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Issue Number 19 • July 2011

Issue Number 19 • July 2011

Women’s issues within the 2011 budget

EDITORIAL Will women fulfil the gender provisions provided for in the new constitution?


s the implementation of the new constitution has started in earnest with the appointment of the new Chief Justice and the Supreme Court Judges, there is concern that unless the government deliberately comes up with mechanisms to realise the one-third principle, the country might not fulfil its constitutionally mandate of ensuring that no one gender will be less than one-third when it comes to representation and decision-making. As it now, many people including Kenyans are not able to interpret the onethird principle and if the women are planning to achieve the 116 seats within the National Assembly, then there is need to have a country-wide campaign to educate the public on why Kenyans this time must respect the one-third principle as provided for within the new constitution.


…By Joyce Chimbi


he 2011 Kenya National Budget unveiled by the Kenyan Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta on 8th June 2011, was a departure from the previous ones in that it attempted to address the issues affecting women. For the longest time, feminization of poverty has been used to explain the extent to which poverty affects women. But the KShs 1.16 trillion budget line was very clear in that it attempted to address issues of human rights and the bill of rights within the new constitution.

Allocation Key areas of focus area that women are happy with are the allocations in areas such as agriculture, infrastructure and basic commodities. Commenting on the budget and hailing it as the as pro-poor, Edwin Omondi, a University student said; “The waving of duty on kerosene is important because this is a basic commodity in many Kenyan homes particularly in the rural areas where an estimated 70 percent of Kenyans live,” expounds The same can be said of diesel whose prices are to go down due to the reduction on excise duty. This is also key because the rural electrifi-

cation programme means Women selling food that more Kenyans can feel products at a city the impact of high prices on diesel. market. They form “This does not mean a large part of the that it is okay for men to Constituent who stand be poor and a crisis when to benefit from the women are poor, it only recently read National means that there is need Budget in which the to interrogate measures agricultural sector and interventions meant to deal with the rising was allocated KSh 100 poverty. That initiatives to billion. Inset: Finance deal with poverty must be Minister reading the gender sensitive,” explains Budget Pictures: Kenyan James Kihara, a Finance Woman Correspondent. consultant in Nairobi. Kihara further explains that the need for a gender responsive budget cannot relation to the cost of living are inevibe overemphasized because men and tably guided by the gender roles aswomen “experience poverty in very cribed to both men and women. distinctive ways.” It is in this regard that the budHis remarks are echoed by the get has to a large extent been seen to UN Habitat report whereby both men respond to gender differences and in and women were asked to list certain doing so, responded to the needs of priority areas that they deemed nec- both men and women which is key essary towards decent living. in alleviating poverty. Men rarely mentioned water and “It is very encouraging to see the sanitation while among the female re- government allocate a whopping spondents, these were the key issues. KSh 300 million for sanitary towels. Priorities among men and women in We are aware that many needy stu-

“It is very encouraging to see the government allocate a whopping KSh 300 million for sanitary towels.” — Anita Njoki, a resident of Madaraka

This country cannot enjoy its rightful place among the United Nations if the rightful place of the more than 50 % of the population who are women especially in leadership and representation is not addressed come the 2012 General Election. It is clear and even studies have been done by the World Bank which indicates that when you give women and men equal opportunity, even economic moves into rightful direction. For example Rwanda has led as a shining example and is leading the world when it comes on women leadership and now is the fastest growing economy in the continent. Currently in the region, Kenya is looking bad when it comes to women representation and for the first time in the history of the country, Kenya has an opportunity to rectify this.


dents miss an entire week of education each month due to lack for sanitary towels,” explains Anita Njoki, a resident of Madaraka. The ripple effect is also expected to be felt in the transport system, a majority of Kenyans rely on public transport whose prices are unregulated and shoot the moment oil prices go high. With agriculture taking an all time high allocation of staggering KSh 100 billion, it is expected that farmers can now expect to reap more as a result of extensive government subsidies on inputs such as seeds and fertilizers which can be funded from Continued on page 2

Therefore what happened with the nomination of the Supreme Judges where one-third threshold was not achieved is a bad sign that the implementation of the new constitution is being done as if it is business as usual. What is worse is that this comes after the first attempt when the nomination of the Chief Justice, Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Controller of Budget locked women out of those positions. The women must be worried of this blatant and direct violation of women’s constitutional rights of equality and nondiscrimination based on sex. This action, if left uncorrected would widen the inequality gap between men and women in leadership positions. We are of the considered view that any constitutional provision authorizing a constitutional implementation action must be subjected to an interpretive framework that is rationalized and constructed from the constitution itself, constitutional history and the contemporary circumstance. The two thirds majority of one gender in clause 27(7) must therefore not be construed to be the default allocation for men.


Issue Number 19 • July 2011

48 years after independence women still gearing up for positions

Kericho which extends from Kuresoi to Transmara. Others who are strong candidates will be Mrs. Keter-the wife of Belgut legislator Charles Keter who has been proposed from some quarters. Keter has not been available to refute or confirm the call while the husband on the other will only laugh it off when asked. She has a record of organizing women in her Belgut constituency in thousands to benefit from youth and women funding which has greatly improved their livelihood earning her admiration across the County. Though, through the influence of her husband and the Eldoret North MP William Ruto who is a close ally of president Kibaki in South Rift she will give Yegon a run for her money in Belgut constituency where she has support. In Kericho district which is Ainamoi constituency and Kipkelion district or constituency Yegon will fight it with Lucy Kirui from Londiani and Cllr. Florence Koskei who hails from Kabianga.

…By Wilson Rotich


hen Kenya attained independence from the colonialist masters’ women unfortunately had to wait for 14 years to be identified as equal citizens. Most women and children survived and perished unaccounted for because even the birth certificates were unheard of for the masses that were born far from health facilities. The government never budgeted for women and children. This led to poor health care, education and other social amenities until 14 years later from 1963. Tied to the traditions of individual tribes, men took precedence over women and children since 1963 when Kenya attained internal self governance. Rights to the national identification only extended to the males in every family who were above 18 years of age.

Classification Identification (ID) cards were issued to the head of the family whom it was claimed was the tax payer while other members mostly women and children were inhumanly classified as second class citizens. In 1977, the government of Jomo Kenyatta was pushed to the wall in reviewing and amending the Laws to include the rights of children and women. “That was the first time Kenyan women were issued with national identity cards,” said Mrs. Rachel Yegon, a former Kericho District Registrar of Persons. Yegon can bear witness to this since it is during this period that she grew up in a small village called Roret in Bureti District from a Christian family, which is now part of the larger Kericho County. As a small child in Roret village, Yegon never failed to notice the low population of girls in the Roret primary school where she attained her basic

education. Many girls missed essential lessons for lack of sanitary towels. Through the years she was intimidated by the population of boys as she struggled to make a difference by being educated so that she could agitate for the rights and the recognition of women who were neglected and married off early. Young Yegon was bright enough to earn her secondary education at Alliance Girls and Kipsigis Girls for her Advanced level. Far from early marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Yegon dreamt of women wielding national identification cards like men and employed in big towns like Nairobi and Mombasa which were the talk of the village. Little did she know that God was listening and in 1980 she was employed as an Immigration officer. While on duty she always wanted to prove that women could also deliver good public services. Her efforts were richly rewarded when she was promoted to be the District

Rachel Yegon a former Kericho District Registrar of Persons with Minister for Internal Security Prof George Saitoti. Inset: Rachel Yegon now an aspirant of County Women Rrepresentative in Kericho.Pictures: Wilson Rotich

Registrar of Persons in the former expansive Kericho District which now covers Kericho, Bomet, and Transmara Counties. For the eight years she was in that docket, Yegon became a household name amongst thousands whom she assisted in her course of duty to acquire their national identification cards. The alumnus of Dalc University tested the murky waters of politics in 2007. Though she missed to capture the Bureti Constituency seat, Yegon is now bracing herself for the higher seat of County women representative in Kericho County. But at the onset of the devolved government that has been bestowed

2011 addresses women’s issues within the budget from page 1

these money. Agriculture is the bedrock of the country’s economy. According to the Vision 2030, 5 million households of the eight million Kenyan households depend directly on agriculture. This sector is ranked even higher than industry and accounts for at least 24 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. With the feminization of agriculture where more women are involved in the sector but mainly as labourers, it is expected that women stand to benefit if this budget push for gender sensitive strategies and initiatives in the agricultural sector. “Given that at least 70 percent of labour in the agricultural sector is provided by women, it is therefore critical that this industry drives critical reforms that can enable women to benefit from land,” expounds Kihara. The equally sizeable allocation of Sh109 billion to the roads projects has a direct link to the growth of the agricultural industry, when roads are accessible and fuel at reasonable prices, agricultural products can easily be transported from one region to the other at minimal costs. Women also stand to benefit from

the KSh 9.8 billion allocated to the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) as well as the Mau evictees. It has remained clear that a majority of IDPs are women and their children who brave harsh weather changes as they hope that one day their lives will go back to some sense of normalcy. A staggering KSh 64 billion has also been allocated to the health services to deal with both curative and preventable diseases. Of significance to note is the Sh 903 million set aside specifically for ARVs to enable Kenyans living with HIV/Aids to enjoy good health.

Burden of diseases According to the Kenya Aids Indicator Survey 2007 that is carried every five years, HIV/Aids is still very much a woman story with women accounting for three out of every five people living with the virus. The situation is much more grave for younger women with those aged 15 to 24 being four times more likely to be infected with the virus compared to their male counterparts. “Cervical cancer continues to be a leading killer disease even though it is the most preventable and treatable form of cancer. Women are hence

encouraged to visit the hospital for regular screening (pap smear) and for those who are yet to experience their first sexual encounter, they can get vaccinated from the disease,” explained Dr Brigid Monda, a gynecologist and Lecturer, in a recent motivational talk dubbed ‘Sista to Sista’. Statics from Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) shows that at least 2,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed every year with a similar number dying from the disease annually. These figures account for only the cases that have been handled by the hospital and are therefore not a comprehensive reflection of the disease burden. In this regard, the allocation of KSh 150 million to purchase modern equipment for screening of cervical cancer and breast cancer is a welcome relief. There are therefore direct and indirect ways in which the national budget is expected to alleviate the plight of the Kenyan Woman, this is consequently a major move towards the right direction. It is important to also note that the budget has factored in funds necessary for the implementation of fundamental reforms as outlined in the Constitution which has proved to be a significant gender empowerment tool.

Profile Kenyans courtesy of the new constitution, women in Kericho would not want to miss out on the county seats. “I am happy that the current Constitution has provided a level playing field for both genders in politics,” Yegon says adding that the electorate is now aware that they need to elect their leaders without any gender bias. However, Yegon faces a handful of other aspirants from the county which consist of 4 districts-Kericho, Kipkelion, Buret and Belgut. In Buret where she hails from the chairperson of Litein County Council Hellen Chepkwony has expressed her interest in the seat. Chepkwony has gone on record as the second woman to represent a county in the larger

Koskei is one of the longest serving female civic leaders of Kipsigis County Council. She has been a leader and championed for women rights since 1980s in the regime of Daniel Moi when women rights were not a priority. She is in her 50s and a mother of two and married to a businessman in Kericho and Nairobi towns. She will pose an equal problem for Yegon following her long exposure to politics ¬a male dominated field which was slowly opening up to females in the County. But if her leading star will not diminish, Yegon has an upper hand in that she has served both locally as a district registrar of persons in her County and the nation as an active board member of the Central Agricultural Board since 2008.

India may fund women candidates for transparency

…By Nita Bhalla


EW DELHI (TrustLaw) - India’s law ministry wants the government to fund women candidates during polls, saying it will help keep a check on election funding and provide an incentive for them to join politics, the Hindustan Times reported on Monday. Law Minister Veerappa Moily has proposed that female political candidates, and those from other marginalized groups like tribals and lower castes, from recognized political parties receive state funds for their campaigns, said the daily. It did not specify the amount that could be given. “This proposal, applicable to the recognized national and state-level political parties, will bring transparency and put a check on the inflow of unaccounted money into elections,” the Hindustan Times quoted a circular from the law ministry as saying. Election funding is a contentious issue in India. Despite legislation curbing the amount political parties can spend on campaigning, laws are widely flouted, with parties spending well over the limit. The newspaper said the law ministry proposed the government fund candidates who had a maximum annual income of less than 500,000 rupees ($11,128). The income and assets would also include those of the candidates’ spouses, dealing with concerns of how male politicians often field their wives for polls, pouring hundreds of thousands of rupees into their campaigns without declaring this money in their annual accounts. The law ministry said this proposal, if accepted, would be an incentive to political parties to put forward candidates who are women, tribals and lower castes – all of whom are poorly represented in the political arena of the world’s largest democracy. Credit ; trustlaw // Nita Bhalla


Issue Number 19 • July 2011

Lady Justice Nancy Barasa

Gender agenda bears fruit as Nancy barasa becomes first Kenyan woman Deputy Chief Justice f elections were called today, are we prepared as women to go to the polls?” This is the key question that worries Ms Nancy Barasa.”The jobs are too many but the women are few. Identify something for yourself. What do you want to be?” That is her victory call to women with regard to the new constitution that gives women a 30 per cent chance in governance. Such is her passion about women’s rights that the Judicial Service Commission recently questioned her about her activism. Yet underneath her strong activism is a humble, friendly, down to earth and co-operative woman who has no hung ups about appointments and is willing to give an interview to the media on the spot.

who she accuses of perpetuating corruption in the courts. “It is the lawyers who encourage corruption in the Judiciary. We should not blame the judicial officers alone because it takes two to tango,” she said. Other candidates for the Chief Justice position were Judges Joseph Nyamu, Riaga Omollo, Samuel Bosire, Kalpana Rawal, Paul Kihara, Msagha Mbogoli and Mary Ang’awa and Judge Lee Muthoga of International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda. Barasa is a founder of International Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida). She has practiced law for 30 years. Earlier this year she was elected the chairperson of the Media Council of Kenya Ethics and Commission. She served in the original Yash Pal Ghai’s Constitution of Kenya Review Commission which produced the Bomas Draft - which served as one of the reference drafts for the new constitution. Members of the JSC include Christine Mango, Amos Wako, Ahmednassir Abdullahi, Justice Isaac Lenaola, Public Service Commission Chairman Titus Gateere, deputy Court Registrar Emily Ominde, Law Society of Kenya representative Florence Mwangangi.

Landmark appointment

In her own words

…By Omwa Ombara


Nancy Makhoha Barasa becomes the first Kenyan woman to serve as the Deputy Chief Justice. This is a landmark appointment and a plus for women and governance in Kenya. Never in the history of the country had such a rank been envisaged or even imagined for a woman. Since independence, Kenya has been a “man’s club” society. Former Justice Minister Martha Karua describes the Government as an all male Sacco in which women are treated with hostility and contempt. But with the promulgation of the new constitution apportioning women 30 per cent of all Government posts, the sky is the limit for Kenyan women. Some critics have described the bareknuckled approach of a section of the panelists as provocative even demeaning to the status of interviewees. Others have however welcomed the public nature of the process, as free and fair. Nancy Barasa’s journey to the judiciary was not a rosy one having had to pass through a rigorous vetting process. She nonetheless left many in awe with her quick wit and vast understanding of the issues at hand. Out of 18 applicants shortlisted for the Deputy Chief Justice position, Barasa made it to a strong number two. The Judicial Service Commissions held the interviews between May 3 and May 12, 2011 and forwarded her name to the President and the Prime Minister for approval. They approved leaving her at the hands of the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee who voted unanimously for her and the leaving her fate to parliament who again endorsed.

Controversy A former commissioner with the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC) and currently a lecturer of law at Kenyatta University, Barasa handled herself with dignity and decorum during the interview remaining calm as a barrage of questions were directed towards her. Particularly on two fronts, her past as an activist and her present regarding her PhD thesis on homosexuality and the Law. The thesis aroused curiosity, with the commission wondering whether it was meant to justify homosexuality. But Barasa said her decision to pursue the topic was borne out of a curiosity she developed when she led the team on human rights at the CKRK in collecting views from Kenyans to develop the chapter on the topic. The thesis raised a storm with some politicians rejecting the appointment on that account, it is worth noting that only recently, Principals and Head Teachers lamented that lesbianism was rife in girls’ boarding schools and needed urgent attention as it was already out of hand. In the neighboring Uganda, the topic was so hot and parliament postponed discussion of the bill that

Lady Nancy Barasa, first Kenyan woman Deputy Chief Justice puts a point across during the vetting process. Picture: Kenyan Woman Correspondent.

was to approve the hanging of gays and lesbians. On activism; “Yes, activism makes you challenge the status quo, it is a positive value. In India, for example through judicial activism, they managed to develop a pro-people jurisprudence. I would want to call it innovation of the courts.” She recommended a spice of activism, which she noted had been missing from the judiciary. The lawyer, who would be completing her PhD in law, said there had been a strong opposition from the judiciary against reforms in the institution. She decried the Judiciary for resisting reform despite the cry of Kenyans. Barasa recalled that while she was at CKRC, two senior members of the Judiciary had through an advocate filed a suit opposing the inclusion of the judicial chapter in the draft constitution or even talking of the reforms in the institution. Questioned by Commissioner Abdulahi Ahmednasir on what needs to be done to the judges who instituted the cases to block constitutional review, Barasa said it would be upon the JSC to determine what actions to take against them. Barasa told the panel that despite the 2003 “radical surgery” in the Judiciary, corruption worsened thereafter. Requirement for Chief Justice required one who can provide leadership to the Judiciary both jurisprudentially and managerially. He or

she must be able to reform the judiciary. Above that candidates must have an impeccable record, superb credentials and whose integrity is beyond reproach. “We are looking for natural leaders who will provide vision and guidance to both judiciary and the country,” emphasized JSC chairperson Christine Mango. To confirm just how rotten the Judiciary was, one of the candidates Lady Justice Mary Ang’awa confessed to the JSC that bribery is rampant in the courts and its form so varied that it even includes kilos of meat delivered at a magistrate court’s door step as early as 6am.Ang’awa described corruption as a trend that replicated itself in all court corridors in the country. She said that some lawyers are known to delay cases for 17 years as remandees rot in jail.

Tribute In a glowing tribute to Barasa, one writer described her as an “indefatigable defender of the poor and democracy activist with the necessary expertise and technical know-how to navigate the reforms and ensure that the judiciary is independent. Each candidate was asked what their agenda for the judiciary would be in the first 100 days in office. Barasa says she would seek public involvement, initiate training on cultural values and set a mechanism to deal with advocates,

If elections were called today, are we prepared as women to go to the polls?” — Nancy Barasa, Deputy Chief Justice

“I want to take this opportunity to thank womanhood, to praise the woman of Kenya. I am a product of the power of women. As a law practitioner, I got in touch with the problems, marginalization, sheer desperate situation of women. This is how we came up together and started agitating for women. I am proud to be a woman of Kenya. All these values everyone is talking about (affirmative action in the new constitution) is because women put their voices together. The Kenyan constitution is the richest constitution that the world has today. The other countries can emulate us. But as rich as it is, if we don’t utilize it, it will be a piece of paper. This country will have changed greatly in another 10 years. The Sh3 Billion that will go to the county every year must also be utilized by our women. Do not leave it for business as usual. We wanted a system that removed women form poverty and it is here. We must realize the promise. We have walked ourselves into First Class citizens. In Uganda women did not take up the positions and ceded them to the men. Do you have the skills to run the politics of the county? For me, power is a position in which I can fully impact on people down there. As we were writing the constitution, I was going to school. The standards are high, the capacity are high. We already have it(the new constitution). What can I get from it? If we respect the constitution, we respect the rule of law, where the law serves us equally and the court does not discriminate on a poor woman because she has no money, our politics and social life will be good. Thumbs up to our women. You have made me what I am today.”

Fact file Nancy Barasa was born in Bungoma at the foot of Mt Elgon.She attended Chesikaki Full Primary School, Lugulu Girls High School, Highlands Girls Eldoret (Moi Girls Eldoret) and Kipsigis Girls. After her “A” levels she joined the University of Nairobi for her 1st Degree, Masters and PhD in law. She is a mother of two sons Michael and Yuri Barasa. In a brief interview with Kenya Woman, at the Prime Minister’s Round Table Talks on Equality and Equity, Barasa described her appointment as “humbling”. Barasa has held notable positions such as being a former commissioner with the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission.


Issue Number 19 • July 2011

Women legislators set to launch campaigns to garner more seats

…By Faith Muiruri


new wave to increase the proportion of women representation in parliament is taking shape. Battle lines have been drawn as sitting women legislators brace themselves for bruising battles to defend their current seats in the build up to the next General Elections. Although the new constitution presents women with varous opportunities to leadership positions based solely on the agenda women are none the less prepared for competitive politics with their male counterparts. “We plan to defend our seats in the next General Elections. We have no plans to contest for the special seats outlined in the constitution,” affirms Prof Margaret Kamar during a breakfast meeting that brought together members of Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA). This was made clear by various women leaders who not only expressed their desire to maintain elective positions but also to ensure that more women joined elective politics.

Leadership During the meeting organized by the UN women through the Swedish embassy, KEWOPA members were able to share their experiences after they underwent a rigorous training on leadership for women in politics held in Stockholm Prof Kamar said that women legislators are determined to secure their seats and in the event that they plan to contest as Governors and Senators, they will embark on intensive campaigns to ensure that the seats are retained by fellow women Speakers at the meeting who included cabinet minister Sally Kosgey and assistant ministers Linah Jebii Kilimo, Bishop Margaret Wanjiru and Cecil Mbarire said they intend to jointly lodge a spirited campaign that will see them retain their current seats while pushing for other women candidates to take up both constituency and special seats earmarked for them in the constitution. “We are gunning up for not less than 116 seats in the next General Elections as part of our elaborate plans to consolidate on the women gains espoused in the constitution,” adds Prof Margaret Kamar.

Legislation The women legislators have crafted a national campaign strategy that will see their number rise from the current 47 MPs to 116 in the next parliament. Prof Kamar who is the MP for Eldoret East said that women legislators coalescing under KEWOPA will hold a series of meetings in the 47 counties to assist in identifying potential female candidates to fill in the new seats. Dr Kosgey said that nominated women MPs must indicate how they want to be elected to parliament in the next elections so that they can be supported. KEWOPA chairperson, Linah Kilimo underscored the need to mentor more women into leadership positions to enable them benefit from the new constitutional dispensation. She urged the organizers of the leadership training to include more women in future so that they can be empowered politically.

Hon Charity Ngilu (right) and Elizabeth Ongoro together with other members of Parliament follow proceedings in a round table meeting conveined by the Prime Minister Raila Odinga to discuss gender equality. Picture: Omwa Ombara

She said that KEWOPA members will forever be grateful for the excellent skills and model learnt from DR Barbro Hall as they have used the knowledge to understand their personalities. She said when women get into political office, people imagine, expect and perceive that they should have answers to everything, know everyone and the stakes are always higher. “This does not take into consideration of the challenges they face in a male dominated and highly chauvinistic environment. Nominated MP Millie Odhiambo expressed the need to create a structured mentorship program. Speaking at the meeting, the Sweden Ambassador to Kenya Mrs Ann Dismorr reaffirmed her government’s commitment to strengthening political participation by women and counteracting traditional structures. She said that Kenya’s new constitution provided a crucial framework to

“We are gunning up for not less than 116 seats in the next General Elections as part of our elaborate plans to consolidate on the women gains espoused in the constitution.” — Prof Margaret Kamar

resolve long standing discriminatory practices against women whether political, social or cultural. “As the implementation of the provisions on gender equality in the Constitution continues, we will see the human rights of women in Kenya strengthened,” she adds. She singled out the Bill of rights which she noted guaranteed equality and freedom from discrimination and placed an obligation on the government to take action to redress disadvantages suffered by individuals or groups because of past discrimination.

Discrimination “The constitution further supports affirmative action to improve representation of women in the public sector and outlaws gender discrimination practices of law, customs, ownership and inheritance including Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The ambassador said the principals espoused in the constitution should inform reforms in the country and urged the women legislators to act `as mentors and drivers of democratic reforms. She also the expressed the need to bring the voices of the grasroot women to the national arena. “Amplifying the voices of women in the marginalized and rural communities in order to bring attention to their plight is something which Sweden fully supports, the constitutional provisions of equality are universal and apply to all women of Kenya regardless of their locality or origin,” she said. Also present at the meeting were Hon. Peris Simam and Joyce Laboso.

Women stand to reap heavily from the Constitution …By Joyce Chimbi and Rosemary Okello


fter years of extensive struggle for reforms and a subsequent successful promulgation of the Constitution, Kenyans are now beginning to indeed enjoy the fruits of having a document that resonates with them and particularly the thinking of ‘Wanjiku.’ Recent events in Kenya are a clear indicator that though slowly; this country is turning into the dream nation envisaged by our forefathers. The controversy around the reading of the budget was one such indicator that indeed Kenyans understand the provisions in the Constitution and are keen on seeing them through. The bone of contention was that the Finance Minister’s intended reading of the KSh1.155 trillion 2011 - 2012 budgets in Parliament at 3:30 pm on March 8th without having first presented its estimates two months before the end of the previous financial year as is demanded by the Supreme Law. This is a remarkable incidence as is the public vetting of Kenyans aspiring for high offices. Of significance to note is the trickling down effect that these reforms will ultimately and most certainly have on the Kenyan woman who has continued to be marginalized form key development processes. It was with great admirations that thousands of Kenyans followed Nancy Barasa’s interview by the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee on the June 7th this year. The very thought that Kenya will possibly have its first ever female Deputy Chief Justice is a fundamental indication of how progressive the Constitution is and how significant it can transform women’s lives from a history of sub-ordination to women being at the heart of key development processes. The face of poverty has been that of a woman, the face of HIV/Aids has also been that of a woman and so is the face of agriculture. It is unfortunate to note that even though women account for at least 75 percent of the labour force in the agricultural sector and are the backbone of the country’s economy, only a paltry three percent of them hold land title deeds. With the nature of the current reforms, this is bound to change. More women will now begin to control decision making processes, to participate in all facets of development, to access opportunities that were earlier beyond their reach and to consequently improve their welfare for their own benefit as well as the benefit of all. Indeed given the gross inequality, and in order for the State to meet the equality threshold contemplated in the Bill of Rights, the two thirds majority should more often than not be the allocation for women. The nominations are an indication that unless State organs and State Officers take the constitution and all constitutional provisions seriously, its implementation will be a facade, Kenyans will lose regard for the constitution, and the prospects for entrenching constitutionalism and the rule of law will fade off. The unified national project of the second republic which has been the preoccupation of this generation for 45 years will then become another white elephant, and we shall be a failed generation, leading a failed state.


Issue Number 19 • July 2011

A time to look beyond numbers in women leadership come the next General Elections in Kenya …By Rosemary Okello


s politicians are positioning themselves for the next General Elections in Kenya which will be done under the new constitution, one of the issues which have been given the pride of place in the entire struggle of the new constitution is the place of women. In that the question of women’s representation in any elective post will be the defining moment during the 2012 General Elections. Elizabeth Muli the Vice Chair of the Constitution Implementation Committee is cognisant of that fact and acknowledges that the gains of women within the constitution can be realised through Article 259 which requires that the constitution is interpreted with the principle of Equality and Equity.

Campaign It is against this backdrop that women parliamentarians under the leadership of the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) launched the 116 seats campaign in the countdown to 2012 General Elections. According to Prof. Margaret Kamar, Assistant Minister for Environment and Mineral Resources and a Member of Parliament, the women expect to secure 116 seats come the next General Elections. Speaking during the leadership feedback after they had attended the Barbro Dahlbom-Hall Leadership Training in Sweden, Prof. Kamar was emphatic that with the skills they got from Sweden, will them and the women of Kenya to secure the 116 seats. “We the women leaders have declared that we shall first secure the 7 seats currently being held by women MPs and we will up with strategies to secure the 116 seats.” Aware that there will be many challenges the KEWOPA women have agreed to come up with the strategies to involve all and sundry in their journey towards the 116 seats. The strategy involves coming up with the motion which shall enjoins Parliament to enact the legislation, and also a campaign mechanism to create awareness among women and the public on the need to secure 116 seats. Giving the rationale of why 116 seats for women, Prof. Kamar explained that with the new constitution, the number of MPs in the National Assembly shall be 290, and if the spirit of the constitution is implemented to the later women should occupy 162 seats as follows; the National Assembly should have at least 96 women elected. In addition, there shall be 47 women from each County elected by the voters. Then the twelve members who are expected to be nominated by parliamentary political parties

From left Hon Sally Kosgei, Milly Odhiambo and Joyce Laboso share a light moment during a stakeholders meeting organised by KEWOPA to discuss gender and leadership in light of the constitutional implementation process. Picture: Kenyan woman correspondent. according their proportion of members of the National Assembly in accordance with Article 90, one –third should be women and this shall translate into another 4 seats for women. Then the other 47 seats for Senators should again translate into 15 more seats for women. “The arrival of the 116 seats, only focuses on the National Assembly and the Senator positions,” explains Prof. Kamar. But for this to happen, women have to join the political parties in large numbers. Even though there are two women led political parties namely NARC-Kenya headed by Hon Martha Karua and NARC headed by Hon Charity Ngilu who is also the Minister for Water and Irrigation, few women in Kenya hold key party

“We can only be able to see the glass half-full instead of half empty if we join the political parties to realise the seats.” — Hon Millie Odhiambo, Member of KEWOPA

positions and even fewer belong to any political party. “We can only be able to see the glass halffull instead of half empty if we join the political parties to realise the seats,” said Hon Millie Odhiambo. The current political party bill is very explicit on how nomination should be done and how people can become members of any political party. According to Winnie Gichu of the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) said that the Political Party Bill is very strict on nomination of people who will run for any political post.

Nomination She explained; “The party will have to provide the names of all the nominated candidates, who must have been member three months prior to the nomination and provide the Registrar of political parties receipts of membership for each nominee.” She was concerned that with the way things are going the party list for the nomination of the National Assembly will be a cause of concern especially for women. She wondered aloud; “when time comes for the party nomination, will we get

the numbers of women especially at the County level to view for political posts.” She urged the women to be part of a political structure to start coming up with mechanism on how different criteria of party lists shall be developed namely to ensure that the Principle of Affirmative Action is taken into consideration during the nomination of candidates for the National Assembly, the Senators, the Governors, and wards. While challenging the women organisation to ensure that the spirit of the constitution is captured through the implementation process, Senior Stephen Etemesi told the women’s movement that it is the mandate of the women organisations such as the G10 to ask for the declaration from the Government on how the appointment, selection, nomination, election, and also on how the selection in public offices will be done in the new constitution. Therefore for the women in Kenya to look beyond the numbers means that the government through the judiciary must come up with the guidelines for the interpretation and application of the constitution especially within the leadership structures.

Musician launches campaign to support girls with sanitary towels …By Faith Muiruri


idely known as Size 8 in the entertainment industry, Linet Munyali is becoming a household name. She has launched an initiative that seeks to provide sanitary towels to secondary school students from poor households. Through the initiative dubbed Kasichana Kang’ae, Munyali who is 23 years old has been traversing schools in the slums of Nairobi to donate pads. She says that her experience while growing up has shaped the campaign. “I grew up in Eastland’s in Nairobi where sanitary towels were a luxury. Access to sanitary towels was limited and this was traumatizing. I do not want young girls to suffer a similar predicament,” she adds. Munyali whose song “Fire” in the lyrics leo kutawaka moto has catapulted her to national fame, says that she has been using proceeds from the sale of her album to support girls in slum areas. She says that during the several tours to schools in Nairobi, she has been moved by the plight of girls who tell her they have not used sanitary towels since the start of their menstrual cycle. “I have come face to face with the real suffering of little girls whose access to sanitary towels is a mirage. In fact they usually

tell me that since the start of their menstrual cycle, they have never used sanitary towels,” she adds during an interview with the Kenyan Woman shortly after attending the Sister to Sister talk held at a Nairobi hotel. She appealed to women attending the forum to stop wasting money and instead support young girl’s access sanitary towels. She intimates that some girls confide in her that they have been forced to have sex at an early age in exchange of cash to buy sanitary towels. “It is a sorry state of affairs and we need to push for a sustainable way to allow easy access to sanitary towels in order to redeem the future of these young girls,” she affirms.

Challenges Munyali says that although penetrating schools has been difficult because she has to convince managers she means well, she is upbeat that the campaign will push on and spread out to other parts of the country. “I started the campaign with as little as KSh2,500 and I have been able to inject more capital from the proceeds of my album to support the initiative and make it a success,” she adds. She says that she is currently constrained by resources and is working towards joining hands with the government in the newly announced plans by the Prime Minister Raila Odinga that girls

attending both Public Primary and Secondary Schools will be supplied with sanitary towels to retain them in school. She says that reports that the Prime Minister was saddened by the plight of underprivileged girls who continue to miss school due to lack of sanitary pads, was a wake up call to everyone to start talking about access to sanitary towels. “Currently we have condoms going as cheap as KSh10 in the market. Why can’t we zero rate sanitary towels too, so that they become accessible even to the underprivileged in the society,” she asks. She spoke as the government announced plans to make sure that sanitary towels are provided to all public schools starting July 1, this year. Education permanent Secretary Prof. James ole Kiyapi said the funds for supplying pads will be included in the 2011/2012 budget. He said that the sanitary plan will be merged with ongoing similar initiatives currently being undertaken by donors to enable the government know how much is needed and what donors will supplement. Reports by UNICEF say that poor school girls miss up to 40 school days a year due to their menstrual cycle since most of them do not have access to proper sanitary pads.


Issue Number 19 • July 2011

Public gives government report card under current constitution

…By Omondi Gwengi


ith political stampeding still alive 3 years after the inception of the coalition government, the clout the country once enjoyed as Africa’s beacon of political stability and democracy has substantially diminished. Despite being so endowed with diverse natural and human resources, and the best opportunities, Kenya has not surmounted its development challenges simply because she has never enjoyed a leadership that is non- ethnocentric in the mindset; a leadership that is visionary in economic, democratic and social development; a leadership that is committed to national progress and not bent on personal aggrandizement or on that of inner supporters in his ethnic community.

Performance According to a recent report by Jadili Coalition on people’s verdict on the performance of the government, majority of the respondents interviewed mentioned unemployment as the main economic problem facing Kenyans at this time. They also mentioned tribalism/nepotism and insecurity as the major threats to their social lives. Poor governance and corruption were mentioned as the political problems facing Kenyans. As different counties gave their views on economic problems within their area that require immediate attention, Kisumu and Siaya Coun-

ties pointed out infrastructure as the main problem facing them. With the dispensation of the new constitution, many Kenyans expect that it will address the issues of poor governance, inequitable distribution of resources and unemployment. Nonetheless, experts maintain that illiteracy is still an issue that must be addressed in order for the citizens to be empowered to demand for better services and avoid manipulation from their leaders.

Despair Addressing the participants during the forum on performance of the government and constitution, Community Aid International (CAI) Executive Director Mr Joseph Kwaka said that constitution alone cannot guarantee prosperity unless you have good leadership. Recalling the NARC regime, Kwaka says that Kenyans’ hope of electing an economist, whom they thought would manage the country’s economy well, has now turned into despair as they are facing hard economic times. “Unless the constitution is in the hands of the right people, all will not work out”, says Kwaka. According Prof. Emilly Achieng “Unless the constitution Akuno of Maseno University leader is in the hands of the needs to empower the people he/she right people, all will not leads. For a 69-year-old Elphas Omino, work out.” his most desire is to see good leaders before he dies. He says that many — Joseph Kwaka Community Aid graduates are idling at home with certificates because the leaders are International (CAI) Executive Director

Mr Elphas Omino.He says inappropriate distribution of bursaries can be attributed to poor leadership not concerned about their welfare. “Nyanza needs a forum to educate the people on leadership and governance,” says Omino. Omino further blames poor leadership on the plight of needy when it comes to distribution of bursaries. “Bursary disbursement depends on whom you know and not your need,” he says. He also says that it is not in order for CDF/Bursary committee sending money to a student in Uganda while there are many who can’t access the funds in Kenya. He however proposes that the position of a county Governor should be given to a professional and not a politician. Addressing the same forum, Wilikister Olule from Kisumu West says that our leaders should encourage us

to use the available resources in order to develop our regions. “Wananchi can only bring a change in leadership but only when informed accordingly,” adds Olule.

Vetting The recent public vetting of high state officials has accorded Kenyans an opportunity to be involved in the process of appointing key representatives of various sensitive positions such as that of the Chief Justice and the Deputy Chief Justice. If the recent interviews of those vying for the positions in the Judiciary are anything to go by, Kenya is setting pace for other countries in terms of public scrutiny of leaders through live TV coverage.

Supreme Court nomination causes a storm …By Duncan Mboyah


n late January this year President Kibaki nominated Justice Alnashir Visram to the position of Chief Justice, Prof Githu Muigai as Attorney General and Kioko Kilukumi Director of Public Prosecutions. The appointment was greeted with shock and dismay with both politicians and the civil society fraternity for a breach of the constitution.

Application Women organisations, under the G-10 movement took the issue with the appointments and went to court to seek guidance on what the law says in regard to gender representation. Other groups also questioned the procedure followed by the President in nominating the officials. The applicants were Centre for Rights Education Awareness (Creaw), Caucus for Women Leadership, Tomorrows Child Initiative (TCI), Women in Law and Development (K) and Development Through Media (DTM). Others were Coalition of Violence Against Women (Covaw), Young Women Leadership Institute (YWLI) and League of Kenya Women Voters. The then Chief Justice Evans Gicheru appointed a three-judge bench for the matter and they ruled that the positions be advertised and interested candidates be interviewed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

This has since been done and today we have a new Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and Director of Public Prosecution both appointed after a rigorous exercise that was aired live by most television stations in the country. But today, the JSC that had earlier credited for doing a good job by a cross section of Kenyans have also fell in the same trap that President Kibaki found himself in early this year. Upon advertising for the position for the judges to sit in the Supreme Court, they settled on five judges – four male and one female, hence forcing the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA Kenya) and five other women lobby groups to move to court to challenge the nominations before they were sworn in office.

Nominations FIDA Kenya and the sister associations from Tanzania, Uganda and Zanzibar has taken the JSC for disregarding the constitution while nominating the Supreme Court judges. FIDA Executive Director Ms. Grace Maingi notes that by nominating only one woman to the court is a disregard of the constitution of Kenya 2010 and the judicial service Act 2011 that requires that the one-third threshold on gender is followed to the letter. “By nominating only one woman to the court, the JSC has made the supreme court unconstitutional as they have violated article 28(8) and further

“By nominating only one woman to the court, the JSC has made the supreme court unconstitutional as they have violated article 28(8) and further failed in promoting gender equality as prescribed in article 172(2) (b).” — Grace Maingi, Executive Director FIDA K.

failed in promoting gender equality as prescribed in article 172(2) (b),”Maingi notes. According to article 172 (2) (b) “that the JSC shall promote and facilitate the independence and accountability of the judiciary and the efficient, effective and transparent administration of justice and shall promote gender equality”. She observed that it is wrong to appoint only one woman yet the Court of Appeal has no single woman judge despite the constitutional requirement. “We are calling on the JSC to withdraw the list of nominees and reconstitute it a fresh by ensuring it promotes gender equality in both action and spirit failure to which we shall take the matter to court,” she said. Maingi noted that the nomination proves the existence of the marginalization of women in the higher echelon of the judiciary and the patriarchal society in which we live in and a blatant disregard of gender equality. Dr. Maria Nassali, the Executive Director of Federation women lawyers of Uganda observes that the JSC should have followed the Ugandan example where two women and four men are sitting at the Supreme Court while three female and four male are also sitting at the Court of Appeal. She notes that it is pathetic to note that the JSC team has flouted the law yet the allocations are well spelt out in the constitution.

Annemarie Nkelame of Tanzania told JSC that they acted irresponsibly saying that being the big brother in the region, Kenya ought to put its house in order to set standards. She reveals that Kenya has a number of literate women than any other country in the region that is capable to sit in the Supreme Court.

Confirmation In the nominations JSC nominated Ms. Njoki Ndungu as one of the only female in the list of five Supreme Court judges that was due for confirmation by the president Kibaki. He indeed gazetted the list and was due to swear them in save for the petition in court. While announcing the nominees, JSC Chairperson Prof. Christine Mango says that they have picked the right people to reform the judiciary. She observes that their nominees were the best with necessary diversity, deep intellect, profound standing, impeccable integrity and appropriate experience. But since taking over as CJ, Justice Willy Mutunga has appointed three lawyers to represent JSC in the case that is due anytime soon following the ruling by High Court Judge Jeanne Gacheche that stopped the swearing in of the five judges. Others nominated were Jackton Ojwang, Smokin Wanjala, Mohammed Ibrahim and Philip Tonui.


Issue Number 19 • July 2011

150 million budgetary allocation to fight cancer a step in the right direction …By Joyce Chimbi


Moonbeads advance ‘safe days’ concept

A moonbead whose concept was developed by Georgetown University Medical Centre which among other things provides policy support in natural family planning methods. Picture: Joyce Chimbi …By Joyce Chimbi Julia Nabasa had almost given up on her quest to find a family planning method, which was gently to her body yet highly effective. “The introduction of MoonBeads as a form of contraceptive, came as a beautiful surprise to me seeing that it was natural and had no side effects,” says 29 year old Julia Nabasa. The mother of three says that the concept behind MoonBeads is a welcome relief for her and many other women, whose bodies have rejected other forms of contraceptives. “I had been on the injection for about three years and the side effects were too much, I added too much weight yet I had no appetite for food,” adds Julia Nabasa. “But that is not to say that women who use other modern methods of contraceptives cannot use it.”

Solutions Julia is just one of the many Ugandan women, who have found solutions to their family planning problems in the MoonBeads. This method, which was introduced in Uganda about four years ago, has had the First Lady, Janet Museveni, at the forefront in popularizing it. This form of contraceptive was launched by AFFORD, with an aim to assist women identify their menstrual cycle days with ease. AFFORD Health Marketing Initiative is a USAID funded project with a focus on key public health interventions such as family planning. Lucy Kabatebe, a registered nurse at Reproductive Health Uganda, says that MoonBeads have a success rate of about 95 percent when instructions are well followed. “MoonBeads are actually based on the ‘safe days’ concept, it’s a totally natural way of family planning,” expounds Lucy Kabatebe. ‘Safe days’ signify a time when a woman is least likely to conceive. MoonBeads are a string of beads which resemble a necklace of colored beads. There are 32 beads of different colors in total, each of them represents a woman’s menstrual cycle. “Each bead is a day of the cycle. There is a black rubber ring and a cylinder with an arrow. The arrow shows the direction to move the ring, the red bead marks the first day of your period,” explains Lucy Kabatebe. “The white beads mark the day you can get

pregnant, all brown beads mark the days you are least likely to conceive and the dark brown bead helps you track the number of days in each cycle.” The MoonBeads concept was developed by Georgetown University Medical Centre, which among other things provides policy support in natural family planning method. MoonBeads have been marketed elsewhere as CycleBeads. Despite the beauty behind this method, it takes more than will to use it. “A woman’s menstrual cycle must fall between 2632 days, we advice women to stay off any other family planning method for about four months in order to make an assessment,” explains Lucy Kabatebe. “A woman can make her own assessment by marking the days when she begins her monthly period and see how regular they are.” If a woman is on a certain family planning method, she may not make a correct assessment because her hormones will have been disrupted by the method she may be using at the time. “I did my own assessment for four months, and I have been using MoonBeads for two years now,” says Esther Nsali. The 25 year old mother of two says that she finds the method highly effective. The MoonBeads are also reasonably affordable and a woman can use one string of beads for many years. At the Reproductive Health Uganda, a leading

“MoonBeads are actually based on the ‘safe days’ concept, it’s a totally natural way of family planning. A woman’s menstrual cycle must fall between 26-32 days, we advice women to stay off any other family planning method for about four months in order to make an assessment.” — Lucy Kabatebe, Nurse at Reproductive Health Uganda

non-governmental organization committed to improving provision of reproductive health, one MoonBead costs about Ushs 3,000 which is about Kshs 125. However, it costs more at pharmacists, shops and supermarkets that stock them, where one can buy it for about Ushs 6,000, which is about Kshs 250. Despite it popularity in use by some women, others have out rightly rejected it. This is due to the fact that it can be rather cumbersome. A woman who chooses MoonBeads as a form of contraceptives must have undivided male support. “Male involvement is a must for this method to work, partners have to agree on either abstinence or use a condom for the 12 days when it is possibly for a woman to conceive,” expounds Lucy Kabatebe. This has been one of the major drawbacks to the success of MoonBeads. “When a woman is on a form of contraceptive, she wants to feel like she can have sex without a worry within the period which the contraception is supposed to protect her,” says Margaret Oyundo. “Telling a man to abstain or to use a condom and yet you are on a form of contraceptive can cause a lot of conflict.”

Abstinence The issue of abstinence and condom use has had many men discard the method untested. This goes to show that the society, to a large extent, finds these two methods unrealistic. “How many men will abstain or use a condom for 12 days, when a woman has other less inconveniencing contraceptive options to chose from?” poses Job Ogwang’. As far as safe sex goes, although MoonBeads can protect a woman from getting pregnant, they cannot protect partners from contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s). In addition, tracking down the beads each day has also been noted as another obstacle. To which Lucy Kabatebe says; “A woman needs to mark the day her periods begin on a calendar which also comes with the MoonBeads, if she forgets to track the beads, she only needs to go back to the calendar and solve the problem.” Although there are mixed feelings with regard to the convenience or inconvenience regarding MoonBeads, service providers in Uganda say that for those who can use it, and use it effectively, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. First published in The Standard.

reasury has allocated KSh 150 million to purchase modern equipment for screening of cervical cancer as well as breast cancer both of which are leading causes of death in Kenyan women particularly within the reproductive health age bracket. Breast cancer has received massive attention over the years with the breast awareness month boosting the number of women who go for breast check up. It is now common to see billboards along busy highways encouraging women to have their breasts checked for cancer. “In 2008, my friends and I were hanging out in town and we decided to drop into a clinic to have our breasts checked for the killer disease, they found a cancerous lump in my right breast,” explains 29 year old Ann Nduta. She adds: “I was shocked beyond relief, fortunately it was removed through a simple surgical procedure and now am a mother of two and my breasts are okay as a recent check up has confirmed.” In the same breath, cervical cancer has continued to claim the lives of thousands of women in the country as extreme awareness levels of its prevention and treatment remain dangerously low.

Misconception The misconception that the cancer afflicts older women is slowly dying as more and more young women are now being diagnosed with the disease. No one knows this better than 26 year old Anna Ogwel, whose visit to the hospital in June a year ago revealed that she had cervical cancer. “When I was given the diagnosis, I was so sure that there must have been a mistake, but test after test confirmed my worst fears,” said the distraught young woman. “I got married two years ago and have been looking forward to raising a family, but now that dream hangs in the balance.” Experts now say that this is simply one of the many such cases that they are now encountering on a regular basis. One of the major misconceptions about cervical cancer is that it is inherited .But what people need to know is that the virus that causes this type of cancer is passed on by men to women through sexual contacts. Men are the carriers of the Human papilomavirus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer. Human papilomavirus are a group of viruses that can infect the cervix by causing changes to the cells in the cervix, this can lead to genital warts, cancer and other diseases. Studies have revealed certain risk factors which make women more susceptible to develop this type of cancer such as early sex debut and multiple pregnancies. Failure to have regular pap smear tests is also another risk factor. “The Pap test can detect cell changes in the cervix caused by HPV before they develop into cancer, the development of these cells into cancerous cells can take a long time, even ten years ,this precancerous stage provides an opportune moment to prevent the cancer,’’ explains Dr Brigid Monda. Women with a weak immune system are also at a higher risk of getting cervical cancer and need to have even more regular pap smear tests.


Issue Number 19 • July 2011

…By Florence Sipalla

Women’s bank leaves them financially stronger


he history of the microfinance business in Kenya is intertwined with that of Kenya Women Finance Trust (KWFT), the oldest microfinance organisation that serves a niche market of the women. They have the widest network in the microfinance business that covers both the rural and urban woman. This is the microfinance arm of the Kenya Women Group (KWG) that is regulated by the Central Bank. The entity is now known as KWFT DTM, a deposit taking microfinance. The microfinance institution takes a unique approach to banking where they give character loans. This is where a person or group of women guarantee the person taking the loan. The process of administering character loans is long and intimate as the guarantor and loans officer have to know the loan applicant well. This necessitates building good relationships between the institution and client.

Risk Sounds like a big risk? Yes, but this risk has paid off. Since it was started in 1981, the organisation has expanded and now boasts a network of 215 offices countrywide. The institution does not only empower women financially but it also helps them broaden their social networks. It is said that a woman’s survival kit is her social network. KWFT encourages the women to form chamas (merry go round groups) where they conduct table banking. “These have nothing to do with loans,” asserts Dr. Jennifer Riria, group Chief executive officer. The women, through their chamas have been able to improve the quality of lives they lead. They have bought water tanks among other useful items that the groups feel are of necessity. They also support each other in times of celebrations such as weddings and hardships such as when death strikes. The social support gained from the groups has become addictive for some women. As their businesses have grown, they have had the choice to break from the group as they could receive individual loans ranging from KSh200, 000 to KSh500, 000. However, these women have retained their ties with the chamas as they value the social networks.

Support “Some refuse to leave as they will miss the social support,” says Riria. The organisation is well known for its microfinance service but little is known about their other interests in green energy, maternal health, fighting abuse from a gender perspective, training and mentorship. Having attained maximum visibility in microfinance arm, the group is now working to create visibility for their other activities. KWG is currently fundraising for projects that are undertaken on a not-for-profit platform. “We are also seeking funds from traditional donors,” says Riria adding that they will also approach non-traditional donors to fund such projects. Asked why this move that is seemingly removed from their core business, Riria is quick to note, a healthy

KWFT members celebrate social and econimic progress made through the fund at a passed event. Picture: Florence Sipalla

“We work with 600,000 women, this translates to food in the mouths of three million people. A womans needs are not just financial, KWG is therefore not just about money. The organisation’s goal is to partner with women for a better society.” — Dr Jennifer Riria CEO Kenya Women Group

mother, means a healthy society. “A healthy woman does a healthy job,” this in turn means a healthy income for the family which precipitates a positive chain reaction to the community around her. “Women in Africa have always worked in groups. This is not a new concept, women always worked together.” Ninety percent of the women who borrow from KWFT are under the group methodology, the remaining ten percent who are mostly larger clients are able to take loans on their own. One programme that Riria is passionate about is the ‘Hold my hand and capture the future’ youth mentorship programme. “The purpose of this programme is to begin creating leaders and people of purpose from school level,” she says. The CEO decries the breakdown of traditional systems which ensured that the youth received mentorship and guidance on pertinent issues such as sex education. Having noted this gap, the organisation has mooted this programme to address it. The group is already working with girls in Machakos Academy where they encourage the students to strive for excellence. “What do I want to be? What do I need to do to get there?” These are the questions posed to the girls to make them start thinking of forging a career path early. The organisation is keen on partnering with like-minded organisations that have the capacity to deliver their vision. In working to advance the women’s cause, Riria believes this cannot be done in the absence of men. This is why the organisation is partnering with Men’s Empowerment

for Women (MEW). “We recognise the role that men can play as men have women at heart,” she says. Riria emphasises that even in the microfinance business, they not only work with women but with their families, thus including the men.

Benefits “We work with 600,000 women, this translates to food in the mouths of three million people,” she explains the benefits of the fund to the women and their households. She explains the rationale behind the organisation’s involvement in non-financial ventures. “KWG is not just about money. The organisation’s goal is to partner with women for a better society.” This is through health campaigns and fighting abuse in addition to facilitating financial empowerment. “A woman’s needs are not just financial,” she says adding that the group is keen to empowering and position her to act in her best interests. According to KWFT’s Managing Director Mwangi Githaiga, KWFT has contributed to curbing rural urban migration. By creating opportunities in the rural areas, they have eliminated the need for migration to urban centres in search of jobs. The bank’s staff has used motorbikes to access difficult terrains to ensure the rural populations in marginalised areas get to access banking services. With the bank open to taking deposits, they have created woman friendly banking halls. “The bank does not run any commercials but instead they offer their clients messages of empowerment as they transact their business,” explains Githaiga. In partnership with Johnson, they are providing information on mater-

nal health, have specific areas where women with children can change nappies. This is the nature of their value addition that informs the organisation’s work. Riria is proud that the organisation’s success has resulted in commercial banks recognising women as bankable. “In 1991, banks never thought a woman is a credible client,” says Riria. The microfinance institution was prompted to fill this gap as in the past women could not access credit facilities without the support of their husbands. Now, banks have specific products targeted at women. These include the Msamaria account offered by the Cooperative Bank and the Diva account by Standard Chartered. These developments in the market mean competition for KWFT DTM. But this does not faze Riria. “Competition can only be beaten by efficient systems,” she says with confidence as she argues that KWFT DTM has those in place. With a fully computerised system in place and a wide network, KWFT DTM is certain to compete effectively with the commercial banks. However, Riria also acknowledges they have to keep working to remain ahead admitting that agency and mobile banking are developments in the industry that they have to consider adopting in future to keep the competition at bay. The impact of the institution in the economy cannot be ignored. “We invested 16.5 billion into the economy last year with an average loan amount of KSh40,000 last year and we intent to disburse 20 billion this year,” says Githaiga, adding, “we are a big institution that behaves small.”


Issue Number 19 • July 2011

Empowerment must rise beyond second in command

he inauguration of the present Constitution was seen to be the symbolic green light that was much awaited to usher the great trek into women’s empowerment. It was indeed the “all is clear” signal for gender parity in the work place, school, parliament and at home. The previous constitutional dispensation, it has been argued, did not take the gender question seriously. For this reason, specific tailor made legislations were brought in to exorcise the ghost of gender inequality. Time laid bare the absurdities, ambiguities and double standards of societal codes the world over and Kenya rose to dance to the tune of parity that was drummed by especially, women’s movements. Our Constitution became (still is) the archetypal dance style from which posterity would make improvements on.

tal structures propagated by patriarchy to a level where they bring to the top most positions in the public forum their successes at home, firm and private sectors. What we need are women who go beyond “you are the neck” ideology and start embracing a thinking that is not limited by meaningless structures. The results for the position of Chief Justice and the deputy Chief Justice and the top seat are occupied by a man and he is being deputised by a lady. This is what the numbers tell us. One might point out that this is an isolated and innocent instance, but we cannot be unmindful to the fact that it legitimises the appointment of women to be deputies in various institutions. When one looks around whether in politics (ministers and commissions), education (university chancellors for instance) and the private sector (CEOs of companies), the story is the same. We see women deputising men and in a few instances being at the top.

Inalienable rights

Beyond numbers

…By Karani Kelvin


If more women applied for the position With it, we have the enshrining of hithof Chief Justice, it would have meant that erto denied inalienable rights and freedoms Members of Parliament Hon Millie Odhiambo (left) and Sophia Abdi (right) celebrate a success launch in numbers only, they would have sent a in the body of the constitution. Women’s . of the African Women's Decade at KICC. Pictures: Kenyan Woman correspondent strong message. They would have said that Gains (2010) by the African Woman and they want more than deputising men, that Child (AWC) outlines ten basic gains for of them made it to the interviews. On the other position and almost completely not applying for they have a right to be at the top and do not women. These include, equal rights in marriage, sharing of parental responsibility, land hand, only two women were interviewed for the the top job, their actions in a way give credence shy away from that. to the mythical notion that women cannot be at It would then not matter what name the inheritance, right to health including reproduc- position of Chief Justice. What these skewed figures tell us, I think, is the top. judicial service commissioners would give us tive health and a third minimum representation, that while the women of Kenya celebrate their If for instance, they had applied for the top for from the outset, without disregarding other among others. While the Constitution guarantees the rights specific milestone gains in the Constitution, seat, they would have symbolically charted a issues, we as Kenyans would have felt that the of women, one notes the slow trend of change their guarded approach to these gains are worry- new path for young women. They would have best team had their day. However, we cannot among women themselves. If the application ing. One is troubled by the fact that women ap- been the vanguard army of women liberators in do that at the time being. Therefore, Kenyan women must especially in the early years of this for the position of Chief Justice and deputy plied in their numbers for the position of deputy this new constitutional dispensation. By not applying for the top seat but its deputy new dispensation see the need to go for the top Chief Justice are anything to go by, then we have Chief Justice but not that of the Chief Justice. It is this shying away from the top job and in large numbers, these women failed to debunk most positions. They should not just apply for something to be concerned about. the preference for the deputy position that we patriarchal myths that guarantee male supremacy. deputy positions because we believe that they There was a tremendous application by qualify as the second in command paradigm. While we respect their right to choose whatever are capable of delivering. It will be unfortunate, women for the position of deputy Chief Justice but their numbers in the Chief Justice position Given that the they were not forced or intimi- position they want, one wonders what happened and tragic, for them to continue to sustain the second in command syndrome. was wanting. Out of the 13 female applicants dated (we are not aware of anything to the con- to the green light. When did it turn red? There is need for women to rise above menfor the position of deputy Chief Justice, eight trary) into choosing the deputy Chief Justice

Woman takes grooming to the region

…By Henry Kahara


he formation of the East Africa common market mid-last year is prompting firms to set operations across the five countries in a bid to exploit the expanded opportunities. Exporters, banks, insurance companies and the likes have lined up for business. Oddly, one woman in the grooming industry is also seeking to get a piece of the region. Mercy Wangari, Uzuri institute of Technology proprietor, has set out to establish franchises in the five countries saying it will ensure that youths in the region benefit from the economic integration.

Graduating “The institution, well known in the country in terms of providing market ready graduates in the groom business, says it has received a lot of attention from other firms in Southern Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania, “ says Wangari. The planned expansion, she says, has been catalyzed by the growing demand for quality services in the sector, as well as the increasing desire for people to look good. The male grooming business, for instance, is currently valued at Sh1.8 trillion worldwide, and is forecast to reach KSh2.2 trillion within four years; East Africa has not been left behind either. By use of modern technology in grooming sector Uzuri says it is registering growth in their revenues, despite stiff competition. “We have a competitive advantage in the sense that we provide superior training, intertwined with modern technology,” says Uzuri director.

She further explains that the regional expansion have also been encouraged by what the alumni of the institution are doing. “We have seen our graduates setting up establishments cross the region. Kampala for example, is dominated by Uzuri’s products,” she adds. Among the courses that have attracted the region are hair dressing and beauty. More critical is that the institution’s advanced course in beauty therapy has revolutionalized Kenya’s grooming business. “To date this is the only college in the country having mechanical and electrical therapy with no side effects,” says wangari. She also adds that “The vacuum suction treatment for example takes trainees through contra-indications sterilization and sanitation, body gliding techniques as a well as body pulsating multi-cup vacuum technique.” This is what has made Uzuri graduates now become trainer of trainers in the region. Uzuri has also diverted to other areas of training besides beauty and grooming to others like catering and the recently introduced journalism. “The multi-talented youth of this society must be helped to be economically independent. That is why Uzuri¹s ambitious plans to come up with technology oriented courses that are hot cakes in the labor market,” she said. Wangari says art and design has also contrib-

uted a lot to the success of his institution. The department does research on current fashion trends and also investigates work of contemporary designers in the field. It is through this that in 2009 Uzuri won the Kenya Wildlife Services tender in designing the corporation’s customer care attire. The director, who also doubles up as a spiritual leader and conducts leadership programs and has authored a book, The Extra Ordinary life, which will be in the market Mercy Wangari, Uzuri institute of Technology proprietor, at her soon. institution that has seen many students graduate to start their But even with these own hairdressing and beauty establishment. Picture: AWC critical projects aimed at empowering the Youth, Wangari says the Government should up its of shillings in tertiary institutions, the entregame in supporting institutions that seek to preneur says the funding has been skewed to take youth for employment opportunities. She universities. It is time Higher Education loans argues that too little is being done to promote Board (Helb) started sponsoring middle-level college’s students. the sector. Wangari who is also a consultant in leaderWhile the government has pumped billions ship matters says it’s the early time loans should also be created to boost the growth of tertially “The multi-talented youth of this society must be helped to be institutions which play a key role in empowereconomically independent. That is why Uzuri¹s ambitious plans to ing the growing number of the youth. “We cannot compete in an increasingly come up with technology oriented courses that are hot cakes in the global ICT market if half of its talented citizens are not participating,” Wangare concluded. labor market.” — Mercy Wangari, Uzuri institute of Technology proprietor


Issue Number 19 • July 2011

Tough measures needed to halt skilled health worker migration

…By Florence Sipalla


hat there is a need for skilled health care for maternity services cannot be over emphasised. Today the world needs more midwives to fight maternal deaths and disabilities occasioned by maternal causes. This is the message in the recently released UNFPA report on the state of the world’s midwifery. “A proficient, motivated and supported midwifery workforce is a major key to success in tackling this heavy toll of death and disability,” says the report.

Data The report reiterates that the numbers of midwives impact on the quality of maternal care. In over 58 countries surveyed, there is a shortfall of 112,000 midwives in 38 countries. This shortage means that even where there are trained midwives to attend to mothers and their children, the quality of services is compromised. Inequalities exist in the distribution of staff in rural areas as compared to urban centres. This further worsens the situation for expectant women in marginalised areas who need midwifery services. The shortage of midwives has led to many women in rural areas and urban slums to turning to traditional birth attendants. This is a situation that puts them at risk when they need emergency care. There are huge inequalities in the health system that need to be addressed. The report states that less than 17 per cent of the world’s skilled birth attendants are available to serve women in need of these services. Kenya is no exception in these statistics on skilled care staff shortages. However, the irony is that newly graduated midwives and nurses still struggle for find employment. According to the report, in a bid to improve maternal health services, the Kenyan government has committed to recruit and deploy an additional 20,000 primary care health workers. “The ideal ratio of midwives to women seeking maternity care is one to four but the Kenyan situation provides a ratio of 1:15,” says Donald Epalat, a practicing nurse and a member of the Commonwealth Nurses Federation Board representing East Central and Southern Africa region. He adds: “The result is a heavy workload and burnout.”

Facilities Perhaps this burnout could be contributing to some nursing staff mistreating women who go to facilities that offer maternal care. “Respecting the rights of women seeking maternity care is both a human rights obligation and central to ensuring that the Government meets its public health goals,” argues Elisa Slattery, Regional Director for Africa at the Centre Reproductive Rights. The burnout is also facilitated by working conditions in facilities that provide maternal care that are inadequate. Some facilities lack running water and electricity supply, especially those in rural areas. “This compromises care and safety of patients,” says Epalat. The situation is made worse by migration of nurses who perform most midwifery services in Kenya

A nurse attends to a baby in one of the public hospitals that has a ratio of 1 nurse to 15 patients and are therefore a long way towards meeting the ideal ratio of 1 nurse to 4 patients. Pictures: Florence Sipalla and Kenyan Woman correspondant.

“Globally speaking, there is a big shortage all over the world of skilled health care workers including in the United States. Africa has 24 percent of the disease burden but only 1.2 to 1.5 of the skilled health workers.” — Dr Pape Amadou Gaye, President and CEO of IntraHealth International

to other countries. Poor salaries and working conditions as well as heavy workloads and lack of career development prospects are some of the factors that contribute to the migration of nurses, including midwives. “The pull factors in those countries being better pay and opportunities for professional development,” observes Epalat. However, achieving the Millennium Development Goal targets of reducing maternal and child mortality remains a big challenge.

According to Dr Pape Amadou Gaye, President and CEO of IntraHealth International the issue of skilled health care workers migrating to greener pastures is a global problem. “Globally speaking, there is a big shortage all over the world of skilled health care workers including in the United States,” observed Gaye. He added: “Africa has 24 percent of the disease burden but only 1.2 to 1.5 of the skilled health workers.” He said shortage of health workers is everywhere in sub-Sahara Africa and it affects services and access. “No single country in sub-Sahara Africa has reached the World Health Organisation recommended standards. This has had a direct impact on maternal health,” observed Gaye. To achieve Millennium Development Goals Four and Five on reducing child mortality and maternal deaths respectively, 95 percent of all births should be by a skilled attendant. Much as midwifery is offered at both diploma and degree levels in Kenya, postgraduate training in this field is currently being designed. “This is a challenge as there is limited academic and research capacity in midwifery in Kenya. Nurse midwives are often not allowed to engage in part-time practice,” says the Epalat. He calls for strengthening of regulatory frameworks to benefit midwives and women who need their services. However, Gaye says that in the last four to five years there has been a notable increase in awareness with regards to need for skilled health care personnel. The good news is that everybody is advocating for maternal health. However, according to Gaye, the bad news is that there has been very slow progress in trying to stop the brain drain. He says the good news once gain is that countries have developed human resources or are in the process

of developing plans. “Even though this is going on we are not seeing yet the impact of human resources in health programmes,” Gaye explained. He reiterated that most countries are now moving to task shifting. “Some nurses responsibilities have been shifted to lower cadre workers. This is very successful in Mozambique but is also being seen in countries like Burkina Faso and Senegal,” explained Gaye. He added: “A lot more focus is now being given to community health workers and this is helping particularly in rural areas.”

Communication Gaye was speaking to a team of journalists from African Woman and Child Features Service at the Communications Consortium Media Centre offices in Washington DC. However, bringing down maternal and child deaths remains a responsibility that must be taken jointly by all stakeholders. This means that governments must take bold steps to ensure better working conditions if they are to attract and retain midwifery staff in our countries to help us achieve these goals. They must also eliminate financial barriers that limit women’s access to health care. “It is crucial to address financial barriers to those seeking maternal healthcare and ensure that fees — either formal or informal — do not impede women’s access to health services,” argues Slattery. She adds: “Removing user fees for maternity care in all public health facilities would be a very important first step.” Her sentiments are echoed by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon who says: “Ensuring that every woman and her newborn have access to quality midwifery services demands that we take bold steps.”

Maternal mortality in Kenya …By Joyce Chimbi


lthough most maternal deaths are preventable the Millennium Development Goal (MDG ) 5: Improve Maternal Health , is proving difficult to achieve as thousands of women continue to die in Kenya from pregnancy-related causes because they do not have access to emergency care services obtainable at the health facility level and in some cases, neither do they have contraceptive options to avoid the pregnancy all together with the unmet needs for contraceptives standing at a staggering 24 percent (KDHS 2008/2009).

Ranking A study by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and the World Bank revealed that Kenya is one of eight countries in the world that failed to lower its maternal mortality rates between 1990 and 2008. In actual fact, maternal mortality which is a primary indicator of a deteriorating state of maternal health had significantly increased.

Data According to KDHS 2003 the maternal mortality rates (MMR) was at 414 per 100,000 and the KDHS 2008/09 this rate had increased to 488 per 100,000. Save the Children’s twelfth annual Mothers’ Index which was released on 3rd May 2011 revealed that in Kenya, 1 in every 38 women will die due to pregnancy related complications, making the country one of the riskiest places for a mother to deliver. The study dubbed Mothers’ Index compares the well-being of mothers and children in 164 countries.


Issue Number 19 • July 2011

Communities in Sudan turn their backs on early marriage

…By Lillian Omariba


ommunities in Sudan’s impoverished Kassala province are turning their backs on one of their oldest traditions — marrying off under-age girls—and are helping many young girls to return to school. According to Plan International, a global child rights’ organisation statistics showed that there has been a significant increase in the number of young girls returning to school in Kassala, about 600 kilometres from Sudan’s capital Khartoum, over the past three years. This is being attributed to the introduction of girls’ education clubs. The clubs were launched by Plan International in partnership with 36 Kassala communities in 2008 to help stave-off the high-rate of teenage girls who were dropping out of school due to the practice.

Encouragement The clubs made up of school girls, female teachers, women and members of the parentteachers association, dissuades parents from marrying-off their underage girls while encouraging girls those who fall victim to early marriages to return to school. Plan International Project Manager in Kassala, Esmat Babikir said that the gap between girls and boys enrolment in schools in rural Kassala had reduced to 14 percent down from 18.6 percent as communities are encouraging girl education as opposed to marriages. “High level rates of poverty coupled with cultural practices and beliefs have for many years denied the girls their right to education. However, since 2008 when Plan International teamed up with communities to form education clubs, the number of girls being enrolled in schools has been on the rise,” Babikir said. He added: “Some of the girls who had abandoned education for early marriage have since returned to school.” Babikir observed: “In recent years, we have also seen an increase in the number of schools being built in the area as communities see the value

“Life here was tough. Girls’ education was not a priority for most people. Most people married of their daughters to escape from high levels of poverty. Water, health and food were the most pressing needs of the communities.” — Ayesha Hassan, a 14-year-old girl from one of the communities. of educating their children, especially girls.” This is seen as a marked departure from the past where people in Kassala did not place much emphasis on girls’ education as they opted to marry them off to escape from grinding levels of poverty. Kassala province is home to nearly two million people mostly of Arabic origin and until recently the region was a bastion of poverty as well as deep-seated religious and cultural beliefs such as forced marriages and female genital cutting. “Life here was tough. Girls’ education was not a priority for most people. Most people married of their daughters to escape from high levels

Girls in class. Many school girls are not able to realise their dream of completing schooling once they fall to the lures of their teachers who impregnate them, forcing them to drop out. Picture: Eliud Waithaka

of poverty. Water, health and food were the most pressing needs of the communities,” explained Ayesha Hassan, a 14-year-old girl from one of the communities. Hassan currently in Seventh grade, is among the girls who have benefitted from the intervention of the girls education clubs and is now back in school.

Experience “Regular visits by my schoolmates and the girls education club supervisor to our home convinced my parents to allow me continue with my education,” Hassan said. Another girl, Somaya, 10, who recently re-

turned to school, narrates her experience: “When I left school I was not able to tell my father that I would like to go back to school, but four months after my friends from the club visited us, my father told me that I could go to school again. Now I am enjoying my time in school with my friends and I would also like to join the club so that I can help other girls who have dropped out to return to school.” Other than getting girls to school, Plan also supports increasing access for girls and women to new technology, investment in education for girls and women, and stopping gender-based violence against the girl child.

No foreign aid for Liberia in the next decade …By Florence Sipalla


aving suffered years of war Liberia is one of the African countries that continued to suffer the impact of a civil war that almost brought the country to its knees. But inspite of this bloody past Liberia is still the only African country with a woman at the head of the executive. Under the leadership of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the country has continued to make tremendous steps forward. But even as it takes the path to recovery, Liberia will not let history define their future and has laid down strategies to solidify their sense of nationhood in an effort to build lasting peace. According to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, they are working towards recovery and have set very ambitious goals for the previously war torn country. Sirleaf was speaking at a public lecture organised by the Centre for Global Development in Washington DC. “In ten years, Liberia will not require foreign assistance,” said the President. This is one of the three targets the country has set as it works to rebuild the nation. Sirleaf is quick to highlight the importance of foreign aid indicating that external funding has made a difference in Liberia. “We could not have done what we did without aid. Aid can work. It can be effective,” she observed. The country is keen to shed the yoke of aid dependence that characterises many African nations.

to train teachers to build capacity to provide quality education to the citizenry. For a country to thrive economically, it requires peace and stability, a good infrastructure as well as established governance. One of the key challenges in Liberia today is poverty eradication. “You cannot begin to tackle poverty unless you tackle growth,” reiterated Sirleaf.

Liberia is a resource rich country. The President is certain that through consolidating the resources the country has, they can be aid free in the next decade. Hopefully Liberia wants to start producing its own oil with support from American companies one of which is Chevron. “However, we have to be careful not to have the oil curse,” she said explaining that they have to be careful not to divert all attention to oil at the expense of other economic ventures The country is also investing in human resource by building capacity and giving incentives for Liberians in the Diaspora to go back and contribute towards nation building.


Skills Fighting illiteracy through compulsory primary education has led to a 40 percent increase in enrolment. This is inline with the Millennium Development Goal number two that targets to attain universal education for all by 2015. This goal is also significant within the gender agenda because it also targets to reduce the wide gap between the enrolment ratio for boys and girls particularly in primary education. Through community colleges, Liberia is working to decentralise tertiary education to increase access especially for the rural folk who are often marginalized. As most of the skilled labour migrated during the war, the President indicated that the country’s priority now is building capacity of its people so they do not have to rely on foreign labour. The government is working in partnership with organisations such as the Peace Corp

“In ten years, Liberia will not require foreign assistance. However, we have to be careful not to have the oil curse.” — Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian President

“Liberia will be a middle income country by 2030,” she observed. However, Sirleaf acknowledges that to achieve this, the country has to fight corruption at all levels of government and promote good governance. “We would like to have the legal system that works better in the next year,” she said of her efforts to reform the judiciary. This is an issue that Kenyans will relate to as the country is currently in the process of implementing the new Constitution and one of the first stops is with reforming the judiciary. Even as the country thrives to do without aid in the near future, Liberia would like to rebuild its infrastructure. It would like to have working airports, seaports, roads, and power. “We would like America to help with the reconstruction of their hydro electricity plant,” observed Sirleaf. She added: “With power, we can industrialise.” The President regrets that currently the thermal power they are using is too expensive and not sufficient for industrialisation.


Issue Number 19 • July 2011

When it comes to scandal, girls won’t be boys …By Sheryl Gay Stolberg


here was a collective rolling of the eyes and a distinct sense of “Here we go again” among the women of the House of Representatives recently when yet another male politician, Representative Anthony D. Weiner, confessed his “terrible mistakes” and declared himself “deeply sorry for the pain” he had caused in sexual escapades so adolescent as to almost seem laughable. “I’m telling you,” said Representative Candice Miller, a Michigan Republican, “every time one of these sex scandals goes, we just look at each other, like, ‘What is it with these guys? Don’t they think they’re going to get caught?’ ” Miller’s question raises an intriguing point: Female politicians rarely get caught up in sex scandals. Women in elective office have not, for instance, blubbered about Argentine soulmates (see: Sanford, Mark); been captured on federal wiretaps arranging to meet high-priced call girls (Spitzer, Eliot); resigned in disgrace after their parents paid $96,000 to a paramour’s spouse (Ensign, John); or, as in the case of Weiner, blasted lewd self-portraits into cyberspace.

Sex and power It would be easy to file this under the category of “men behaving badly”, to dismiss it as a testosterone-induced, hard-wired connection between sex and power (powerful men attract women, powerful women repel men). And some might conclude that busy working women don’t have time to cheat. (“While I’m at home changing diapers, I just couldn’t conceive of it,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the New York Democrat, once said.) But there may be something else at work: Research points to a substantial gender gap in the way women and men approach running for office. Women have different reasons for running, are more reluctant to do so and, because there are so few of them in politics, are acutely aware of the scrutiny they draw — all of which seems to lead to differences in the way they handle their jobs once elected. “The shorthand of it is that women run for office to do something, and men run for office to be somebody,” said Debbie Walsh, director Centre for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “Women run because there is some public issue that they care about, some


change they want to make, some issue that is a priority for them, and men tend to run for office because they see this as a career path.” Studies show that women are less likely to run for office; it is more difficult to recruit them, even when they have the same professional and educational qualifications as men. Men who run for office tend to look at people already elected “and say, ‘I’m as good as that,’ ” said Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University. “Women hold themselves up to this hypothetical standard no candidate has ever achieved.” And so, despite great inroads made by women, politics is still overwhelmingly a man’s game. Data compiled by Rutgers shows women currently hold 16.6 percent of the 535 seats in Congress and 23.5 percent of the seats in state legislatures. There are six female governors; of the 100 big-city mayors, eight are women. Once elected, women feel pressure to work harder, said Kathryn Pearson, an expert on Congress at the University of Minnesota. Her studies of the House show that women introduce more Bills, participate more vigorously in key legislative debates and give more of the oneminute speeches that open each daily session. In 2005 and 2006, women averaged 14.9 oneminute speeches; men averaged 6.5.

“I have no hard evidence that women are less likely to engage in risky or somewhat stupid behaviour,” Pearson said. “But women in Congress are still really in a situation where they have to prove themselves to their male colleagues and constituents. There’s sort of this extra level of seriousness.” And voters demand it. Celinda Lake, a Democratic strategist, says female politicians are punished more harshly than men for misbehaviour. “When voters find out men have ethics and honesty issues, they say, ‘Well, I expected that’,” Lake said. “When they find out it is a woman, they say, ‘I thought she was better than that’” Of course, it is a big leap to suggest that voter expectations and an “extra level of seriousness” among women in public office translate into an absence of sexual peccadilloes. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers, said her studies on adultery show that, at least under the age of 40, women are equally as likely to engage in it as men. She theorises that perhaps women are simply more clever about not getting caught. Female politicians are not immune to scandal in the sex department. Nikki Haley, the South Carolina governor, was accused of adultery last year while running for office; she denied it, and was elected. Helen ChenowethHage, the

late Republican congresswoman from Idaho, once confessed to a six-year affair with a married man. There have even been “crotch shot” allegations; when Barbara Cubin, then a state legislator in Wyoming, ran for the House in 1994, Democrats accused her of “lewd pranks,” including photographing male colleagues’ crotches and distributing penis-shaped cookies. She later said the cookies were a gift from someone else and dismissed the picture charges as scurrilous. Still, all of that seems tame compared to the recent string of spectacular Weiner-like implosions, and here in Washington and around the country last week, there was considerable speculation as to why.

Difficulties Dee Dee Myers, a press secretary to President Bill Clinton (who managed to survive his sex scandal) and the author of “Why Women Should Rule the World”, surmises that male politicians feel invincible. It would be impossible, she said, to imagine Nancy Pelosi, the former House speaker, doing anything like what Weiner did. “There are certain men that the more visible they get, the more bulletproof they feel,” Myers said. “You just don’t see women doing that; they don’t get reckless when they’re empowered.” Whatever the reason, it was perhaps no coincidence that it was a woman — Representative Allyson Y. Schwartz of Pennsylvania — who last week became the first Democrat to call on Weiner to resign. Schwartz is the only female member of her state’s Congressional delegation, and she says that her Pennsylvania colleagues joke and talk in a different way when she is in the room. “Having a woman in that mix changes the dynamic,” she said, “and it’s actually not even subtle. It’s very obvious.” — Courtesy of New York Times

Anthony Weiner, male politician in the House of Representatives in the United States. Picture: Internet

Bachelet stresses need for women empowerment and political input

he head of the United Nation entity tasked with promoting gender equality has reiterated that women’s economic empowerment, political participation, ending gender-based violence and raising women’s involvement in post-conflict peace building are the priorities of the body. Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), told a news conference in Geneva that her office would also work with other UN agencies and partners on topics ranging from education for women and girls to sexual and reproductive health.

Prevention Asked how she intended to address the problem of sexual violence against women, Bachelet said prevention was most effective way of dealing with the scourge. Prevention methods included raising awareness and educating both girls and boys to eradicate gender stereotypes in society. On gender-based violence in conflict situations where UN peacekeeping forces are deployed, Bachelet said UN Women will use best

“Having more women in peacekeeping roles also had several benefits, including the fact that women felt more comfortable talking to other women about sexual violence.” — Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women practices developed by the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) to train soldiers prior to their deployment to increase their tactical readiness to respond to reports of sexual violence. It was also important to end impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence and to develop rapid response teams that could provide legal assistance to women in places that did not have the legal capacity to handle such cases. “Having more women in peacekeeping roles

also had several benefits, including the fact that women felt more comfortable talking to other women about sexual violence,” she said. Bachelet said UN Women had been actively involved in promoting the participation of women — while respecting local ownership of the process — in the democratic transitions under way in Middle East and North Africa. She had visited Egypt twice and will next visit Tunisia where a number of women’s organisations have requested assistance from the agency.

Bachelet pledged to work with UN member states and all sectors of society championing the cause of women’s empowerment. She noted that some aspects of gender inequality were the result of poverty, stressing that poverty alleviation was another way of eradicating such manifestations of injustice as human trafficking, early marriage and child labour. Addressing a panel discussion on conflict-related violence against women at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Margot Wallström, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on sexual violence in conflict, stressed the need for upholding human rights and enhancing social justice to prevent conflict. Women’s rights did not end when conflict began, she noted, adding that sexual violence thrived in silence and impunity. The challenge was to prevent the cycle of violence and vengeance, as well as discrimination and disempowerment that gave rise to rape as a tactic of war, she added. — UN News Services


Issue Number 19 • July 2011

Realising Kenya’s dream from the sleeping sickness

Grace Murila stands tall as the lead scientist in the fight against trypanosomiasis worldwide …By Duncan Mboyah


he loved arts subjects more than sciences while in secondary school but, come end term examinations, she will score more marks in sciences to her disbelief. Her performance continued improving in chemistry and other science related subjects in the weekly assessments and, this secured her admission to undertake A-levels. But to her, this was not to be, for she made an attempt to pursue arts subjects as opposed to science subjects. Unfortunately for her, the school headmistress Mrs MacDonald rejected her request and she had no other option but to weather the storm that science subjects can be and today, she is one of the top women scientists in Kenya.

Motivation “My only reason was to do arts as my best class mate friend by then, Ambassador Mary Odinga had joined Alliance Girls’ High School,” says Dr Grace Murila, Director of KARI Trypanosomiasis Research Centre. Murila joined the then Kenya Trypanosomiasis Research Institute (KETRI) as an analytical chemist and has since risen through the ranks to head the institution that has since changed its name. Courtesy of her good management and research work on sleeping sickness, a disease that is caused by tsetse fly, Kenya has managed to eradicate the disease that has claimed millions of lives since the 1960s. To culminate it all, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is set to declare Kenya a sleeping sickness free country later this year.

leading research in the mass rearing of maggots that could help in the treatment of chronic wounds in human beings. The project that is funded by Slovakian Government and the only one of its kind in Africa is set to save many lives upon if successfully implemented. Noticing her good work, the African Union (AU) last year awarded Murila for her role in basic science, technology and innovation category for Training her achievement in tsetse and She has developed several training trypanosomiasis research and manuals on biomedical research that training. The award included are currently being used worldwide a certificate, medal and cash by various universities and livestock price. As a way of empowering research institutes. Throughout her career Murila has women in rural areas, Murila seen a lot of changes in this area of has earmarked her monetary science as today many women have award towards assisting a group joined in unlike in the 1980s when of HIV/Aids positive widows she was often the only female scientist in western Kenya who are currently involved in crop farming attending conferences. “The number of women scientists for their survival. “Their plight has touched in general has increased tremendously Dr Grace Murila, Director of KARI Trypanosomiasis Research Centre, but a good number of these women opt me since I came to know them displaying a training manual - Effective project planning and evaluation in and always thought of an opto teach in universities,” she observes. biochemical research. Picture: Kenyan Woman Correspondent However, Murila is hopeful that portunity to enable me realise since the new constitution has en- their dream. I am happy God The group is mainly composed person eastern Africa network for trenched the affirmative action which sent this cash award my way,” she ob- of women below 35 years and they trypanosomiasis. allows for a two third majority of one serves. Born in Tigoi village in Vihiga According to Murila, the widows are currently performing errands for gender including in public offices, the people in their homes for survival and District in 1951, Murila joined Tigoi number of women in positions of au- had approached her to help them start besides having a netball team where Primary School in 1951 and proceeda regional Centre for Artificial Insemithority will change for the better. they meet everyday. ed to Kaimosi Secondary School in At KARI TRC, Murila is currently nation Services (CAIS) to serve the reBesides being the Director KARI 1966-1969. gion with semen. TRC, Murila is also the principal inShe was admitted to Limuru Girls’ vestigator of the University of North School for her A’ level education in “The number of women scientists in general has Carolina le consortium on parasitic 1970 after passing her Fourth Form diseases drug discovery, coordina- examinations and left in 1971 with increased tremendously but a good number of tor of the consortium on tsetse and three principals and one subsidiary these women opt to teach in universities.” trypanosomiasis research capacity strengthening for Africa and chairContinued on page 14 — Dr Grace Murila “The WHO initially wanted to make this important statement last year, but we requested them to hold on briefly to give us room look into the possibility of wildlife spreading the disease to livestock,” Murila explains. Following this achievement, the WHO has made Murila their international trainer on biomedical research. To date she has trained the United Nations staff in Geneva and at the Makerere University in Uganda as well as in France.

Women’s Space in Political Parties in Kenya is crucial …By Dr Peninah Ogada


enyan women have traditionally played the role of vote givers and not vote seekers in the national politics since independence. This notion further reinforces the traditional mindset of women as the passive followers, not the aggressive and competitive political leaders. But the evolution of a culture of forming ‘personal political’ party further compounds the political landscape – wherein the founding members of political parties are recruited by invitation based on personal relationships as well as economic clout, and the size of following such members bring to the party.

Networking Our political parties are a network of the ‘old boy clubs’ as the ‘girls’ have not been among the invitees – many otherwise capable ‘girls’ have not always had what it takes materially and culturally to be invited. In Kenya we have politics and political parties without the defining ideologies, where the parties owners copy and borrow ideas from one another as they craft the contents of the purported party manifestoes – political party manifesto contents are basically the same. None of them have any serious agenda for the socialization of their members. So far what we see and hear from the political class is much shouting, empty political rhetoric as they try to outwit each other in the use of words and empty promises. Kenyan women have found themselves misfits in such political circumstances that are simultaneously incompatible with the women’s socialized gender roles,

values and public expectations. The new constitution now provides a framework for claims by all participants – including women as all stakeholders seek a renewed sense of greater engagement for women in Kenyan politics at all levels. Kenyan women are emerging from an era of their own political apathy induced by many years of benign political statements of the desirables on the one hand, and empty rhetoric of the political class and public policy formulators on the other. Courtesy of the vibrant civil society and the support from donor community, the hopes for greater political participation in national development by Kenyan women has been kept alive over the years against many odds. Indeed Kenya lags behind her neighbours in the region in terms of female representation in positions of decision making. But I also know that this is not due to lack of enough women qualified for these positions, but because of political culture, and hostile political environment in which Kenyan women have previously operated. It is against this background of political and social machinations that I raise practical questions some of which may appear trivial, but are important enough to impact the outcome of competitive political processes if not addressed in a timely manner. The progression from the paradigms of gender mainstreaming to the contemporary empowerment initiatives should now move from theoretical frameworks to the implementation phases. But first and foremost, as a nation what legal mechanisms are we going to employ to deconstruct the culture which personalizes political parties as referred to above so that we may have a fresh start and on a leveled field? How

do we re-engineer the political culture to admit women into the ranks of “founding members” from amongst whom political leaders are picked - especially given women’s history of material deprivation and marginalization – their leadership acumen notwithstanding? The New Constitution and its provisions for political participation of women through the Political Parties Bill 2011 is an additional roadmap towards the attainment of women’s increased participation. In section 8 (c) (ii) it says: “A political party shall be qualified to be fully registered if it has – in its governing body - . . . not more than two-thirds of the members from one gender...” I celebrate this provision because “every adult citizen” includes women who are citizens of Kenya. I hasten to add that for political party to be able to get public funding for support; this is one of the conditions which must be met.

Empowerment However, I am concerned and question how much empowered and ready the average Kenyan woman is to utilize the opportunity which is provided for in the new constitution. One prominent Kenyan leader was recently quoted to have said: “. . .voting for the referendum on the new constitution was the easy part, the real hard work was yet to begin with the implementation . . . “in this connection I share the sentiment and ask: is the Kenyan community ready and serious about the inclusion of more women in political leadership positions? If the answer is in the affirmative then I would ask for a demonstration of the level of commitment to this course through the material provisions (including funds) and a programme

of structured activities set aside to empower women and to prepare them for meaningful participation: from the local community committees, organizational structures in the churches, local authorities up-to the county governance structures and the national institutions. For me such a demonstration would be an indication of the political will to move from empty rhetoric of the past – laced with the attitude of “add women for visibility and political correctness to complete the picture for complacency, and, the maintenance of the status quo” to more meaningful participation for the future. I call for an overall change of attitudes about “who is included” in the conduct political affairs of the nation – even if this were to be achieved in small but incremental doses. This is a necessary step to enable those who have the potential to “own political parties” to open up space for new entrants. “The law has been transformed”, we now need to “transform the institutional processes and procedures so that these no longer discriminate against women on grounds of sex” Economic capability that must also anchor political engagement for women and also the Kenyan women must be ready to help the political parties to engineering the re-orientation of societal values and political culture to be more responsive to women’s needs through their participation. Space for women in the political parties is a new concept in the management of political institutions which has been the preserve of the male political class. The processes of transition are likely to be fraught with stiff and sometimes overt opposition from the incumbent. Dr Ogada is a lecturer at the University of Nairobi


Issue Number 19 • July 2011

Kosovo’s new president and she is just 36 years old …


he number of women who are making it to the highest office in land seems to be on the rise. Having set the pace for other countries, Latin America is leader. One of the presidential contenders in Keiko Fujimori, lost her bid in the recently held Peruvian elections. Moving away from Latin America, Atifete Jahjaga of Kosovo opened a new frontier by winning the presidential election at only 36 years. She is the fifth president of the Republic of Kosovo. Immediately after being sworn in, Jahjaga addressed the assembly members and to citizens of the Republic of Kosovo.

Speech Below are excerpts of her speech: “My election as President of the Republic of Kosovo expresses the consensual position and agreement among parliamentary political parties for overcoming the political crisis and finding sustainable solutions for the future of the country by making the necessary changes to the Constitution of Kosovo and the electoral system as well as by setting a clear agenda of institutional actions for the next three years. Until yesterday, I had no thought of assuming a senior post of political leadership. But, like many of my fellow citizens, I was ready to serve when called by my country. I have devoted my life to the citizens of this country in building one of its most important democratic institutions. For the past 11 years, I served my country and its citizens in the Kosovo Police, in which I entered as a rookie and leave today as Deputy Director. My career has mirrored the changes Kosovo has undergone in the last decade. I experienced firsthand the challenges that led to Kosovo’s independence, and I am proud to have contributed to creating one of independent Kosovo’s most respected institutions. It is an honour to have developed and led a strong and capable force that has done much to embody the values of Kosovo, a democratic and multi-ethnic republic.

Progress This will be the most challenging position yet in my career — but I go into it willingly knowing the potential that exists for great change and progress for our country. I want to be a part of that progress, as a representative of a new generation of Kosovo leaders ready to build on the successes of those who came before us and lead this country and its people forward in the 21st Century. I have faith in Kosovo, and I have faith in this government, and I have faith in the citizens of this young country to fulfil all the expectations set before her. As president of the country, I will be a guarantor of the constitutionality and legality, a unifying factor, politically impartial, a defender and representative of the interests of Kosovo, a sovereign and independent state, and a representative of all citizens regardless of nation, religion, race or gender. During my tenure with the Kosovo police, I upheld the values that make Kosovo unique and protected the rights of every individual regardless of their backgrounds, and now as President, this responsibility and duty is even more essential as we solidify

Atifete Jahjaga addresses the Assembly members and the citizens of the Republic of Kosovo after winning the presidential election at ony only 36. Picture:Courtesy what was begun when our country declared independence. As President I will strive every day to ensure that Kosovo exemplifies the best values of its Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Kosovo passed a difficult but glorious road in the declaration of independence and building a state for which many generations of Kosovo’s best sons and daughters sacrificed by always keeping alive the idea of freedom, the idea of democracy, the idea of dignity and equality among peoples. The ideal of all citizens of Kosovo is membership in the European Union and the permanent friendship with the United States of America. In this road, we are working continuously to meet all the required standards, especially in respecting human rights and freedoms, in the rule of law, in attaining high objectives in education, health, especially economic development, in order to ensure a good, peaceful and prosperous life for citizens. I believe and I will engage that we all together realise our aims. I believe and I know that we will make our dreams a reality in a near future. I base this belief on the strength of the people, the mind and will of the Kosovo’s young men and women. Together with our international friends, we have embarked on a process of dialogue with Serbia. This is an entirely normal process among countries that have had disagreements and conflict in the past. In this process of dialogue, we, both countries, were compelled to share the past, but we will also be compelled to share the future. Since we cannot change the past, we will build the future by learning from the mistakes of the past. The dialogue will have success. After its completion, the region will return to peace and stability. Kosovo and Serbia will have a clear road to membership

in the EU by helping and not impeding each other. The citizens of both countries will return to normal life, cooperation and development which will provide them with a peaceful and better future. All solutions from the dialogue between the parties, to the benefit of all, will be European and will be based on the best practices and experiences of the European Union. Kosovo, a free and independent state, is a factor of peace and stability in the region and wider and conducts good and neighbourly relations with all countries. Kosovo will have an active role in foreign policy by becoming a member in initiatives and regional and world organisations, increasing the number of recognitions, establishing diplomatic relations and reaching bilateral and multilateral agreements, and creating internal and external circumstances that would allow Kosovo to become a member of the UN as soon as possible.

Responsibilty With our wise and responsible policy we will prove to ourselves and the world that there is no reason for any state not to accept Kosovo’s independence as an irreversible reality, as a factor of peace and stability. The agreement among the political entities testifies about the responsibility of the mandate given to all of us by the people, testifies about the commitment that the interests of the country are above all. This Assembly has just approved the budget which will be in the function of development. Thus, by increasing the salaries and increasing the wellbeing, we at the same time instigate structural changes in economy by paying attention to increase in production and bringing goods to the market, by enabling us to live off

I believe and I will engage that we all together realise our aims. I believe and I know that we will make our dreams a reality in a near future. I base this belief on the strength of the people, the mind and will of the Kosovo’s young men and women.

our work and to have the taxes in the function of the production and the advancement of our education and health systems and social policies. Kosovo is continuing with capital investments this year too, it is continuing the process of privatization by investing the money acquired in this way in developmental policies and at the same time defending the interests of workers but also of all the citizens of the Republic of Kosovo. Reforms in education, health, science, changes in the structure of economy and its adaption to global trends are possible with a better management of the budget, right fiscal policies and the incitement of the developmental branches of the economy by increasing quality and adhering to the parameters of developed European countries. Being president of Kosovo at this time is an honour but also a great responsibility. I will perform this duty with the cooperation and close assistance of all of you. Let us use this years of transition to make comprehensive reforms in order to adapt our legislation with the European Union, to obtain the guidelines for visa liberalization and a clear mechanism for the process of membership in the EU. In our journey, we are proud of the glory, we are proud of the example of Skenderbeg, the personality of Mother Theresa, the sublime act of Adem Jashari, the activity of Ibrahim Rugova. All these personalities, as many more others, over centuries and in our day put the interests of the country and nation above their own and the light of their deeds shined until our days and will shine in the future by determining clearly our road, the commitment and idea to be honest, dignified, free and equal. In my work and duty I will be led by the Constitution and the laws of the Republic of Kosovo. I will be transparent and cooperative in all issues. I will be a factor and symbol of unity. I will represent with dignity and responsibility the Republic of Kosovo and the interest of all citizens. Thank you.” UN News Services

Women in science from page 13

pass. She then joined University of Nairobi in 1972 and where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry in 1975. Murila went further and did her masters at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom where she specialised on analytical chemistry and instrumental in 1984-1985. Between 1993-1996, she went Glasgow University for her PhD in veterinary pharmacology and technology. Immediately after finishing her university studies at the University of Nairobi, Murila was employed at the Government Chemist as an Analyst III and rose to become a senior analyst. Having taken barely six months at the job, her supervisor by then Mr Nicholas Murangori appointed her to head of the laboratory following the vacancy that was left by her immediate supervisor who had gone abroad for a short course. Seeing many people from the department going abroad for a threemonth course, Murila also thought of trying her luck and she approached Murangori for approval. However, he refused and instead told her to apply for a master’s programme arguing that a three months’ course will not help her in future. “I looked at the offer and rejected it because my last born by then was only six months old but when my husband heard of it, he encouraged me to take up the offer immediately for he was around to care for the children,” Murila says. She was encouraged further by the late Sarah Kimori, a family friend who cautioned her that “even if it were death, it would still kill whether she is around or not”.

Opportunity “My other worry was instilled in me by other friends who claimed that my husband will marry a second wife should I attempt to go out of the country for that long,” Murila recalls. Strangely, some of the friends who discouraged her from going for her Masters later went for their s many years after Murila had finished her PhD. “Consultation is good for career development, especially when one talks to the right people, but one must be very careful,” Murila warns reflecting from her situation. Murila is full of praise for her parents, Mr. Fredrick and Lydia Sabwa who encouraged them to take education seriously. “Our father would go through our report cards at the end of every term examinations and he never failed to warn us that his duty was to pay for our school fees and never to help us secure jobs,” she recalls. Throughout her employment career, Murila has never felt intimidated by her male colleagues and has enjoyed challenges posed by them. Murila is a member of the National Science and Technology Gender Advisory Board, National Health Research Committee, American Advancement for Science, Radiation Protection Board, and Royal Society of Kenya. She has also written 20 publications is also a board member of Kapsambo Secondary School in Vihiga County. Her first born is a computer scientist. The second born is an engineer with the Kenya Airways. Her third born is a public health trainee at Kenyatta University while the last born studying International Business Administration at United States International University (USIU). “Nothing is difficult in science, just talk to the right people and not nonperformers who are bent at discourag-


Issue Number 19 • July 2011

An oasis of hope for Maasai women’s rights One womans story of turning personal pain into a solution for many

…By Faith Muiruri


s a girl, she lived in a house where domestic violence was a regular occurrence and she routinely watched her father batter her mother. Inspired by the goal to do all that was possible not to be subjected to violence, she was inspired into becoming an ardent crusader of women rights. Looking back to her childhood, Elizabeth Ndilai who is a trained teacher by profession says it is by God’s grace that her mother is still alive. “I remember at one point I had to stand up for my mother’s rights. My father came home armed with a spear and beat her senseless. He called me and my other three siblings and told us to bid our mother farewell because shortly afterwards he was going to kill her,” recalls Ndilai, who was only ten years old at the time of the incident. “I gathered every ounce of courage and saved my mother. My father became very angry but spared my mother. However, we were chased out of the family home and had to look for alternative ways to fend for ourselves,” Ndilai recounted this during the Gender Festival held at the Railways Grounds in Nairobi. Today Ndilai has beaten all odds to set up Maikoo-ate Self-Help Group in Narok District. The organisation is an oasis of hope that has transformed lives for the hundreds of women who rely on it for their livelihood. “Apart from engaging in income generating activities, Maikoo-ate acts as a bridge to recon-

the heart of His Highness the Aga Khan when he visited the area. “She was the only female student in a school with a population of about 350 students. Aga Khan decided to sponsor her education at the Agan High School in Nairobi and she was able to complete school,” Ndilai proudly says of her initiative. She has learnt to appreciate gestures often deemed small but which remain priceless in the face of turbulence. She recalls that the girl was to be married off after her elder sister escaped from a planned marriage. “Her parents had already been paid dowry for her elder sister when she mysteriously disappeared. The family had no other option but to marry off their second daughter to escape the wrath of the would be husband.

cile warring families,” explains Ndilai The group is also engaged in advocacy work to sensitise women on their rights. “We realised that most mothers are chased out of their matrimonial homes once their daughters conceive outside wedlock and have no where to go,” explains Ndilai. She says that with support from the group, the affected mothers are hosted at Tasaru Rescue Centre where they undergo counselling. “The Maikoo-ate Self-Help Group also links them with respective organisations in a bid to make sure that they get justice in accordance with the customary law,” observes Ndilai.


Pregnancy Similarly young girls who get pregnant in school are accommodated at the Tasaru Rescue Centre. “Most of these girls become misfits in the community and are at times chased away from home by their parents,” Ndilai explains. The rescued girls are taken to the Tasaru Rescue Centre and later reconciled with their families. To make sure that she fulfils this responsibility, Ndilai has trained as a para legal officer and is currently attached to Narok Human Rights Network. Today Ndilai is living her dream. As a teacher at Ilkeek-aare Primary School she has been able to assist hundreds of young girls who are forcefully married off in full glare of the provincial administration. The rewards are incalculable but the most memorable moment came when the plight of a girl she had rescued from a forced marriage won

“Apart from engaging in income generating activities, Maikoo-ate acts as a bridge to reconcile warring families.” — Elizabeth Ndilai, Executive Director Maikoo-ate Self-Help Group

“Moved by her story I notified the area District Education office and together we were able to rescue the girl and get her admitted at a local school,” observes Ndilai. The group has also been spearheading a campaign against Female Genital Mutilation and educating the community on the need to undergo alternative rites of passage. The group has also been educating the community on the dangers of HIV/Aids. “The Maasai community embraces polygamy and we have been at the forefront in educating the community on the need to change their attitudes in order to survive threats posed by the pandemic,” explains Ndilai. Currently Maikoo-ate is working closely with the local churches to educate residents on their rights as espoused in the new constitution.

Young women get empowered through sports

…By Ben Oroko


marting from age old tribal skirmishes along the GuchaTransmara border, women from Bomachoge Constituency and their Maasai counterparts have embarked on a peace mission. Their objective is to ensure that their respective communities find a lasting solution to the tribal clashes that have hindered the region’s political and socio-economic development. Through such activities both girls and young women get empowered. Besides keeping the youth busy, the sporting activities will help in reducing cases of girls dropping out of school to get married. Early marriages are common among the Maasai.

Opportunity “If girls from both sides of the border interact through sports, cases of girls dropping out of school will be drastically reduced since they will have the opportunity to share experiences with their peers from Gusii, majority of whom do not easily drop out of school to be married before completing secondary education,” explained Hellen Katim, Executive Director of Emayan, a non-governmental organisation. When girls join soccer or any sporting activity they learn more on life’s skills and this helps them to address challenges posed to their lives by HIV/Aids, drugs and substance abuse. Girls were particularly encouraged to take peace initiatives seriously since they together with children suffer the greatest consequences of tribal clashes driven by negative ethnicity. Sports provide a conducive, interactive and educative environment to address the challenges.

According to Katim experience has shown that youth involved in soccer or any sports are less likely to be engaged in social vices. Director of Naserian Girls’ Rescue Initiative, Ms Carolyne Rramet, acknowledged that children from communities along the common border have been orphaned or dropped out of school after losing one or both of their parents to tribal clashes. Rramet challenged women from the two communities to spearhead the search for peace along the border. Besides using sports to preach peace between the two communities, Rramet challenged women from the affected communities to also consider initiating merry-go-round schemes that would bring women from the affected communities together. If the local communities supported the initiative, it will give young people extra energy and will to excel both in sports and in their academic careers. To achieve this mission, women have identified sports as an activity to be integrated in their efforts to reconcile the communities that have always been suspicious of one another. Already, soccer games exchange programmes involving women and youth from the two communities have been launched with the aim of preaching peace and harmony. According to Katim, Executive, women from the communities along the Gucha-Transmara border have decided to use soccer among other activities to reconcile and find long lasting tranquillity among residents of the region. Speaking at Ololchani Primary School in Transmara District during the official launch of the inter-communal soccer games exchange programmes for the youth,

Katim said women from the two communities partnered with United Visionary Care, a Canadian-based NGO to empower the youth through soccer as a uniting activity in preaching peace. “The introduction of soccer games for the youth from the two communities will ease tension between the two communities since sports, especially soccer unites people and cements relationships when they play in friendly competitive matches,” Katim observed. Peace organisers picked on the youth since they are the ones who usually get involved in cross-border cattle rustling or tribal clashes as they are idle and jobless. It is hoped that cross-border soccer games will keep the youth busy. “This will lead to reduced cases of crime among young people who are vulnerable to activities that threaten peace,” explained Katim. Besides reducing cross-border tribal skirmishes, United Visionary Care-Kenya Chairlady, Maureen Okong’o said soccer exchange pro-

“If girls from both sides of the border interact through sports, cases of girls dropping out of school will be drastically reduced since they will have the opportunity to share experiences with their peers.” — Hellen Katim, Executive Director of Emayan

grammes would also help in identifying the youth talents not only in sports but also in leadership. She observed that the youth were a key pillar in peace building and challenged them to use such programmes to re-discover their potential in sports and leadership instead of being misused by politicians to cause chaos and violence. “The youth in this country have been misused for decades by selfish politicians to cause chaos during election campaigns under the pretext of fighting for change only for such politicians to dump them after the polls,” said Okong’o.

Potential She added: “It is time our young people realised that they have a potential in various governance and leadership systems and exploit the existing opportunities to occupy their rightful position in the society.” Okong’o challenged women from the Kisii and Maasai communities along the Kisii-Transmara common border to fast-track intermarriages between the two communities to enhance long-lasting peace along the common border. She said stereotypes against some communities were to blame for tension and suspicion among communities living in various parts of the country threatening the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood among various communities. Douglas Mogeni Sereti, a youth and a coach at Thornhill Soccer Club of Canada said sports, especially soccer was the only tool to bring peace among warring communities and those living in suspicion with each other. Sereti said soccer was one of the resourceful activities yet it remained

untapped for the benefit of the youth and their immediate communities. “As sponsors of these soccer games for the youth from the two communities, we realised soccer was one of the best tools for preaching peace among the neighbouring communities, since playing soccer together especially among the youth reduces tension and reconciles communities living in tension,” reiterated Sereti. With soccer exchange programmes, peace will be enhanced to create a conducive socio-economic development environment in the region. President of the United Visionary Care, Harun Otwoma said the soccer exchange programme activities were sponsored by Rotary Club of Mississuaga International, Vaughan Soccer Club of Canada, Thornhill Soccer Club of Canada in partnership with Otwoma Soccer Academy to facilitate efforts of finding lasting peace solutions for the two communities who have been involved in tribal clashes in the past.

Clashes Otwoma said the tribal clashes that involved the two communities in the past had left in their wake many orphans and widows, retarding development in the region to the disadvantage of the communities. “The exchange programmes will facilitate children between the ages of five and 12 to be productively engaged in soccer activities and be integrated in local communities along the affected common border,” explained Otwoma. The sports facilities from United Visionary Care and sponsors from the Canadian soccer clubs will facilitate children from the two communities in the campaigns for peaceful co-existence among residents from the two communities.


Issue Number 19 • July 2011

Orphans and widows empowered to self sustainability …By Paul Olale


non-governmental organisation has made an impact in enabling people affected and infected with HIV/ Aids to achieve self-reliance in Western Kenya. The Mumias based Support Activities in Poverty Eradication and Health (SAIPEH), has so far given self reliance skills and material support to 500 orphans and 1,000 adults who have lost their parents and spouses to HIV/Aids. “Our main objective is giving communities sustainable support especially for orphans and vulnerable children, youth, women and the marginalised to enable them alleviate poverty and increase means of improving their standards of living,” said Mr Justin Makari Mutobera, Executive Director, SAIPEH.

Achievements To achieve its objective, the organization has developed strategies aimed at making the target beneficiaries be self-reliant; thus drawing them away from the syndrome of being perpetual dependants. Its activities have spread from Mumias District to Teso, Matungu, Butere, Kakamega and Vihiga. SAIPEH’s main target group are the the orphaned and vulnerable children, and by extension, the vulnerable women and men who also take care of the infected and affected children and youth in school. Under the orphaned and vulnerable children support, the organisation has helped 500 of them get education by paying their fees as well as buying stationery, text books, and uniforms among other essentials. They are also given HIV/Aids education during school holidays. The organization has also provided entrepreneurial skills to 100 guardians and children left as family heads. Together with the skills, material support has also been given where necessary. “With the skills and material resources, self reliance is at 80 per cent,” said Mr Donald Mumbo, Programme Administrator at SAIPEH. As part of the efforts to help the beneficiaries sustain their projects and be self-reliant, SAIPEH has donated 51 dairy cows and about the same number of exotic dairy goats to

the guardians. It has also helped them establish 55 poultry units in their communities. “The dairy and poultry projects have doubled my profits from KSh3,000 a month in 2005 to KSh15,000 currently,” said Mrs Teresia Akatsa, one of the beneficiaries in Mumias District. Besides the improved income, the projects also provide a constant supply of protein which is vital for people living with HIV. On HIV/Aids prevention efforts, the organisation has also made big strides. It has conducted 120 public education forums through use of Participatory Education Theatre (PET) and use of puppetry in the communities where 60,000 people have so far been reached. The same activities have also been performed in schools since 2004 reaching 50,000 youths to date. Other HIV/Aids prevention education activities include organising sports tournaments and video shows through which about 20,000 people have received messages since 2002. “To strengthen and sustain education among the school going youths, we have trained 1,300 teachers in primary and secondary schools to implement HIV/Aids curriculum,” said Mutobera. About 100 community health workers have also been trained together with 250 peer educators on behaviour change communication since 2005.

Projects One of SAIPEH’s recently introduced projects is nutritional support in which food security efforts have been reinforced for 30 people living with Aids, 15 grandparents and five child-headed families. “Our main challenge in this is care for the child–headed families because they are more vulnerable to hardships and abuse by adult relatives,” said Mumbo. On environment and sanitation, the NGO has planted 10,000 trees at various public institutions in their current work area. Besides this, 5,000 people in the communities have been provided with clean and safe water by constructing bore holes and protecting springs. Also done under the programme is the cleaning of markets and improvement of drainage systems and sensitising the public on the importance of maintaining hygiene. “We have to reinforce efforts to re-

“Our main objective is giving communities sustainable support especially for orphans and vulnerable children, youth, women and the marginalised to enable them alleviate poverty and increase means of improving their standards of living.” — Justin Makari Mutobera, Executive Director, SAIPEH

duce poverty in the families because this translates to lack of adequate nutrition, medical care and proper sanitation,” explained Mutobera. However, some of the guardians are also bearing the brunt of caring for too many orphans. One of them is 68-year-old Peris Mukhula of Matungu District who was left with 13 children under her care. “They have been left by my dead sons and daughters-in-law. Five of the children have died in the last four years but since SAIPEH started giving me support in 2005, the burden is lighter now,” said Mukhula as she pointed to the array of graves beside her house. But where does the money for doing all these come from? “Because of our tangible progressive achievements and evidence of

One of the beneficiaries of SAiPEHs programs recieves her monthly food support. Picture: Paul Olale good management practices, many of our proposals to donors do get funding,” explained Mutobera. The organisation started humbly as self-help group. It formed in 1995 by a group of students from East Wanga Location who were at Kenyatta University. One of them was Mutobera.

Initiative When they returned home after graduating, they stepped up their activities and raised it to a community based organisation. Then they called it Students Aids Intervention Prevention Education (SAIPE).Then in 2005, it graduated into an NGO, bearing the current name, retaining the acronym, with ‘H’, added at the end. The organisation is managed by a board of directors; who formulate

policies, do fund raisings and approve budgets. The day-to-day running is done by the executive director, programme administrator, programme coordinator, accountant and secretary. It also periodically enlists volunteers and interns. SAIPEH’S achievements have won remarkable recognition. For example in 2006, it won the Commonwealth Silver Medal for successful use of peer education on HIV/Aids prevention, among the youth. In 2009, Mutoberawas awarded the Head of State Commendation award (HSC) for his achievements in community service. “We would make a much bigger impact if only other organisations and individuals joined us in supporting those made vulnerable by HIV/Aids especially women and children,” said Mutobera.

One woman’s journey of strengthening the community …By Frank Ouma


eeing a less privileged member of society excel in life has been her desire since childhood, a dream that has now materialised. In Butula District of Busia County she is feared by those who abuse the rights of children and women as well as other vulnerable members of society such as orphans, widows and widowers irrespective of their position in the society.

Education Through Rural Education Enhancement Programme (REEP), Mary Makokha has seen several beneficiaries graduate to be important members of the society. “In December, six beneficiaries of the project graduated from local universities and are now out there looking for jobs,” says Makokha. Currently she has 73 orphans in secondary school, 30 are in local universities while several others are in primary schools and vocational

training centres. In total the organization is supporting about 1,500 needy children in the area. Due to high demand for her services, Makokha has opened another office in Nambale division to enable her serve the community more efficiently. Makokha started the REEP in 1998 after graduating from Daystar University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies. “I had visited my rural home in Butula where I discovered that many children were orphans and had been neglected by relatives upon the death of their parents,” she explains. She also thought of assisting people in her locality as many were dying of HIV/Aids and no one dared speak about it. “I had just lost a relative and many mourners who came developed a lot of theories. I insisted that it was Aids and this did not go down well with them,” she remembers. She was condemned by everyone present. “It is here that I seized the opportunity to

educate the villagers that HIV/Aids is real and they should either abstain or use protection,” Makokha explains. Her efforts in the fight against HIV/Aids was recognised by United Nations in October 2008. She was awarded her a certificate of commendation on the occasion of the United Nations day.

Recognition The certificate of commendation was for her leadership, determination and commitment in the difficult circumstances in assisting the Butula community in Busia District to build a better life for the orphaned and vulnerable children and women through her important work in home based care for HIV positive parents and guardians. When Makokha was informed about the award, she did not believe that United Nations had recognised her efforts. All she could do was thank God for it. A mother of four, Makokha’s efforts are now bearing fruits and people of Butula are speaking

about HIV/Aids without any fear as there is no stigmatization. Her first interest was in the position of girl child rights in the society but later she realised that HIV/AIDs had affected the whole community yet no one spoke about it. “After I launched the organisation I received a lot of hostility including from the church. I had to use public baraza (meetings) to pass my messages,” she says. Makokha notes that previous notion that people died after being killed has gone and now people are aware of HIV and its repercussions and they are now taking the necessary precautions and treatment regime. “People in Butula and Nambale who are our clients no longer fear going to for voluntary counselling and testing to know their status,” she observes adding that they have been empowered. “We have trained most of the widows in succession law among other rights such declining to be inherited,” Makokha concludes.


Issue Number 19 • July 2011

Challenges amid adversity for rural women

…By Ben Oroko


hough it is a woman’s right to make decisions affecting her sexual and reproductive health as enshrined in various human rights charters, HIV-positive women continue to suffer the brunt of stigmatisation and discriminatory attitudes from health care service providers. In Kisii alone, the situation paints a gloomy picture of the treatment meted against HIV-positive women seeking anti-retroviral treatment, especially in primary public health facilities. A number of these women suffer in silence as some fall prey to the myths surrounding the disease forcing them to seek the intervention of traditional medicine men and herbalists as a last resort to HIV complications.

…By Patrick Mwanzia



Indication A spot check in the region indicates that HIVpositive pregnant women are reportedly failing to seek ante-natal care in public health facilities for fear of having their HIV status disclosed in public by unethical hospital personnel. Although Milkah Moraa, a resident of the sprawling Daraja Mblili Market in the outskirts of Kisii town says she has never encountered any mistreatment from the medical personnel while seeking anti-retroviral treatment at the Kisii Level Five Hospital, she says those seeking services in public health facilities in rural areas are subjected to stigma and discriminatory attitudes. “The negative perception towards HIV-positive women is still a challenge and the Government has a lot to do in getting health care providers change their attitudes towards women seeking anti-retroviral treatment,” observes Moraa. Moraa expresses fears over the growing concern among many area residents that a number of HIVpositive women, especially those in the rural parts do not access anti-retroviral treatment easily. The women also have their rights to informed consent and confidentiality violated when seeking testing and treatment in public health centres. Though access to anti-retroviral treatment could help in protecting women’s well-being and prevent transmission of the virus to their new-born babies, most HIV-positive women do not have access to anti-retroviral treatment. Moraa discloses that despite knowing that she was HIV-positive, she sought medical advice on having another baby. Doctors at Kisii Level Five Hospital took her

Milkah Moraa a resident of Daraja Mbili who exemplifies the story of many women living with HIV. She is one of the 1.4 million Kenyans living with HIV and a woman who emplifies the story of many. Picture: Ben Oroko through counselling sessions including offering her family planning choices in case she opted not to get pregnant. “After going through the required counselling, I opted to get pregnant. I attended ante-natal clinics as advised by my doctors and finally I delivered my last born daughter who is now three-years-old in a

“The negative perception towards HIV-positive women is still a challenge and the Government has a lot to do in getting health care providers change their attitudes towards women seeking anti-retroviral treatment.” — Milkah Moraa

health facility,” recalls Moraa. Moraa’s daughter went through three consecutive HIV tests which revealed she was HIV- negative before doctors at Kisii Level Five Hospital closed her HIV testing file and declared her HIV free.

Experience “Out of my personal experience, I am convinced that it is possible for any HIV-positive woman to conceive and give birth to a HIV-negative child provided such a woman receives medical counsel and advice,” advises Moraa. In a bid to accelerate prevention of mother to child transmission there is need for sustainable and predictable funding in order to make the story of Milkah Moraa a reality for many other women living with HIV but who still desire to give birth. Due to advanced and progressive research into HIV Aids epidemic more women who are living with HIV have been able to achieve what was previously impossible and can now deliver HIV negative babies but under the scrutiny of a doctor.

There is need for gender sensitive HIV programs …By Joyce Chimbi


n estimated 1.4 million people in Kenya are living with HIV/Aids, with women representing three out every five infected Kenyans. According to the Kenya Aids Indicator Survey (KAIS) 2007 results, among youths aged between 15 to 24 years, women are four times more likely to be infected with HIV than men. KAIS is the most comprehensive HIV/Aids survey and is carried out every five years with the 2007 being the most recent survey. In a 2006 UNAIDS report, it is clear that generally, there is a 2-4 times successful transmission of HIV from a man to a woman. The results further indicate that one out of ten pregnant women is HIV positive. These statistics clearly indicate that the burden of infections is higher on women than it is on men. Since 2003, 121,600 women have been receiving antiretroviral prophylaxis under the Preventing Mother to Child Transmission Program (PMTC). As the burden of the most challenging disease in human history

Extreme measures to secure marriage

continues to take a toll on women, an opportunity to invest in gender responsive structures and programs in Kenya was recently dealt a hard blow. When the Global Fund refused to fund Kenya’s round eight’s application for HIV Aid in 2008, the initiative to inject a gender lens into the fight against HIV continued to be a pipe dream. The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria was created to significantly increase resources to fight three of the world’s most devastating diseases, by directing funds and other resources to areas of great need.

Prevalence An estimated 100,000 new HIV cases are reported annually, while malaria kills about 34,000 people.There is also a very high TB prevalence among people living with HIV/Aids. The seriousness and relevance of round eight to women was immense. No other round has been as gender responsive as the rejected round eight application. Previous rounds have sought to address issues such us mitigating the impact of TB/HIV co-infection and the reduction of the impact of HIV/Aids. Consequently, Kenya’s capacity

to secure resources for, and implement HIV prevention, treatment, and care interventions from a gender perspective is still far from becoming a reality. In round seven, Kenya sought to strengthen the health sectors but round eight was more comprehensive because it spoke to the Kenyan woman who still carries the face of HIV/Aids. “Round eight was to address key issues to the Kenyan woman, the fund was to look into gender, community and health sector strengthening,” “The burden of this disease is, as it has always been, on the woman, any shortfall whether political, technical or purely financial is bound to leave heavy repercussions on the woman,” expounded Dr. Nduku Kilonzo, the Executive Director of Liverpool VCT, Hurlingum. Kenya begun receiving grants from the Global Fund in 2003, there has not been any mention of gender specific programs in its consequent applications. This oversight has sidelined interventions that are more responsive to women needs. “Whether you are talking about infection, treatment or care, no one is more pressed than the woman

where HIV is concerned,” emphasizes Dr.Nduku Kilonzo. In addition, she says that the responsibility to care and support for the HIV positive partner, relative or friend is a challenge many women continue to face. In 2007, 452,800 HIV positive individuals also suffering from tuberculosis were receiving care and support under the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR)

Treatment HIV treatment and care, as well as home-based care programmes that are gender sensitive would go along way in lifting the burden of care that these women continue to carry. “Gender strategic investment in the form of gender responsive initiatives have never been more urgent,” emphasizes Dr.Nduku Kilonzo. The fight against HIV/Aids requires that national HIV/Aids programmes address underlying gender inequalities. This can largely be done by integrating gender into HIV/Aids programmes in health sector in order to address harmful gender norms and stereotypes. Continued on page 18

or many women marriage remains the rock of their strength and they are ready to do anything only if to secure its stabil-

This is the case particularly for women who are living with Aids and who in many cases remain vulnerable. Fearing to lose their marriages, many HIV positive women are going against doctor’s advice and getting pregnant even when their CD4 count is low. This is the case of Ruth Mwikali who exemplifies the story of many other women. “I was married and my husband needed children. I could not stay in the marriage without more children and he was demanding for them. He never cared about my health,” said Mwikali. Mwikali, 35, is HIV positive and a mother of five. She has been fighting hard to keep her marriage after testing HIV positive while she had only two children. Her health was very poor with a CD4 count of below 200 but this never stopped her husband from demanding for more children.

Guidelines Based on the WHO guidelines, any person with a CD4 count of below 350 should be put on Anti-Retro Viral drugs (ARVs). In Kenya due to the high number of people with HIV currently standing at 1.4 million and limited resources, the bar is lowered to those with a CD4 count of below 200. Of the 1.4 million, only 400,000 are on ARVs. According to a Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) expert, pregnancy increases the chances of infection on positive women. It decreases the body’s immune system leaving it weak and easy for attack by deadly opportunistic infections. The expert elaborates that it is important for HIV positive women to seek a doctor’s opinion on whether or not to get pregnant as well as the necessary precautions to observe in the event that they become pregnant. This nurtures and maintains their health to prevent any opportunistic infections. After testing positive during her third pregnancy, Mwikali says she was never cautioned about the risk of getting another child. Not even after the birth of her fourth and fifth children. “The doctor remained silent about the issue although she put me under close clinical check up during all the pregnancies,” explains Mwikali said. She adds: “the doctor never told me whether pregnancy would deteriorate my health. I think the doctor feared putting me under more pressure after sharing my marriage situation with her.” According to Dr Fridah Govedi, a PMTCT specialist adherence to medication and advice are crucial for any HIV positive woman who dreams of having HIV negative children. Mwikali started anti-retroviral therapy during the second month of the third pregnancy when she visited the ante-natal clinic at the Machakos District General Hospital. She was started on septrin and zidovudine tablet before being added nevirapine tablet when labour pains started. This enabled her to give birth to HIV negative children. Govedi urges HIV positive women who want to get children to seek advice from a qualified health worker. These are excerpts from a story that was published in php?s=7710 and


Issue Number 19 • July 2011

…By Kata Fustos

Violence increases risk of infection for women in Africa


pproximately 68 percent of people infected with HIV worldwide live in sub-Saharan Africa, where the virus disproportionately affects women. Gender-based violence has been identified as a significant driver of HIV/Aids infections in women in the region, and international organisations are increasingly focusing on the elimination of violence against women as key in the battle against the spread of the epidemic. Prevention strategies need to address the unequal power between men and women, and norms and practices that put women at a higher risk of exposure to HIV. In the last decade, women have become the face of HIV/Aids in subSaharan Africa, as 61 percent of people living with the virus in the region are female. The highest rates of HIV/ Aids infections among 15-to-49 year old women occur in southern Africa, particularly in Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, and South Africa.

Gender The gender gap is even more substantial among the younger age groups: In South Africa, the prevalence of HIV among young women ages 20 to 24 is approximately three times higher — 21 percent compared with 7 percent — than among men of the same age. In Lesotho, around eight percent of young women ages 15 to 19 are infected with HIV, while the prevalence rate is three percent among men in the same age group. These numbers indicate certain factors that increase women’s exposure to the virus. According to UNAIDS, women who have experienced violence are up to three times more likely to be infected with HIV than those who have not. Country statistics compiled by the United Nations show that younger women in Africa are more likely to experience physical or sexual violence than older women, generally from an intimate partner. Although exposure to violence for women varies by country and region, surveys consistently show that it peaks between ages 20 and 30, and then starts to decline. HIV prevalence also tends to reach a peak around age 25 among women. On the other hand, peak HIV prevalence among men occurs about five to 10 years later and at lower overall levels. Violence increases the risk of HIV infection in women as a result of physiological and psychological reasons. Uninfected women are about twice as likely to contract HIV from infected men as vice versa. Biologically, women are more vul-

nerable to infection and forced sex further increases the risk of HIV transmission to women due to tears and lacerations, especially in adolescent girls. However, even the threat of violence can have serious negative consequences. Women fearing violence are less able to protect themselves from infection: They do not have the power to negotiate for safe sex or to refuse unwanted sex, they do not get tested for HIV, and they fail to seek treatment after infection. A 2005 survey found that about 60 percent of HIV-positive women chose not to receive treatment at a Zambian clinic because they feared violent behaviour and abandonment by their family. Women report fearing discrimination, physical violence, and rejection by their family if they disclose their HIV-positive status. In a study on sexual violence and HIV in South Africa, 16 percent of males and 14 percent of females in the 15 to 19 year old age group would not share a positive diagnosis with their family. Widows and orphans who account for the largest percentage of HIV positive Teenagers who had been forced people gather to collect their monthly food support. Pictures: Paul Olale to have sex in the past year were even more likely to hide their large age differences in relationships. her husband. HIV-positive status. Addressing violence against womCommunity acceptance of norms It is common for women in sub-Saof masculine behaviour and men’s use haran Africa to marry at a young age en and girls in the fight against HIV/ of power over women promotes pow- or have older intimate partners who Aids is particularly difficult as most er inequality between the genders, are sexually more experienced. Older intervention strategies focus on the which can lead to violence. Several men are also more likely to have been more traditional ways of containing forms of male dominance, while sup- exposed to HIV/Aids and more likely the epidemic, such as condom use, ported in greater numbers by men, are to infect their younger female partner, antiretroviral drugs, and treatment also widely accepted by women. For especially if women feel like they can- for STIs. Nevertheless, long-term preexample, the South African HIV and not negotiate for safe sex because of vention programmes need to address underlying social issues in addition to sexual violence study observed that, unequal power in the relationship. changing public policy. among 15 to 19 year olds, 28 percent Study The Stepping Stones training proof males and 27 percent of females believed that a girl did not have the right A study in Zambia found that only gramme has been described as an to refuse sex with her boyfriend. 11 percent of married women be- example of a highly successful “lifeFurther 55 percent of males and lieved they had the right to ask their skills” package that addresses issues 54 percent of females thought that husband to use a condom, even if they related to gender, HIV, communica“sexual violence does not include knew he was infected with HIV. Less tion and relationships in a commuforcing sex with someone you know”. than 25 percent believed they had a nity. It offers a model for “lasting and Furthermore, 15 percent of 19-year- right to refuse to have sex with him. In measurable change in gender-related old females and 12 percent of males Lesotho, about 37 percent of married attitudes and behaviours”. The programme brings men and in the study reported being forced to women believed that a man was justihave sex in the past year before the fied in beating his wife if the woman women together to discuss and analsurvey. argued with him. Twenty-three per- yse how certain factors in their own In addition, the unequal power cent agreed that a beating was justi- community make them vulnerable to dimension is distorted further by fied if a wife refused to have sex with HIV. In groups, often based on gender and age, they talk about the issues they face and develop strategies for According to UNAIDS, women who have overcoming them. Then, the groups experienced violence are up to three times more likely come together and present the kinds of changes they would like to see. The to be infected with HIV than those who have not. potential for long-term change rests in this intergenerational dialogue, which Country statistics compiled by the United Nations can uncover and challenge negative show that younger women in Africa are more likely social norms.

to experience physical or sexual violence than older women, generally from an intimate partner.

Courtesy of the Population Reference Bureau


from page 17

There is need for gender sensitive HIV programs In Kenya, an estimated 43 percent of married women face sexual and physical violence from their partners, this increases their vulnerability to HIV. For most women therefore, the state of their health is largely determined by the morals of their partners. Unfortunately, this is not a uniquely Kenyan story, according to the 2008 UNAIDS global results, in sub-Saharan Africa, women represent 60 percent of people living with HIV.

Proportion In addition, the proportion of women living with HIV has been increasing in the last 10 years, with only 38 percent of young women having accurate and comprehensive knowledge of HIV/Aids. HIV/Aids programmes should therefore reflect these realities if the fight against this epidemic is to bring any meaningful opportunities and changes in the lives of thousands of women in Kenya and by extension, Africa. Nonetheless, in September last year, the Global Fund released Sh5 billion that is meant to boost the fight against HIV. Various stakeholders are optimistic that the fight against HIV/Aids will become more gender sensitive.

Executive Director: Rosemary Okello-Orlale Editorial Director:

Arthur Okwemba

Managing Editor:

Jane Godia


Duncan Mboya, Joyce Chimbi


Wilson Rotich, Nita Bhalla, Omwa Ombara, Faith Muiruri, Karani Kelvin, Henry Kahara, Duncan Mboya, Omondi Gwengi, Florence Sipalla, Lillian Omariba, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Dr. Penina Ogada, Ben Oroko, Paul Olale, Patrick Mwanzia, Kata Fustos, Michelle Bachelet, Frank Ouma

The Kenyan Woman is a publication of African Woman and Child Feature Service E-mail:

Design & layout:

Bernadette Muliru and Noel Lumbama (Noel Creative Media Ltd)

This paper is produced with support from The United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF)

Kenyan Woman Issue 19  

The Kenyan Woman is a publication of AWCFS and is produced with support from United Nations Democracy Fund Highlights: Women’s issues add...

Kenyan Woman Issue 19  

The Kenyan Woman is a publication of AWCFS and is produced with support from United Nations Democracy Fund Highlights: Women’s issues add...