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Kenyan Woman

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INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

MARCH 8, 2014

Grace Kipchoem defies odds….

elected.

becomes the first elected women MP in Endorois By Mary Mwendwa

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he is soft spoken but very firm and has been able to overcome cultural and socioeconomic hurdles to become the first elected woman MP from the Endorois community. Grace Kipchoem (Kimooi) was elected on a URP (United Republic Party) ticket, as a member of parliament representing a population of 80,871 in Baringo South constituency. Endorois is a sub tribe of the Tugen among Kalenjin tribe, Baringo County.

She managed to trounce seven men for the elective post after she garnered 8,205 votes against her closest rival’s 8,203 votes. “My family, friends and village elders kept asking me why I had to traverse the vast area to look for votes. I refused to yield to pressure and pressed on with the quest to serve my people just the way men serve them”. Kipchoem says that Baringo County is very rich in biodiversity yet local people do not directly benefit from the same. She notes that Lake Bogoria, Lake Baringo and Lake 94 attract large numbers of tourists yet her people languish in poverty. “Poverty levels are very high in this dry region of Baringo south, greedy people take advantage and use it as a stair case to their success,” she laments. One major challenge that faces her constituency is poor infrastructure which has made it very hard for the people to access medical facilities. She calls on the government to look into ways of enacting the wetlands policy which if enacted, can be of great benefit to the people of Baringo.

“I am passionate about motions that bring development to the people, those that will help uplift their living standards,” she adds. Many people live very far from health facilities and due to bad roads they either die or depend on herbalists when an emergency comes knocking. Due to the increased water levels at Lake Bogoria, some of the dispensaries have been submerged.

Mission Loboi dispensary is the only one remaining and is also threatened with the rising water levels. “Maternal health here is a big issue, most women depend on Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) for delivery. The situation has been aggravated by the lack of ambulance facilities which complicates access to urgent medical attention.

Grace Kipchoem, the first elected woman MP from the Endorois community PHOTO: MARY MWENDWA

“As a member of parliament of Baringo south, I will work towards improving health facilities, road network and girl child education in this region. “She adds how Lake Bogoria water levels have led to a closure of six schools, four primary and two secondary schools. This, she says will impact negatively on education. She further points out how early marriages have hampered the girl child education in the region. She plans to put up more rescue centres which will also accommodate the boy child who is neglected. Through the help of other partners they have set up a rescue Centre at Sandai primary school where girls rescued from early marriages stay and board for school. An alarming shortage of teachers in her constituency worries her a lot,” she says adding that the urgently requires

174 teachers at the moment, I have petitioned the relevant authorities without any success; pupils now have to rely on the very few teachers we have.

Challenges Since Kipchoem was elected, she has had to contend with the culture of handouts which was entrenched by retired President Daniel Arap Moi who came from that village. She says she does not have enough money to give

to people and thus her leadership role is looked down upon. “When people. She notes Kenya is still way far beyond achieving the two thirds gender parity principle. In 2007 general elections, only twenty two women were elected, this time round the number dropped to sixteen. She gives an example of her area whereby men lied to voters that women had their seats at the county government and therefore other seats belonged to men. This adversely affected women’s performance and thus reason why very few women were

Women among the Endorois community are only supposed to be in the kitchen or taking care of babies, a woman is not supposed to sit on the same table with the husband and serve food; these are some of the practices that lock women out of leadership positions. “I had to fight through this culture to convince people that I could deliver,” she says Kipchoem calls for continuous sensitization of the community to discard such beliefs and empowering them both economic and socially. She aspires to contribute towards girl child education by having many rescue centres that would serve the very vulnerable girls in her community .They have started a movement dubbed, Baringo daughters, which brings together all the women of Baringo to try addressing problems facing their fellow women in the community. They believe more than 80percent of their problems can only be solved by themselves. Hon, Kipchoem has been inspired by former MP Chebii Kilimo and Prof. Helen Sambili who have played role in encouraging and mentoring her as a leader within the Kalenjin community.

Aspirations She believes that transparency and accountability are the major ingredients to any political engagement. Kipchoem believes, by 2017, she will have registered remarkable improvements in the road network, health and education in Baringo South constituency. “I want my constituency to be ranked among the best in terms of service delivery in the country”. An accountant by profession, she was born in Araba location, Mukutane division, and Marigat district. Kipchoem went to Kapropita Girls high school and Lugulu girls high school for A levels. She holds a degree in accountancy from Kenya College of Accountancy University

African women to gain skills through regional leadership centre By Valarie Musavi and Jill Anami

leadership.

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Both male and female decision makers will be empowered to promote policies that are inclusive, equitable and sustainable while accelerating growth and development.

omen are set to gain from leadership skills that will be imparted by the recently launched African Centre for Transformative and Inclusive Leadership.

Under the patronage of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and Kenyatta University, the African Centre for Transformative and Inclusive Leadership (ACTIL) seeks to raise transformative leaders focusing particularly on women and youth in the continent. According to Professor Olive Mugenda, ViceChancellor Kenyatta University, the centre will enable different types of leaders to explore and exploit their professional and personal potentials with a view to unifying the African community in development. The Leadership Centre seeks to promote innovation and social transformation and facilitate the emergence of a regional network of leadership that develops standards and accreditation in

The Centre also seeks to develop the capabilities of existing and aspiring leaders particularly women and youth in private and public sectors. It will also strengthen the capacities of, and support policy makers and public institutions to develop gender responsive and inclusive policies and legislation.

Host According to Mugenda, the programme which will be hosted by Kenyatta University will help build leadership competencies of emerging and existing leaders in the entire continent. The Centre provides courses in diverse areas including: transformative leadership, agribusiness development, women’s political leadership, women’s leadership in the public sector, women’s corporate leadership, youth leadership development for transformation and gender

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

responsive policies, planning, budgeting and performance management in national institutions.

for effective global participation of women and youth in leadership.

These courses aim to unlock the potential of participants to transform themselves and to become catalysts of change in the sphere of influence.

Musisi reiterated that the vision of African Centre for Transformative and Inclusive Leadership can be a reality if the key components of the programme are well placed. The components include proper training, mentoring and experiential learning for women leaders and youth.

Rationale According to Christine Musisi, UN Women Regional Director, African Centre for Transformative and Inclusive Leadership aims at raising a critical mass of transformational leaders in politics, business, government and society. “This will help to create a network of female and male policy makers that are committed to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in all spheres and create a formidable alliance of leaders in Africa who can transform politics, business and the society for the benefit of all,” explained Musisi. She noted that the Centre will prepare African leaders to influence development, engage in political and economic discourse as well as allow

She noted that women significantly lag behind men in leadership within businesses, government agencies and political systems. “It all trickles down to African cultural systems that tend to disadvantage women participation in leadership. For a long time, women in African societies have been denied education and, therefore, they lack in leadership skills,” noted Musisi. She added: “It is a high time Africa took leadership in the global economy and political discourse by investing in its people to thrive and fulfil their potential Musisi observed that this feat can only be achieved “by moving beyond good transformative leaders”.

MARCH 8, 2014

Kenyan Woman

21

A healthy mother equals healthy baby Inspiring positive mothers to a positive life through better option.The World Health Organisation now recommends that all HIV positive pregnant mothers be put on lifelong ARVs in spite of their CD4 count in a bid to keep both mother and baby healthy, writes Joyce Chimbi

A

lthough hawking foodstuff along the busy EldoretNakuru highway in Rift Valley Province is what she did to earn a living, Margaret Wairimu* had nonetheless made a name for herself as a traditional birth attendant in a remote village in Burnt Forest.

“There were times a bus would stop because a woman on board was in labour and I would deliver her baby with no hesitation,” Wairimu explains.

Diagnose That was until she began falling sick in 2012. Wairimu says that it took a while before she was diagnosed with the HIV virus. “As a married faithful woman, HIV was the last thing on my mind. When my husband tested negative, I realised that I must have contracted the virus through my work as a traditional birth attendant. I never wore gloves because most of them were emergencies and done in a hurry,” Wairimu explains. At the time, she had seven children and wanted one more. In 2013, she became pregnant and refused to be put on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment. “I did not want people to know that I had HIV, besides my husband, no one else knew. Selling groceries, I knew I would lose customers. People still take time to embrace someone who is HIV positive,” she says. When her baby was born last year, she was given supplements for her baby but afraid that people would wonder why

she was not breastfeeding. “I chose to breastfeed until the staff at the clinic I was attending threatened to have me arrested. The baby tested positive for HIV. This has been a big burden on my conscience, I blame myself,” she says.

Mothers with their babies after delivering at Pumwani Hosipital in Nairobi. Besides reducing the currently high maternal mortality rates, all efforts should be made to ensure that all babies are born free of HIV. PICTURE: COURTESY

Maurice Okoth, a clinician at a Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) centre in Nyanza Province says that the outcome might have been different had she been put on Option B+, a lifelong ARV therapy for HIV positive mothers regardless of their CD4 count, as is the requirement by the World Health Organisation as of June 2013.

Stigma Ong’ech says: “If you have a HIV population at a health facility on treatment but they are sick, this is a bad sign and points to other issues such as stigma.” Wairimu says that it is because of fear that the society will shun them that some HIV positive mothers, who are not on ARV therapy, will continue to breastfeed, even when the risk of transmitting the virus to their baby has been made clear to them.

Significance Okoth says that this was in cognizant with the fact that the life of a mother is key to the wellbeing of the family. “When a mother is healthy, it means that the child is also healthy and the whole family does better when the mother is around.”

According to Dr Dave Muthama, Deputy Project Director at the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation: “After birth, the baby is exposed to HIV through breast milk, and risk of transmission is high, almost equivalent to that of a HIV negative person having unprotected sex with a HIV positive person yet some mothers will breastfeed without adhering to the ARVs therapy just because the society will question why they are not breastfeeding.”

He further explains that in keeping with the Millennium Development Goal number 5 that targets to improve maternal health, one of the main targets is to reduce maternal deaths. “In Kenya, maternal mortality rate is still very high at 488 deaths for every 100,000 live births.” Okoth says that even more important is the fact that improving maternal health has significant implications on Millennium Development Goal four which targets to reduce infant mortality. He said that most children under the age of five find it difficult to cope without a mother. In Kenya, UNICEF statistics show that the average deaths for those under five is about 77 deaths per 1,000 live births, it is however staggering in urban slums at 151 per 1,000 live births.

But rolling out Option B+ in the country has proved more challenging and it is yet to be rolled out in full scale as is the case in Uganda and Malawi. Okoth says that Option B+ has many benefits to both mother and baby. “When a pregnant mother is HIV positive, in addition to the mother being on ARV therapy, her baby is also put on neverapine for the first six weeks after birth, or until breastfeeding has stopped if she is unwilling to be put on lifelong ARV therapy,” Okoth says. He adds: “Not all mothers are willing to

start on ARV drugs for life, especially if there CD4 count is above 350. It is a difficult decision to make.” According to Dr John Ong’ech an HIV and AIDS expert as well as Assistant Director and Head of Reproductive Health Department at Kenyatta National Hospital there are challenges which have made it difficult to roll out Option B+ full scale and include the cost of the additional drugs, challenges facing the health sector as well as other societal issues such as stigma which continue to affect adherence to drugs.

He further explains: “This is a very complex situation because we know that breastfeeding prevents diarrhoea, which is a leading killer among babies, so at times even in the face of risks of transmission, HIV positive mothers prefer breastfeeding.” Muthama encourages health facilities offering Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programs to strengthen peer counselling programs. “A HIV positive mother supporting another HIV positive mother, who also goes to the same clinic for Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission services is one way to address the situation.”

INSPIRING CHANGE  

Special issue of the Kenyan Woman newspaper for International Women's Day 2014

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