respect for human rights among Kenyans at my region and especially women.” Her sentiments were also echoed by Esther Kadzo from Magarini District in Kilifi County who said: “The training by COVAW has opened Gender Based Violence activists talking to men on the dangers of the vice. Men have slowly come my eyes on the abuses which most of us from the out to share their experiences and support the campaign. village level have always taken for granted.” PHOTO: ROBERT NYAGAH She added: “I have been successful in using my skills to mobilize both men and women to level of dropout from school. Kadzo noted that “Cases of early pregnancies remained high learn how they can avoid abuse of human rights at through the activism many parents had opened although the numbers were going down due to domestic and community levels.” up and majority started even revealing the reaintensive campaigns under Girl Child Network The activists noted that violence against womand Sauti ya Wanawake programmes which cover sons why some of their daughters ended being en can only end if there is respect for human rights. both the upper and lower parts of the Tana River enticed into pre-marital sex which led to un“I would like all Kenyans to learn to respect one anCounty,” Guyo noted. wanted pregnancies. other. The men, especially those from the Giriama In the past the boy-girl ratio in many schools “Some parents revealed that lack of money to community should stop looking at women as being remained very poor with 10 girls enrolling at Stanbuy sanitary pads for their daughters embarrassed merely slaves to accomplish domestic chores, give them forcing them out of school for the days when dard One and collapsing to two by Standard Eight. birth and entertain their husbands and at times they were menstruating,” said Kadzo. Doris Maneno Godana from the Tana River be subjected to violence,” said Graze Tsotsa from Some young people with resources, includCounty said she deeply valued the programme as Malanga Village in Magarini District of the Kilifi it has and would continue to expand “our skills in ing some teachers and even chiefs enticed the girls County. handling women and the girl child rights”. with sexual favours after they provided them with Godana noted that the pace at which activists money to buy sanitary pads. Abuse were penetrating the rural parts of the Tana Delta Protection She explained that since joining the commuwas good and indications were clear that through nity activism under the Kilifi County section of the the project respect for women will be deeply enIn some instances creating awareness on use COVAW, families in her village had slowly started trenched into the community. of protection such as condoms among girls to to open up to her on issues relating to sexual abuse “Looking at the pace at which we are deepenavoid pregnancy or even infections including HIV of girls, forced marriages and violence. She noted ing our presence and activities especially in the was alluded to. Kadzo noted that most parents rethat some of the men linked to violence related inrural areas, it is clear that within the next five years jected this arguing that it was tantamount to encidents had either stopped or in other cases slowed we shall have reached all the villages. This will couraging early sex among the girls. down. make human rights and respect for women and According to Kimani: “COVAW’s objective Those interviewed indicated that they had ingirls the norm,” Godana observed. under the Peace Initiative Kenya Project is to act as tensified their campaigns to instil a sense of firmthe focal point for Gender based Violence prevenRights ness on women they work with to insist on respect tion and awareness activities, including conductof human rights. The COVAW representative in Awareness raising at community level as ening social marketing campaigns and offering techTana River County, Edda Guyo said that since visaged under the programme will make majority nical support to grassroots organizations working the programme was launched the scenario in the of parents take responsible positions on issues reon GBV in 18 counties within the country.” Tana River where the Pokomo and Orma women Through the programme, stakeholders are lated to human rights as well as abuse of women had all along been treated as “second class citizens encouraged to explore how power dynamics beand girls, noted Lillian Kadzo from Malindi in who are powerless in relation to various rights” has the Kilifi County. She added: “If parents are aware tween women and men can change for the better. changed and women were gaining a voice. of their rights, they will respect the rights of their Through the SASA tool, it is demonstrated how While women are being accepted in leaderchildren and that way women and girls will be understanding power and its effects can help preship positions, the girls are also being appreciated safer.” vent violence against women. The Marereni forum and taking their place in schools unlike in the past Kadzo’s group operated in the rural setting was a success because through the use local activwhen early marriages was the norm. covering Chakama, Matolani and Malanga locaism strategy, the activists spearheaded community However, Guyo noted that the levels of awareconversations around ‘power’ at the local Bus Park. tions where members’ ownership of the project at ness and respect towards girls still remains a chalKimani noted that the Tana Delta violence hit times forced them to utilise their own resources to lenge with studies having ascertained that at least a magnitude that had never been experienced bereach more villages. 30 out of 100 girls drop out of upper primary school In such areas awareness remained parafore, “women and children were targets. They were every year to end up in early and forced marriages brutally killed and burnt alive in the chaos in large mount because at least 10 out of 100 girls become after undergoing female genital mutilation. numbers”. pregnant every six months leading to a high

Challenges in Tana River


oalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW) has trained 20 human rights defenders as community activists in Tana River under the Peace Initiative Kenya project. These activists work on issues of violence against women, peace and security. The community activists engage in conversations with male youths, women at the roadside market and men sited at a community petrol station. Interesting issues have emerged which include transaction sex with indication that “due to poverty and large families, girls in the community exchange sex for basic needs such

as food, clothing and sanitary pads. Lack of education for girls was also discussed with many people indicating that the community as a whole did not value girl-child education. In a family where there are boys and girls, the parents worked hard to pay fees for the boys’ and neglect the girls even if they are bright. This decision was attributed to poverty and quick ways of getting money such as dowry. Discussions also revealed that early and forced marriages were rampant in Kilifi County with sections of the community noting that girls lacked role models to emulate and hence grew up with an attitude of giving up in

life. Many viewed marriage as the only option for them with some parents worsening the crisis by giving their girls out for money to elderly men. Lack of employment to youths was blamed for increased cases of drug abuse partly as a means to escape realities of life and its accompanying challenges. The community awareness session was a success as the members participated in discussions and accepted challenges to start changing negative mind-sets on how they viewed girls’ education and to report any cases of violence against women when they occurred close to them.

One of the training sessions of human rights defenders organized by coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW) in Tana River under the Peace Initiative Kenya project. PHOTO:ROBERT NYAGAH

Issue Number 39 • August 2013


Controversy mars disbursement of Uwezo fund

…By Faith Muiruri


he disbursement of Ksh 6 billion set aside by the Jubilee Government for youth and women empowerment is shrouded in mystery. Questions abound as to why the Ministry of Devolution which has been mandated to disburse the Uwezo Fund has shunned public consultations and gone ahead to approve the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) model where allocations and disbursements are done through committees at the local level. At the centre of controversy is the lack of public participation in deciding how the Uwezo Fund will be channelled or the structures to be put in place to allow for full access of the said funds by the concerned groups. While Article 174 (c) of the Constitution provides for participation of the people in decisions affecting them, the Ministry of Devolution has apparently settled on the CDF model without prior consultations. Reliable sources say that committees are to be put together by the local Member of Parliament and County women representatives on a 50-50 basis.

Disappointment The revelations appear to have dampened the prospects that the initial plan had anticipated. Fears abound that the Fund may be mismanaged as CDF does not have a structure to handle resources of such magnitude. According to Rachael Shebesh, the Nairobi County Women’s Representative, the CDF structure has never dealt with a loan and is, therefore not an ideal mode to use. “The structures that are being suggested including the CDF model have never managed a loan. The CDF handles projects such as classroom construction. I have never seen a CDF committee that asks people to pay loans,” Shebesh noted. Similar sentiments are shared by a cross-section of women’s organisations who have called for more consultations before disbursement of the

Uwezo Fund to help come up with a framework that is acceptable to all. According to Daisy Amdany, chair of the National Political Alliance, the CDF model is likely to disfranchise beneficiaries and promote political patronage at the expense of development.

Mismanagement “We all know the history of the CDF. In very few cases, has CDF been managed properly. If you are channelling these funds through CDF, what institutional structures do MPs have to manage such funds?” she questioned. Amdany challenged the Ministry of Devolution to explain how they intend to audit the Fund through CDF and the criteria to be used in deciding the viability of projects that would be funded through the initiative. “The MPs have already arrived at a sealing of KSh500,000 for any group willing to get this money. How did they arrive at this when it is clear there has not been any public participation?” she posed again. Amdany noted that consultations are critical to help come up with a framework that is agreeable to everyone. She reiterated that adopting a structure without dialogue and consultations negates the very ideals espoused in the Constitution and creates loopholes that may become conduits for siphoning public money. Equally worrying is the new demand by the 47 women representatives that the money is allocated to them in their respective counties as MPs al-

Women group leaders in Nyeri follow a training session during the launch of Intra County Linkage Program in the area. Photo: Waikwa Maina. ready have the CDF. “The fund has already generated political infighting. The MPs on the one hand are opposed to the idea of having women representatives administer the fund while the 47 women representatives feel that the MPs have their own CDF and they are the ones who should be allowed to man the funds,” Amdany pointed out.

Devolution She said that the CDF model further raises the question of political interference adding that while the

“The structures that are being suggested including the CDF model have never managed a loan. The CDF handles projects such as classroom construction. I have never seen a CDF committee that asks people to pay loans.”  Rachel Shebesh

concept is good, the way it has been handled, is worrying. “If we allocate the fund within the CDF framework, what does that mean in terms of political interference and prioritization of projects. Is it going to go towards the intended purpose?” queried Amdany. She dismissed as misleading assertions by Ann Waiguru, Cabinet Secretary for Devolution that the Uwezo Fund is supposed to be disbursed at the constituency level to further development agenda. “The Cabinet Secretary should be specific as to whose development agenda she is making reference to. Is it MPs development agenda or the county development agenda because we already have a framework for disbursing funds at the county level through devolution.” Amdany advised that the Government must seek to expand market opportunities and align ongoing funding to ideals espoused in Vision 2030 which is supposed to create markets. She recalled the commitment by the Jubilee Government that 30 per cent of all government procurement will be channelled towards the youth,

women and people living with disabilities. “This commitment must, however, be mirrored at the county level and anchored in the Public Procurement Act to enhance the implementation process,” she added. Amdany said that while the Jubilee Government is determined to meet their commitment, based on pledges they made during the campaigns, there is need to look into the sustainability of economic empowerment programmes which should not be just be confined to throwing money at groups. Her sentiments were echoed by Deborah Okumu, Executive Director Caucus for Women Leadership who noted that there has to be an agenda within the entire framework so that the funds are not misconstrued to reflect forms of tokenism. President Uhuru Kenyatta had pledged that funds which were initially meant for use in the event of an election run-off would be channelled to support enterprises for youths and women. By the way things are going, women are likely not to benefit from the Fund created specifically to empower them.

Women urged to joins Saccos for financial empowerment …By Ben Oroko


omen who have been brewing illicit liquor in Kisii have been challenged to abandon the illicit trade and instead join the co-operative movement to benefit from funds set aside by the government to empower them economically. According to Giasaiga sub-location assistant chief, James Mogo, women should stop brewing chang’aa and engage in economically viable business ventures which can attract funding from the government.

Encouragement Speaking at Nyamonya Farmers’ Co-operative Society during the Annual General Meeting, Mogo encouraged women to join co-operative societies and utilize their membership to access loans. “This will enable them finance clean business ventures instead of engaging in the outlawed chang'aa business,” he said, adding, “the business left women impoverished through court fines and police raids”.

"From experience, women are prudent savers and having them in the co-operative movement will transform their lives and their immediate families,” Mogo reiterated. He added: “They will be able to access government funds to finance their businesses to empower them economically and spur economic growth in the country.” He encouraged women to take advantage of the Women Enterprise Fund which targeted women entrepreneurs to finance their businesses and economically empower them. Mogo’s sentiments were shared by Isaac Omwenga Kisii Branch Manager of Wakenya Pamoja Sacco who challenged women in the region to apply for Women Enterprise Fund loans channelled through the Sacco to finance their businesses at affordable interest rates.

Attitude “Although the funds were available through the Sacco, very few women were keen to apply for the loans due to negative perception that they have towards loans,” noted Omwenga. He encouraged women entrepreneurs to cultivate a positive attitude towards loans and

A woman dries coffee beans at a co-operative society in Kisii County. PICTURE: BEN OROKO utilize opportunities offered by the Government through the Fund to transform their lives. “I am encouraging women to apply for the loans that have been channelled through our Sacco to finance their businesses and scale down levels of poverty at household levels," he said. Omwenga assured women that Women

Enterprise Fund loans were meant to empower them economically and they should not shy away from applying for the funds which were lying idle at the Sacco. Omwenga noted that a majority of the women shunned the funds due to the influence of their husbands who discourage them against applying for the funds.


Issue Number 39 • August 2013

Tradition and culture conspire against women in Isiolo

…By Sheila Bett


olitics remains an uphill task for women in Isiolo County. They have to choose between upholding their marital status or being alienated for defying tradition and culture. Men dictate as to who their wives will vote for during elections and any contradictions attract dire consequences. During the last General Election, some women were battered and ejected from their matrimonial homes for failing to vote for the candidates preferred by their partners. “Some women were divorced for voting against candidates endorsed by their husbands,” explains Khadija Omar during a Media Encounter organised by AWC in a project that is sponsored by UN Women.

Leadership The meeting brought together journalists and women leaders to facilitate a dialogue that would give the women a greater chance at leadership and enable them to be in a position to influence policies that affect them. “Women had continued to be looked down upon in key decision making processes in the highly patriarchal County,” noted Omar. It was noted ironically, that women who are living with their partners hardly go for leadership positions. The Speakers at the meeting said women who contested for political seats in the last elections were apparently either divorcees or widowed. They said that most decisions in the County are approved during clan meetings where women are not represented. Women only get a hearing from the clan if their issues are raised by their husbands. “Clan elders endorse leaders in the County during political contests and women who plan to contest for political seats are disqualified at this level, which in effect gives the male contenders a vantage point,” said Mumina Konso. She noted that the clan feels that women cannot be entrusted in leadership positions considering the fact that county is synonymous with insecurity.

Ridicule Konso who has unsuccessfully contested for a parliamentary seat in Isiolo severally said she has been subjected to ridicule with the community branding her ‘a mad woman’ for daring to contest. Konso who is a widow recalled how during her first attempt she received a boost because then her husband was alive and he supported her. “He was an educated man who was open-

Women leaders from Isiolo County follow discussions during a meeting organised by AWC in a project sponsored by UN Women. Photo: George Ngesa

minded and did not ascribe to retrogressive cultural practices. He even went as far as organising a meeting for me with the clan members, which was only allowed on condition that he represents me,” recalled Konso. Lack of free will remains a greater challenge as women are not allowed to make independent decisions on who to vote for in elections. Once the clan has recommended its preferred candidate, everyone in the community is expected to support their choice. The women, also observed that most of the officials from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in Isiolo are not independent and largely represent the interest of the clans.

“These people report back to the clan who voted for whom,” Konso said. She added: “This creates an atmosphere of fear among voters due to the breach of the trust and majority of people opt to vote for candidates endorsed by the clans for fear of reprisals.”

Patriarchy The situation in Isiolo may not be an isolated case, however, as in many rural parts of Kenya, sensitization and civic education have hardly been implemented. Reaching the people in the grassroots cannot be an easy task, though it is necessary. Most Kenyan communities are patriarchal and hardly give women a voice, let alone a chance

at political leadership. It is a fight that will continue until something changes and a step in the right direction is taken by the nation. The beginning of this is to respect human rights as stipulated by the Constitution of Kenya 2010. Article 19 of the states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. As a member of the United Nations, the country is also a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Every Kenyan has a right to choose a leader of choice, this is a democratic right accorded by the law of the land.

Men in Kwale barter wives for quick money Continued from page 1

nominated ward representative in Kwale County this is happening because men have failed to embrace hard work. She lamented that some men quit working immediately they get married and rely on their wives for provision. In the event that these women are not able to provide, the men encourage them to have sex with wealthy men so that they can demand compensation as culture dictates. “It is sad for a woman to wake up at 4.00 am to sell charcoal or her market wares yet she is only entitled to a cup of tea and mandazi (ban) while the husband takes the rest of the money to drinking dens. This is not acceptable at all,” Nchizumo said. It was noted that gender based violence is rampant in the county. There was need to protect vulnerable women who have are exposed to HIV infection.

Nchizumo cited rape, sexual harassment at work places and domestic violence among other issues that require intervention. She noted that women who go looking for jobs in five star hotels in the county are sexually harassed.

Baits Echoing the same sentiments, Fatuma Mohammed Achani, Kwale County deputy Governor said men should work hard and take up their role as head of the family unit instead of using their wives as baits for wealth. “Men should play their part as heads of the family and stop pushing their daughters and wives into prostitution,” Achani stressed. However, according to Rajab Hamis Massah, assistant chief Golini Location, high poverty levels and extreme hunger was forcing some parents to marry off their underage daughters or

have them engage in child prostitution in urban areas and along beaches. “The situation has been aggravated by low literacy levels in the area and the scenario is likely to worsen as more and more girls are forced to drop out of school and married off at a tender age,” said Massah. He noted that some of the locals still embrace retrogressive practices such as wife inheritance and extramarital affairs in full disregard of the consequences. “We as leaders have a responsibility to sensitise the community on the need to discard such practices. Villages have been wiped out of men because of HIV and AIDs,” reiterated Nchizumo. The meeting noted that widows have been side-lined in local activities especially in Nyango village within Kinango. According to Hassan Renge widows in the area are not allowed to participate

in any development activities. He urged the Peace Initiative Kenya and FIDA to address the issue so that the widows get recognition and a chance to participate in development activities including leadership. Within Kwale County there is also the issue of gender imbalance in land ownership. Cultural beliefs and traditions continue to discriminate against women when it comes to land ownership and property inheritance. “Women are not sufficiently represented in institutions that deal with land. Their rights under communal ownership and group ranches are also not defined and this allows men to dispose off family land without consulting them,” said Nchizumo. She added: “Few women have land registered in their names and majority lack finances to buy the resource. It is easier for men to own land through inheritance as opposed to women.”

Achani noted that the Constitution of Kenya 2010 offers an opportunity for women to own land and laws should now be reviewed and or legislated to realize this provision. The existing laws and practices governing matrimonial property discriminate against spouses whose contribution to the acquisition of such property is indirect and not capable of valuation in monetary terms. Furthermore, the courts have been inconsistent in determining what amounts to such contribution, with the result that some spouses have unfairly been denied of their rights to land. Women’s ownership to land continues to be determined by their marital status and by laws of inheritance and divorce. Generally, women have limited economic resources in their hands and also lack decision-making power at the household level to buy land independent of their spouses.

Issue Number 39 • August 2013


I must change Kisumu, says Amina Omumbo

…By Carolyne Oyugi


he is very vocal and always ready to express herself and condemn bad things where and when necessary. This has earned her popularity in Kisumu city and as a result she always finds herself resolving problems between aggrieved people. This has, however, not been easy for Amina Omumbo because at times she is faced by problems beyond her negotiation powers. “Kisumu has now become insecure and politicians are using young boys to form criminal gangs that give residents sleepless nights,” says Omumbo who is simply known in the lakeside city as Amina.

Unemployment She notes that the unemployment rate is very high in Kisumu because there are very few factories to employ the youth and so most of them end up in boda boda (motorcycle taxi) business. “This business leads to criminal activities because it involves a lot of energy and little pay” Amina notes. She adds: “When one does not have enough customers or does not make enough money at the end of the day then they look for other alternatives.” Amina expresses her disappointment at the slow pace in which the police handle cases, as majority solicit for bribes and dismiss cases. “The police also look down upon women. For example, if you report a rape case, the first thing they do is look at how you are dressed and then boldly tell you that you called for it,” she laments. Amina also observes that rapists

in Kisumu are now using condoms to seal evidence. “This is a good thing because it prevents transmission of diseases and unwanted pregnancies but again when following the legal process the victim is left with no evidence to link the criminal to the crime and he goes scot free,” she explains.

Rapists Being a Muslim, Amina is concerned by the open discrimination Muslim women are facing in Kisumu. She says that there are two Muslim groups in Kisumu, DAWAAH Development Group and Kisumu Muslim Association (KMA) that are at war. The unfortunate thing is that it is the women and children who are suffering from this antagonism. One time the Kisumu Muslim Association decided to close a mosque where women were reading the Quran. The mosque also houses orphans who are taken care of and educated by DAWAAH group. Although the Kisumu Muslim Association were given a court order to vacate and release the children, they

“The Judiciary has also failed us in many ways. The frequency of going to the court can be very discouraging. The process is prolonged so much that some people give up along the way.”  Amina Omumbo

have not. Amina runs a community based organization called AL-TAQWA in Kaloleni Estate within Kisumu. Through the organization, she supports and cares for orphans and vulnerable children, widows and people living with HIV.

Incest She is also involved in governance issues, paralegal work and counselling sexual offences victims. “This is not easy because incest is also in the rise. The mothers are compromised while the children suffer,” Amina observes adding that chiefs, elders and religious leaders should be more active in stopping this vice. Amina acknowledges that it is very hard being a woman and fight for people’s rights. She says that if you become strong enough that you have an impact then you are branded names like ‘FIDA wa hapa’ (this area’s FIDA), the organisation that helps defend women from injustices. “The Judiciary has also failed us in many ways. The frequency of going to the court can be very discouraging. The process is prolonged so much that some people give up along the way,” she explains. Amina also wishes that the sexual offences involving children could be moved to Children’s Court and that they should also not subject the child to narrating the ordeal every now and then. The long process, she notes, also interferes with the children’s school work. “At times the children have to skip classes because the hearings are on weekdays. When it is not possible to skip classes then they miss the court session to their disadvantage,” she notes.

Amina Omumbo, the coordinator of AL-TAQWA which is a Community based Organisation in Kaloleni Estate within Kisumu. She supports and cares for orphans and vulnerable children, widows and people living with HIV. PHOTO: AWC

Jane Adeya: Fighting for people’s rights

…By Carolyne Oyugi


he is no stranger to politics and the struggle for democracy. She has been around since the 1980s fighting for the second liberation which she says people are now enjoying without understanding the history. Jane Adeya has been vocal in fighting for the rights of the Coastal people although she is considered a minority. “I have been trying to fight vices like rape, gender based violence and poor representation of the minority (wabara) in Coast region but it has not been an easy exercise,” she says. Coast region is known to be endowed with natural resources like the beaches and the climate which attracts tourists every year. However, according to Adeya, the same blessings have also become a curse leading to vices like human and drug trafficking, sexual slavery and young children being introduced to sexually related businesses. “These are some of the things that motivated me to be actively involved in politics and peace building so I can

have a platform to express my views and share my plans with policy makers,” she notes. Adeya has for many years fought for workers’ rights. As a member of Communication Workers Union of Kenya, she was at the forefront fighting for the workers better pay and working conditions at the Postal Corporation of Kenya.

Motivation This did not go well with her employers and she lost her job in 2002 because of her political involvement. A few days after losing her job, she was kidnapped and seriously tortured. “I lost my teeth and suffered a broken leg which was fixed by inserting a metal. I’m now walking with foreign objects in my body,” she says. However, Adeya went to court to challenge her dismissal from work in 2006 and the case is still pending in court In 1990, Adeya was among the few women who were at the forefront fighting for multipartyism. As a member of the Forum for Restoration of Democracy (FORD) Party,

she was very active though behind the scenes. In 1993, she was shot at a political rally. “I was shot on my shoulder defending Raila Odinga and yet no one really cared about my health and welfare after that,” she says point to the scar. Adeya is very concerned about the current divide along tribal and religious lines among Mombasa residents. “If you come up with an idea to empower the community and those present at the gathering are mostly people from other communities, the initiative is sabotaged by the local community claiming that you are an outsider. The discrimination even narrows down to whether you are Muslim or Christian,” she explains.

Religion Adeya reveals that in Mombasa politics is done in the mosques. The civil society organisations that are coming up are also inclined towards Islam hence locking out the Christians. “The non-governmental organisations’ names have words that are

related to Islam and this automatically locks out the Christians. They also get a lot of funding because the people in influential and political offices in the region are also Muslims,” she explains. To survive the discrimination, Christians have also come up with their own organizations. One such organization is Christian Foundation of Kenya which according to Adeya is doing well. “They have opened up their businesses and Christians are shopping there,” she notes.

Resilience However, Adeya is disappointed with the police. “People are willing to meet and come up with development ideas but the same meetings are raided by the police because they will enlighten the community,” she says. According to Adeya, women are the most disadvantaged in Mombasa. “First you are discriminated upon because you are (mbara), then you are a Christian and finally you are a woman,” she says. Adeya notes that this discourages most women from fighting for what they believe in. She believes

that unless they are resilient and willing to die for their cause, it is very hard for them to overcome. She also observes that most women give up because they are not rewarded accordingly. People do not recognize their efforts. Adeya is also disappointed by the favouritism being exhibited in political parties. “Some women are nominated simply because of their relationship with the party leaders yet they have done nothing to benefit the party,” says Adeya. She adds: “My name was in the list to be nominated as a county representative but it mysteriously disappeared. Someone deleted my name and I have gone to court to contest that action.” For justice to prevail, Adeya believes that the fee charged on petitions should be reduced so that it can be affordable to many people. “As it is, the court is out of reach for many people. The judiciary is also not trustworthy,” she laments. Despite all these obstacles, Adeya is determined to continue the fight of bringing peace and for human and democratic rights of the residents of Mombasa.


Issue Number 39 • August 2013

Maureen Nasirumbi Peace ambassador who fights against violence in public and private sphere

…By Joyce Chimbi


he day Maureen Nasirumbi witnessed a woman being beaten in public by her husband, with a baby on her back marked the turning point in her life. “People watched the unfolding event as the man used a piece of metal from his bicycle to whip the woman, in broad daylight. Nobody lifted a finger,” Nasirumbi remembers. Unable to simply stand and watch, or even to go on with her business, she reported the incidence to the police immediately. By so doing “I knew that my days of standing by as violence took root in the community were over”, she says.

Intolerance According to Nasirumbi, a well-known peace champion in Busia, western Kenya, violence in the region happens at various levels. “There is gender based violence, tribal intolerance and conflict. We are also close to the Ugandan border so cross border conflict is not new to us,” she says. “The truth is that in Busia, communities are intolerant of each other. That is why I continue preaching healing, tolerance and reconciliation five years after the post-election violence,” Nasirumbi explains. The town’s close proximity to the border with Uganda places the community at a very strategic position as a hub for many activities, both productive and destructive, including cross border conflict.

However, political conflict has not left the region unscathed. “Many people do not understand that we are usually in a precarious position in times of conflict. Those in the Rift Valley expect us to rally behind them as does those in Nyanza Province,” she explains.

Dispute Consequently, the region, like many others in Kenya, was not spared the wrath of the dispute that arose in 2007-2008 post-election violence. “Like in many other regions, women were not spared. As it happens in times of conflict, men run for safety, leaving behind women and children, open and vulnerable to abuse,” she notes. Nasirumbi explains that “although sexual abuse remains high in Kenya, second only to robbery with violence, in times of conflict, sexual violence supersedes any other form of violence. Busia was not any different as a result of the post-election violence”. It is for these reasons that Nasirumbi has been engaging women “to begin networking far and wide, to ensure that there is peace. There must be something we can do, even if it’s just meeting and sharing ideas”. In her peace agenda, she employs the bottom up approach in her peace keeping efforts. “I work from the grassroots going up. I engage communities, elders, sub-chiefs and chiefs all the way to the provincial commissioners. I have all their contacts and I am constantly being called upon by people in distress even in the middle of the night,” Nasirumbi says. She adds: “I have learnt to engage security agencies in my peace campaigns.”

Nasirumbi cautions that although at the surface dust seems to have settled after the post-election violence in 2007, things are far from being normal in Busia. As a result, not only is she involved in peace keeping at the family level she also gets involved in other disputes. “While I mobilise elders to intervene in family dispute, I am also involved in peace keeping when conflict of a political nature arises,” she explains.

Maureen Nasirumbi, a peace champion in Busia works with communities, elders, sub-chiefs and chiefs in Busia County.

Caution She further laments: “Women in Busia are not easily respected which is a form of abuse in itself. Men do not want women to have even the slightest degree of power even at the household level.” Nasirumbi notes that it is this discrimination against women “that turns into something very ugly and abusive in times of conflict. As women, we have a lot of inner strength, let us learn to unite, to network as much as we can, and to look out for each other,” she advices. Although both men and women suffered the wrath of tribal and political intolerance, Nasirumbi says that women’s bodies were turned into battlefields as various tribes punished each other through women. “Women married into other tribes found

Rebecca Mbithe Kitana

themselves at a particularly precarious situation. Their families shunned them, labelling them traitors,” she recalls. Nasirumbi observes: “Families into which they were married had no place for them too. Most of these women could not even turn to their husbands for support and reassurance. They too had fled to safety, leaving them behind.” As a result of the disputed elections, Nasirumbi notes that a significant number of women were abused sexually, physically and psychologically. Some suffered the abuse in their own homes, in the presence of their children, others were raped together with their daughters. “However, even way before the 2007 conflict, there had been subtle disagreements and tribal intolerance, the results were clear for all to see and in the end there was no winner. Only displaced people, people who lost their homes, their livelihoods, and sadly, many lives were lost,” Nasirumbi says.

Championing peace at the grassroots …By Joyce Chimbi


few months ago Rebecca Mbithe Kitana was among those battling it out for the Kangundo Constituency parliamentary seat in the General Election. It was no laughing matter for the youthful leader who unsuccessfully raced against 15 male contestants. Kitana, who vied under the National Vision Party, is a well- known figure in Machakos County, having made an unsuccessful attempt for the same seat in 2007. However, she is also known for her work as a peace champion in Kangundo Constituency that has spanned over a decade.

Perception “The misconception that people have is that lower Eastern is a peaceful region. Statistics show that the region is leading in cases of gender based violence,” Kitana notes. Currently, the region became centre of attention as a bruising battle for the Makueni Senator Seat took shape. There were fears that the elections could turn violent. “We took our time to talk to the residents to maintain calm and conduct themselves in a peaceful manner even as they aired their grievances over the barring of their candidate of choice Kethi Kilonzo,” Kitana explains. Having graduated from Kenyatta University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Art in Psychology, Kitana knew that

her work would not only involve interacting closely with people, but also serving them.

Distinct With time, she became aware of the distinct ways in which men and women interact and the ways in which poverty affects both men and women. This inspired her bid to pursue a Post-Graduate Diploma in Gender Studies in 2005. “I gained a solid awareness of the fact that if we are to improve the socio-economic status of men and women, we must understand how issues of gender play out within the context of development. I wanted to serve the society from a point of knowledge,” she explains. For the last ten years, Kitana has worked as a grassroots peace champion and has been very instrumental in convening community groups and networks for peace in Machakos County. “These groups have not been limited to women. I work with youth, men and certainly women because the society belongs to all of us,” Kitana says. She expounds: “I also work from an understanding that different groups have very specific needs, and for maximum results, these differences must be acknowledged.”

Interest The involvement of youths in the peace talks “is particularly important. Scores of youth in the region are unemployed and easy target for hire by parties interested in causing chaos”. Kitana has over the years invested

a lot of time and personal resources in civic education. “I was there at the inception of the current Constitution. Throughout the long road that the first draft travelled to the 2010 promulgation, I walked my people through the issues represented in the Constitution.” She adds: “I mobilized women, men and youth for community forums and seminars so that they too could understand and give their views regarding the Constitution.” As chair of Machakos County Women Forum, Kitana is no stranger to the women’s movement and is well known for her stand regarding the position of women within the Constitution, and the need for women to be protected. “When there is violence, women and girls are the most affected. They are raped or defiled, abused, beaten and neglected. Non-violent approach to issues must be encouraged,” she emphasizes. The current Constitution has been hailed as one of the most gender sensitive legal statute not only in Africa, but in the world. This has been as a result of the efforts that Kitana and other likeminded individuals, groups and networks put into safeguarding the women’s gains. “The work never stops. I have also been involved in the development of the Social Assistance Bill. This is a significant piece of legislation. Ideally, it should have been passed during the last Parliament but since it was not, I expect to see it in Parliament,” she says. Kitana explains that this Bill, which she has no doubt will be passed into an

Rebecca Kitana, chair of Machakos County Women Forum. For the last ten years, Kitana has worked as a grassroots peace champion and has been very instrumental in convening community groups and networks for peace in the County. Photo Act addresses some of the most pressing issues facing the Kenyan society.

Face “It was actually piloted in some parts of the country as a fund to help the elderly. This is a vulnerable group and the society should find ways to address their needs,” says Kitana. “I feel that through this Act, other vulnerable groups such as those living with HIV and AIDS can be assisted until they get back on their feet. It works the same way as the welfare programme in countries such as the United States,” she says.

Kitana reiterates that the absence of violence does not signify peace. “When people are marginalized, stigmatized and discriminated upon, we really cannot talk about peace,” she observes. Kitana explains that this goes hand in hand with the Constitution that has stipulated the need to expand the political arena to ensure that women and men occupy positions of leadership. She envisions a society where everyone has an equal chance to access opportunities and to better themselves as they co-exist peacefully.

Issue Number 39 • August 2013


Mumina Konso

Inspired to implement the community peace declaration …By Faith Muiruri


er fierce determination to bring peace in Isiolo County is what earned her the position of chair within the Borana Council Elders, women wing. Mumina Konso resigned from her job as an assistant education officer in 1998 and joined campaigns to restore peace in the County which had witnessed its share of inter-clan and politically instigated conflicts. Her move was inspired by the plight of women who accounted for the largest proportion of internally displaced persons, sexually molested lot and head of single families as a result of death of their husbands in the battlefronts. “I teamed up with other women in the county to address resource-based and boundary disputes. I spearheaded campaigns to sensitize the community on conflict prevention, management and resolution. We educated the public on the proliferation and dangers of illicit arms and advocated for voluntary surrender of the same,” she explains.

Discrimination This was despite the fact that women were lowly regarded in the county and erroneously equated with children, thus entrenching male dominance. “In a show of defiance, we not only managed to forage into the male dominated spheres but also succeed in the same. Together, we soldiered on and managed to promote community policing and harmonious co-existence among communities of diverse background,” she affirms. Their efforts eventually paid off and today she is the chair of the Borana Council of Elders, women wing. Konso is currently engaged in a series of consultative meetings to build consensus on issues that need to be reviewed in the much celebrated Modogashe Declaration. The Modogashe Declaration was brokered by community leaders and government representatives from the Eastern and North Eastern provinces in 2001 at Modogashe, Isiolo District, following increased cases of banditry and cattle rustling. The Modogashe peace model was born out of the necessity to address vicious cycle of conflict in the arid parts of Northern Kenya. It has been hailed as one of the most exemplary community peace initiative by actors from across the eastern Africa region. The declaration was conceived at a time when the region was engulfed in a

protracted period of raiding and communal violence of 1990s which also witnessed the fall of Republic of Somalia that opened flood gates of illicit weapons which propelled dynamics of conflict to new heights.


The declaration outlawed gun culture; specified compensation for lives lost as a result of inter-communal conflict and took measures to make cattle rustling expensive. The declaration identified key conflict issues which were spelt out as cattle rustling, highway banditry, unauthorized grazing and proliferation of small arms. The Modogashe Declaration is credited with pacifying North Eastern Province as well as some parts of Upper Eastern region. However, Konso says that with the changing conflict dynamics and emerging of new issues, stakeholders are working out modalities to review the declaration and explore possibilities of making it a binding peace pact in most of the conflict prone pastoralists regions in Kenya. “The issue of compensation remains critical. If a woman is killed during an attack, the parties agreed to pay a fine of KSh50,000 while if a man is killed in similar circumstances, it attracts KSh100,000 in compensation,” she says. She points that women now want their compensation revised upwards as they are not lesser beings. Konso notes that other communities feel that the declaration only favours certain people as they were not involved in its formulation and thus the need to integrate and harmonise all cultures and bring proposals that are acceptable to all. “In the Isiolo triangle, covering parts of Samburu East, Laisamis and Isiolo North districts, the enforcement of the declaration has been wanting. From the onset, the Samburu community expressed their reservation to abide by the clause to compensate women which affected the overall implementa-

Mumina Konso, the chairperson of Borana Council Elders, women wing. She is also the chairperson of the Isiolo District Women Peace Forum which has been working closely with the provincial administration, local, national and international organisations and their cross-border counterparts to promote peace in the area. PICTURES: JOYCE CHIMBI

tion of the accord,” Konso notes. However, she says that the declaration has helped to register notable success in reducing the levels of conflict.


Konso is also the chairperson of the Isiolo District Women Peace Forum which has been working closely with the provincial administration, local, national and international organisations and their cross-border counterparts to promote peace in the area. “At the moment, we are engaged in the formation, reconstitution and strengthening of Women Peace Fo-

“Failure to involve women in the peace process is retrogressive and undermines efforts in peace building. Majority of these women have been accused of fuelling clashes and are likely to fan conflict if they do not take part in peace building.”  Mumina Konso

rums through peace caravans in a bid to revive and consolidate the gains of the women for peace movement of the 1990s,” she explains. Konso says they plan to incorporate perpetrators of conflict in their peace work to help find lasting solution to conflicts. Among the challenges that she has faced in her peace work is the exclusion of women in the peace process. “Despite playing a crucial role in the management, prevention and resolution of clan conflicts in Wajir in early 1990s, women have continued to be looked down in key decision-making processes in the highly patriarchal community,” she laments. She notes that women are left out anytime the community is negotiating for peace. “Failure to involve women in the peace process is retrogressive and undermines efforts in peace building. Majority of these women have been accused of fuelling clashes and are likely to fan conflict if they do not take part in

peace building,” she warns. Konso underscores the need to engage women in peace committees at all levels from the grassroots to the national stage in order to promote reconciliation and peaceful coexistence across the county.

Plans She at the same time reveals that Government plans to roll out Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism in Isiolo County on a pilot basis before it is replicated to other conflict prone areas. Konso has benefitted greatly from trainings organized by the African Woman and Child Feature Service (AWCFS) and has been using the skills acquired during the trainings to educate women on the importance of reclaiming their positions in the community. During the last elections, she was the chairperson of the political parties’ liaison committee and used the same forum to commit aspirants to maintain peace as election was just a political contest.

Provincial administrators accused of laxity in fight against GBV …By Paul Mwanga


rovincial administrators in Migori County have performed dismally when dealing with gender based violence. Gender activists attending a meeting organized by the Coalition on Violence Against Women(COVAW) in the area claimed that administrators exposed victims to long and tiresome procedures before they can access justice. This they said had discouraged victims from reporting crimes against them. The gender activists led by Paul Omole said the

system of reporting crime within the County is rigid and thus majority feel that their grievances have not been addressed. The activists lamented that it is very difficult to access justice when a local administrator is involved in the case because the cases never go beyond the police station. The activists also accused the hospitals of charging fee before they can fill P3 forms saying the poor cannot access the document due to the price attached to it. They said this deters the poor from getting justice when their rights are violated. Speaking during a procession after the forum,

activist Joseph Onditi said COVAW has greatly helped the community to reduce violence against women at household level saying that through the activism they have constructed rescue centers in Kuria following increased cases of women marrying their fellow women. According to the Kuria West District Children’s Officer, Mr. Joseph Langat the marriage commonly known as ‘mama mboke’, has been exposing women and children to serious harm. During the demonstration, James Otieno, a taxi driver in Migori town shocked the activists when he confessed to having slashed his wife on the shoulder.

“I regretted this action because I missed out on essential meals and had to carry out all the domestic duties while his wife was being treated,” he said. Otieno swore never to harass his wife and affirmed to the crowd that he will in future use peaceful means to resolve conflict at the family level. He further urged men to respect and uphold women’s rights in order to realize the hidden potential from an empowered woman. The occasion was facilitated by Yvonne Godia, a COVAW corporate coordinator who urged the public to shy away from retrogressive practices that violate women’s rights.


Issue Number 39 • August 2013

Margaret Ochieng in the midst violence, she opted to spread the message of peace

…By Faith Muiruri


tragic turn of events propelled Margaret Ochieng into peace work. At the height of the 2007-2008 postelection skirmishes, following the disputed presidential election results, Ochieng was ejected from her home in Nakuru. She was forced to seek refuge at the Afraha Stadium with scores of Internally Displaced people during the two months of widespread violence where slightly over 1,200 Kenyans died and about 350,000 people were internally displaced. Even though it is five years since then, Ochieng says the violence and horror that ravaged Rift Valley remains etched in her mind and it is vibrant and chilling. “The overwhelmingly negative psychological, emotional, physical and economic impact on all Kenyans and more specifically on women has not been forgotten and neither has it been addressed,” she intones. Ochieng’s peace work was inspired by the plight of women and children languishing in the camps and she joined the Centre for Conflict Resolution as a volunteer to preach messages of peace.

Approach She used every platform at her disposal in the IDP camps at both the Afraha Stadium and the ASK showground to preach peace and promote peaceful coexistence among the different communities “The Afraha Stadium was largely hosting people suspected to have voted for ODM while PNU supporters were hosted at the ASK showground.” Her efforts jolted her to public limelight and she became the voice of reason in both camps calling for sanity and peace to prevail while urging the warring communities to embrace dialogue at all times. On the surface, violence appeared ethnically motivated but reports by the Kriegler Commission and human rights groups accused senior politicians and officials of organizing and harping on local grievances to fuel violence for political ends.

Ochieng says that the violence was also precipitated by decades of political manipulation, ethnic tensions, and impunity intertwined with longstanding grievances over land, corruption, inequality and other issues.

Unity Ochieng is currently engaged in peace work where she seeks to unite and harmonize ethnic and community groups, promote their rights, social justice and cross-cultural understanding and dialogue in as far as peace building is concerned. A representative of the Caucus for Women Leadership in Nakuru County, Ochieng has not only been sensitizing the youth on conflict prevention but also pushing for their inclusion in peace processes. She has also been conducting door-to-door campaigns to create awareness on the need to protect women and children from sexual and gender based violence, and importantly, to respond to the needs of women. “We should be proactive enough to engage in information sharing and conflict resolution to ensure that dialogue finds its place,” she adds. Margaret who is a gender activist says that suspicion remains rife in hotspots as communities lay their stake in Nakuru County. The activist cites unresolved historical injustices among factors that are likely to revolt into conflict in the county. She says that the warring communities have continued to grapple with the question of land injustices and inequitable distribution of resources. “At the moment, devolution presents a major challenge with dominant communities apportioning themselves a significant number of positions in the county and leaving out minority tribes,” she notes.

Constitution She observes that this is against Article 56 of the Constitution which states that “the state shall put in place affirmative action programmes designed to ensure that minorities and marginalized groups participate and are adequately represented in governance and other spheres in life”.

“We should be proactive enough to engage in information sharing and conflict resolution to ensure that dialogue finds its place.” Margaret Ochieng

Margaret Ochieng who is a representative of the Caucus for Women Leadership in Nakuru County. She has been sensitizing women and youth on conflict prevention and pushing for their inclusion in peace processes. Photo: JOYCE CHIMBI She further says that the Government has not been very keen on peace initiatives at the grassroots level and has concentrated mainly on conflict management and failed to incorporate a scenario that ensures people live harmoniously. “People have not integrated well,” Ochieng stresses adding that perpetrators of many crimes have not been brought to account and

cites the killing of her husband under mysterious circumstances in August, last year. Insecurity, she notes, also presents a challenge. “Some prominent people in the county have also been victims of criminal attacks with some being killed in what police have termed as acts of thuggery but which in some quotas have taken an ethnic inclination.

Child abusers must be brought to book …By Maurice Alal


arents in Kisumu County have been warned against protecting culprits who abuse their children sexually. The Executive Director of Awasi Hills View Academy Peter Amolo yesterday said some parents do not report such incidents thus hampering the fight against sexual abuse. Amolo said there is an increase in the number of early pregnancies leading to premature marriages in the county. He blamed parents for not reporting those

who abuse their children to the relevant authority to curb the vice. “It is sad that some parents collude with culprits who sexually abuse their children,” Amolo said. He said that some cases are reported but majority of them are not as the parents take cases to the village courts. The director said such parents are hampering the fight against child abuse adding that they should be punished. Amolo asked the children’s department to launch the war against perpetrators that seem undeterred by stiff pen-

alties. “Parents should closely monitor their children. They should report cases of abuse immediately to enable the authority to apprehend the culprits before they escape,” Amolo said. He also asked parents to educate their children saying it is the best way to make their future bright. “Every child deserves education as outlined in the constitution,” Amolo said, adding that parents should treat their children equally. He blamed some of the parents who only

give boy child priority over girl child saying that every child has a right to better education. Amolo also asked the government to declare an all-out war against those impregnating school girls saying there is high rate of school dropout among the girls. “Those ruining the lives of young girls should be isolated from the society and jailed,” he stated. The director further called on the county government and local companies to support girls by providing them with sanitary towels to avoid cases of absenteeism.

Issue Number 39 • August 2013


Gender based violence centre opens in Central Kenya

…By Joseph Mukubwa


ictims of gender based violence in Nyeri County have received reprieve following the establishment of a gender recovery centre within the town. While the centre is not exclusive to male victims of violence, the centre is expected to serve scores of men who are increasingly becoming victims of gender based violence. Situated at the Nyeri Provincial General Hospital, the centre was opened recently opened by Nyeri County Health Services executive Charles Githinji. According to Githinji, this is a one-stop centre that will provide comprehensive medical and psychosocial services to survivors of violence

whether men or women while linking them to legal, social and justice sectors.

Report “I encourage men to report cases of gender violence and not to fear. Women should also report sexual violence which is on the increase. The county government will set aside a budget through the development vote so that such cases are handled properly,” he said. The hospital’s Deputy Medical Superintendent Dr. Julius Macharia said this was the first in its kind to be opened in the county and will cater for survivors through counselling and treatment before pursuing their cases. He said at least one case of gender violence is reported per day in the County and so such a centre will help mitigate the violence.

Students of Nyeri KMTC in a procession before opening the Nyeri gender based violence recovery centre recently at Nyeri Provincial General Hospital. PICTURE:JOSEPH MUKUBWA The centre was opened through partnership with Liverpool VCT, Care and Treatment (LVCT), through funding from Trocaire/Comic Relief. This comes in the wake of reports that cases of sexual and gender based violence pose a serious health and human rights problem in the county.

Abuse Every single day, a man, woman, boy or girl is sexually abused resulting to physical and psycho-social consequences on the survivor. According to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2008-2009, almost half of Kenyan women aged 1549 have experienced either physical or sexual violence.

In Central Kenya, 34.1 per cent and 19.5 per cent of women have experienced physical and sexual violence respectively within the same period. Liverpool VCT care and treatment post-rape care and GBV programe provides technical support to health care facilities across the country. The services are either integrated orput on one stop models. According to Lillian Otiso, coordinator of post-rape care, similar centres have been started at Kenyatta National Hospital, Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital in Nakuru and Jaramogi Odinga Hospital in Kisumu.

Stakeholders The group works together with the Ministry of Health, police, the Judi-

ciary and other stakeholders in order to address the gender violence cases. Liverpool VCT is an indigenous Kenyan non-governmental and notfor-profit organisation which is driving Kenya towards universal access to HIV testing and counselling, linking HIV testing to treatment, providing evidence for HIV policy reforms and service delivery developing capacities of indigenous organisations and building sustainable human resources for community HIV services. She said the organisation gives special attention to those who are vulnerable to infection including survivors of sexual violence, persons living with disabilities, men who have sex with men, youth and sex workers.

Widows on the road to financial independence …By Ben Oroko


idows have been challenged to venture into income generating projects to help transform their lives at household level instead of relying on hand-outs from politicians. According to Samson Nyandoro, chairman Sacred Centre for Orphans and Widows Programmes, women must explore business opportunities in fields like poultry farming which is one of the high paying economic empowerment projects.

Resources He said that widows should learn to tap resources at their disposal including land instead of relying on seasonal hand-outs from politicians which reduces them into perpetual beggars. Speaking at Goti Chaki Lutheran Church, South Mugirango Constituency in Kisii County after launching the programme, Nyandoro who was accompanied by Robert Gutwa,

organisation’s Secretary donated indigenous chicken to widows to enable them jumpstart income generating activities and transform their livelihoods.

Dependence The group also donated dairy goats and blankets worth KSh60,000 as part of the organisation’s efforts to economically empower the vulnerable members of the society to scale down rampant cases of poverty at household levels in the five counties of Nyamira, Kisumu, Migori, HomaBay and Kisii where it operates. "Due to the increased levels of dependence among widows, orphans and other vulnerable groups in the Gusii region, our organisation has offered to donate dairy goats and indigenous chicken to widows as part of efforts to reduce poverty at the household level and empower them to transform their lives," observed Nyandoro. Elizabeth Bochere, a widow and a mother of six who benefitted from the organisation’s indigenous chicken lauded the initiative, describing it as a

godsend opportunity not only for the widows but also for the vulnerable rural poor women who lacked support to economically empower themselves. Bochere promised to use the one chicken to empower herself and ensure the chicken gives lays many eggs and be able to benefit more. Even as she received the chicken, she said her dream was to own a dairy cow to assist her feed and educate her children.

Gratitude “I promise to donate a chick to the organisation ensure that the initiative benefits other needy and vulnerable widows and women in the area,” Bochere. She added: "I thank the organisation for its timely intervention as the effort was not in vain since it will enable beneficiaries to tap the unexploited potential in poultry keeping.” The organisation’s donation of indigenous chicken to the rural poor and vulnerable widows follows increased demand for indigenous chicken and eggs, particularly in urban areas which have created a multi-

Sacred Centre for Orphans and Widows Chairman, Samson Nyandoro presents an indigenous hen to a widow, Elizabeth Bochere(r)at Goti Chaki Lutheran church during the official launch of the programme. Picture: Ben Oroko.

million poultry industry. The new development has attracted many poultry farmers to switch from exotic chicken breeds to the indigenous ones to enable them benefit from the increasing market demand

for indigenous chicken meat and eggs. To improve on the quality of indigenous chicken breeds for poultry farmers, private companies and government research institutions are working hard to improve the breeds.


Issue Number 39 • August 2013

Selective interpretation of law denies women access to safe abortion

…By Faith Muiruri


ven after the Constitution slackened legal restrictions on access to abortion, scores of women are still opting for unsafe abortion in a desperate bid to manage unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. The Constitution of Kenya 2010 Bill of Rights guarantees women access to safe and legal abortion when performed as an emergency or when done to preserve the pregnant woman’s life as well as in cases of mental or physical health. The health exception also permits abortion in cases where the pregnancy results from sexual violence such as rape or incest. The Constitution affirms that “every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services, including reproductive health care.”

Ratification Kenya has also ratified key international and regional human rights treaties among them the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) as well as the Maputo Protocol that protect life and health, outlaw discrimination of women and girls and guarantee enjoyment of the benefits of scientific progress. According to Alisha Bjerregaard from the Centre for Reproductive Rights, abortion is a fundamental reproductive health care service to which women are entitled. However, despite these impressive gains, many women continue to suffer the consequences of unsafe abortion. This is because many providers, police, and members of the public are unaware that Kenya’s Constitution permits abortion under certain circumstances — instead, they wrongly believe that abortion is illegal under all circumstances,” Bjerregaard explains.

Training For instance, she notes, the police have yet to be trained on the law, and so most believe that abortion is always illegal. “As a result, women who are entitled to a safe and legal abortion may be denied the procedure by misinformed providers or providers who are afraid to offer services out of fear of arrest or prosecution by the (misinformed) police,” Bjerregaard notes. She adds: “Similarly, many women themselves may not know that they can consult with a provider to determine if they qualify for a legal abortion.” Bjerregaard points out that in

some cases, providers are aware of the law but choose to interpret it very restrictively. “For example, a provider may say that the health exception in Kenya’s abortion law allows for termination only in extreme situations, such as where a woman may die from carrying her pregnancy to term, or where a woman’s physical health — but not her mental health — is threatened,” she laments. According to Bjerregaard, this not only contravenes the Ministry of Health’s guidelines on abortion, but the World Health Organization (WHO) which states that a “restrictive interpretation of legal grounds” is a barrier to accessing safe and legal abortion services and that governments have an obligation to “ensure abortion services that are allowable by law are accessible in practice”. Bjerregaard’s assertions appear to affirm the harsh reality on the ground. In Kibera and Mathare slums, unsafe abortion continues to be rampant and a direct cause of maternal morbidity and mortality which have not effectively been addressed. Scores of women are being exposed to painful, dangerous procedures and many account for a large percentage of gynaecological admissions in both public hospitals and private clinics for treatment of uterine bleeding or infection following an incomplete abortion. Majority are either using herbal remedies, taking modern drugs (such as Cytotec) in unsupervised ways, attempt to physically self-induce an abortion, or seek the help of abortion providers working outside the law,” notes community health worker in Kibera.

Concoction Jacqueline Okoth from Mathare slums says she recently used a herbal concoction namely Ngurikuma to terminate a three month pregnancy. The concoction was sold to her by an elderly woman in the slums. Okoth intimates that the concoction which goes for as little as KSh50 almost killed her but she did not have an option. She had to get rid of the pregnancy because she is jobless and already has another child as a single. Asked why she had not sought help in a health facility, Okoth says she was afraid of reproach from hospital au-

Dr Judith Bwonya who is the Deputy Director of Medical Services holds the latest copies of nursing guide books after official launch as members look on. Most medical providers are unaware that the Constitution has slackened restrictions on abortion. Photo: File

thorities. “We still have this perception that abortion is illegal and, therefore, going to the hospital is like trying to incriminate oneself and thus you would rather die than seek help in a health facility that may report you to the police,” she intones. Esther Ruguru who intimates that she has had abortion four times says she prefers initiating the pregnancy termination, then facing the consequences later including going for post-abortion care if the process turns tragic.

Challenges She also admits that the administrative and legal constraints around the abortion have pushed many women in the slums to seek care in clandestine environments, where family planning is usually not available. She recounts that her last abortion turned tragic and she ruptured her uterus and it is now apparent that she will not conceive again. “The social and cultural environment in which a woman lives, the dominant religion, and her own personal beliefs all contribute to the decisions she makes regarding unintended pregnancy and the services she receives which in turn affect the mortality and morbidity associated with abortion,” says Shem Opiyo, chair of Mathare Safety Team. He says that for many women, an unintended pregnancy or use of abortion services can lead to social ostracism or rejection by family members. “To avoid such rejection, women will often delay seeking care, even to the point of death,” he notes. However, Dr Simon Mueke, senior Director of Medical Services dispels the notion that abortion is illegal in the country saying that past legal restrictions have been opened up. “Now because of the same misconceptions and, perhaps, objections by

the would be service providers, most abortions are clandestine and unsafe, hence commonly ending up with complications,” Mueke explains. According to Dr John Nyamu, national chairman of Reproductive Health Network, Kenya is among the few African countries where restrictions for safe abortion has been removed to expand indications for safe abortion. The other countries are Tunisia, Ethiopia and South Africa. He says that the Government has also provided guidelines for provision of safe abortion and a national curriculum for training in safe abortion in addition to reviewing scope of practice of all regulatory bodies in keeping with the constitution.

Opportunity Nyamu says that abortion drugs including mifepristone have been registered and are being used by health providers to provide medical abortion. “I believe we cannot get a better law and policy than this one. So now it is up to the health providers both in public and private to use this opportunity and give our women the service that they deserve,” he urges. However, the consequences of unsafe abortion pose a substantial problem for hospitals. Mueke says that in 2012, about 130,000 women received post-abortion care services in health facilities in the country which translated to a total cost of about KSh312 million. According to Nyamu about one per cent of women admitted to hospital die from abortion related complications which translate to about 2,000 women every year. A recent study by IPAS reveals that about 316,560 abortions occur in the country annually, with an estimated 20,893 women being hospitalized with abortion related complications in public hospitals only.

“The social and cultural environment in which a woman lives, the dominant religion, and her own personal beliefs all contribute to the decisions she makes regarding unintended pregnancy and the services she receives which in turn affect the mortality and morbidity associated with abortion.”  Shem Opiyo, chair, Mathare Safety Team

The study indicates that about 800 abortions occur in Kenya daily with 48 per cent of the abortions are from women aged 14 to 24 years. The study, however, says that abortion occurred in a whole spectrum of women in the reproductive age group and not only in adolescents “These figures were arrived at assuming that only 30 per cent of those women who experienced abortion went to seek treatment (WHO estimate is 1050 per cent),” reads the report in part. The proportion for induced abortion accounted for 44 per cent. The study showed that the risk of dying from abortion is alarmingly high in Kenya compared to global and regional estimates and 30 per cent higher than the Africa estimate. Complications and injuries arising from unsafe abortion range from bleeding, perforation, gut injuries, bladder injuries, infections, anaemia to infertility, chronic pain, uterine synenchiae and death. A report released by Guttmacher Institute report in 2008 on abortion in Kenya reveals that pregnancy termination besides being very costly remains a subject of controversy among medical people and the population in general. However, in a bid to demystify the controversy around abortion in the country, the government has revised the post-abortion care curriculum to give providers an insight as to why women seek unsafe abortion even when safe or legal abortion is available, or when it conflicts with a woman’s own traditional or religious beliefs. The National Post-Abortion Care Curriculum for Service Providers cites lack of power to negotiate sex and/or the use of contraception among reasons why women opt for unsafe abortion. Access to safe abortion services saves women’s lives, promotes their health, and empowers women to make decisions crucial to their wellbeing. Deaths from unsafe abortion constitute between 30-50 per cent of maternal deaths in Kenya. Addressing the problem of unsafe abortion is critical if the country is to address the women-specific millennium development goal number Five. Channelling available resources to providing safe abortion services is clearly the easiest and cheapest way to reduce maternal mortality.

Issue Number 39 • August 2013


African women leaders prioritise family planning for sustainable development …By Jane Godia


hen Ruth Kavuma and her colleagues threatened to report antiwomen politicians to their constituents, they were taking a big gamble. The Ugandan parliament was scheduled to approve the budget and the women politicians wanted to know how much was being allocated to family planning. Kavuma and her colleagues realized that unless they put their foot down, women were going to lose. This was at a time that the world bank had released some money and Parliament approved $30 million for reproductive health with 75 per cent of the allocation going into family planning. “Women parliamentarians refused to approve the money unless a specific amount was given to family planning,” explains Kavuma. “The male MPs were not happy and were planning to shoot down our proposal but we told them that if they fail to agree, we will expose their insensitive stance on women issues and that they want the women to die.” Kavuma says this was an important strategy as women form majority of the voters and therefore men did not want anything that would jeopardise their political clout in the future. This helped to rope in women who were initially opposed to the idea. “We were even called to State House by President Yoweri Museveni but we told him that family planning is important and it must get the money,” Kavuma explains. Kavuma was speaking in Nairobi during the African Women Leadership Network for Reproductive Health and Family Planning meeting in Nairobi. The AWLN was launched in 2010 with support from Advance Family Planning (AFP) and Packard Foundation to provide a platform for strong champions who are informed and persuasive to advocate for needed funds and supportive policy. It is co-led by African Women’s Development Fund and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Africa Office.

Advocacy AWLN is committed to facilitate a high level network as a whole and its members in pivotal policy dialogues. It is also committed to strengthen and maximise advocacy skills and knowledge of champions and support them in their efforts to work effectively with governments, donors and other policy makers. It advocates for supportive policy that promote greater access to rights-based family planning at global, regional, national and sub-national levels with emphasis on working with Advance Family Planning focus countries. The focus countries include Kenya, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is being done through the Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) which seeks to ensure that contraceptives needed by women are available and affordable. It also seeks to ensure a need for consistent resources and budgeting for family planning. According to Joan Koomson, AFP was born in 2005 to amplify women’s

voices for increased government support on family planning. “There was need for the right policy environment and AFP targeted asking governments to increase allocation for family planning,” explained Koomson adding that “we also sought to integrate reproductive health, Family planning as well as HIV and Aids”. She notes that out of the five countries, Kenya’s commitment is absolute as the right to quality reproductive health is enshrined in the constitution. Within the Bill of Rights, Article 43 speaks to economic and social rights and states in 1 (a): Every Participants follow proceedings during a meeting organised by the African Women Leadership Network (AWLN) for Reproperson has the right to the ductive Health and Family Planning in Nairobi. AWLN seeks to provide a platform for strong champions who are informed highest attainable standard and persuasive to advocate for needed funds and supportive policy. PHOTO: COURTESY AWLN of health, which includes the right to health care sertional financial commitment as well as stakeholders in packaging message many women face restrictions from vices including reproductive devise and implement strategies to ad- in their own language that is youth their partners over spacing of children health care.” and contraceptive use. Many prefer a It is noted that Kenya increased dress inequalities. Tanzania will also friendly. However, Sarah Mukasa from Afri- method that is comfortable and not funding on family planning from $2.5 expand access to quality family planmillion in the year 2005-2006 to $6.6 ning services through public-private can Women Development Fund which easy to detect. The implants are said million in 2012-2013. The Govern- sector facilities as well as outreach and is a major partner for the network, the to be visible on the arms especially if a ment of Kenya is also working closely strengthened community based ser- women leaders are not technical people woman is light skinned and will be debut they provide a locus of information tected easily if the husband likes touchwith development partners to secure vices. While the African Women Lead- around family planning as being the ing her hands. increased funding for family planning The AWLN meeting comes shortly commodities and services as well as ad- ers Network works at the macro level, truth. “Most information come from ac- after the London Conference held in dressing family planning needs of the challenges were pointed out especially poor. Kenya’s target is to increase the around myths and misconceptions over tors who are not sensitive to the plight July 2012. It was noted then that today contraceptive prevalence rate from 46 family planning and works going on of young people. In the end, the choice more than 200 million women and at the micro level. This put the women is for people to decide what to do with girls in developing countries who do per cent to 56 per cent by 2015. not want to get pregnant lack access leaders to task that as much as they seek the youth,” said Mukasa. Funding to contraceptives and family planning to influence policy, there was also need Decision Uganda it is noted committed to to ensure that myths and misconcepinformation, and services - which, for universal access to family planning and tions over family planning are demysAt the same time she said the youth many, will cost them their lives. It has reduce unmet need for family planning tified. must demand the right to information been proven that family planning saves from 40 per cent to 10 per cent in 2022. It was noted that the youth were on family planning and sex educa- lives, improves health, strengthens Uganda seeks to increase government the hardest hit. Even though they were tion from their governments. “There communities, and stimulates economic allocation for family planning sup- being encouraged to delay getting preg- is a blurring of boundaries and a lot of growth. Contraceptives are one of the plies from $3.3 million to $5 million nant until the right time, the term fam- grown women do not know about fam- best investments a country can make in for the next five years and improve ac- ily planning was not youth friendly. ily planning,” said Mukasa. She added: its future. countability for procurement and dis- “The youth are out to have sex and Many people are trying to do the right It was from this meeting that the tribution. Uganda’s commitment is to enjoy themselves and when told about thing yet governments and religious in- Family Planning 2020 was mooted. The strengthen institutional capacity of the family planning they claim that they stitutions are criminalising the issue of Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) builds public and community-based service do not have any families to plan. It was information on sex education.” on the partnerships launched at the delivery points to increase choice and also noted that the youth are “confused However, according to Senator London Summit on Family Planning. It quality of care at all levels (through staff with family planning yet they have sex, Thandi Shongwe of Swaziland, par- will sustain the momentum from Lonrecruitment, training, motivation and get pregnant, procure unsafe abortion ents have a role to talk to their children don and ensure all partners are workequipment). and die”. about sexuality. “The biggest challenge ing together to achieve and support the Burkina Faso is committed to To ensure that AWLN’s work bears is with children who are born HIV posi- goals and commitments announced at maintain family planning as a cen- fruit, they needed to liaise with other tive and have not been told about their the Summit. tral priority of development policies, stakeholders in the grassroots or mi- status. They get boyfriends, and get Another international conference effectively enforcing existing legal cro level to ensure that information for pregnant and this is a problem that will on family planning is scheduled to instruments on reproductive health the youth is packaged in a way that is lead to creating a new strain of HIV,” be held in November in Addis Ababa and reducing the cost of contracep- clear and understandable. The meeting Shongwe observed. Ethiopia where thousands of political tive commodities. Burkina Faso will reiterated the need for youth to accept It was noted that despite the chal- leaders, scientists, health care profeswork towards increasing the resources contraceptives instead of talking to lenges being faced, it is estimated that sionals, advocates and young leaders allocated to family planning in state them about family planning when they 35 million women worldwide are us- from around the globe will gather. budgets. It will also seek to boost part- do not have families. It was reiterated ing injectable contraceptives, twice the Organized around the theme “Full Acnerships with the private sector and that young people need to work with number a decade ago. This is because cess, Full Choice”, International Concivil society organizations for service ference on Family Planning 2013 will provision, to define and develop stratecall attention to the wide-ranging bengies for engaging men, and to establish “The youth must demand efits of helping couples plan and space regular and active monitoring of the their births and take stock of progress the right to information availability of contraceptive commodito ensure that everyone has access to ties at all levels. voluntary family planning services on family planning and Tanzania is committed to achievand methods that meet their needs. sex education from their ing double contraceptive users from International Conference on Famgovernments. There is a the current 2.1 million to 4.2 million ily Planning 2013 will be held one year to be able to attain a contraceptive after the 2012 London Summit on blurring of boundaries prevalence rate of 60 per cent from the Family Planning, which generated unand a lot of grown women precedented political will and financial current 27 per cent. For Tanzania this will ensure political commitment and do not know about family support to reduce global unmet need for accountability at all levels. Tanzania family planning by giving 120 million planning,” is also committed to reducing donor more women access to modern contra Sarah Mukasa dependency and hopes to increase naceptives by 2020.


Issue Number 39 • August 2013

A mother’s cry for justice over medical negligence

Free maternity waiver complicates service delivery in public hospitals


…By Nanjala Wafula s Kenya intensifies efforts to reduce maternal mortality by improving access through free maternity program, concerns abound over its success and efficacy in the long term. Talk is rife that the program may collapse even before the government can realize Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing maternal mortality which currently stands at 488-147per 100,000. According to the chairman of pharmaceutical society of Kenya Dr. Paul Mwaniki, the program is a good initiative since maternal deaths remain high in the country and access could help reverse the trend. He however says that most hospitals were currently grappling with inadequate facilities and shortage of staff. “Lack of enough facilities and specialists will lead to congestion and long queues that contribute to delays which in some instances turn fatal,” adds Dr. Mwaniki. He also calls on the government to find other means of funding the program to enhance its sustainability. “The program is a good deal but it may end up being costly if appropriate measures are not taken to address the glaring gaps.


…By Carolyne Oyugi


hile free maternity services come as a big relief for most women in the country, the programme has been marred by many challenges, one of them being congestion at the theatre and lack of sufficient health providers. In some hospitals, there are claims by patients that some of the nurses that attend to them are trainees. Rahab Wanjiru went through this experience and came out a sad mother. During her pre-natal visits at Kandara Hospital in Murang’a, she was excited with the progress of her pregnancy. She was expecting her fifth child and excited with the prospect that she finally deliver and hold her baby in her hands. She had not been informed of any complications in her previous visits and so she expected a smooth delivery. To her surprise, on the day she was to give birth, she was referred to Thika General Hospital because she was not going to have a normal delivery.

Neglect Wangui arrived at Thika General Hospital in pain and was kept waiting on claims that the theatre was busy. On realising that she was critical, and the baby had started coming out leg first,

Rahab Wanjiru holding her baby Hannah at Kenyatta National Hospital where she was operated on .The baby suffered a tear when being delivered after a nurse pulled her by her leg. She now releases herself through the two holes on the stomach. PHOTO: CAROLYNE OYUGI she was rushed to theatre. “Instead of operating on me, the nurse pulled the baby by the leg tearing her apart and in the process injuring her private parts,” Wanjiru narrates, her eyes filled with sorrow and bitterness. The mother and the baby were then referred to Kenyatta National Hospital on June 11th, 2013. However, according to Rahab Wangui, Wanjiru’s cousin, she was reluctantly admitted due to her condition. “The hospital attendants feared that the child might die there but fortunately they were admitted in time and baby Hannah was operated on,” explains Wangui. She further claims that the nurse who attended to Wangui was a trainee and not qualified to work alone without supervision.

Justice Although the baby survived she is currently relieving herself through an opening on her stomach and is in a lot of pain. There are those who feel that Wanjiru must get justice. The Co-

alition for Constitutional Implementation (CCI) has lodged a petition with the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health over mistreatment of Rahab Wanjiru and her daughter Hannah received at the Thika General Hospital. The petition is premised on Article 43 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 which states that “every person has the right to the highest attainable standards of health, which includes the right to health care services, including reproductive health care and that a person shall not be denied emergency medical treatment”. Furthermore the action is also contrary to Article 53 of the constitution which states that “every child has the right to health care, to be protected from abuse, neglect and all forms of violence including inhuman treatment”. The article further states that every child has the right not to be detained and that a child’s best interest are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child. Wanjiru and her daughter are out of hospital but she has to fre-

“Instead of operating on me, the nurse pulled the baby by the leg tearing her apart and in the process injuring her private parts.” Rahab Wanjiru

quently visit Kenyatta National Hospital for check-up and dressing of the wound. She is worried that she might not be able to attend some sessions because of the distance she has to cover and the costs involved. “My husband does not earn much and now my business has stopped because I have to attend to my baby all the time,” says Wanjiru. She adds: “These two openings have to be cleaned carefully immediately Hannah relieves herself in order to avoid infection. It is also painful so one has to be careful.” In the petition, the Coalition for Constitutional Implementation demands that the Principal Secretary institutes a probe on the issue to ascertain the truth behind it and make the findings public. They are further demanding that if the nurses involved are found to be culpable then they be named and prosecuted according to the law. The Coalition for Constitutional Implementation also wants the Government to take over the bills accrued in the process and assure them and Kenyans publicly that such cases shall not arise again. It is unfortunate that this incident takes place after the declaration of free maternity delivery in public health facilities.

The waiver envisages that all maternity deliveries, including Caesarean Section, be offered free of charge as a way of reversing the dangerous trend where more than half of the births in Kenya occur at home. Since its issuance, there has been an influx of pregnant mothers in public health facilities, overwhelming both staff and the available resources. According to the latest report by VSO Kitolee, Kenya’s maternal mortality rate remains at a high of 488 deaths per 100,000 live births. Most maternal deaths occur as a result of hemorrhage during childbirth, HIV and AIDs, Malaria, unsafe abortions and low proportion of deliveries conducted by skilled birth attendants as well as poor staffing. Dr. John Ong’ech, who is the head of Reproductive Health department at Kenyatta National Hospital, explains that lack of efficiency is a major problem in the maternal health care. Currently the hospital conducts 50-60 deliveries per day which has doubled from last year and more than 300 women attend antenatal care per week. “This has really stretched the hospital and we now have to rely on other resources to meet the patient’s needs,” he states. He says that although he supports the free maternal healthcare, the hospital is not able to accommodate more than 15percent increase of the maternity cases. He also adds that Kenyatta National Hospital should remain a referral hospital for complicated issues. He says that if resources are availed, implementation will be made easier, hence reducing maternal deaths. “Those who can afford maternal health care should be asked to pay and the waiver only apply to needy cases,” he advises. He at the same time called on the government to allocate the Health sector 15 percent of the national budget in line with the Abuja declaration. He spoke as the National Nurses association of Kenya (NNA) said the free maternity service offered by the government is noble, but ill-advised and instead wants the state to offer quality as opposed to quantity health care. They also called upon the government to constitute a stakeholder forum that will involve all health professionals to discuss issues that are affecting the delivery of quality health care services of Kenyans. The association added that despite the government’s good will, what the country’s really needs is the employment of more nurses and skilled birth attendants since the number of employed nurses who are licensed is 38,645 against a population of 40million Kenyans.

Issue Number 39 • August 2013


Women venture into high earning silk farming

…By Dominick Mwambui


shift of business is imminent in Kakamega County as a group of women embrace silk worm farming, a unique economic venture in the area. Unlike other economic activities which require huge chunks of land, silk worm rearing requires less than half an acre land to take off. Besides, the worms have a life span of only 30 days before forming cocoons from which thread is found. According to Emily Bruno, chairperson of Iguhu Silk Worm Rearing Group from Ikolomani Constituency says members resolved to give the activity a try after undergoing training organized by International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in which ‘worms’ economic value was evident.

Benefits “One kilogramme of thread extracted from silk worms cocoons sell at KSh625, compared to a similar amount of beans and maize which go for as low as KSh200 and KSh80 respectively. This is what motivates us and nothing can stop us from taking up the challenge,” explains Bruno. Each one of the 100 members of the group would require just a quarter acre of land to rear up to 40,000 worms. Bruno notes that the same piece of land can hold up to 1,000 stems of the mulberry tree plant enough to feed the worms in order to realize impressive yields of between seven to ten kilogrammes of threads every month. Initially when the group started, the women ran into trouble after it emerged that rearing of caterpillars is abhorred

and associated with witchcraft within the community. “Both experts and the women were at pains to explain and convince critics why they had settled on silk worm rearing project in the face of many others,” explains Bruno. When the group placed their first order for silk worm from ICIPE in Nairobi, they were forced to rear them in a kitchen but suffered huge losses after the worms died. ICIPE had to intervene and assist the farmers put up a recommended structure for breeding. ICIPE sold them 20,000 worms at KSh500 and charged the group another KSh250 for transporting the caterpillars from Nairobi. “We sometimes order for the worms’ eggs but many a times we go for day-old caterpillars,” says Bruno. Some members especially men who had initially embraced the project have deserted the group which now has 35 members. “We made another order and adhered to all requirements including feeding culture, hygiene and security,” explains Bruno. In order to assist the group to go on well with the project, Kenya Agricultural Production Agri-business Programme (KAPAP) trained the women on handling special machines acquired with support from the World Bank to extract fibre from silkworms.

Livelihood Cocoons usually form after 30 days and then dry up after 10 days to ensure worms inside do not break them and transform into butterflies “because that will mean no threads can be extracted”, explains Bruno. With readily available market, the

project has become a source of livelihood for not only the members but also several locals including those supplying the group with the mulberry plant that is the main feed for the worms. According to Bruno threads are sold to ICIPE or fabric processing plants that usually add value to the fibre through refining and making pieces of cloth out of it. Grade one cocoons produce high quality and quantity fibre for the group. “We sample the cocoons according to quality and boil them for at least 15 minutes to make the fibre loosen and make threads extraction process easier.”

Care A single cocoon can yield at Ms Emily Bunoro the chairperson of Igukhu Silkworm Rearing Group in Ikolomani least one kilometre long of fibre. demonstrate how Cocoons are boiled to make threats loose. Silk farming has imThe machines supplied to the proved women's financial status in Kakamega County. PHOTO: DOMINICK MWAMBUI group include those that perform spindle winding, silk reeling and Farmers are advised not to place in their fourth-week. About 400 worms re-reeling. These help the group add feeds in the worms’ special feeding trays occupy one spin mat. A part from fivalue to the fibre in a small way. Nonetheless, the venture calls for because it is the same time they develop bre, the caterpillar droppings is used as high standards of hygiene to ensure and transform from one stage without manure by the farmers who collect and share it amongst themselves. the worms grow healthy and give more necessarily feeding on anything. “Change in skin colour is a clear inAccording to Julius Mukaisi, a loyields. “Between two to three days, we feed the caterpillars on sliced tender dicator of growing worms,” says Bruno. cal, the Mulberry plant has medicinal value. “It treats minor cuts, stomachleaves of the mulberry crop before inIndicator ache and other related complications,” troducing them to mature leaves after four weeks,” said group members. A farmer must be on standby he explained adding that the leaves They feed in the morning, at lunch monitoring the feeding behaviours and could as well be cooked and served as time and in the evenings every day. The the worms as well as identifying those green vegetables. Burono notes that the project could leaves must be harvested early to get rid showing signs of sickness to separate become a major revenue earner in the of moist in them before being fed to the them from the healthy ones. worms. “The takers on which worms are area if more funds are invested in it. “We want the project to expand “While plucking the leaves, one kept must be raised to protect them and incorporate as many people as has to be careful not to let them get from rodents and safari ant attacks.” contaminated as that can infect the The worms are put in spinning possible for us to realize its full potenworms and eventual death. mats in which they form the cocoons tial,” she says.

New Kenyan constitution created 48 distinct governments …By Duncan Mboyah


he problem with Africa is that we have constitutions but not constitutionalism,” said the late Prof Okoth Ogendo in one of his lectures before his death. Exactly one year after his death, Kenya got its new constitution under the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission that he served as the vice-chair. Kenya’s new constitution that was promulgated in August 2010 has created one central governance system and 47 county governments, hence creating 48 distinct governments that have their own management plans separate from one another. Each level of governance has its distinct boundaries but depend on each other since some functions are still overlapping. Under this new arrangement, there exists no single authority to give orders from above as was the case in the past 50 years that Kenya has been independent. The counties were created to help promote democratic and accountable power by being closer to the people for easier scrutiny and foster national unity.

Consultation What brings the national and county governments together is consultation and cooperation. However, things seem to be getting tougher as there exists no good working relationship between the central government and the devolved County Governments. According to Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, all the universities led by University of Nairobi should lead in arbitrating and helping solve the continued misunderstanding on management of resources between the cen-

tral and county governments. “The academics have contributed greatly to solutions geared towards achieving social economic rights and informing policy and legislation and, therefore, universities need to arbitrate in the impasse and also sensitize citizens to demand service from their elected leaders,” Murkomen noted. Addressing a public forum on Devolution and Implementation of Article 43 on Social Economic Rights that was organised by African Women Studies Centre at Department of Political Sciences and Public Administration at the University of Nairobi, Murkomen challenged academic institutions to take a lead role in public participation and be part of the development that is taking place in the country.

Opportunities However, he observed that pertinent issues such as conflict due to natural resources management need to be looked at carefully in order for ordinary Kenyans to benefit from devolved governments. Those who are anticipated to benefit largely are women who have been excluded or discriminated against in the development process. The new Constitution gives women more opportunities to participate effectively in decision making nationally and in the devolved governance structures. In the County governments, the affirmative action of not more than two thirds of the same gender is applied to all appointive and elective positions. This has seen women take positions of decision making at the political level. Where they were not elected, they have been appointed or nominated. It is hoped that the presence of women in county governments will make Kenyans appreciate and embrace the need to have women in decision making positions and especially political offices. Murkomen noted that the decentralisation

development that Kenya has achieved only means that things for national government must be left to the national government whereas those that are meant for county governments must also be left for them without interference. “Kenyans in their quest for devolution had only wanted to own the government as they were fed up with powers that were held by a few people in Nairobi yet they felt they too were tax payers,” he explained. Murkomen attributed the governors’ demands to that of senators for quick results which they could tell the electorate during the next General Election for them to be re-elected. “The Transitional Authority needs to urgently engage independent experts to look at 14 articles to help benefit the County Governments,” he noted. Whereas talks of “Naomba serikali (I am asking the government)” has been a common culture amongst Kenyans, there is a backside to this. In some countries like the United States of America, people got fed up with the government and wanted freedom to make their own decisions. It is under this premise that Kenyans thought enough is enough and they wrote a constitution that gives counties mandate to run their own affairs with the funding from the tax payers. According to Murkomen, the system has created two parallel administrative structures — the Provincial Administration led by the Chiefs and the County Government.

Devolution Some parastatals are also unfortunately doing the work of county governments, roles that must fast change to the counties. These include the National Housing Corporation and the water boards. However, one good thing is that through

devolution, the counties have an opportunity to partner with the private sector. Under Schedule Four of the Constitution, the devolved governments have the powers to manage culture, liquor licensing and also have libraries in places of their choice within the county. The misunderstanding between the central and devolved governments, therefore, can easily be arbitrated by the academia. According to Dr. Daniel Ichangi, a lecturer at the College of Biological and Physical Sciences, political leaders, especially governors, must stop having meetings at the five star hotels where the people are not found.

Development He noted that the governments must operate differently from the previous central government by applying attention to development plans that are developed in collaboration with the local people. “The devolved government has survived resistance for a very long time and must be given time to thrive,” noted Dr Richard Bosire, lecturer department of Political Sciences. Bosire said that the citizens need to sacrifice to enable the smooth running of the county governments. The session was organized as part of the activities scheduled under the Rapid Results Initiative sensitization on the Role of the Constitution of Kenya 2010. The University has embarked on 100-days sensitization programme on the implementation of the Constitution. The launch of the sensitization programme heralds the beginning of activities that will be spread out to all colleges and central administration units targeting all members of the university community who will be expected to take an individual active role.


Issue Number 39 • August 2013

Dialogues that talk female circumcision out of existence

…By Tina Rosenberg


ike every other girl of her era in southern Ethiopia — and most girls in the country — Bogaletch Gebre was circumcised. In some regions girls are circumcised at infantry, but in her zone it happened at puberty. It was around 1967, and she was about 12. A man held her from behind, blindfolded her and stuffed a rag in her mouth, and used his legs to hold her legs open so she could not move. A female circumciser took a razor blade and sliced off Gebre’s genitals. Gebre nearly bled to death. She stayed at home for about two months, and after she healed, she was presented to her village, ready for marriage. Unicef estimates that between 70 million and 140 million girls and women globally are circumcised. The practice is widespread throughout Africa, and in some countries of Asia and the Middle East. In Ethiopia it is done by Muslims, Christians and Jews. Gebre’s region of Kembata-Tembaro is a largely Protestant area of some 700,000 people in Ethiopia’s south. No major religion endorses circumcision. Communities that practice it have in common that they are traditional societies where female sexuality is viewed mainly as a potential threat to family honour — in Kembata-Tembaro, the practice is called “cutting off the dirt”. To keep girls from promiscuity and ruin, the clitoris and often the labia are cut off to ostensibly weaken the sexual sensation. Female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation or genital cutting, is one of several traditional practices in KembataTembaro that express men’s power over women. Domestic violence is tolerated, even expected. Another practice is bride abduction — men claim a wife by kidnapping and raping her; after the rape she must marry the rapist to avoid disgrace and preserve her family’s honour. There is also widow inheritance, in which a wife must marry her dead husband’s brother. “Women were not considered any better than the cows they milked,” said Gebre.

Infections Some girls die from genital cutting, of infection or blood loss. FGM presents complications during childbirth, with higher risks for baby and mother. One of Gebre’s sisters died at childbirth after the cut. It leads to repeated urinary and bladder infections and to fistula. With infibulation, the most severe type of circumcision, the vagina must be cut open later for intercourse and childbirth. Today, however, cutting has vanished from Kembata-Tembaro, as have bride abduction and widow inheritance. A study done for the Innocenti Research Centre, a research arm of Unicef, found that cutting had only three per cent support in 2008 — down from 97 per cent in 1999. This is a remarkable achievement. There is nothing more difficult than persuading people to give up long-held cultural practices, especially those bound up in taboo subjects like sex. The change was inspired by an organization that Gebre and her sister Fikrte started called Kembatti Mentti Gezzima-Toppe, which means “women of Kembata working together”. It is now known simply as KMG-Ethiopia. When Gebre was six or seven she would

sneak to school for an hour or two on her way to fetch water. She became the first girl in her district to go beyond fourth grade. She went to Israel to study microbiology and then to the United States, where she did doctoral research on epidemiology. However in 1997, when she was about 42 (she does not know her actual age) she returned to Kembata-Tembaro to try to help. This year her work won her the first African Development Prize of the Belgium-based King Baudouin Foundation, which comes with an award of 150,000 euros — nearly $200,000. KMG relies on a method called community conversations. It was developed by Dr Moustapha Gueye, a long-time organizer of anti-AIDS community networks in Africa, who then took the idea to the United Nations Development Program. It is built on the ancient African practice of talking things out — community elders gather under a tree and discuss a problem again and again until they reach consensus. Gebre was the first to apply community conversations to the issue of cutting. In the last decade, many countries in Africa have seen a marked drop in the practice, thanks to organizations working all over the continent. One of the groups best known in Western nations is Tostan, which works with local organisations in eight African countries. “You must allow the community to decide for themselves rather than condemn them,” said Gebre. “To make people understand the harm that their children are exposed to, you can’t come in and tell them ‘you are doing bad and must stop.” Changing the law is a step, but only one step. In many places where cutting is outlawed, it is widely practiced in secret. “It doesn’t stop when they superficially raise their hands, or when religious leaders say ‘we declare it will stop’,” said Gebre. “It has to come from inside the community. It has to be discussed over and over again, in the African tradition. That’s how change comes.” Gebre did not start out using community conversations. KMG began by taking a survey of local practices, and then presented the results in meetings with community members, stressing on the implications of such practices to the community and the village at large which remained less prosperous. KMG attacked the problem with the standard good strategies: it trained young women and men who were deployed to train others in their communities, holding workshops with different groups like students, village leaders, uncut girls and the women who worked as circumcisers. The meetings were popular and demand was high but when United Nations Development Program asked that KMG try a pilot project using community conversations, Gebre quickly adopted the strategy to fill the gap: it was a way to engage the community for the long term, and for

Bogaletch Gebre is an Ethiopian women's-rights activist. She is also the co-founder of Kembatti Mentti Gezzimma (KMP) Ethiopia. Gebre has been in the fore front fighting for eradication of FGM. PHOTO:INTERNET SOURCES the community to make its own decisions. “From there, community conversations became our medium of social organization,” she said. KMG asked communities to choose people to be trained as facilitators, then trained hundreds of them. A pair of facilitators — one man, one woman — would lead a group of 50 people, which is small enough that everyone can take part in discussion. Each week, on a Saturday or Sunday, the group would meet for two to four hours to talk. The groups were both uniform — all girls, all elders, all traditional birth attendants — and mixed. Each month, the facilitators would meet to talk over problems and collect an honorarium of about $4.50. The subject at first was not cutting, but AIDS — a disease that was terrifying Ethiopia. Communities wanted to know how to keep it from spreading. The facilitators presented basic facts about AIDS, and the 50 people began to talk about how to keep the community safe. Condom use led into how women could negotiate condom use, which led into power relationships, which led into gender rights, and then to practices like cutting, and its dangers.

Ownership Outsiders had been telling the people of Kembata-Tembaro for centuries not to cut their daughters. But Gebre had credibility. It helped that she was local, and herself circumcised — “I am part of them. They trust me that I will not bring something that is harmful, that will destroy their culture,” she said. KMG also built trust by bringing practical help. The group offered health services, planted trees and built schools. A village needed a bridge, and had organized people to build it but there was no money for materials.

"There is nothing more difficult than persuading people to give up long-held cultural practices, especially those bound up in taboo subjects like sex. You must allow them to decide rather than condemn them."  Bogaletch Gebre

Gebre contributed her $5,000 life savings, and the bridge was built. It also helped that KMG was not judgmental. “Your assumption should be that there is nobody in the world who would hurt their children knowingly,” Gebre said. “When they were taking me out to be cut, it was an achievement. My mother, though, was crying — she was saying ‘I wish they could do away with it’, but my mother didn’t have a choice. Her role as a mother was to prepare a proper girl for marriage, to prepare a daughter to be a good wife. Otherwise nobody would marry her.” No parent wants her daughter to be disgraced and excluded from local life. Eventually, 85 per cent of people in KembataTembaro joined one or more community conversations, and participants were encouraged to discuss what they had heard with family and friends over coffee or during long walks to fetch water. As the conversations were winding down in a village, each group chose 10 members for a committee to continue the work. They became the villages’ watchdogs on cutting — in some cases rescuing girls whose families tried to circumcise them in secret. Not surprisingly, young girls were the most eager to abandon cutting. After a series of conversations with girls, 78 girls pinned a paper to their school uniforms saying “I will not be cut. Learn from me”. In September, 2002, KembataTembaro had its first public marriage of an uncut bride; she and the groom wore signs announcing their pride, there were hundreds of bridesmaids and 2,000 people in attendance. It was the first of many such weddings. Instead of the seasonal events celebrating the eligibility of cut girls, Kembata-Tembaro began substituting events celebrating uncut girls. Community conversations are now spreading through Ethiopia in areas of all religions. Gebre said KMG was reaching six million people in southern Ethiopia. The conversations range more broadly than health and gender violence. “We use it for everything — governance, social empowerment — anything we do, community conversation has become our tool,” said Gebre. — Courtesy of New York Times

Executive Director: Arthur Okwemba Managing Editor: Jane Godia The Kenyan Woman is a publication of African Woman and Child Feature Service


Duncan Mboya, Faith Muiruri and Carolyne Oyugi


Omar Mwalago Omar, Bob Ombati, Robert Nyagah, Ben Oroko, Sheila Bett, Paul Mwanga, Maurice Alal, Joseph Mukubwa, Nanjala Wafula, Dominick Mwambui, Tina Rosenberg, Joyce Chimbi.

Design & layout:

Noel Lumbama (Noel Creative Media Ltd)


Kenyan Woman 039  

Kenyan Woman | Advocating for the rights of women A monthly publication of African Woman & Child Feature Service