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November 16- 30, 2011

ISSUE 051

A bimonthly newspaper by the Media Diversity Centre, a project of African Woman and Child Feature Service

Punching bag and shield Gender based violence shifts gear as children used to settle marital scores By SHEM SUCHIA The woman’s shrill voice pierced the peace of the early night just when residents of Mushibiriri Village were preparing to go to bed. They listened apprehensively as it became apparent the source of the cries was familiar. For some months now, they had become accustomed to such regular treats when a feuding couple in their midst had bouts of marital disagreements so much so that it had become a spectacle that had lost its thrill. So, initially the villagers dismissed the latest cries as yet another commonplace act of the couple’s quarrel. However, as the woman’s agonising cries continued, the message was foreboding. “Somebody help me! He has killed my child,” the woman lamented. It was apparent she was in grave danger. As the villagers rushed to the scene, the machete-wielding man was already making good his escape into the pitch dark night, faster than they could catch up with him. Behind him, the distraught woman cried uncontrollably. On her hands was a lifeless blood-spluttered body of her three-month old baby girl. Their domestic quarrel had turned tragic with the infant paying the ultimate price. “I blame myself,” the woman cursed even as the speechless neighbours — some nursing a guilty conscience for their delayed action —

tried to comfort her. Moments later what transpired became clearer. “He wanted to cut me and I put the baby in front of him thinking he would not dare hurt our baby,” she explained. The undeterred man fuming with uncontrollable anger went ahead and slashed the infant, its mother escaping only by a whisker after ducking. “He was unhappy that I dissuaded him from marrying another wife. He never liked it that I had given birth to a baby girl while he had wanted a boy,” she explained.

Common practice

Although the man has since been arrested and charged court, it turns out that this is not the first time an incident of such magnitude occurred the same village. The villagers disclosed that hardly a week had passed when another couple had a near fatal confrontation that left their four-month old baby nursing a broken neck and joint dislocation when the father charged after its fleeing mother. She had made good her threat to leave the ‘burden’ of caring for their infant with him. “He grabbed the child from the couch where the mother had dumped it and in anger threw it after her as she made her exit. She ducked and

A woman tries to shield herself from her spouse. Incidences of violence still continue to rein havoc on women even as violence against women is considered a human rights violation. Picture: Reject Correspondent fled as the child hit the hard floor,” said eye witnesses to the incident. The baby has since recovered, but the assailant remains on the run. These incidents of gender based violence are happening just as the world gets set to mark 16 days of activism against gender based

violence. The event starts of November 25 and ends on December 10, the international human rights day. Violence against women and children remain the hallmark of efforts to end this campaign and to symbolically link violence against Continued on page 7

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ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

EDITORIAL

This is the time for Kenya to engage Resolution 1325 Right now there is war going on in this country. While the war seeks to protect the country from invasion by an external enemy, women and girls are just living by the threads of fear. Their fear being perpetuated by the fact that in times of war sexual and gender based violence increases with women and girls being the biggest victims. We are asking that at this time, when the world is marking 16 days of activism against violence campaign beginning November 25 to December 10, that soldiers at the war front, do the honourable thing and respect women who they will come across during their military incursions. Northern Kenyan remains haunted by the ghosts of the past military operations in the name of Wagalla and Modogashe massacres, that left women dead, with unwanted and unplanned pregnancies, unable to give

By Jane Godia

birth and reeling in wheelchairs. Our prayer right now is that the soldiers will not use women as weapons of war; That women will be free to carry out their daily livelihoods without the fear of the man in fatigue, boots and armed with a gun. Our hope is that the theme of this year’s campaign From Peace

in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women will aptly be applied now not only by the Kenyan soldiers but by the Al Shabaab fighters as well. Peace and security for women is key at this time. In 2000, the United Nations Se-

curity Council adopted Resolution 1325 on women peace and security. The resolution reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction. It also stresses the importance of women’s equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. UN Resolution 1325 also urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all United Nations peace and security efforts. It also calls on all parties to conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from genderbased violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, in situations of armed conflict.

This is what we are asking that soldiers at the war front exercise now. They must protect women and girls on both sides of the war divide and not inflict on them pain in any way. They must not turn them into bags for receiving bullets or other forms of ammunition. They must allow women and girls to go about their work without fear or intimidation The women must be able to fetch water and firewood as well as tend to their other chores. If there are girls going to school, they must not in any way be stopped from doing so but be offered support to ensure that their education is not interfered with. If there are nurses attending to the sick, they must be given space to exercise their responsibilities. It is only then that as Kenyan women, we will stand tall in patriotism and respect for our soldiers and give them glory and honour.

Loud echoes of unheard voices affected by violence By ROSEMARY OKELLO

As the world is gearing up to celebrate the 16 days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence campaign under the theme From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women many women’s voices are stifled. Voices of women from the rural areas are not being heard in this campaign that seeks to end violence against women. This is especially true for those who are HIV positive and are going through violence because of their status at the family level. Yet their experience can teach us all a lot about the on-going stigma and discrimination that surrounds HIV and Aids and can help reveal a plethora of information that can help to decipher the linkages between sexual and Gender Based Violence with HIV and Aids. Take the case of Jacqueline Salita, 35, from Ntulele Village in Narok, a town situated about 200 kilometres south of Nairobi. This is in a region ancestrally inhabited by the Maasai ethnic community. Salita who has been living with the virus for over five years has never experienced peace within her household. “I knew quite clearly that if I disclosed the nature of my sickness, my husband would beat me up, you know, Maasai men are naturally non-submissive”, she says.

Secret affair

Initially perturbed by her condition, Salita opted to travel to the Kenya Medical Research Institute in Nairobi where she was diagnosed with HIV. When she travelled back home, she did not disclose what she had learnt to her husband who sounded a little worried about her sickness. Now on anti-retroviral therapy, she hides the drugs from her husband who cannot access them. According to Salita, Maasai men do not want to hear about these drugs because they say they have seen people who have ended up dying even after taking the drugs. According to several studies that have been carried out, there is growing evidence of the relationship between Gender Based Violence (GBV) and HIV and Aids. The links between gender roles, GBV and HIV and Aids risks are complex and culturally specific. A report by UNAIDS Global Coalition on Women and Aids indicates that many women face violence from intimate partners. About ten to 50 per cent of women globally report physical abuse by an intimate partner at least once in their lives, and this is often accompanied by sexual violence. Domestic violence is one of the leading

causes of female injuries in almost every country in the world according to Human Rights Watch. Threat of violence that permeates their lives everyday exacerbates their vulnerability to HIV. Fear of violence prevents women from accessing HIV and Aids information, being tested, disclosing their status, accessing services for the prevention of HIV transmission to infants as well as receiving treatment and counselling, even when they know they have been infected. This is particularly true where HIV-related stigma remains high. Taking into consideration that GBV is culture specific and the practice being a dynamic human behaviour; it poses a challenge when it comes to providing solutions and interventions for this phenomenon especially on the home front. Increasingly, violence and threats of violence are emerging as important factors fuelling the rapidly increasing HIV epidemic among the majority of women in rural Kenya.

Survey

Research by Action Aid on Responding to the Link between HIV/AIDS vulnerability and Violence Against Women and Girls in Kenya reveals that HIV and Aids is increasingly taking on a gendered face in terms of infection rates, vulnerability to infection, care and human rights. Gender inequalities in the economic, social and cultural arrangements in Kenya are increasingly placing women and girls at a disadvantage with regard to HIV vulnerability. According to the 2003 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS 2003), it is estimated that by the age of 15 approximately 49 per cent of the population of women and girls will have experienced violence in one form or another perpetrated mainly by relatives and other people known to them. Fifteen per cent of married women in Kenya report having experienced marital rape and going by the police statistics violence at home is slowly being translated into violence in the public. Even though the Sexual Offences Act and the HIV and Aids Act represent progress in addressing the linkages between violence and increased vulnerability of girls and women to HIV, the welfare of victims at the centre of the

Maasai men from the same age group celebrate in dance and (Inset) a Maasai women’s group sing at a function. Maasai women revere their men so much that because of the violence that is normally meted on them, many who are HIV positive keep the information away from their husbands. Pictures: Reject Correspondent. judicial response are also looked into through the Sexual Offence Act closing some of the hindrances which have in the past stood in the way of prosecution of these crimes. The Act which also provides various measures to protect the victim from intimidation by the accused and public exposure, removes the burden of proof on the victim and prescribes minimum sentences for the various sexual offences.

Fear of violence prevents women from accessing HIV and Aids information, being tested, disclosing their status, accessing services for the prevention of HIV transmission to infants as well as receiving treatment and counselling.

Even though it is about four years since the Act was signed, there is lack of awareness about it among the women and law enforcement officers. The women in the rural areas also do not know how to access justice. However the National Gender and Development Policy adopted by the Government in October 2006 now provides the framework for addressing gender concerns in different sectors in order to empower women and girls and ultimately promote development. One of the factors it identifies as having a negative impact on women and girls empowerment is sexual and physical violence and HIV and Aids. However, unless the Government raises awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue and strengthens local work around violence, women like Salita will continue to suffer silently.


ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

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Where sexual abuse remains a girl’s nightmare BY BENSON MWANGA As the world prepares to mark 16 days of activism against gender violence campaign, sexual exploitation of young girls including gender based violence continues to be reported in TaitaTaveta County with worrying frequency. The activities come at a time when the County is grappling with rampant cases of violence against child and women’s rights abuse. Reports show that young girl’s in both primary and secondary schools bore the brunt of sexual exploitation in the area. Cases of sexual abuse including child prostitution and labour have been on the rise in the area, an issue that is fanning the rapid spread of HIV and Aids scourge in the region. Provincial labour and children’s officials have raised concern over the high number of young girls and boys engaging in prostitution as well as child labour at the expense of going to school. They called for measures to stem the vice. According to the local education officials, shocking sexual exploitation cases in both primary and secondary schools involve defilement, early marriages, pregnancies, incest and sodomy.

Rise in cases

In recent months, there has been a significant rise in cases of defilement and incest among other forms of child abuse incidents in the County. Over 40 school girls under the age of 17 were sexually abused in Taita District, this year, according to a report from the local education office. Primary schools reported the highest number of child abuse cases with 25 while secondary schools had 17. “Majority of the victims have since dropped out of school,” the officials said. At the same time two girls who were sitting for Kenya Certificate of Primary Examinations (KCPE) and a Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examinations (KCSE) candidate went into labour while writing their final examination in the area, an issue that sparked public outrage and condemnation among local residents and leaders. Members of the Taita District Education Board (DEB) were baffled by the revelations and asked the Government to intervene and save the girl child education in the region. The DEB members who included Wundanyi MP Thomas Mwadeghu, District Education Officer Samuel Nyantika and the KNUT Execu-

tive secretary Rosalia Mkanjala blamed some unscrupulous provincial administration officials and parents of perpetrating the child abuse cases in the region.

Kangaroo courts

Presenting a child abuse report to the DEB meeting chaired by Taita acting District Commissioner David Boen in Wundanyi town recently, Nyantika accused some chiefs and parents of dragging their feet on the issue adding that those involved in abusing the rights of children included teachers, civilians and fellow students. “Some chiefs demand facilitation fees from parents and schools in order to arrest the suspects while other cases are determined in Kangaroo courts hence denying justice to the victims,” he said. He added: “Lack of cooperation between parents, teachers and provincial administration was also frustrating the fight against widespread cases of child abuse in the region.” Nyantika said something must be done to urgently protect the children’s rights in the region as they are facing serious challenges. Mwadeghu blamed some parents for fail- Mwatate Girls Secondary School students walking to their classrooms. Cases of sexual ing to give evidence in court when suspects abuse have been on the rise in Taita Taveta County. Picture: Reject Correspondent are charged for fear of retribution, an issue that he reiterated must stop if sexual exploiMwadeghu said there was need for the GovWhile exonerating provincial administratation cases among minors were to be checked. ernment to post a children’s officer in Wuntion from blame, the DC said some parents It also emerged from the meeting that some danyi to help in handling the increasing cases were colluding with suspects to violate the parents bailed out offenders facing sexual exof sexual abuse among minors. Children’s Act by either marrying off their ploitation charges whenever they were charged daughters or failing to report such cases to the in court. law enforcement officers for action. The legislator who is a crusader for chastity On his part Boen said only 10 percent of Fridah Mwadime, a member of the District among girls in the region said under the Bill of these cases are reported to law enforcers while Education Board, said many students have Rights in the new Constitution, children have 90 percent were determined locally. dropped out of school due to teenage pregthe right to be protected from abuse, harmful However, he said, there has been an innancies and early marriages and challenged cultural practices, all forms of violence, inhucrease in the number of convictions of child the Government and FIDA to intervene. man treatment and punishment, and hazardmolesters. Boen and the County Children’s She expressed fears that the number could ous or exploitative labour. Officer Leonard Nyangena said several pargo up by the end of this year if drastic mea“Only five offenders were prosecuted last ents have also been taken to court for forcsures were not put in place to curb the woryear and somebody must be sleeping on the ing their children out of school and into early rying trend. job as many cases also go unreported,” he marriages. Mwadime noted that poverty was hindering said. girls from realising their right to education and

Convictions

“Lack of cooperation between parents, teachers and provincial administration was also frustrating the fight against widespread cases of child abuse in the region.” — David Boen, DC Taita

Awareness needs to be created around women’s fund By KARIUKI MWANGI  Money released by the Women’s Enterprise Fund continues to lie unutilised due to lack of knowledge about it. There is need for more sensitisation on the availability and importance of the funds so more women’s groups can get the money and develop themselves economically. Women Enterprise Fund Eastern regional coordinator Joseph Oyowo has attributed the lack of proper utilisation of the money to lack of awareness from the women on the existence of the money and also on ways in which they can get the money. He noted that it is only through the creation of awareness about the existence of fund and how they can access the money that more women’s groups can come up and borrow. He said money that is interest free meant for women’s economic development. He said that very few women are aware of the existence of the fund and there are those who

confuse it with the Kenya Women Finance Trust (KWFT) whereas there is no connection between the two. “You realise that boosting the women economically is boosting a whole community. We are urging women to form groups and register at our office so that they can get the money,” said Oyowo. He observed that the money is not taken back to the Treasury at the end of financial year and all the unutilised money just lies in the accounts without benefiting the intended public. Oyowo blamed poor repayment by the various groups in Siakago Constituency where out of KSh2.5 million lent to 41 groups, only KSh260,000 was refunded. He called upon politicians to popularise the Women’s Enterprise Fund as a government initiative geared towards economic empowerment of the whole community. “The women’s groups should take the initiative of repaying the money borrowed since it is from a revolving fund that is meant to benefit many people,” Oyowo noted.

the reason for persistently dismal performance in national exams. “There ought to be more focus on improving sexual reproductive health rights through provision of sexual education. This is out of the realization that teenage pregnancies are a major contributing factor in school dropout resulting in losses for individual girls, their families and the Government,” observed Mwadime.

House helps remain at greatest risk of cruelty By Fred Okoth Even as violence within the family remains a big issue, a bigger threat remains the domestic help who most often than not finds herself at the receiving end even when not guilty. These are girls who when not being beaten by the lady of the house are being sexually abused by the man of the house. As we mark the campaign against violence with the theme of peace from the home, this is a group that must not be forgotten. A 16-year-old girl is fighting for her life in a Migori hospital after she was reported to have been severely burnt by an aunt over allegations of theft. The victim sustained severe burns from the leg to the waistline after she was accused of stealing KSh5,000 be-

longing to the relative whom she was living with in Bukira Village, Kuria West District. However, things later took a strange twist when it emerged that the cash had been taken by the woman’s daughter. Witnesses said the woman had tied both the girl’s legs and hands and covered her mouth with a piece of cloth before dousing her body with paraffin and setting her ablaze. However, the girl was saved by neighbours who heard distress calls during the weekend incident that shocked villagers. She was rushed St Joseph’s Mission Hospital Ombo in great pain as doctors fought hard to save her life. Confirming the incident, Kuria West District police boss Paul Wanjama said the woman had already been arrested and will be charged in court soon.


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ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

From boys to men, making the world a better place By CAROLYNE OYUGI

Nixon Odongo has had a very depressing life. His father left home and his mother, who had never been to school, struggled to provide for her children. Odongo then watched in disbelief as his 15 year old sister was forced out of school to get married. The sister would then repeat the same cycle that the mother had undergone. When Odongo looks back, he sees a childhood experience that was very frustrating. So he decided to become a campaigner for girls’ education. Pascal Akimana, 27, from Burundi was brought up in a very violent home. He was powerless and could not intervene as he watched his father abuse his mother. He spent most of his childhood crying and hoping that things would change for the better. Now a grown up man, Akimana, like Odongo has become a campaigner, working with men and boys to address violence against women and children. He knows from personal experience that everyone stands to gain — men, women and children — from gender equality.

Inequality

One of the most destructive aspects of inequality between the sexes, the belief that girls and women are somehow inferior, fuel male violence towards them. So does the notion that ‘real men’ are tough and hard and that the only emotions they can display is anger. This does not just harm women and girls, it also damages men and boys. The concepts of ‘traditional’ masculinities force them to behave in ways that make them uncomfortable. They may not dare to express their emotions, or they may experience violence themselves and then take it out on others. According to Gezahegn Kabebe, Regional Director Plan International Region for East and South Africa, the issues of gender equity and empowerment pervade all societies and cultures. Furthermore, the pace of change and reform is generally very slow and diverse everywhere. Kabebe says that several research studies have showed that in no society or country do women enjoy the same opportunities as men. “While the concept of gender equality is not new, what is relatively new is the concerted effort to revisit men’s roles and identities in order to significantly increase male involvement in working towards gender-equal societies,” Kabebe said during the launch of Because I am A Girl; the State of the World’s Girls, 2011 report. This year’s ground breaking addition to the

annual report which assesses the state of the world’s girls focuses on the role of boys and men in working for gender equality. The only way to transform gender relations, and to tackle the unequal power structures that lie at the root of discrimination, is for men and boys to be convinced of the basic unfairness of the lingering inequality between the sexes, to be horrified by gender based violence, to challenge the stereotypical constructs of male and female that exist and to be energetically committed to change.

Expectation

Men also miss out on a whole range of emotions and experiences that are immensely rewarding and socially valued due to gender stereotyping. For example, in most cultures men are not expected to play a significant role in caring for children. Such societal pressure to uphold stereotyped notions of masculinity mean that men often suppress this aspect of their human persona. These values should, however, be taught to boys at an early age so that they can grow up respecting and caring for the girls. As cited in the Because I am a Girl (BIAAG) 2011 report, for instance 65 per cent of participants from Rwanda and India totally or partially agreed with the statement that “A woman should tolerate violence in order to keep her family together.” A further 43 per cent agreed with the statement “There are times a woman deserves to be beaten”. This notion is also common in Kenya and in particular communities. Gender equality is central to achieving our vision for change; a world in which all children — girls and boys — realise their full potential in a society that respects people’s rights and dignity. Education results in many long-term benefits particularly for young girls, thereby contributing to later marriage, lower fertility rates and reduced domestic violence. Over 60 percent of children interviewed for this report agree that

Boys playing at Concordia Primary School in Mombasa. Many boys are brought up under a partiarchal system and grow knowing that women and girls must be beaten. However, there are a few young men who are changing this perspective and have learnt to respect girls and women’s human rights. Picture: Reject Correspondent. ‘if resources are scarce it is better to educate a boy instead of a girl’. What they do not understand is that when a girl is educated, the benefits are enjoyed by more people, her family and her second family where she is married as well as the society at large. According to Desmond Lesejane of Sonke Gender Justice Network, there is need to acknowledge that the lives of girls and women have changed dramatically over the past quarter century. Today, more girls and women are literate than ever before, and in a third of developing countries, there are more girls in school than boys. The Government and other organisations have, of course, focused on girls in the interests of equality. In too many societies, girls still face the double discrimination of being young and being female. They are pulled out of school, married early and are more likely to be subject

“While the concept of gender equality is not new, what is relatively new is the concerted effort to revisit men’s roles and identities in order to significantly increase male involvement in working towards gender-equal societies.” — Gezahegn Kabebe

to violence. This is not only unjust, it is also short-sighted. The 500 million adolescent girls and young women in developing countries are potentially a major force in driving economic progress.

Equality

Equality of opportunity in health, education and in the workforce will enable girls to become active citizens; contributing powerfully, as mothers and teachers, as civic and business leaders, to their families and communities. However, the challenge of gender equality cannot be tackled by girls and women alone — which brings us back to boys and men. Fathers, husbands, brothers and boyfriends all have their part to play. This year’s report demonstrates how and why men and boys can, and should, contribute to creating a more equal society. Boys and young men should care about gender equality because girls’ and women’s rights are human rights. If men and boys believe in justice and fairness, they will be able to see that their mothers, sisters and girlfriends are often not treated the same way as they are, do not enjoy the same level of respect in the community, and do not have the same opportunities to make choices about their lives. It is great thing if a country understands the true value of a woman. It will help the development of the country. When men take an active role in promoting gender equality the entire society benefits.

Constitution protects women against violence By FAITH MUIRURI As we are headed in preparation for the 16 days of activism against gender violence campaign, it is important to take cognisance of the fact that the new Constitution offers a practical basis for better protection and fulfilment of human rights among them the elimination of all forms of violence against women. In keeping with Kenya’s obligation under international human rights protocols, the Constitution demands that the Government enacts and implements legislation to fulfil its obligations in respect of human rights and freedoms. In Article 21 (4) it states: “The State shall enact and implement legislation to fulfil its international obligations in respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Key among the freedoms to be enjoined in Kenyan laws include provisions outlined on the African Charter on Humans and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa which was adopted on July 11, 2003 by Heads of State and Government of the African Union during

the Second Ordinary Summit of the AU convened in Maputo, Mozambique. The protocol supplements both previous conventions of the African Charter by requiring State Parties to take appropriate measures to prohibit all forms of violence against women, identify the causes, punish the perpetrators and ensure effective rehabilitation and reparations for victims.

Bill of rights

The Protocol defines what constitutes discrimination and violence against women and proceeds to outline measures which State Parties are required to take in both the public and private spheres to end such practices. Further, the Bill of Rights under the new Constitution guarantees economic, social and cultural rights. These include the right to food, housing, sanitation, water, education, social security and health including reproductive health care as enforceable rights. These come alongside civil and political rights as well as right to life, liberty and security of person, privacy, freedom of

conscience, religion, belief and opinion, freedom of expression and freedom of association. In addition, the Bill of Rights provides for other rights including equality and the freedom from discrimination and includes specific provisions on the rights of minorities, persons with disabilities, older members of society, youth and children. For instance in Article 28 it states: “Every person has inherent dignity and the right to have that dignity respected and protected.” This means that women and girls must be protected from gender based violence that dehumanises them and leaves them vulnerable to abuse. The Bill of Rights also recognises the right to pursue action in the courts in the event of denial of any of these rights. The inclusion of enforceable social and economic rights in the Bill of Rights guarantee access to legal remedies and allow people to hold the Government accountable for violations of these rights. The Constitution also places an obligation on the state to “observe, respect, promote and fulfil”

the rights and freedoms in the Bill of Rights. Article 24(4) of the Constitution also limits the guarantee of the right to equality “to the extent necessary for the application of Muslim law before Kadhi courts”. This provision should be revised to ensure that decisions of Kadhi courts conform to the equality provisions of the Constitution.

Measures

The Government must ensure that the new comprehensive provisions on human rights become effective in line with the Constitution. This must be enhanced by subsequent legislations and institutional reforms that guarantee the enjoyment of economic and social rights The Government must also take stern measures to address impunity and bring to justice persons responsible for human rights abuses both current and past, including human rights abuses committed during the post elections violence of 2007-2008, and other past human rights abuses committed in the context of politically and/or ethnically-motivated violence.


ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

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Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

No justice for 1,000 military rape cases By PAUL MWANIKI As we mark the beginning of the 16 days of activism against gender based violence campaign, a certain group of women are weeping as theirs is a stark reminder to the suffering they have gone through. These are the women who have held demonstrations, obtained evidence in cases that there may be to implicate the British Army with rape but nothing has been forthcoming. Ironically the theme for this year’s campaign against violence is From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women. Over 1,000 women from Samburu, Laikipia, Isiolo and Marsabit counties have lived with the hope that one day justice will prevail and they will be compensated for the tribulations they went through in the hands of military training in their localities. The only visible evidence is the children born out of what they term as forced sex by British military, and with this the women have gone to the streets several times to press the royal government for compensation. They also filed a case in Britain through the Leigh Day and Company Advocates, the same firm that successfully took the same government to court over the injuries inflicted to Laikipia residents by live ammunition left behind by British soldiers in the training fields.

Long road to justice

The rape case that has been going on since 2001 has seen many pitfalls and most of the time it was delayed after the Royal military police said they were unable to uncover any wrong doing by any military soldier. The shocker to these victims came a few days ago after the law firm they entrusted to seek justice on their behalf expressed the need to close down the potential case against the Ministry of Defence. In an email sent to the Indigenous Movement for Peace Advancement and Conflict Transformation (IMPACT), a human rights group championing for the compensation of the victims, Leigh Day states: “I write to let you know that we have to close down the potential case against the British Ministry of Defence following the rape allegations.’   It is a great shame. When we were first instructed back in 2001, I was convinced that there was a significant core of cases where there was objective evidence to show the women had been raped by British soldiers. Between the Royal Military Police (RMP) and the Office of the President, that evidence in terms of original supporting documents seems to have disappeared. Without those documents, we have no chance of proving such serious allegations, particularly where the RMP came to the view after its three year investigation that there was not enough evidence to mount prosecutions in Britain.” However, the director of IMPACT, Johnson ole Kaunga has questioned the manner in which the law firm seems to be in a hurry to drop the case noting that their reason for not having enough evidence cannot stand.

Outcry

“The lawyer never got the evidence that was investigated by the Kenyan police under the Special Crime Unit which could have given him new leads to the case,” lamented Kaunga. He added: “Furthermore the royal military police said investigations they carried did not unearth individual soldiers implicated in the case while we had sued the Britain Defence Ministry as a whole since the soldiers did not come here individually.” In a correspondence written by Kaunga to the law firm, he says it is a pity that the firm has decided to drop the rape case against the British army. “The outcome of the Royal Military Police investigation has long been envisaged by the claimants as well as human rights organizations here in

Some of the children born after the alleged rape of women in Eastern Province by the British military training in the region between 1960 and late 1990s. With them is their lawyer Martin Day who was handling the case. Below: A woman clutches a baby allegedly born from a military rape ordeal. Pictures: Paul Mwaniki Kenya. We have no doubt that the disappearance of the original evidence is linked to this investigation. As you are aware, the Kenyan CID - special crimes unit (then under Ms Lilian Kiamba) mounted an investigation of the rape claims. I note from your letter that you have met CID director and I would have expected you have asked what became of the investigations,” states the letter obtained by the Reject. Following the closure of the case in Britain, a number of women claimants have decided to bring their cases to the Kenyan Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission.  The women and their children shall also issue a memorandum on the rape cases and other issues aimed at giving the law firm an impression that the women are committed to seek justice. “We shall ask TJRC to compel the CID to release the report which might help develop the case,” noted Kaunga. Sabina Ngedu Lesirikali is a resident of Archers Post, a place where the British military conducts training. She is a victim of the rape cases. “I was walking home to our manyatta at Laresoro after school. I was in the company of three other girls when we came across three soldiers resting after a possible jogging exercise,” recalls Ngedu who 18 years old then. She says the soldiers waylaid them and started talking to them but they never responded. It is after the short discussion that one soldier attacked her and she fell on the ground and they were all on her arguing who should go first. “I was the eldest of all other girls and they all wanted me. As they raped me, the others ran to seek help from our village,” narrates Ngedu. By the time her mother came to her rescue, she found her bleeding profusely. Ngedu says she was treated using traditional methods. At

the time, the community relied on traditional medicine as the hospitals were far from where they lived. The mother reported the incident to area chief, but the case could not go far as the British were highly feared and revered as powerful army from a foreign country.

Aftermath

The aftermath of the whole case came to dawn on the teenager a month later when she realised she was pregnant. She later gave birth to twin boys of mixed race and became the talk of the whole village. Three months later one boy died after developing breathing problems. Ngedu was left with one boy whom she named Jared. Jared is an inquisitive child who always asks his mother why his peers refer to him as mzungu (white man). After reports reached her village that the case against the British Army had been closed, Ngedu who spoke to Reject on phone said she was disappointed with the whole process. “We have lived with hope that justice will one day be done to us so that the many questions we face daily from our children can be answered but now it seems we will die with the agony of the injustices that we faced,” said she Ngedu, now a mother of five, never got married as she had gone against his community’s tradition by getting pregnant before marriage. She is now calling on the Kenyan government to take up the case and compensate them. “With the new Constitution and the Truth Justice and reconciliation commission in place, we urge the Government to look into our matter seriously and give us the way forward,” observed Ngedu. Two women from Lekiji village in Laikipia

“We have lived with hope that justice will one day be done to us so that the many questions we face daily from our children can be answered but now it seems we will die with the agony of the injustices that we faced.” — Sabina Ngedu Lesirikali

North who were allegedly raped by the soldiers when they were collecting firewood at the nearby Mpala range echoed Ngedu’s sentiments. The two who sought anonymity as their case is still under investigations said they paid Leigh Day law firm KSh1,000 for every case and also hoped that justice could be delivered. “We will present our case to the TJRC during its hearings in Laikipia and keep our fingers closed that the Kenya police who investigated our cases alongside the royal military police will give their evidence to our lawyer who has said he is ready to continue if there is fresh evidence,” noted the women from their village. Kaunga noted that hundreds of women have died waiting for justice and others are still dying.

TJRC hearing

“We hope that after we present our cases to TJRC justice will be done to few remaining and families of those who have died,” he concluded It is understood, however, that the military police did interview one Kenyan woman who gave birth to a child with Nepalese features, while other women had also given birth to children with European features. There have been allegations that the women might not have been raped and the British military could have capitalised on the poverty levels in the northern region to woe the women into illicit sex by offering them clean water, biscuits and other niceties. However, justice remains elusive especially to the innocent children born with these features and fathered by the soldiers. However, Peter Kilesi, an employee of Leigh Day in Kenya is optimistic that the law firm will get the required investigation report from the CID in order to reopen the case.


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ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Family Bill seeks to eliminate domestic violence By ODHIAMBO ORLALE Records at the Nairobi Women’s Hospital on the number of rape, defilement and sodomy cases are nothing to write home about in this day and age. Cases of husbands battering their wives and of wives beating their husbands had almost become the order of the day across the country. The list had also included relatives, friends and domestic workers living under one roof. According to an anonymous victim who chose to go public: “Domestic violence is a criminal matter and needs to stay in criminal court, too often, judges see charges of domestic violence as a ploy to get custody and send the case to family court.” However, these will soon come to an end as the cries of thousands of victims of domestic violence every day have finally been heard, thanks to provisions in the new Constitution and the Family Protection Bill 2011. The victims no longer have to live in fear, shame and denial. They should instead come out openly, share their plight with the authorities, relatives, friends and neighbours. So far this year, Kenyans have been exposed to real drama and soap operas in the homes of the untouchables like Cabinet ministers, envoys, Members of Parliament, judges and prominent businessmen and women, to the down trodden in the rural and urban areas. In the case of the politician, it was reported that the husband was the victim of a woman’s wrath over domestic differences, while in the case of a foreign envoy; the wife was the complainant accusing him of turning her into a punch bag.

The law

Under the Constitution, every Kenyan’s right are protected under Section 45 of the Bill of Rights which states inter alia: “The family is the natural and fundamental unit of society and the necessary basis of social order and shall enjoy the recognition and protection of the State.” The plight of victims of domestic violence were raised and discussed at a recent stakeholders consultative forum for review of the Marriage Bill 2011, Matrimonial Property Bill and the Family Protection Bill 2011 organised by the Constitution Implementation Commission (CIC). The meeting was chaired by CIC chairman Charles Nyachae. The two-day forum was supervised by Commissioners Catherine Mumma and Philemon Mwaisaka and included participants from the Luo and Meru (Nchuri Ncheke) Council of Elders, Law Society of Kenya, United Disabled Persons of Kenya, Kituo Cha Sheria, Kenya Women’s Parliamentary Association, Kenya Human Rights Commission, Hindu Council of Kenya and the Supreme Council of Kenya among others. One of the topics that generated a lot of heat during discussion on the Family Protection Bill was interference by in-laws and what constitutes marital rape. Participants were divided over how the latter should be defined, who is to enforce the law once passed and in case the matters end up in court, whether the children, relatives and domestic worker could be legally allowed to take the witness stand and testify against one of their parents or bosses. Representatives of the elders took a conservative stand that marital rape does not exist under the traditional laws. However, civil society officials begged to differ saying rape is where there was no consent between two parties or more. The Family Protection Bill is still being debated by the public to be amended before being returned to CIC enroute to the

A family at their breakfast table. When parents fall out, the family may become disintegrated and the children often become the most affected. Picture: Shem Suchia Attorney General’s Chambers to be redrafted with amendments before it is taken to Parliament for debate. The Bill states that “domestic violence” in relation to any person, means violence against that person, or threat of violence or of imminent danger to that person by any other person with whom that person is, or has been, in a domestic relationship. It goes further in its meaning of domestic violence, to include: physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, and intimidation. The others on the list are harassment; economic abuse; stalking; forcible entry into the applicant’s residence, where the parties do not share the residence; depriving the applicant of or

hindering the applicant from access to or a reasonable share of the facilities associated with the applicant’s place of residence. Other forms of abuse under the Bill are female genital mutilation (FGM); forced marriage; child marriage; forced wife inheritance; virginal testing; interference from in-laws; physical, mental or medical disability; and marital rape. And as we reflect on the 16-days of activism against gender violence campaign this year, the following quotable quote by Dorothy Day is apt for this article: “We plant seeds that will flower as results in our lives, so it is best to remove the weeds of anger, avarice, anger, envy and doubt, so that peace and abundance may manifest for all.”

Household has become the battle ground in Gusii By BEN OROKO Unless the local community in Gucha South District, Kisii County collaborates with the Government in finding a lasting solution to gender based violence in the region, the future security of women and children remains under threat. This is according to the Eastern Nyanza Regional Commissioner, Lydiah Muriuki who has decried increasing cases of domestic violence against women in Gucha South District. Addressing members of the local provincial administration in Kisii town in one of the performance review meetings, Muriuki singled out Gucha South District as the most affected area in the region. She challenged members of the public from the area to give suggestions to the law

enforcement machinery on how to reverse the situation which she regretted was endangering lives of innocent women and children.

Soul searching

“I am challenging community members from Gucha South to conduct thorough soul searching and come up with solutions to the rampant cases of domestic violence against women,” said Muriuki. She noted: There is need for the community to facilitate a partnership with the Government in finding a lasting solution to the problem that will assure women and children of their security and safety at household levels.” Muriuki challenged women from the affected communities to take precautionary measures whenever they sense their spouses were contemplating to commit acts of vio-

lence, reminding them to report such incidents to the law enforcement machinery for immediate action. She warned women in the region against suffering in silence when they encountered domestic violence at household levels as such trend gave their perpetrators leeway to continue engaging in the vice which threatened the security of women and children.

Peaceful approach

“I am warning men from this community to consider using peaceful structures in addressing household disputes and conflicts instead of beating their wives under the pretext of disciplining them as such actions amounted to gender violence against women,” Muriuki reiterated. However, she decried the increasing cases

of child defilement in the region, warning chiefs and their assistants against compromising justice to the detriment of the affected children. She noted that it was the responsibility of the local provincial administrators to ensure that justice for children prevails. Muriuki regretted that many cases of child defilement did not reach the courts as majority of the parents lacked knowledge on the procedures to follow when such vices befell their children, instead they are either threatened by the perpetrators to either accept out of court settlements or risk losing the cases in court. She challenged members of the public to volunteer information to the relevant Government offices for action against any local provincial administrator who circumvents the law to protect perpetrators of child defilement in their respective areas of jurisdiction.


ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

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Gender based violence shifts gear as children used to settle marital scores Continued from page 1 women and human rights and to emphasise that such violence is a human rights violation. The 16 days of activism against gender based violence campaign focuses on raising awareness at the local, national, regional and international levels about gender-based violence; strengthening local work; linking local and global work; providing a forum for dialogue and strategy-sharing; pressuring governments to implement commitments made in national and international legal instruments and demonstrating the solidarity of activists around the world. The situation like the one illustrated of happenings in Mushibiriri Village, Butula District, Busia County are just one of the many forms of violence that are being experienced around the country. Women and children remain the biggest victims.

Marital scores

“This is how bad couples resort to using their children to settle their marital scores,” says Mary Makokha, Executive head of REEP, a community based organisation that is involved in advocacy for children, orphans and widows in Western Province. She adds: “There is a feeling among some disagreeing couples that when you hurt your child, you’ll get at your partner-now-turned opponent.” That couples are intentionally or unintentionally using children to settle their marital scores is no secret. The unfortunate thing is that the outcome has been disastrous. Despite the passing into law of the Children Act and other related legislations and policies placing the welfare and safety of child at the centre-stage, pro-child advocacy groups are alarmed by the high incidences in which the parents thrust their children in the middle of their marital differences. “Why put the child at the centre of your differences? Makokha poses. REEP’s experience while working with widows as well as orphans and vulnerable children in Butula and Nambale districts is that in most marital disputes, parents involve children out of insecurity especially if the child involved is not a blood-child to one of them.

Paying the price

Other parents may just want to punish the child for the mistakes of one of the parents with the mistaken belief that the ‘stubborn’ partner will yield to the desired position that he or she had been reluctant to embrace. Yet for others, the children have to pay the price when one of the parents feel jilted by the other partner but have no way of inflicting the act of revenge on the concerned partner. The chilling case of 13-year-old Clinton comes to play. Clinton’s mother, Evaline had him and his two younger siblings from a previous relationship which ended after the man allegedly turned excessively hostile. They were scared of him as he was a heavy consumer of bhang and alcohol. Two years later, Evaline met and married another man who helped her set up a food business that thrived within the first few months of operation. For sometime, life was peaceful until her estranged husband started demanding not only for the children’s custody but the mother as well. As per the dictates of culture which demand that children belong to the father, Evaline was forced to let go of Clinton first, the other two to follow later since at the time she had taken them to live with some distant relatives. Her ex-husband went on to demand that she also moves out of her new marital home and rejoin him. He did not care that she was obviously already eight months pregnant by her new husband. That is where the struggle began. While Evaline asserted that she would not return to him, the man seething with anger

Demonstrators during a past march to mark the 16 days of activism against gender based violence. Picture: Reject correspondent declared to all who cared to listen that he still regarded her as his wife and that it was only a matter of time before he would take her back. He said he would not allow her deliver the baby she was expecting unless she yielded to his demands. Thinking he was just a deranged element, nobody took him seriously not until he turned his wrath on Clinton when he fatally slashed him on the head, cut off his limbs and plucked out his tongue leaving him dead as he fled. “When he couldn’t get at his estranged wife to settle his score, Clinton was his easiest target in the hope that it would punish his mother. Luckily he had not assumed custody of the other two children,” the awe struck neighbours explained. But Clinton’s death would not be the only one. In the neighbouring village, a man who had inherited a widow with her four children set their house ablaze killing his 13 year-old stepson when the mother caught him in a sexual act with a close relative inside their house where the boy slept unaware in an adjacent room. Neighbours advanced that he couldn’t stand the shame of being exposed. But as the irate woman ran to alert the villagers, the man withdrew petrol from his motorbike parked outside and used the fuel to set the house on fire. It was too late for the sleeping boy to get out. The man has since been apprehended while the whereabouts of the other woman he was with at the time of the incident remains unknown. In retrospect, his traumatised wife disclosed how they had numerous quarrels and he had a liking of picking on her children, whom he said were not his anyway.

Communication

“It is obvious that he never cared if they are dead or alive. He just wanted to inflict on me unbearable pain as he found it hard to reconcile with the fact that I had children with another man when I seemed to be having problems in getting children with him as he apparently had health issues,” she averred. While some of the incidents in which parents turn on their children to settle their marital differences could be attributed to alcohol and drug consumption, poverty, ignorance and mental breakdown are also to blame. Relationship counsellors say the bad seed is sown when couples cease to have proper communi-

cation and love wanes. When that happens, the lifeline of the increasingly discordant relationship now hinges on the child or children involved who now act as the only thing binding the couple together. Marital experts hold that knowing how one party in such a relationship may hold dear the child or children involved, a disgruntled partner may easily opt to pick on the child while in essence the anger is directed at the other partner. “It is worst where step-children are involved,” explains Makokha. “The disgruntled parent may not feel obligated to them and can easily pick out on them to hit at the partner.” “There are warning signs to look out for when you have marital woes. Better call it quits and leave alive with your children rather than wait until it might be too late,” she advances. It is a view point shared by the deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza who during her recent confirmation hearing for the office stated that divorce can turn out to be the best option when all else fails. “It is the easiest way to sort out differences in a relationship instead of waiting for domestic violence and injuries,” Baraza asserted. She added: “Divorce is never a disability.” Experts advise that separated couples should not rush into new relationships before taking time to ‘cool off ’ and trying to reach an amicable compromise with their estranged partners especially with regard to their children. It turns out that most couples who re-marry in haste are more prone to such misfortunes in cases where their children are not fully accepted by their partners. “I don’t believe that if a couple parts the priority should be to settle down in a new relationship without taking time to cool off,” Makokha says. “Most of the cases we have encountered involve step-children. That speaks volume about the willingness of partners to fully accept them.” Article 53(d) of the Constitution stipulates that every child has the right to be protected from abuse, neglect, harmful cultural practices, all forms of violence, inhuman treatment and punishment, and hazardous or exploitative labour. As we mark the 16 days of activism against gender based violence, children must no longer be used as shields in crossfire or to settle scores.

Marital experts hold that knowing how one party in such a relationship may hold dear the child or children involved, a disgruntled partner may easily opt to pick on the child while in essence the anger is directed at the other partner.

The theme for this year is “From peace in the home to peace in the world”. It is only children who live under a roof that knows peace who grow up knowing they must advocate for peace globally.

Teachers Service Commission embarks on a recruitment drive By ODHIAMBO ODHIAMBO Teachers Service Commission (TSC) is in the process of recruiting 988 teachers on permanent and pensionable terms to replace those who have exited service through natural attrition. The Commission’s chief executive Gabriel Lengoiboni said in April this year, they replaced 815 teachers in post primary institutions. “Similarly, this month, we will hire 988 teachers to replace those who have exited in primary schools,” he said in a statement to the media. Lengoiboni explained that the current TSC policy on recruitment of teachers as agreed on by the Ministry of Education, unions and the TSC required that a teacher is replaced on exit. “Agents have been given revised guidelines of September 2011 to facilitate them to carry out the exercise effectively and transparently. Teachers serving under the contract will be given priority during the recruitment exercise,” he asserted. Lengoiboni said the teachers serving under the “contract teachers merit lists” will be used by the constituency panels to replace contract teachers who shall have been absorbed on permanent and pensionable terms. He cautioned Kenyans to be wary of fraudsters who purport to offer employment of teachers. But KNUT and KUPPET quickly dismissed the latest move by the Government “as part of desperate attempts to convince the unions to call off the on –going teachers strike”. “We will stay put on strike until all our demands are met. The 18,000 teachers employed last year on renewable contract must be taken on permanent terms,” said Charles Katege, a member of the Knut national executive council. A further 10,000, the union demands, should also be employed on permanent terms to address the current staff shortage in public schools across the country.


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ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Man escapes after defiling eight-year-old sister By BENDARO TSUMA

When she called her daughter twice and failed to get a response, she panicked and decided to find out. This was because the other children left with the eight-year old were still in the compound, playing. However Lucy (not her real name) was missing. “Where has Lucy gone? I left her to take care of you?” she asked the other children. They were barely four years old. “Lucy has gone to Baraka’s house to eat food,” the older of the two answered Sanita Julius Kaingu, Lucy’s mother. From this response, her heart skipped a beat. She immediately sensed danger because Baraka, her co-wife’s 20-year old son, had a history of rape. She went numb anticipating the worst could have befallen her daughter, a Standard Two pupil at Dabaso Primary School in Watamu, Malindi District in Kilifi County. “I went out and left Lucy in charge of her younger siblings, but upon my return I found her missing. I called out but she did not respond,” Sanita narrated her story to the Reject in Malindi recently.

Revelation

When the younger children innocently told her that Lucy was in Baraka’s house, she shivered. “I am the second wife of Julius Kaingu Kiraho. My co-wife who was married earlier came with a son, Baraka Kalama Nguma who is 20 years old. My husband accepted the boy with his mother to his homestead. He has grown up in our homestead like our son but he has a bad history,” explains Sanita. Baraka is currently serving a three-year probation term in connection with defiling a threeyear-old girl two years ago. His father says he would be in jail now “if I did not get a strong lawyer to defend him. He was committed to a three-year probation term”. On October 26, Baraka repeated the atrocious act and went for Lucy, his step-sister. “He lured Lucy into his house promising her food. Since he is her brother, she did not doubt him and innocently went inside, only there was

no food,” explained Sanita. Describing the ordeal Lucy said: “When I went into his house, he tore my pants and snuffed them in my mouth. He said he would slaughter me if I revealed to anyone then started doing bad things to me.” When Lucy’s mother went to Baraka’s house to call her after learning she was there, Lucy finally came out but in bad shape. “I ordered her to come closer to me and I found she was shivering. She left allegedly for a short call but when I followed her, I found she was excreting. When I checked her private parts, I discovered they had been destroyed,” she said. On being questioned, she declined to reveal what had happened to her until her mother threatened to use the cane. She said her pant was still in Baraka’s house and true to her word; she brought it along when she was ordered to go pick it. A local woman’s rights activist Roselyn Supa Nabala who is the chairlady of Voice of Watamu Women’s Group was called to the homestead and so was Lucy’s father who was manning his business not so far away. Lucy was taken to Watamu Police Station where Nabala and her mother recorded statements before taking the girl to Gede Hospital for tests. Baraka apparently took off after the act and the police have launched a manhunt for him. “We were advised to take the girl to Malindi District Hospital the following day for further tests which we did today,” explained Nabala showing us hospital documents. The doctor at Malindi District Hospital confirmed that Lucy had been defiled and her private parts ripped open. She was given protective Lamivudine/Zidovudine tablets to prevent HIV infection. However, she was found to be free from other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). There are hundreds, probably thousands of children out there who have been defiled, abused, tortured and mistreated like Lucy. Such experiences linger on the survivors for lifetime. They remain traumatised and dehumanised forever, wondering ever whether man and beast are the same thing.

Harvest season stimulates violence in homes By KARANI KELVIN Violence against women remains rampant in certain parts of Western Kenya and in particular months. Bumula, Mt Elgon and Amagoro constituencies have been cited as leading in cases of gender based violence in Western Kenya according to Western Kenya Human Rights Watch. According to Job Bwonya, Western Kenya Human Rights Watch Director, violence against women has been especially rampant in Bumula Constituency during the months of August and September, this year. “This is the harvesting season and perhaps the conflicts have been as a result of misunderstandings over the harvest given that women are usually the ones doing the farming and yet men want to be the ones in charge of the produce,” explained Bwonya. While other constituencies like Kimilili, Webuye and Kanduyi also have cases of gender based violence, the rate is a little bit lower than in others. According to Western Kenya Human Rights Watch, violence against women in Western Kenya has a lot to do with negative cultural attitudes toward women, high levels of poverty and illiteracy as well as a general lack of knowledge on human rights. Violence against women can either be physical which might be in form of

bartering or sexual violence or psychological. “Whatever the nature of the violence, the consequences are dire not only for women but also for the whole society especially for the children,” he said. Children are sometimes hurt physically but are mostly affected psychologically. “At times they cannot bear the pain and run away from their homes. Most of the street children in Bungoma town, for instance, come from homes where violence is common,” noted Bwonya.

Torture

Physical violence against women is not only limited to sexual violence and battering but also involves the use of small arms. “People have been using rungus, knives and pangas but in places like Mt Elgon where some people have guns, they have also been using them against women,” says Bwonya. While some women report their cases directly to the police or the provincial administration, many others prefer not to because they lack confidence when it comes to dealing with such matters. Western Kenya Human Rights Watch gathers its information in the villages through its representatives in almost every ward. They then look at the cases and decide which will go to court and which will be settled out of court through alternative dispute management.

Roselyn Supa Nabala, a girls’ education and rights activist with the girl who was defiled by her brother who has since disappeared. Picture: Bendaro Tsuma

Retrogressive practices affecting girls’ performance By ODHIAMBO ODHIAMBO Communities living in Nyanza have been told to discard retrogressive cultural practices that retarded the development of the girl child. The executive director of Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation (MYWO) Agnes Masika said girls in the region were performing dismally in national examinations due to practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) that led to massive drop out of girls from schools. “Soon after being cut, the girls get the false notion of being mature and ready for marriage. Parents also exert pressure on them to get a man who will pay the bride wealth,” Masika told a sensitisation meeting organised by MYWO in Migori town. Masika asked members of the Somali, Kisii and Kuria communities to stop practicing FGM and instead embrace alternative rites of passage that encourage retention of girls in schools. She noted that early marriages, wife battering, rape and defilement were the ‘common enemies’ of women in the region. “ I am asking the provincial administration, politicians and religious leaders to come to the rescue of many women who were currently being subjected to violence at home by their beastly husbands,” said Masika. She told parents to be role models to their children in a bid to avert their possible ‘love for rag-tag militias such as the Al-Shaabab’.

Kangaroo courts perpetuate violence By KARANI KELVIN Village elders, police, chiefs and their assistants have been blamed for casually dealing with cases of violence against women in Western Kenya region. Speaking in his office, Job Bwonya, Western Kenya Human Rights Watch Director, said women lack confidence in the police, elders and members of the provincial administration in their villages. According to Bwonya, village heads, chiefs and their assistants are notorious for delaying cases, therefore, creating space for their dismissal in courts on issues of technicality. He said that although chiefs and their assistants have been trained on such matters and the law, they use their knowledge to manipulate circumstances to weaken cases.

Delaying tactics

“They know that victims need to go to hospital within 72 hours but will delay them longer and sometimes wait until clothes that could be used as evidence have been washed,” said Bwonya. He added: “At times they work hand in hand with the perpetrators and set up kangaroo courts to dispense their kind of justice.” Bwonya said perpetrators are eventually left to walk free after paying a small fine whether in monetary form or by presenting a few goats or cows. The setting up of Kangaroo courts makes it possible for the administrators to be bribed and, therefore, compromise their decisions much to the disadvantage of the victims. “One does not understand why chiefs and village heads insist on having their kangaroo courts and yet they know very well that some cases have to go to court,” he wondered. Bwonya said some victims are afraid of reporting their cases to the police because they are discourteous and take the matters lightly. “Victims are sometimes asked inappropriate questions or to do some things like remove their clothes which further adds to the indignity they have already suffered,” noted Bwonya.


ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

9

Where danger lurks in the night By FAITH MUIRURI The threat of violence against women in Nairobi’s slums and informal settlements is real. Assurances that the Constitution will provide the much needed respite from the numerous injustices, has not helped to assuage their deeply embedded fears. Lack of basic necessities still continue to expose both women and girls to insecurity and heighten the risk of gender-based violence. Sanitation in slum areas is inadequate, street lighting absent and policing is ineffective. This is despite the fact that Article 43 (1) (b) of the Constitution explicitly guarantees the right to accessible and adequate housing and to reasonable standards of sanitation. Article 43 (1) (d) of the Constitution guarantees clean and safe water in adequate quantities. However, for slum dwellers, their place of abode is a far cry from this provision. Their housing is inadequate and they have little access to clean water, sanitation, health care, schools and other essential public services as well security or protection from the State. The pathetic living conditions that have weighed heavily on them seem to have taken a negative spiral as more people opt for informal settlements and slums in the face of a dampening economy.

Overstretched facilities

This has come with a prize as social amenities become overstretched beyond capacity. The shortage of amenities such as toilets (including latrines) and places to wash in the slums has exacerbated possibilities of exposing women and girls to constant threat of violence in their everyday lives — at home, at work and on the street. A study conducted by Amnesty International last year revealed that most slum residents use shared pit latrines, with as many as 50 to 150 people sharing one pit latrine. It can take 10 minutes to walk from the user’s home to the toilet, a dangerous journey for women, particularly at night. As a result, many are forced to resort to “flying toilets” — disposing of human waste by throwing it into the open in a plastic bag. According to the study, there are also some community toilets in slums for public use. However, these usually charge a fee. “Women, more than men, suffer the indignity of being forced to defecate in the open, at risk of assault and rape. Women, generally being responsible for the home and for children and other dependents, are more affected by a lack of sanitation and by the indignity of living without sanitation…” adds the report. The study that focused on 130 women living in four slums in Nairobi established that after dark, lack of toilets and bathrooms near their homes puts women at great risk of violence, including rape. Most don’t dare leave their homes because of the dangers lurking on the way. “Over half of us take five to ten minutes to get to the toilet… If you go out at night you will get raped and assaulted… For women this is

unique because it is not just the risk of an assault or mugging but sexual violence as well,” reads the report in part. The situation has been aggravated by little or no police presence in the slums and if women fall victim to violence they are highly unlikely to see justice done. “Many women who suffer gender-based violence do not seek justice or compensation, preferring to suffer in silence rather than report a crime to the authorities, or even to their families and communities,” reads the report in part. Amnesty International states in the report that justice system is far removed from women’s lives, both because of the absence of police in the slums and because of the multiple obstacles that women face in access to justice. “Women fear that the authorities will not even recognise that what has been done to them is a crime, particularly if the abuse was within the family. Unfortunately, when it comes to domestic violence, this attitude prevails even within communities and families. Women also

A woman who runs a day care centre standing in front of a poster advertising bags that serve as toilets. Women in the sprawling slum are at risk of being attacked when they go to the toilet at night. Picture: Reject Correspondent. hesitate to report crimes when they know that they will be at risk of reprisals if they alert the authorities, and that they will not be protected,” adds the report. “Almost all respondents said that they faced the greatest threat of violence within the confines of their own homes. For the few women who do report domestic violence to the authorities, the response is not encouraging. The police do not want to be involved in cases of alleged violence perpetrated in the home — they would always advise victims to go back and sort it out with the alleged perpetrator, ” explains the report. Outside their homes, the report says that women in slums are confronted by loitering gangs of unemployed youths and men. “Such gangs have been responsible for a litany of crimes targeting women — muggings and physical attacks among others. The danger is worse at night when the narrow streets of the

Women, generally being responsible for the home and for children and other dependents, are more affected by a lack of sanitation and by the indignity of living without sanitation…”

slums are badly lit with hardly any police presence,” affirms the report. In the report, the civic body indicts the government for failing to provide adequate security in the slums. “When police have come into the slums, rather than protect women, they have represented yet another threat to their security. Police officers themselves have been accused of raping women in slums, in particular during the post-election violence,” adds the report. The report also points out that the HIV/Aids prevalence rate in Kenya’s largest slum, Kibera, is almost double the national rate. “This reflects the situation in all of Nairobi’s slums. Women and children face the threat of HIV/Aids infection as a result of sexual and other gender-based violence. As a result of the stigma associated with HIV/Aids, infected women also face discrimination, even more so than men,” notes the report. The main challenge now is for the Government to live up to its obligations to ensure provision of essential services. However, the Constitution places a strong obligation on the government to ensure that all persons access basic rights. The Bill of Rights in Article 22 (1) of the Constitution empowers citizens to take the Government to court if it is not able to fulfil basic rights.

Probation teaching petty offenders ways of earning a living after prison By CAROLINE WANGECHI The Kirinyaga Central Probation department has embarked on a systematic process geared not only in promoting crime prevention activities but also imparting the offenders with self-sustenance skills once they are through with their probation stints. “We have undertaken a comprehensive program for CSO (Community Service Offenders) to help them work part-time and also give them a chance to do alternative jobs,” said Mwaniki Korugari, Kirinyaga District Probation Officer. “This is usually possible since we teach them skills that equip them to be economically empowered in developing not only himself but also the society.” The Probation Service department was

instituted in the Office of the Vice President and Ministry of Home Affairs in 1999. It is main agenda was to assist petty offenders in resettlement and reintegration in the society through provision of unpaid work to government institutions and members of public. The CSO are usually allocated a minimum of 2 and a maximum of five working hours everyday at their designated sites. It also provides counseling services in order to reduce the social stigma attached to criminals by the society. The department mostly deals with people serving non-custodial sentences in petty offences like drunkenness and disorder, creating disturbance, assault, affray and being in possession of local liquor. It also aims in empowering offenders improve their quality of life through self-help

initiatives that tap their unutilised skills. The CSOs are mostly deployed in government and public institutions like schools, hospitals, construction sites and rural water projects where they provide unpaid community service. “It is pay back to the public since they had offended the public,” says Mwaniki. The department has an 1/8 acre of land where CSOs are trained in good crop husbandry not only to make them self dependent but also enable the society benefit as well. The specially prepared demonstration plots utilise natural organic systems which are not only locally available but have little or no side effects. They are also less costly in relation to convection horticulture farming. Using improvised watering equipment and mulch the de-

partment has given the trainees hands on skill approach in growing of vegetables like kales, spinach, lettuce, carrots, amaranths, tomatoes and onions. Besides horticulture and as mitigation to deforestation there are nurseries where eucalyptus and bougainvillaea seedlings have been grown to be distributed to the CSOs to plant in their farms back in the villages. According to Mwaniki the entire farming practice is carried out organically using green manure mulch and biological pest control methods. “After probation we do follow up on the offenders by giving them seeds to start up own projects,” added Mwaniki. “This has seen an 85% reduction in new offences among the CSOs and also crime in the District.’’


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ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Robbed of their womanhood without consent

Women living with HIV say they did not understand sterilisation By CAROLYNE OYUGI Nicoleta Kambura was in and out of hospital several times for four months. One day in 1992 she decided to be tested for HIV and found out she was positive. She was not informed immediately but continued to receive her medication at the hospital for some days. One day a nurse came to her bed and told her “uko na ugonjwa mbaya sana (you have a very bad disease)”. She then took her to the nursery and showed her babies who had been born with complications. The nurse pointed out one child in particular. The baby was underweight and had wounds all over the body. “This is how children who are born by mothers like you look like,” the nurse said. According to Nicoleta, she was told that if she ever gave birth then the child would be in very poor health and would eventually die.

Dead child

She was, therefore, convinced that she was not worthy of being a mother. Nicoleta was made to believe that if she brought a child into the world, it would suffer and eventually die a painful death. “What the nurse told me has never left my mind,” says Nicoleta. She remembers the nurse looking at her straight in the eyes and saying: ‘Hakuna kitu kizuri kinaweza toka kwa tumbo yako (Nothing good can come out of your womb).’ “During my stay at the hospital, I thought deeply and decided to follow the advice by the

health personnel. I, therefore, signed the consent forms and underwent the surgery,” she says.

Irreversible surgery

After undergoing the irreversible process, Nicoleta realised that she did not have to undergo the surgery. She met so many women who are living positively and having children. According to Nicoleta, she did not know that there are ways that women can avoid transmission of HIV from the mother to child. “It is now almost 20 years and I am still alive contrary to what I was told at the hospital,” says Nicoleta adding that she had been told to wait for her death. Nicoleta is not the only victim of misinformation and ignorance. Miriam Atieno had her second child in 2006. This is the same year when she discovered that she was HIV positive. Attendants at the health facility told Miriam that the child she was carrying would be born HIV free but she would die if she gave birth again. At the time, Miriam was only 20 years old. Her husband was also HIV positive. She was informed that she would have to undergo a caesarean section operation to ensure that there was no transmission of virus to the child at birth. Being young and naive, Miriam followed all the advice she was given. The nurses always wanted to know where she would deliver and so when the time came she was directed to a health facility where she would undergo the operation. “I paid KSh300 and my husband signed the consent form,” she says.

Her husband however died four months later. After the burial she met another man who is also living with HIV and they got married. They have been living together for some years now and the man wants his own children. The problem is Miriam can longer give birth. The hospital never told her the kind of sterilisation they did to her. The man is now threatening to leave saying she is barren.

Pain

“What pains me is the fact that I know I was not barren. I wish I was not HIV positive and I would not have to be sterilised,” she says with a tinge of sadness. In other cases women are forced to accept sterilisation in order to save the child. Margaret Mwachai is one such woman. She found out that she was HIV positive in 2003. She was pregnant with her eighth child. The seventh child was one month old then. Margaret admits that the narrow spacing between her children is not healthy. However, she is also aware that she was denied the chance to choose a family planning method she preferred. “I understand that the spacing was not good for me but the method they used to sterilise me is what I did not like,” she says. She says there are other family planning methods but they insisted on this one.

Opportunity

Margaret was even told that if she did not get sterilised then she would not get her drugs and the child would not be given milk. Since Kenyatta National Hospital is the only place she got her

Tubal ligation should be picked from an informed position

By CAROLYNE OYUGI

HIV positive women not only have to live with the burden of knowing that they have the virus, face stigma and other opportunistic infections, but they also have to deal with other reproductive health issues. A number of women have reported either being coerced or forced to undergo tubal ligation against their wish. Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure whereby a woman’s fallopian tubes are cut, clamped, blocked or tied to prevent her eggs from travelling down to her uterus. It also blocks the sperm from travelling along the tube to meet the egg. In some cases, a woman may choose to have a hysterectomy. This is when the entire uterus (and possibly the fallopian tubes, ovaries and/or cervix) is removed. Unlike a tubal ligation, a hysterectomy is not reversible.

“I gave birth to my first born in 1996 and he died three months later. I conceived again and had my second born in 1999 and he also died after five months. I then became very sick and was bed ridden for two months after my son’s death. At first I thought I was depressed but I later found out that the problem was more of physical than psychological. I had to leave Nairobi and go back to the village. The reception there was not good either. Everyone looked at me with suspicion and treated me like someone with leprosy. My mother-inlaw was counting seconds to my death.” This is the painful tale of Rose Daniel, a 35-year-old woman who lives in Kayole, Nairobi. One day Rose sent a child for drinking water and his mother reproached her angrily and yelled, “wako unazaa ukizika!” (you keep giving birth and burying your children). Her condition got worse and she could not even feed herself. She couldn’t even go to the toilet. Her husband got a telegraph informing him that she had died. When he reached home and found out that she was alive, he travelled back to Nairobi the same day. Her uncle who brought her up then decided to follow up on her medical situation. In 2001, she was expectant with her third child. “When I went to the clinic, a nurse came and asked me if I am aware of my condition. I quickly admitted thinking that she was asking if I knew I was pregnant.” “She then asked me if I was on ARVs. That is when I realised that I was mistaken. She told me that I was HIV positive and that I also had Tuberculosis.” “My life crumbled. I started to understand why my children died. I thought of

Permanent method

“Women who are living positively have many issues to deal with and do not need a violation of their reproductive health rights added to the long list.” — Asunta Wagura. that it is a violation of human right and against the Kenyan Constitution. HIV positive women have a right to access the highest level of health services without being discriminated based on their HIV status. According to Asunta Wagura, the Executive Director of Kenya Network of Women with Aids (KENWA), the practice should stop and women should be allowed to choose the type of family planning method they are comfortable with unless the methods react to ARVs. “Women who are living positively have many issues to deal with and do not need a violation of their reproductive health rights added to the long list,” noted Wagura. Some have been forced to the procedure by their doctors, parent’s, husbands and even friends.

Hundreds of women go through sterilization without their consent. A woman should be given a chance to choose the type of family planning method to use. Picture: Florence Sipalla she could not breast feed either, she decided to oblige. “I underwent tubal ligation to save my child but she still died after that,” says Margaret. Margaret’s husband later died and her current boyfriend wants his own child. She believes that she should have been given a chance to choose the type of family planning method to use and not be forced on a particular one. Women who have undergone this process also question the way they were handled by the doctors. Not much information is given before and after the process.

Forced sterilisation that has returned to haunt

By CAROLYNE OYUGI

While tubal ligation is generally regarded as a permanent type of birth control, tubal ligation reversal surgery is available. However, depending on how your it affected your fallopian tubes, one may find themselves not as candidates for reversal surgery. Even if one has the tubal ligation reversed, they may still not be able to get pregnant. Success rates for pregnancy after a tubal ligation reversal range between 70 per cent and 80 per cent. In addition, there is an increased risk of experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. Tubal ligation as a way of family planning is not a bad thing if a woman decides to have it. It is, however, wrong if one is forced or coerced to undergo the surgery because of her HIV status. According to Maurine Murenga, Executive Director of Lean on Me: “It is one thing to be HIV positive and another thing to be HIV positive and sterilised woman,” she said. Murenga, who is also living positively, believes

medicine from and

abortion and suicide. Fortunately I shared my predicament with a friend who encouraged me and offered very helpful advice,” says Rose who eventually gave birth and managed to save her child. She says the child now lives in Dagoretti with Catholic nuns. She took the child to the orphanage, as she was so ill at the time. Rose got pregnant again in 2004. This time she went to Medecins Sans Frontier (MSF) commonly known as Blue House where she usually gets her medication. They told them, (her and other pregnant women who were HIV positive that it is not healthy for them to give birth because their immune system will deteriorate. The doctors convinced her that it was wise for her to be sterilised. “They kept preaching this to us every time we went to the clinic to a point that I did not want to hear it anymore,” Rose recalls. Since that was the only place she got her medication at no cost she was in a dilemma. “My husband refused and told me not to undergo the procedure but I was tired of hearing the same thing every time I attended the clinic sessions,” she says. “After my delivery some doctors were brought from Kenyatta National hospital to Lions Club and were performing the operation. I decided to undergo the operation. She did not tell her husband about it until after a year. He kept asking her what was ailing her and she could not explain why she has not recovered from delivery. He got so infuriated when he found out the truth and left her for another woman. Her child then died. She is now a single mother of one. Rose regrets what she did. “I see other women who are living positively with the number of children that they desire and it breaks my heart. It is hard to accept that I can no longer have more children,” she laments.


ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Safe haven launched for slum dwellers

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Government must fast track commitments made in Beijing By BEN OROKO Sexual and gender based violence remains an area where women have suffered the greatest. It is for this reason that women through the fourth United Nations conference in Beijing called for total elimination of gender based violence. Though the action plan from the 1995 Fourth World Beijing Conference on women recognised the elimination of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) as central to gender equality and empowerment of women, in Kenya alone, GBV remains a major public health as well as human rights problem affecting women and girls. United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines GBV as any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether accruing in public or private life.

Attacks on women

By HENRY OWINO Women and children in the sprawling Kibera slum now have access to a “One –Stop Shop” where survivors of gender based violence (GBV) can receive services linking them with medical care, legal assistance, counselling and safe houses. The project is situated at the Kibera Satellite Office within the District Officer’s (DO) compound and is aimed at providing services to children who are abused or have experienced violence in schools and at home. The USAID-funded project aims to serve and help in the Constitution implementation by increasing awareness of gender-based violence in the community and empower women and children the same community to speak out and seek help. According to Wangechi Wachira, Executive Director of Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW), cases of gender based violence among people living in urban slum areas are becoming common with at least three to five women in Kibera being abused daily.

Unreported

“There are many cases of gender based violence that go unreported due to threats and dependency from those who commit them against their partners,” noted Wachira. She added: “Many women in Kibera are victims of either physical or psychological violence or mental torture.” She was speaking during the launch of Phase II of the project that was officially reopened by Judy Gration, wife of the United States ambassador to Kenya. Wachira said many women are battered by their husbands and denied some of the fundamental rights yet they keep quiet about it, making men take advantage of their ignorance. “Most women in urban slums like Kibera, for example, are beaten up and abused in many ways yet they keep quiet about it,” observed Wachira. She urged: “Please report the cases to the office for assistance to stop this act of dehumanisation even if it will mean getting compensation through legal means.” Gration noted that around the world as many as one in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in some other way, most often by someone she knows, in-

A section of the Kibera slum. A project was launched recently to help in the Constitution implementation by increasing awareness on gender based violence in the community. Picture: Reject Correspondent cluding by her husband or another male family member. Gration added that statistics and facts show that one woman in four has been abused during their pregnancy which is even more dangerous. She said in a study carried out in Kenya in 2003, 43 percent of 15 to 49 year old women are reported having experienced some form of GBV in their lifetime. Gration pointed out that major results of gender based violence are unwanted pregnancies and restricted access to family planning information and contraceptives, unsafe abortion or injuries sustained during an illegal abortion after an unwanted pregnancy, complications from frequent, high-risk pregnancies and lack of follow-up care and last but not least sexually transmitted infection, including HIV. She indicated that much as there are programmes reaching out to young women, there is need to also extend the same services to young boys who are seemingly forgotten and who are also at risk of gender based violence.

Peaceful environment

“Every woman and child should live in an environment free from the threat of violence and every girl and boy should be able to attend school without the risk of abuse. Our schools, homes and communities should be places where violence is not tolerated,” observed Gration. She urged that all the three institutions must work together to ensure that the vision stipulated in the Constitution becomes a reality. However, she said, this can only be achieved if everybody does their part by helping and supporting those impacted by sexual and gender-based violence and by preventing violence in homes and schools. Gration urged women must hold each other accountable to prevent violence from

“Around the world as many as one in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in some other way, most often by someone she knows, including by her husband or another male family member.” — Judy Gration occurring in the first place and not just reporting after it has happened since the damaged will have been done. “The government of Kenya has an important role to play in the protection of women and children while the US Government hopes to continue working with different actors including the Judiciary and provincial administration to provide leadership and support on issues surrounding gender-based violence,” she noted. Gration said the initiative is the first of its kind in Kibera and Americans are proud to be part of its effort. She called on everybody to play their part, to eradicate violence in our society.

Violence against women and girls remains a serious problem across the world, with at least one out of every three women around the world being beaten, coerced in to sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Statistics indicate that, women aged 15-44 have died and have been disabled through violence, with ten among the selected risk factors facing women in this age group being rape and domestic violence. It is estimated that, death and disability from violence affecting women between 15 and 44 years, is the same as that resulting from cancer. However, the toll on women’s health as a result of GBV surpasses that of traffic accidents and malaria combined. Studies from various countries have revealed an increasing linkage between violence against women and HIV and Aids, with women who have experienced violence being at higher risk of HIV infections. Nyarinda Agura, a women’s empowerment advocate based in Kisii says that violence against women and girls has serious medical, social, economic and psychological consequences. “Violence can have long-term negative effects on the life of a girl and can affect relationships and decision making on sexuality and other reproductive health issues,” observes Agura. She notes that violence against women compromises their reproductive health and pregnancy outcomes, including unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortion and maternal mortality among others.

Violence and HIV

“Violence exposes girls and women to the risks of HIV infections through rape and fear of negotiating for condom use during sexual intercourse,” reiterates Agura. She adds: “Improving education access to girls is a major step to reducing cases of gender based violence in this country.” She advises that initiating gender sensitive educational programmes will facilitate sensitisation of young men to appreciate and respect women’s rights. A trained clinical officer, Agura challenges the Government to fast-track the resolutions of the Beijing Conference where governments promised to integrate mental health services into primary health care systems. The Government should also train primary health care workers to recognise and care for girls and women who have experienced any form of gender based violence. She would like the Government to allocate adequate funds and resources for emergency contraception which is a key component of post-rape care. “The Government should consider expanding and making available health facilities offering onsite screening and care for abused women, to ensure women in the rural areas of the country conveniently access the services,” advises Agura.


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ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Fear of FGM sends girls running through the wild By MWANGI NDIRANGU They trekked for over 50 kilometres at night through wildlife infested forests to escape the cut and forced marriage. For five hours, the three girls aged between 11 and 15 years ran from Kalawash Village in Isiolo District to Dol Dol in Laikipia North District where they believed they would get help. They had gotten word that some men had approached their families and sugar had already been donated. Among the Samburu community, taking sugar to a girl’s family marks the first step in marriage negotiations. And when the three girls who lived in one boma got wind of what was happening, they knew it was only a matter of weeks before they were initiated into womanhood ahead of being given out to suitors. They resolved it was time to take the bold step and escape in the thick of the night. “We learnt that our parents who have denied us a chance to go to school had planned to marry us off once the rain season kicked off,” says one of the girls through an interpreter. They have never been to school but they know some of their agemates attend school while their life has been revolving around herding goats since they attained the age of five.

Education

“Our main mission of escaping from our homes was to go where we could be offered a chance to go to school. We have never been to Dol Dol (headquarters of Laikipia North district) and we still do not understand how we found our way here,” says the eldest girl at St Francis Girls’ High School where they were accommodated for a night before being taken to Nanyuki Children’s Home, some 60 kilometres away. At the rescue home, the girls found the environment strange and unaccommodating and within three days, they became restless and homesickness took toll on them. They started demanding to be taken back home. However, they were lucky after Samburu Women for Education and Environment Development Organisation (SWEEDO), a community based organisation intervened to ensure that the girls got education in a conducive environment. They have now joined Standard One at Kipsing Boarding School where five other girls are studying after being rescued from forced marriage. “All the five girls who are now in this school either escaped and came here to seek refuge or they were rescued by the area chief,” says Maina Kiboi, the school’s head teacher.

Defiance

Kiboi noted that one of the girls aged 10 was last month cursed by her mother after she refused to quit school to get married. “The mother came and pleaded with her daughter to go back to the husband but the minor remained defiant. It is then the mother warned the daughter that she would die before sunset,” explains Kiboi as he pointed at the girl who is still much alive despite the curse. Kiboi said the mother had received dowry from a young warrior (moran) and the suitor was asking for his ‘bride’. Another interesting case witnessed recently at the school is where an elderly man brought his eight-year-old son to the school to negotiate for his daughter who quit herding goats and sought refuge at the school. “He brought the son and requested me to let the daughter go. Here they do not value education for girls and they see them as a source of wealth in form of bride price,” explains Kiboi adding that now both siblings are schooling. Kipsing chief Henry Leskoyo has been spearheading the fight against FGM and forced marriage among young girls but says it has not been easy. “So far I have managed to rescue more than a dozen girls, some of whom are at Kipising School while others have been sponsored by

The three girls when they arrived at Nanyuki Children’s Home after trekking for over 60 kilometres. They were brought to the home by a police vehicle from Dol Dol town. Inset: Mary Lowapere breaks down in tears after being reunited with her second born daughter at Kipsing Primary School. She is among the three who had run away from home to escape FGM and forced marriage. Pictures: Mwangi Ndirangu

well wishers and enrolled in boarding schools away from here,” explains Leskoyo. He observes that one of the fathers who had married off his daughter was jailed for two years but noted that the stiff penalty imposed did not do much in discouraging the locals from engaging in the harmful practice. “I use both the law and counselling of parents in an effort to make them understand that marrying off young girls is an outdated culture,” says Lesokoyo. He adds: “Applying law alone to deal with this problem may not be very effective.” Such sentiments coming from people on the ground puts in doubt if the recently passed antiFGM law will be effective in eliminating the vice. Those involved in advocating against the female cut termed the decision by Parliament to pass the anti-FGM Bill as a milestone in the fight against gender based violence. However, they argue it will be a big challenge and even with the application of the law, more advocacy is necessary. Jane Meriwas, a women’s rights activist observes that executing deterrent penalties on offenders may actually end up hurting women while in the real sense they are not the culprit. “FGM is performed by women but they do this at the behest of men. It is men who want to marry circumcised women and hence women must adhere to this culture,” notes Meriwas, who is a Samburu from Kipsing Location, Ol Donyiro division. She argues that new strategies need to be employed to convince custodians of culture to quit the practice but is quick to note that this

might take several years. “Men must be convinced that a girl need not be circumcised to make a wife. Until this is done, the practice will continue whether there are deterrent laws or not,” she cautions. Meriwas suggests that human rights clubs be established in schools where awareness is created among pupils on the dangers of FGM and to disseminate the same information to those herding goats in the villages. She observes that when this information is taught from a young age, girls will escape and seek refuge once they suspect their parents want to marry them off. “Traditional structures among the pastoralists, the Samburu included, are very stronger than the modern law. So to win the war, it must start from the ground moving upward rather than the other way round,” argues Meriwas. Another major factor contributing to slow gains in the fight against FGM and forced marriage is culture shock when girls are removed from the environment they have known and taken to far off boarding schools.

“Some of the girls are aged 15 and they can only speak in their mother tongue. So when they are taken to a boarding school and there are no other pupils from their community, they feel isolated and want to go back home,” notes Meriwas. She cites the example of the three girls who risked their lives by walking at night to seek education only for them to demand that they be taken back home. “If we had not intervened to sponsor the girls at Kispsing Boarding School, they would probably have gone back to their village and as we talk now they could be wives,” she observes. Meriwas who is the director of SWEEDO says FGM is prevalent in the month of December when there is plenty of green grass in the village and livestock graze around. However, she says the new anti-FGM law where offenders will now be fined up to KSh500,000 or face a seven-year jail term is an appropriate step only that Government and non government organisations should take the initiative to sensitise those affected on it.


ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Despite double tragedy, gospel musician lives on By Henry Kahara As you enter her house, your eyes are caught by many Bible phrases on the placard but the most inspiring is one written on big letters 1st Corinthians 12:9: “My Grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.” These are some of the words and phrases that keep gospel singer Anne Kariuki going despite the challenges she has been going through. She sums it all in her own words: “I will make it despite the flames.” Kariuki is an admired gospel singer who sang the Kikuyu hit song Gikombe kia Maithori (Cup of tears). Her problems can be traced way back to 2005 when she shared lunch with friends in Nairobi. Little did she know that this would be her last meal for the next four months.

Throat problem

“I was the last one to order a meal. I decided to take ugali and a fish which I had missed. It was after taking the third bite when I felt there was something wrong with my throat. I tried to clear it but it was all in vain,” explains Kariuki who at the time did not want to imagine the worst. She tried everything a person in such situation would do but her efforts yield no fruits. Her friends and the hotel staff were not helpful at this moment. “My friends only encouraged me and finally we parted ways as everybody said they had some other business to attend to,” observes Kariuki. “I felt abandoned because these were my close friends and I thought they could have helped me but now they were deserting me. It was painful moment,” she explains. She adds: “I was left alone crying bitterly.”

At this time, Kariuki recalls, her voice had started going down slowly. “I just wanted somebody who could check my throat and assure me that all was well. For I had tried to look for help in drug stores but they were not helpful.”

Fish bone

It is at this juncture that she decided to call another friend who offered to meet and take her to hospital for check up. They went to Masaba Hospital where an X-ray was carried out and the doctors realised that a big fish bone had blocked her throat. Until today, it has remained a mystery to Kariuki as to how the bone landed at that place on her throat. “In fact, the bone was lying near my vocal chord,” she says. The doctors were amazed and in dilemma over the step to take next as they started discussing the matter in front of her. Kariuki felt discouraged that the doctors were not sure if they could deal with her case. Even at this time, Kariuki, a staunch Christian kept confessing that she is not dying but will live to declare the goodness of the Lord. Finally they reached a conclusion that they would not attempt to remove it and instead referred her to Kenyatta National Hospital where they were no stretchers to take her to the theatre. One nurse in the hospital suggested to the people she was with to take her to Nairobi Women’s Hospital. At this time, Kariuki was not in a position to utter a word. “The operation was conducted at M P Shah Hospital. It took five hours 45 minutes,” she says. Although they never saw the fish bone for at the time it had already settled in her stomach, the doctors said internal bleeding would have

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killed her. She was left bedridden for four months and could not eat anything as she was on a drip. The time she started eating, she was only allowed water which she was being given with a spoon. It took five months before she could speak and then it was only a whisper. “When one of my doctors of Indian descent realised that I was whispering he confessed that I served a true God,” says Kariuki. However, this was not the end of her tribulations. After recovering from the surgery, she decided to visit some of relatives in Thika. On the way there, she was involved in an accident. This was a bad accident that left her paralysed. Today Kariuki cannot walk as she has been lying in bed since 2006. The other occupants in the car she was travelling in escaped the accident with minor injuries. “The car just overturned and rolled several times. I am the only person who was injured,” says Kariuki who confesses that she has accepted that and can’t question God about it.

Recording artist

Ann Kariuki during the launch of her song Gikombe at P.C.E.A St Kariuki started recording gosAdrews hall in Nairobi. Ann has been bedridden for four years now. pel songs in 2000. These are songs Picture: Henry Kahara in Kikuyu language. However, before the accidents she served as an evangelist. Although Kariuki’s family has been geon as well as psychiatrist (trauma), Today she moves in a wheelchair supportive, they are overstretched be- pain specialist,” she explains. and no longer ministers. cause they do not have the resources to Above all she believes that she The only time she ministered in aid her needs. She has been forced to will one day stand again and preach the recent past was outside her house rely on well wishers. the gospel. “I know I will not die like early this year when she launched Today Kariuki moves from one this, because I believe my God lives, her new album at St Andrews PCEA hospital to another as she has to see a you may think I don’t know what I’m (Gikombe). team of doctors. saying but I want people to know that She recorded that album after the “I suffered spinal injury, my blad- I will walk again,” says Kariuki. She accident. The theme of the song is the der was interfered with, my nerves adds: “My faith in God has kept me “Cup of suffering”. were affected so I have to see neurosur- going.”

Opening up opportunities for challenged children By ABISAI AMUGUNE Phyllis Ombisa does not tire from ensuring that deaf children in Trans Nzoia County get educated just like other normal children in any ordinary classroom. Since 2009 when she started a special unit for deaf children attached to St Columban’s Primary School in Kitale town, Ombisa has had a difficult task of empowering with education children aged between five to 15 years. A mother of four, Ombisa, 45, initially started with five children who had been referred to the Kitale Education Assessment Resource Centre after being abandoned by their parents. Until July 2010, when the unit was upgraded to a boarding level, Ombisa had struggled with security of the children especially from motorists and other road users. The children would come from far areas like Bikeke, Endebess, Kibomet and Matisi with little help from guides, a distance ranging from between five and 20 kilometres.

Meaningless

“The deaf cannot communicate freely as they don’t understand sign language just like the blind people. They are always at risk while walking on the road since even hooting is meaningless to them,” said Ombisa in an interview with Reject. A month ago, the unit for the deaf was registered as a full-fledged school and separated from the primary section. However, it is facing challenges of operating autonomously. The headmaster of St Columban’s Primary School, Kenneth Kuywa expects the unit for the deaf to start getting direct funds from the Minis-

try of Education following the separation. The Kitale Municipal Education Officer Juma Omweno said as a local authority they will mobilise resources to help the deaf become achievers. Said Omweno: “We want parents to discard this negative attitude of ignoring education for their handicapped children. Given the opportunity their disability can be proven not to be an inability.” Trans Nzoia County has several institutions for both physically and mentally handicapped children including St Columban’s, St Christopher in Cherangani, Birunda in Saboti and Endebess in Kwanza District. According to Ombisa, those who handle physically handicapped children are leading efforts to eradicate stigmatising language used to refer to them like kiziwi (deaf) to the hearing impaired, the mentally-handicapped or mentally and visually-impaired as well as those with low vision. Ombisa with 13-year experience in special education says the number of handicapped individuals in the county was growing due to the changing lifestyles. This, she said, was discovered when the children gathered for sports activities adding that the figure could rise if parents who regarded such children as a “curse” and “bad omen” removed them from homes where they are hidden. “Drug-taking, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking and self-medication among pregnant women has been discovered to affect the foetus,” explained Ombisa. She added that wife inheritance and adultery have also been identified as a major cause for children born with im-

pairments. Diseases like malaria, meningitis, mumps, Tuberculosis, high-blood pressure and malnutrition were cited as other contributing factors to deafness. “During our meetings with parents, we always advise them to guard their children against accidents such as explosions,” says Ombisa. She added: “We also ask mothers to go for ceaserian operation if necessary.” It was also discovered that because most handicapped children come from poor families, it had become difficult to sustain them in special schools.

Specialised treatment

“Because both the children and the education itself is expensive, they require special treatment like hearing aids, braille, magnified glasses and walking canes,” Ombisa said. However, most parents are unable to pay fees for their children and this exposes them to the risk of abandoning school. At St Columban’s School, each child is charged KSh15,000 per year, which includes cost for boarding. The school has a population of 35 pupils. A month ago, the school was threatened with closure when the only Matron Caroline Stingo and other volunteer workers demanded to be paid salaries. Quick action by the school’s management saw well-wishers come to its rescue with the donation of food stuff and other basic humanitarian facilities. Khetia Chain of supermarkets donated foodstuff to the institution. One of its directors Ashok Khetia said as a corporate they had a social responsibility to assist in the education of the poor

Kenyan child. Kitale Catholic Diocese Bishop Maurice Crowley, who is also a teacher, noted that children only become unable if they are not taken to school. “It is your responsibility as parents to educate your child and if you are unable, the issue should be raised to the community around you,” observed Crowley as his Church staff donated food to the school. Kitale Centre for Integrated Programme is currently collecting data on local visually disadvantaged persons to integrate them into meaningful employment groups. The centre’s head Juliet Khajesanga says adult deaf in had been identified as able mothers, carpenters and painters who have well-todo families. “Life for them is normal. The only difference is that they have no physical sign to show their impairment,” noted Khajesanga. A volunteer teacher at St Columban’s School, Violet Asega says there is nothing difficult to be achieved by a deaf pupil who is determined for success. For example, she says, her deaf daughter Winnie Mudola is currently a Form I student at St Kizito Secondary School in Kericho. She also mentioned several deaf Kenyan athletes who had become millionaires through participating in sports activities. “Is this not achievement by deaf people? Why then should we look down upon deaf people?” she posed. For Ombisa, the deaf have the capacity to compete favourably with the other normal human beings.


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ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Child neglect on the rise among working parents By AGGREY BUCHUNJU Under normal circumstances and by all standards Ebby Nakhauka, 14, is supposed to be in Standard Eight. However, this is not the case. The girl is in Standard Two at Mupeli Primary School in Bungoma Municipality. Her agemates are way ahead of her, some of them already in secondary school. Despite being born to parents who are working, Nakhauka has never enjoyed or experienced parental love for the better part of her life. Her parents separated when she was only two years old. In 2000, when Nakhauka turned three, she was left under the care of her ageing grandmother as her mother left for Nairobi to look for a job. Unfortunately, the grandmother has since died.

No concern

Nakhauka‘s mother has been working in Nairobi as a maid while her estranged husband who was an employee of Nzoia Sugar Company has since retired. Unfortunately, none of her parents have ever been concerned about her welfare. They all seem to have neglected her and have not bothered to find out how she survives. After her grandmother died, Nakhauka had nobody from either her father’s or mother’s family to stay with. Nakhauka’s case is not the only one. She is among many children who

are neglected by both parents. While it is generally believed that children whose parents are employed are all smiles, especially at month end, this is not the case. Children expect love and affection from their parents at all times. Child protection and parental care is enshrined in the Bill of Rights, Article 53 [1] d and e of the Constitution which state: Every child has the right to be protected from abuse, neglect, harmful cultural practices, all forms of violence, inhuman treatment and punishment and hazardous or exploitative labour” and “every child has a right to parental care and protection, which includes equal responsibility of the mother and father to provide for the child whether they are married or not”. The underlying fact here is that the rights of a child whether born to rich or poor parents and whether parents are married to each other or not must be protected. However, some parents continue to contravene the law with impunity, particularly during this time

of the new constitutional dispensation. Nakhauka is lucky in that the Reverend Joseph Barasa of Emmaus Reformed Church of East Africa (RCEA) Church in Bungoma town and his wife Janeffer Barasa have offered to take care of her.

Enrollment

The couple even took the initiative to enrol Nakhauka in Mupeli Primary School in Standard Two. The girl had stayed out of school for sometime before enrolling in school and had to repeat a class. “The girl used to stay with a certain  woman in town here who we discovered  was a distant aunt,” explained Barasa. He claims her desperate situation and failure to go to school prompted him to probe into her background. After establishing that her biological parents had neglected the girl, Barasa decided to take her into his custody. “Since I started staying with the girl three years ago, her mother came

“Since I started staying with the girl three years ago, her mother came here only once. This was also the first time the girl was seeing her since 2001.” — Joseph Barasa

A child enjoying his bath time. Children have the right to protection from their guardians. Picture: Shem Suchia here only once. This was also the first time the girl was seeing her since 2001,” he noted. Barasa claimed that efforts to trace the girl’s father have been fruitless. “We hear that he is a former employee of Nzoia Sugar Company and a resident of Kabula Location but our efforts to trace him even through the provincial administration have failed,” he said.

Janeffer said Nakhauka is now part and parcel of their family. “As Christians we wholeheartedly welcomed her to this family and she is here to stay as long as she wishes,” observed Janeffer. Speaking to the Reject Nakhauka said she is determined to learn up to Standard 8. “I want to become a tailor after completing Standard Eight,” she said.

Insecurity in Kitui County worrying

Mayor promises to serve diligently                           

By OCHIENG JUMA & BONIFACE MULU

By BONIFACE MULU Kitui Mayor Alex Mwendwa Munyoki has assured the public that he will serve them effectively, adding that his joy is to see himself serving the people of Kitui wholeheartedly. “We conducted our council’s mayoral elections two months ago where I was re-elected unopposed for the second term as the Kitui Mayor,” Munyoki observed. He added: “A leader who does not fear God cannot serve the people.” The Mayor was speaking at the weekend during a funds-drive in aid of the construction of Bishop’s residential house for the Kitui Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) and the diocesan guest house held at the St Martin’s Cathedral.

When there is insecurity at any given place, it is the common man and woman who suffers. The people of Kitui County are worried about the rate at which insecurity is rising. Through one of their Members of Parliament, who serves as the people’s representative, they are asking that the Government rectifies the situation. Mutito MP Kiema Kilonzo has asked the Government to beef up security within Kenyan borders to help build peace with neighbouring countries. Speaking in Kitui Central constituency, Kilonzo lamented that his constituents have been victim to

attacks from people believed to be from a neighbouring country. He noted that although the area security team had been notified, they have since done nothing to address the problem. He is, therefore, calling on the Government to equip security officers with enough machinery that will help curb the situation before it gets out of hand. “The police are not able to respond to distress calls when residents are attacked by people who are non-citizens. Some of my constituents have been attacked and driven from their homes by the same people,” said Kilonzo. He added: “We are calling on the Government to provide security for all Kenyans as entrenched in the Constitution.”

Some area residents claim Somali herdsmen have invaded parts of Kitui County with their animals in search of pasture and water.

Assurance

Speaking at the same forum, Internal security Permanent Secretary Francis Kimemia assured Kenyans that the Government is working hard to ensure that every citizen is protected. “The government has already deployed administrators to the newly created districts to devolve services to Kenyans,” said. Kimemia. Separately, Kitui West Member of Parliament Charles Mutisya Nyamai has expressed concern over the rising insecurity in Kanyanyi, Kanyongonyo, Kiseuni and Nzongoni

locations in the Lower Yatta District within his constituency. He appealed to the Government to beef up security in the four locations by providing more administration police officers at the Kanyanyi Police Post. The MP said that the four administrative locations are far from the district headquarters in Kyusyani. “The locations are 32 kilometres away from the district headquarters,” Nyamai noted. He added: “Last month, a loaded gun was found in a bush in Kiseuni location.” He was speaking at the Kanyangi Catholic Parish Centre where he had been invited as the chief guest by all church leaders from Kanyangi, Kanyongonyo, Kiseuni and Nzongoni locations during a prayer meeting.

Stakeholders challenged to fight substance abuse to reduce road accidents By KARIUKI MWANGI Eastern Provincial police officer Marcus Ocholla has called upon all the stakeholders in the fight against the use of drugs and alcohol abuse to come out in full force and fight the drug menace that has rocked the country.  Ocholla said drug abuse and alcohol menace particularly among drivers and conductors had reached alarming levels. Ocholla reiterated that it was time that all those concerned joined hands in the fight before the situation worsens. “This province has recorded the highest number of road accidents this year particularly

in August and September, a rate that has never been witnessed before,” observed Ocholla. He noted that the investigations by the Traffic Department has shown that most of the accidents in which over 40 people lost their lives and scores of injured in the two months had been caused by alcohol and drug abuse. Ocholla who was speaking in Embu while closing a three day workshop for key staff from the criminal justice system pointed out that it is only collaboration between all the stakeholders involved that will ensure the menace is contained. “It is time to equip all stakeholders with effective knowledge to enable them respectively

take their roles in the prevention of alcohol and drug abuse in society,” reiterated Ocholla. He pointed out that controlling abuse of alcohol and drugs in the matatu industry will help in ensuring the drivers and conductors are always sober. With this they will then be able to follow traffic rules and make informed decisions while on the road. “We are also calling upon stakeholders in the matatu industry not to give jobs to people who abuse drugs and alcohol so that they can style up and realise that they need to be sober to protect the lives of the passengers,” he said. Ocholla also called upon those in the criminal justice system in the province to formulate

and implement innovative alcohol and drug demand reduction strategies and also facilitate suppressing the supply of alcohol and other drugs. He urged the officials to work at the implementation of the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act 2010 and also to offer care of referral for treatment and rehabilitation and psycho-social support to person’s living with the drug abuse challenge. “We need to offer support not only by stopping the drug and alcohol abuse menace in the society, but also in helping those with the challenge to rehabilitate and overcome it,” he noted.


ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

15

Ann Mwangi: Kenya’s own angel of mercy By HENRY KAHARA It is hard to find somebody opening a children’s home without foreign assistance if he/she is not a wealthy person who just wants to help the less fortunate. However, those who have been called to serve the vulnerable in society will do so without first extending a hand to beg for support. So is the case for Ann Njeri Mwangi, who has been able to give the less privileged a chance to smile after getting touched by the plight of vulnerable children. For the past seven years, Mwangi has been running a children’s home alone, something that surprises her since she never thought it would go that far. “I had not planned to open a children’s home but it just started as something of good,” says Mwangi who is the proprietor of Talent Academy for the destitute children in Githurai, Nairobi. Mwangi was pushed to the idea after visiting Gatanga where she came across children who were infected with jiggers.

Jiggers

“I was shocked to see that there are still cases of jiggers in the 21st Century, something that is unbelievable,” she explains. She then decided to know more about the children and their parents’ whereabouts. Mwangi was directed and after dialoguing with them, they gave her permission to go with them. Mwangi stayed with the two children in her house at Rose Avenue in Nairobi for long as she had to take care of them. “I and my helper at that time did a lot of work to these children, removing jiggers from their body until they were well,” she explains. The two children were just the beginning. After the post election violence of 2007-2008, the burden increased as she took in some of the children who were affected by the clashes to be part of her family. However, this time round she could not accommodate all of them so she decided to find an alternative. “It is at this time when something clicked in my mind to put to use my plot in Githurai where tenants used to give me headache and turn it into a children’s home,” observes Mwangi.

Currently she has 17 children. However, she can only accommodate more with extra funding. “We live from hand to mouth and how God feeds these children I cannot tell. It is a miraculous thing,” she confesses. Today the children attend Githurai Primary School (a public school). They are under a care giver and a few women who have been contracted to cook for them. The care taker does her work voluntarily and Mwangi only caters for food and salaries for the cooks. “I am not rich. It is just that I am happy when sharing the little that God has given me with others,” she observes. Mwangi is a mother of three, two sons and a daughter. The girl is adopted. Mwangi adopted five-year-old Sophia Neema and named after her own mother for she got her in an extraordinary way. “I got Sophia while she was one week old. I found her wrapped in a paper bag and disposed along the road in Mlolongo,” narrates Mwangi. “I was in church at St Paul’s Chapel. I usually leave my phone in my car but that day I had carried it to church. It rang twice but I ignored, however, on the third ring I decided to go out to pick it,” she recalls.

Dumped

On the line was her friend Pastor Ann Wangui who wanted Mwangi’s assistance as they had found a baby disposed in a paper bag. Mwangi never hesitated and immediately went to where the baby had been found. After speaking with the area chief, they agreed that first they take it to hospital for check up. “Thanks to God that she was well,” says Mwangi as she recalls the scenario. It is after this when they followed the procedures of finding the whereabouts of the baby’s mother or next of kin to no avail. Mwangi approached the relevant Government department who gave her permission to take care of the baby. Eventually, she organised to adopt her legally. Today she has all the relevant legal documents to show that the child belongs to her. Mwangi says that the child has been a blessing to her and even if the mother of the child comes she cannot give her back. Mwangi made sure that the baby is not a secret and she even took her to the church for prayers and dedication.

From top: Ann Mwangi during the interview. With two of her children. Ann with her daughter Sophie Neema. Sophie was a week old when Ann found her dumped along the road at Mlolongo. Pictures: Henry Kahara “I took the baby and introduced her to my parishioners and now even the whole church knows that I have her,” she says. Although she has done all this, Mwangi says that the Government has remained to be an obstacle for it has barred her from obtaining the birth certificates of some of her children who she doesn’t know their parents. “The officers who issue certificates at Sheria House have not helped me to get them birth certificates,” she says. Mwangi notes: “Some of the children are almost sitting for the national examination where a birth certificate is required for them to register for the examinations.” She urges people to help one another with the little they have for this is the only way to bring change in the country. “We need to come together and help one another in times of need,”

she observes. Mwangi was born in Eldama Ravine and brought up in Nakuru by her mother who separated from her father when she was eight years old. She recalls that her mother used to sell chang’aa that earned her money for their upkeep. After primary school, Mwangi joined Menengai High School. Once she was through with secondary school, she joined a tertiary college in Nairobi for a typing and shorthand course. She later worked with Cross Safari as a receptionist and tour guide before she moved with Kulia Investment. Later, she got a job with Russel Harvock advocates as a secretary before she resigned and started her own business — salon, beauty and design shop — under the name Lady Ann Beauty Parlour.

Mobile registration of persons rolled out Residents urged to pick birth certificates By ERIC MUTAI District registrar of persons will be able to record all registrations once the Government rolls out mobile documentation of persons. Minister for Immigration and Registration of Persons Otieno Kajwang’ has said the move will help cut on a huge backlog of people seeking to acquire identity cards and birth certificates. “All registrars in the country have received money to fuel their vehicles for mobile registration and if this runs out we will ask the Treasury for more so that we can continue with the exercise and see to it that all Kenyans are registered according to their constitutional rights,” noted Kajwang’. He said schools will be used as registration centres since teachers know the pupils and they will be assisted by provincial administrators. He also said that by the end of this financial year there will no longer be cases of pupils lacking birth certificates. Speaking after opening the Eastern Province passport issuance

office in Embu, Kajwang’ said all pupils will have been covered in a few months. He said the Government is decentralising issuance of national passports to all the counties to reduce the work load in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu passport issuance offices. Currently the Government has opened passport issuance offices in Garissa, Embu, Bungoma and Machakos and others will be opened in Nyeri and Kisii. According to Kajwang’, Mombasa and Kisumu offices have also been refurbished. Eastern Provincial Commissioner Claire Omolo urged the ministry to open another office in Isiolo which has been identified for creation of a resource city to help with the problem of illegal immigration in the province. She said that the porous border in upper eastern has led to many aliens entering the country adding that within the last month several have been arrested. “When giving identity cards to immigrants, they should have a photo and identity card number

of the bearer to help us curb the problem of illegal immigration,” observed Omollo. The Government has also acquired a machine to print plastic identity cards after the former material that it used to print the current cards was phased out of the international market. The current backlog of persons seeking identity cards resulted after the Government could not find the material it previously used to print the cards. It had to buy the new plastic material. Kajwang’ said the Government had to look for machines that could print the plastic cards. “We want to register all Kenyans because it is their constitutional right that they have identity cards and birth certificates,” noted Kajwang’. He added: “It would be a contradiction to say everyone has a right to the cards and at the same time not issue them.” He said that the Government will make sure that all Kenyans who have attained 18 years and have applied for their identity cards receive them before the 2012 elections.

By KARIUKI MWANGI The office of the Registrar of persons in Embu West is holding over identification and birth documents that have not been picked by applicants. According to the of Embu West district commissioner Maalim Mohamed, the Embu registration of persons office has in its possession, 5,000 birth certificates, 1,300 identity cards and over 200 death certificates which have not been collected by those who applied for them. He called on residents of Embu County who had applied for death and birth certificates as well as identity cards at the Embu Registrar of Person’s Office to pick them. He said the office was having problems processing more papers because a large numbers of the documents had not been collected. He called on the owners to pick them up and give room for more to be processed. “It is wrong for members of the public to complain of poor services at the various government departments whereas they too are contributing to the confusion,” he noted. Maalim lamented that it was only a few months ago when there was an influx of persons needing birth certificates so as to

beat the various examination deadlines but now nobody cares about picking them up. “This trend of crowding at Government departments in a last minute rush to get birth certificates and identity cards should stop,” he stressed. He advised members of the public to learn to apply for these documents early enough to avoid a last minute rush that leads to confusion. He said members of the public should realise that the various offices do not have sufficient human resources. He explained that when they flock the offices in a last minute rush all they do is cause confusion and even stall the process. Maalim urged members of the public to take advantage of the mobile registration of persons programme to acquire birth certificates and identity cards. “This programme is meant to bring the services closer to the people and members of the public should take advantage of it to acquire everything they need,” he noted. Maalim pointed out that the Government is in the process of opening other various government departments in Runyenjes and Manyatta in Embu East and Embu North respectively so as to decentralise the services.


16

ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Teacher beats all odds despite being blind

we have to prepare notes for his class work. On Sundays, we normally go to church together. Sometimes he helps me milk our cows. Nothing can separate us.” The wife, who is a reader recognised by Government, helps Kiragu to prepare notes before he does them on Braille. “My pupils are so eager to learn my subjects. They are cooperative and hard working,” observes Kiragu. Most of his pupils have been passing very well and in 2008, his subject of Social Studies was number one in the school with a mean score of 55. The school has, therefore, delegated other duties to him including guidance and counselling as well as leading school prayers. Pupils have changed their behaviour due to his influence. However, according to the head teacher, John Irungu Gakunju, the teacher is excused from some physical activities due to his disability.

By JOSEPH MUKUBWA

For the last 15 years, he has been a teacher at the learning institution. He has pushed aside his visual impairment and can write well on the blackboard. After mastering all of his pupils’ voices, Paul Kiragu even knows all his pupils by their names. He knows the school compound well and walks one kilometre to and from school daily. He is able to make this journey because of mobility skills that he learned while he was in college. Despite ongoing construction on the road to school, he never fails to make it. “I’m never late to class. I know every classroom which I’m supposed to go to as well as the time to start and end a subject without being late,” Kiragu says. Despite being blind, Kiragu has proved to many that he can overcome his disability and ensure pupils pass in his subjects. Kiragu, 45, a teacher at Kariko Primary School in Othaya, Nyeri County has disregarded his blindness to make proud his profession. The class teacher of Standard 7 West was born with proper eye sight. However, when in Form IV and he was admitted at Mathari Mission Hospital for two weeks.

Integrated school

Diagnosis

He was later transferred to Kenyatta National Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a blood clot in the head. He had to undergo an operation. “In 1984, I lost sight at the hospital but was later taken to Italy for check up, where I was admitted for two months. However, finally doctors told me they were unable to save my sight,” he says. This started a long journey for the father of four children. His life looked hopeless without eyes. “My dream of becoming a priest was shattered and I had to think otherwise,” notes Kiragu. He adds: “I thought this was the end of the world, but later I joined Thika High School for the Blind, where I repeated classes from Form

Kariko Primary School teacher in Othaya Paul Kiragu, 45 walking from the staffroom to class. Picture: Joseph Mukubwa Three and continued up to Form six. He continues: “I later joined Highridge Teachers’ Training College. After graduation, I was employed by Teachers Service Commission in year 1985.” He was posted in the same school in Kariko that he had attended as a boy. Kiragu teaches languages, that is, English and Kiswahili as well as social studies and Christian Religious Education (CRE). Fellow teachers sometimes assist him in his work, but his wife, Cecilia Mumbi, who is a

qualified early child development teacher, helps him in marking exams and preparing lesson plans. Prefects help him to know which pupils are absent. Kiragu got married in 1996, and since then, Mumbi has been helping her husband with school work. “I wake up very early in the morning and prepare my husband first before my children. I sometimes escort him to school and in the evening, I sometimes go for him when there is no teacher to escort him back,” she says. “At night,

“I’m so comfortable teaching in a normal school, and I would not like to go to a special school. I want to be integrated with other normal teachers here,” says Kiragu. He challenges others who are visually challenged not to sit and start begging on the streets, but continue pursuing a profession. The head teacher says that fellow teachers are inspired by Kiragu’s work since he is very hard working and has played a role in raising the school’s position in the district. “He performs his work unsupervised. His disability has not affected the school’s performance,” noted Irungu. The school was number 12 out of 18 public primary schools in the zone. Some of those from the area who passed through Kiragu’s class have become leaders in the district. The school with a population of 364 pupils has 13 teachers, with nine employed by TSC and four employed by the Board of Governors. Both pupils and teachers interviewed say that Kiragu is their role model.

Cyclists sensitised on Bars close to schools denied operation licences safety standards By KARIUKI MWANGI Boda boda motorcycle operators in Embu County have been urged to compliment the conducive environment the Government has provided for their business by following the required traffic rules and regulations. Eastern Provincial Traffic Officer Joseph Kimeli said the Government has provided the best conducive environment for the youth to develop themselves economically. He urged the operators to take advantage of the support and develop while following the right procedures. Kimeli who was speaking during a meeting with the operators and the Kenya Revenue Authority in Embu town said that the operators should go to the right driving schools which will ensure they get the legitimate driving licenses.

Bogus training

He said most of the operators were going through bogus training after which they were being issued with fake licenses to operate driving schools. This resulted in accidents and their being arrested for not following the law. He also called on boda boda operators to develop a good relationship with law enforcement officers saying that gone are the days that members of the public used to fear police officers.

He said because of fearing police officers, the operators have been running away from them using the wrong routes which have led to accidents and loss of lives. He said they should have genuine reasons to argue positively with the officers and solve the underlying issues. “Good cooperation between the police and boda boda operators has led to a decline of accidents caused by motorcycles in the area,” noted Kimeli. He added: “It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure safety of all Kenyans and prevent loss of lives.” He urged the operators to pick the details of the passengers they carry at night so as to help reduce crime saying that the criminals are using motorcycles as they can be able to access many areas. Embu Central District Officer Flavia Akumu said that the Government will continue to support youth-friendly businesses such as the boda boda industry to ensure more young people have a chance to develop themselves economically. Akumu said: “The boda boda industry has helped improve the transport sector in the country particularly in the remote areas where there was lack of reliable means.” He called on the boda boda operators to take the initiative of enrolling with the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) to enable them settle their hospital bills in case of accidents.

By KARIUKI MWANGI and ODHIAMBO ODHIAMBO District liquor licensing boards have rejected applications from 78 bar owners in two districts. The board in Mbeere North District rejected applications from 60 bar owners in the region, while in Kuria West they rejected 18. There were 118 bar owners who had applied for licence to operate bars and restaurants in Mbeere North District. According to area District Commissioner John Chelimo said the committee rejected license applications of 44 bars, 13 bars and restaurants, three nightclubs as they did not meet the required standards. The committee sitting at the district headquarters in Siakago also rejected applications of two beer distributors. Chelimo said that out of the 118 license applications which had been forwarded to the district licensing committee, only 64 applications met the required standards. He pointed out that most of the applications were rejected because the bars were too close to learning institutions. “We want to emphasise that we

are giving priority to the improvement of education in Mbeere North District and we cannot approve any activity that is a threat to education,” noted Chelimo. He reiterated that the administration is following up all illegal activities that are posing a threat particularly to the boy child education and will not relent in taking a serious action against such activities. Chelimo said that the administration is not against any person conducting any business in the area but reiterated that the businesses should be conducted for the best interests of the community.

Health standards

Mbeere North District Public Health Officer Robert Kitulya pointed out that most of the applicants for the licenses failed to meet the required health standards as most of them had constructed only a urinal and no other utilities for the women. The licensing committee further resolved to conduct weekly inspection to ensure the rules and regulations are followed and threatened to arrest anyone who will be operating illegally. They

called on members of the public to be vigilant and report any breach of regulations by the bar operators. At the same time, the District Liquor Licensing Board in Kuria West has rejected renewal applications for 18 bars that were closed down and ordered the police to ensure they remained shut. The 18 bars in Kuria West District that were located near schools were all closed down. District Commissioner James Mugwe said the bars, which were located less than 300 metres from learning institutions, were giving learners “a bad moral orientation”. However, the board approved applications by 32 bar owners who had met the set standards. They were asked to continue abiding by the Mututho laws to avert cancellations of their operation permits. At the same time, Mugwe decried mushrooming of private nursery schools in the area most of which were located in the estates. He asked education authorities to close down the illegal schools that offered sub-standard education in the dilapidated environments and conned parents of their hard-earned cash.


ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

Kenyans advised to go for flu vaccine By AYOKI ONYANGO When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared flu a pandemic  two years ago, critics said the UN health agency was influenced by leading multi-national and the international pharmaceutical companies, which wanted to sell seasonal flu vaccines. This, however, could not be true because when WHO declared global flu pandemic there were no specific vaccines for swine flu HINI strain. It took more than six months for the first vaccine that could prevent H1N1 swine flu stain to be manufactured. Although the flu pandemic is over, last seasonal flu vaccine and this year’s seasonal flu vaccines have been formulated to protect against H1N1 strain, which was responsible for the flu pandemic. The H1N1 was also responsible for deaths across the globe. Before the latest flu pandemic, seasonal flu vaccines did not have the component that prevents the H1N1 strain. According to Dr Joseph Aluoch, a leading chest specialist, key strains of the virus which cause or are responsible for human infections are influenza A H3N2, H1N1, H1N2 viruses and influenza B. The US Centre for Disease Control now says the inclusion of swine H1N1 strain in this year’s seasonal flu vaccine would significantly give cross protection. It must be remembered that swine flu or strain H1N1 killed many people since its emergence more two years ago. At a workshop marking the launch of this season’s flu vaccine, Kenya’s vaccines specialist Dr Moses Mwangi clarified that it is the composition of the vaccine that changes while the brand name remains the same.

Rise

“It is important to take seasonal flu vaccine, especially this year since transmission of swine flu among people has been on the rise in the past three years,” noted Mwangi. “Apparently, most of the cases and deaths from swine flu virus have no history of exposure to pigs,” said observed Aluoch. He noted that influenza virus infection is a highly contagious respiratory disease that spreads easily and is responsible for considerable morbidity and mortality every year. Experts say flu kills about half a million people globally every year. “The influenza virus is changing constantly and that is why flu/influenza vaccines must be taken every year,” reiterated Aluoch, adding that they must also be updated every year. According to Mwangi, who is a senior manager with Sanofi-Aventis Group, the company’s vaccine brand — Vaxigrip — can now protect against swine flu H1N1 in addition to other strains. He said even though everybody is at risk of flu infections especially of swine, the highest risk groups, who must be vaccinated are health care workers, children, the elderly persons and those with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, kidney and lung diseases as well as HIV/Aids patients among others. The medics were speaking during the launch of this year’s seasonal flu vaccine Vaxigrip and Vaxigrip junior for children at a Nairobi hotel attended by more than 200 medics and paramedics. They noted that the flu is different from common cold which is mild and cannot kill while flu infection can develop into serious complications such as pneumonia and cause death. Aluoch says the principle cause of the death in flu patients is pneumonia and advises that the dual vaccination against flu and pneumonia is very important to offer maximum protection. The pneumococcal vaccine is branded Pneumo 23.

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

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Mother seeks help to save her leg By JOHN SYENGO A woman in Mwingi is on the road to having her lower right leg amputated due to a rare malignant skin ailment unless well-wishers came to her help. Anna Mwiyathi, who has suffered a rare fungal skin infection that has seen the leg swell and develop warts has been advised by medical officers to have it amputated to ease the excruciating pain she is undergoing. However, Mwiyathi believes that her condition is curable if she can receive the right treatment. She said that in the initial stages of her illness, doctors who had attended to her at Kenyatta National Hospital advised her that with proper but costly therapy, her condition could be cured. “The doctors told me if I could attend regular clinics and therapy at the hospital at a cost of KSh2800 per visit, my condition could be cured completely,” she explained adding: “I cannot afford such expensive therapy due to poverty and other demanding family commitments.”

Amputation

Although she is fully aware that failure to get proper treatment could lead to her leg being amputated, Mwiyathi further laments that losing the leg would not only spell doom on her but also on the future of her three children whom she has been fending for, single handedly. Speaking to the Reject at her Kaela home in Kanzanzu location of Mwingi Central, Mwiyathi appealed well-wishers to assist her get the required medical attention to reverse the downward spiral her life was taking. She said although her condition started in 1980 when she was still a pupil at Ndaluni Primary School, things have worsened since she got married in the 1990s as the warts and the swelling on her leg increased in size as she got to her child bearing years. “By the time I gave birth to my last born in 2002, the condition had worsened such that despite the swelling and the warts, it was hurting badly,” explained Mwiyathi. She added: “Occasionally I have been experiencing excruciating pains which led doctors at Mwingi hospital to recommend that I have the lower limb removed.” However, Mwiyathi said that she was afraid that the cutting of her limb would be to her disadvantage as it would immobilise and confine

her to a wheelchair as well as rob her of her mobility. “Even in my condition I literally drag the ailing leg along as I routinely move to the river to draw water which I sell to other villagers or at construction sites to raise money to fend for my children,” Mwiyathi explained. She added: “I have a child who is now a KCSE candidate at Ndaluni Secondary School and raising fees had been a big struggle.” She said the sorry state had been aggravated by the fact that her husband left their rural home to seek employment in Mombasa nearly eight years ago but had not returned leaving her with the responsibility of taking care of the children. “Whenever my husband communicates, he talks of the problems he has in getting employment. Even my pleas to him to come back home have gone unheeded because he always claims that he cannot raise bus fare to return home,” she said of her absentee husband.

Family

Her father-in-law, Musili Kyamana, who was present as she narrated her story, said he has had to chip in on a number of occasions whenever his secondary school grandson was sent away from school for lack of school fees. “I do not know what happened to my son since he left behind a sick wife and school going children who need constant at- Anna Mwiyathi whose leg has suffered a rare fungal skin infection that has seen the leg swell and develop tention,” rued Mzee Kyamana. Area chief Kanzanzu Maluki warts has been advised by medical officers to have it amputated. Picture: John Syengo Mang’ara said that Mwiyathi’s predicament was occasionally the special needs. This then ensures that she gets talk of the village but no one has preferential treatment during the distribution ever thought about helping her get treatment of famine relief rations. because the locals believe her problem was terHowever, he said if her problem could be minal. cured, any support would be most welcome as Speaking at his Musukini market office, it would go a long way in alleviating the sufferChief Mang’ara said the best he has done for ing she has had to bear. Mwiyathi was to classify her among those with

More people now in need relief By LUCY LANGAT The number of people in need of relief food in East Pokot district has tripled in the last five months even as most parts of the country record heavy rains. Area District Commissioner Amos Mariba said 66,000 people were receiving relief food against 26,300 who were benefiting in March. The number was increased after a recommendation by Kenya National Food Security Steering Committee, following a survey in the district. He said this number was expected to rise even more as the area was experiencing low rains and farmers expected minimal harvest. “Last year we had bumper harvests in Chulo and Tangulubei, but this year the rains are low and we do not expect much harvest as the end of long rains is around the corner,” observed Mariba. The two areas had harvested twice last year and had not been targeted for relief food this year. All schools in the district are currently benefiting through school feeding pro-

gramme as children lacked enough food in their homes. Though the relief food supply in the area was expected to last over the next six months, the Mariba said the period was likely to be doubled if there will not be enough rains. At the same time, 70 per cent of the population in Marighat District is still receiving relief food even after the onset of long rains last April.

Weather patterns

Area District Commissioner Saul Moywaywa said the district had recorded relatively low rains and pasture was still scarce. He said it would take another two to three weeks before residents, most of them who are pastoralists, get enough pasture for their livestock. “By then, they may be able to sell their livestock and get some money to buy food and the number of those receiving relief food is likely to reduce,” said Mariba. He said only 10 per cent of the district was fertile and suitable for growing food crops while the rest was arid. Farmers within the fertile area, mainly within

Muchongoi Division, are expected to start harvesting maize between August and October. The relief food is being provided by World Vision, the area’s World Food Program lead agent and the government. In Nakuru County, farmers are expecting a bumper harvest as rains have been high in most parts. Earlier, farmers had expressed fears of low harvest and losses as the long rains, which normally fall in March, delayed to mid-April. However, they were faced another challenge in April when an acute shortage of maize seeds hit the region causing a delay in planting. This will be the second year in a row for farmers in this region to have a bumper harvest. Last year, most farmers harvested for two seasons as there was ample rainfall throughout the year. However, commercial farmers may not record much profit due to the high cost of buying seeds and fertilisers. Prices of seeds and fertilisers shot up acutely at a time when almost everything was costly due to high cost of fuel in the country.


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ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Leaders call for resuscitation of paper mill By TITUS MAERO                         Saboti Member of Parliament (MP) Eugene Wamalwa has called on the Government to resuscitate Pan African Paper Mills which collapsed in 2009 under hefty debts sending home 1,600 permanent employees and over 30,000 casual workers. Wamalwa wondered where such large workforce could go as the few factories operating in the region which were mainly milling sugar faced problems of sugar cane shortage with workers likely to be retrenched. He said it is ironical that last year the Cabinet approved a plan to revive the Webuye Paper Mill with a total of KSh500 million pumped into it but still it collapsed again as the money could not offset the debts owed to short and long term debtors. Wamalwa pointed out that the Government is capable of reviving the factory saying that it controls 33.4 per cent share holding, while an Indian owned company Biria Group has 54.3 per cent shares with other investors holding the rest of the shares. Speaking at the Cheptul Grounds in Hamisi District, Wamalwa said before the collapse of the factory it could pay KSh300 million dividend to the Government against its original investment of KSh44 million.

Taxes

Accompanied by MPs Musikari Kombo and Bonny Khalwale, Wamalwa said the Webuye company used to contribute KSh7 billion annually to the economy besides giving one billion shillings to the Exchequer in direct and indirect taxes. Wamalwa observed that before the collapse of the factory it could inject KSh25 million into Webuye’s economy every month in employee’s salaries and also through business economy in the area. He noted that Pan Paper generated close to KSh1.6 million to the Webuye Municipal Council in rates every year among other benefits noting that most investors have moved out of the area to different parts of the region after the collapse of the factory. According to records, the factory stopped operations in January 2009 following power disconnection by the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) over unpaid electricity bills amounting to KSh100 million. The company’s fortunes finally landed in the hands of receiver messers Ian Small and Kieran Day, who were appointed by among others short term lenders thus Barclays Bank, Bank of Baroda, Kenya Commercial Bank and Eco Bank Limited. The Webuye Pan Paper Mills Limited was established in 1974 with an annual production capacity of 120,000 tonnes of paper and paper boards but the company started performing poorly due to high operating costs, low capacity utilisation and competition from cheap imports. It is said the paper factory had not made profit for the past 15 years and by 2000 the situation became so grave that the company started defaulting on servicing most of its obligations.

Rustlers sever widow’s lifeline By JOHN SYENGO

In the beginning of September, she was by the standards of rural Tseikuru district in Kitui County, a wealthy villager boasting of over 100 animals in her shed. However, at the end of the same month, she had been reduced to a pauper after nearly all her animals were driven away by cattle rustlers from the neighbouring Tana River County who raided her home in Kaningo. The action left Kang’oi Musyoka, in her late 70s, is devastated and disillusioned. The animals were her only lifeline. The elderly woman, who is also widowed, is not sure how she can start rebuilding her animal stock because what was stolen had taken a lifetime to build. She has lost hope of getting help from the police in recovering the stolen animals. Narrating her story to the Reject, Kang’oi cast doubt on whether the Kenyan police force really lives to its motto of service to all. She claims that soon after her animals were stolen, no efforts were made by the police to track them. Kang’oi said the security officers who had previously been deployed to Kaningo area and its environs following vicious physical skirmishes between the locals and the encroaching Tana River pastoralist did little to help her.

Ineffective

“I am surprised that police officers did little to recover my 64 sheep, 55 goats and six head of cattle when they were driven away. When I went to Kamuthanga police post, I was asked me to make a formal report on the loss of my animals before they could swing into action,” lamented Kang’oi. She noted that since her livestock were driven away in broad daylight at Maru area next to Kamuthanga, if the security officers had been keen on trailing the thieves; they would have caught up with them and recovered the animals. Regretting that the theft of her livestock had reduced her to a pauper, Kang’oi expressed hopes that the Government would come up with a mechanism to compensate her for the big loss to enable her rebuild her life all over again. Explaining how it all happened, she told the Reject that three members on the pastoralist community that had encroached into the area ambushed her as she grazed the animals. They abducted her and made her walk them for about eight kilometres before abandoning her at the Masasini thicket. “They blindfolded and tied my hands from behind before dumping me and driving away with the animals,” she explained. According to Kang’oi, what followed were endless visits to Kamuthanga Police Post but no assistance has been forthcoming. She has since lost hope of ever recovering her livestock.

With the loss of her livestock, Kang’oi says she will now be forced to depend on alms from well-wishers and doing odd menial jobs to eke a living. “It is unfortunate because previously whenever I needed money to meet any personal

“I am surprised that police officers did little to recover my 64 sheep, 55 goats and six head of cattle when they were driven away. When I went to Kamuthanga police post, I was asked me to make a formal report on the loss of my animals before they could swing into action.“ — Kang’oi Musyoka

Kang’oi Musyoka tells of her predicament during the interview. Picture: John Syengo needs or even buy food, I would just sell one of the animals. Life was easy as I never used to beg for support. I was self sufficient,” she said adding that the theft has reduced her to a beggar. Mwingi county Council Vice Chairman Musyoka Musumali described the incident as an act that demonstrated lack of appreciation from the pastoralist community that had been accorded hospitality by locals when they moved into the area early this year in search of pasture and water. Musumali who is also the Tseikuru civic leader  called on the security personnel deployed in the Kaningo area to be more vigilant to ensure that no further acts of cattle rustling were perpetrated by the pastoralists whom with the onset of the rains have began retreating to their home in Tana River and Garissa counties. “There is need for the local security to liaise with their colleagues in Tana River and Garissa areas to ensure that the livestock stolen from Kang’oi were recovered  as losing  such a large number of animals would badly cripple the woman and rob her of her lifeline,” observed Musumali.

Leaders cautioned against inflammatory statements By KARIUKI MWANGI Eastern Provincial Commissioner Claire Omollo has cautioned political leaders from the pastoralist communities against using utterances that are capable of escalating inter-clan fighting in the upper eastern region. Omollo, who was speaking in Embu, said leaders have been using words in political platforms which in the end could incite communities into fighting.   “Leaders should particularly stop exaggerating the number of livestock stolen during raids as these are causing the aggrieved communities to work on ways of revenging and making an otherwise ‘solvable’ situation to get worse,” Omollo observed. She urged the pastoralists to respect the Modogoshe Declaration which dictates that communities moving to a different place in search of water and pasture should first consult leaders on the ground so that they can have an

understanding on how to share the available resources. This, she said, will help the communities in sharing the resources equitably. Omollo cited a situation at the Kora National Reserve where herders from North Eastern, Eastern and the Coast have camped with over 5,000 animals, a situation that has seen tension beginning to rise over mistrust.

Aggrieved

“The communities on the ground are feeling aggrieved by the presence of the herders whereas the herders say that the communities on the ground are stealing their animals,” Omollo observed said adding that the administration is doing all it can to avert a fight in the region. The PC said that security officers have been deployed at the border between Eastern and Rift Valley provinces where nine people were killed and several others seriously injured in a cattle rustling attack.

She noted that the administration has embarked on uniting the warring communities in Merti, Leisamis, Garbatulla and Isiolo districts through meetings with elders and morans on the importance of peace and unity so that there can be meaningful development in the region. “We are asking them to emulate communities in North Eastern Province and stop the fighting so that there can be meaningful development,” said Omollo. She added: “They must realise that there are no investors who can put in their money in an area with communities fighting.” She called on the communities to diversify instead of only relying on cattle rearing and include businesses and education so that the crisis caused by cattle rustling can be minimised.   “You realise that an educated community will have the knowledge of the implications of war and by educating them we will learn to be peaceful,” she reiterated.


ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

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Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Widows of the ‘war’

How State terror has left women without husbands, and sons without fathers By FLORENCE SIPALLA Alice* was in her early 20s when she met a man who was over ten years older and fell in love. “He was my senior, and had gone to campus before me,” says Alice. Alice was a Senior Six student when she met him. All was well in the beginning, she recalls with fondness. “He was a good cook and would take care of the child without me going through a lot. He was very supportive. We would share and discuss a lot.” Alice married young and had a child as she continued with her education. Her husband was a political activist who was happy to take his share of household chores. “He is the one who taught me how to cook,” she recalls. However, after a while, the political situation in Uganda changed. “There were a lot of grievances by different groups against the Government of the day,” she says. The spaces for freedom of speech and political organising were shrinking. “It is on this basis that my husband was involved with the Acholi in the Diaspora,” narrates Alice. At a point when they were talking about the situation in the country, “he confessed to me personally that he had taken a group of young men to join a rebel group that was not the Lord’s Resistance Army. He was not an Acholi but he was very passionate about their issues,” she says explaining his links with the Acholi in the Diaspora.

Political activism

Alice says that this was not the first time he was involved in political activism. He had been married before and politics had come in the way of the marriage. “He had a previous relationship and had abandoned his family and run to South Africa and Zimbabwe in hiding. He was later advised to come back thinking that things had calmed down,” she explains demonstrating that politics had indeed been a strong driver in his life. However, this came with consequences, as he could not get good jobs when he resurfaced from hiding and feared for his life. He at times even went about his business under an assumed name. “He gave me a name that was not his true name when we were dating. He could not look for jobs using his academic papers,” says Alice who adds that her husband, a social work and administration graduate would take petty jobs which did not conform to his qualifications. “I used to ask myself if he is a graduate, why is he not working, why is he not living the life?” recalls Alice. “He kept saying that he had messed up his past and wanted to regain his life,” says Alice indicating that the decisions men make have an impact on their wives and children. “I have a son who does not know his father,” says Alice. The two children he had with the other woman are traumatised. They keep asking when he is coming back and they are often told he is abroad. Alice describes herself as a widow of the war. However, she clarifies that she is a widow of a political war. This is the reason she requests that we do not use her real name. This was over five years ago but she does not want to jeopardise her family’s stability. She explains that she has since remarried and would not like to reawaken the dark past. Alice explains that her husband disappeared one day. “It was December 7, 2002. People were disappearing. He came home and told me some people were following him. He called me said ‘come and see’,” narrates Alice. But by the time she got to the window to get a peek at the people trailing her husband, they were gone. “It was a Saturday morning, he told me he was going to the Uganda Revenue Authority but he never came back.” Alice rules out the possibility that her husband had again gone into exile. “He said he was going to clear certain things. He carried tax papers and just ID on his body and a

A group of women from the conflict ravaged Karamoja region in Northern Uganda during happy moments singing and dancing. Some of them are ‘widows of the war’ as their husbands have disappeared. Picture: Internet wallet,” says Alice adding that he was only wearing shorts and a jumper. “It took three days for me to actually know that there were people following him and they chased him up to a point. He was with his nephew who told me that they were engaged in a very serious chase.” Alice’s husband asked the nephew to get off the motorbike he was riding. Citing what the nephew told her she says he husband told the young man to “get off because these people want me and in case of anything, I should be told”. And the search for him began. “We went to search at the police, when I mentioned his name, the police said ‘that gentleman, we don’t have him’.” Some policemen referred to her husband as a petty thief.

“I have a son who does not know his father. The two children he had with the other woman are traumatised. They keep asking when he is coming back.” — Alice

However, intelligence officers later caller her and said, “that man, we want him seriously. We don’t have him but if we find him, we will skin him alive”, recalls Alice. “It was then that I realised that it was more serious than I thought.” Even trying to find out the truth behind his disappearance was seen as a dangerous venture. When she suggested to her in-laws that they enlist the help of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, they urged her to continue with her studies and avoid courting trouble. “What if he is not with them, if you declare, they will start running around and he will be in danger,” was one of the responses. “No one is yet looking for you and you may put yourself in trouble,” she recalls her mother telling her education was more important. At the time, Alice was a first year law student. “What traumatised me was that he just left home and didn’t get back. It was not in his nature to do anything without letting anyone know.” No one knew anything about his whereabouts. When she visited her husband’s home, they asked her where he was. At a point, his family attempted to grab the property from her, but Alice stood her ground and challenged them saying, “if you can prove he is dead, then bring his body, we moan him,” she argued. Much as she used this defence in fighting to retain control of their marital property, Alice admits that she came to a point when she made peace with the fact that he was no more. “Any human being will want to get in touch with his children and find a way of informing his people that he is alive,” she added. She recalls that when he went on exile previously, he told his family that he was leaving and asked them not to worry about him.

Regret

Alice also believes that the regrets he shared with her before his disappearance were a premonition of his death. “Alice, if anything ever happens to me, I will die calling out your name because I will be dying for you. I have been given an opportunity to run out of this country and have refused. You did not want you to keep this child but since you agreed to keep this child I cannot go away,” she recounts their conversation in low tones. “Why don’t you go and declare and claim your life,” Alice remembers telling the love of her life. “I don’t know why he didn’t do that or if he was caught before he had made up his mind to do so? Or they thought he had the information and could not let him free,” Alice’s questions are many and there are no answers.

People have disappeared without a trace, many families are experiencing loss of their loved ones as a result of a real and at times ideological war as was the case with Alice’s family. She has now remarried but the trauma lives on in her son. He is nine years old now. At age three, he had already heard people talking about his father’s disappearance and would say “when I grow up I will get a gun and shoot all the policemen”, says Alice adding that he called the police criminals and rebels.

Counselling

Alice had to counsel the child to ensure that he did not grow up planning vengeance on his father’s alleged killers. “The police is a friend who protects you,” she said to the boy. “Rebels are people who actually fighting against police. I told him never to direct his gun at the police,” she recalls. Alice told her son his father died. “I really don’t know what is going on in my son’s mind,” she says with a tinge of regret adding that he lives with his grandmother. Alice feels that her husband’s disappearance disrupted her life. She would skip class as she worried and searched for him. “My classmates used to call me a tourist,” she recalls. Her graduation was a blessing, but she feels that her college transcript was not a reflection of her academic ability. “Even up to now, I am very annoyed about whatever happened to me. I would have attained the maximum of my academic potential, my performance was not very good at law school – because I spent about 20 per cent, if I had spent 80 per cent in the class my perspective would have been very different,” says Alice expressing her regret. Today, Alice is a human rights lawyer and she argues that the affairs of the State affect the family. “What we see as mothers worry us. What will happen if the Government came to an end unceremoniously? She poses. For Alice, it is important to create an environment where all can thrive. “I am not only the target, anybody can be the target.” She gives the example of a child who was shot during the recent ‘walk to work’ protests staged in Kampala. She argues that to ensure the well being of all, government, opposition and other stakeholders need to involve communities and ensure that resources are distributed equally. She cites the example of Northern Uganda that has been ravaged by war for decades. She urges that reparations be made for victims of armed conflict. “Ensure focus is placed on victims not just returnees or former rebels.”


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ISSUE 051, November 16 - 30, 2011

Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth

Women get better deal for banana farming By BEN OROKO

Women from the greater Gusii region have a reason to smile, their agony of poor banana returns will soon a thing of the past. This follows the introduction of tissue culture banana species in the region. This is expected to boost banana production and increase the women’s income at household levels. Women from the region who play a leading role in food security situation through banana and other subsistence crop production, have for decades been disappointed by poor banana yields which translate to low income and rampant poverty at household levels. Though banana is rated as one of the important food and cash crops in the region, its harvests in the area have been low due to growing of low yielder cultivars which cannot be relied upon by farmers for subsistence and commercial production. Women who constitute about 70 per cent of the banana farmers in the region counting a lot of losses. Small-holder banana farmers in the Kisii Highlands where the crop is predominantly grown continue facing several crop husbandry challenges, which include low yields and soil-borne diseases and pests. According to statistics available from the National Horticultural Research Centre (NHRC) of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), banana accounts for over 70 per cent of small-holder farmers’ incomes in the Kisii region. To address banana production challenges facing women in the region, Wakenya Pamoja Sacco Society has partnered with the Centre for International Development and Research (CIDR), a French organisation to introduce value-chain tissue culture banana production technology to boost banana harvests.

Propagation

Wakenya Pamoja Sacco Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Gideon Oyuma said besides reversing the challenges of low yields, soil-borne diseases and pests which have led to a lot of losses for farmers in the past decades, the scientific tissue culture banana production technology will enhance production and translate to improved food security and alleviation of rural poverty in the region. Oyuma clarified that tissue culture propagation is the process of growing tissue culture for plant shoot-tips in a laboratory until they are ready for transplanting into the field. “The technology significantly reduces soil-borne diseases and improves banana yields when backed with best agronomic practices,” explained Oyuma. He observed that unlike the traditional practices of transplanting banana suckers between farms, tissue culture propagation controls the risk of transmitting pests and spread of diseases among the banana crops. “Land scarcity in Gusii is a serious challenge to rotational banana production leading to planting of banana suckers in infected soils which perpetuate disease and pests-hindering banana production in the region,” he noted. Oyuma observed that the project which targets organised small-holder banana farmers and women’s groups in Keumbu Division, Kisii Central District and Borabu District in the Kisii Set-

Nyeri Hawkers form Sacco By Eutycas Muchiri

A small-holder banana farmer inspecting her crop in Gucha district in Kisii County. Picture: Ben Oroko tlement had been allocated KSh10 million by the Sacco to finance the project on a pilot scheme before rolling it out to other target areas. Though the Sacco targets 180 small-holder banana farmers’ groups in the first phase of the project, adoption of the new banana production technology remains one of the single most challenges facing implementation of the project. “The local community’s attachment to the conventional banana varieties has made it difficult for them to adopt tissue culture banana production technology within a short period,” noted Oyuma. He added: “However, the Sacco management and our technical expertise team are optimistic that with public education on the importance of the new technology in banana production, local farmers will positively embrace the same to their advantage.” He clarified that target farmers are given micro-credits in-kind which are built upon the group approach for loan guarantee to facilitate farmers acquire the number of tissue culture plantlets they need to establish banana orchards. Oyuma disclosed that farmers are given micro-credits with a grace period of six months before they start servicing the loans. After repaying the loan, the farmers inherit the banana projects as agri-business ventures to generate income for self-reliance.

Disappointment

Mary Marucha, a local small-holder banana farmer in Sameta District in the Kisii County, who has been tending conventional banana varieties, welcomes the Sacco’s introduction of tissue culture banana production technology. She says if it is comprehensively adopted by local farmers, the challenges facing the banana sub-sector, such as low yields, diseases and diminishing land sizes will be a thing of the past. Marucha, observes that, small-holder banana farmers especially women who do much of the crop farming in the region were a disappointed

lot since they spend their energies and time producing bananas, only to sell them at throw away prices to middle-men and brokers who in turn rake huge profits in markets outside the region. “It an open fact that for many years, smallholder banana farmers who are mainly women from the Gusii region have agonised over low banana yields, diseases and exploitation by middlemen and brokers who capitalise on the farmers’ inability to take their banana produce to markets outside the region due to high transportation costs and lack of information on commodity market trends outside the region,” noted Marucha.

Increased productions

Rebecca Nyaboke, a local banana farmer from Bassi Chache Location, Sameta District in the Kisii County says introduction of the tissue culture banana production technology will enhance transformation of banana farming through value addition, translating to increased household incomes for small-holder banana farmers in the region. She concurs that the new tissue culture banana production technology will increase banana productivity, economically empower and create more job opportunities for local residents. This can be done especially for women through introduction of cottage and home industries to tap the potential of banana farming in the region. Besides empowering women economically, Nyaboke observes, the new banana production technology will encourage local women farmers practice banana farming as an agri-business venture to earn more income and reduce rural poverty at household levels. “With the introduction of the new banana production technology, I am optimistic women in the region will use the opportunity to practise banana farming as an agri-business venture to maximise their income and improved food security at household levels and their immediate communities,” Nyaboke.

Executive Director: Rosemary Okello

Editor: Jane Godia Sub-Editors: Florence Sipalla, Omwa Ombara and Mercy Mumo Designer: Noel Lumbama Contributors: Shem Suchia, Fred Okoth, Benson Mwanga, Carolyne Oyugi, Karani Kelvin, Paul Mwaniki, Odhiambo Orlale, Ben Oroko, Bendaro Tsuma, Odhiambo Odhiambo, Henry Owino, Mwangi Ndirangu, Henry Kahara, Abisai Amugune, Ochieng Juma, Boniface Mulu, Kariuki Mwangi, Aggrey Buchunju, Eric Mutai, Joseph Mukubwa, Ayoki Onyango, John Syengo, Lucy Langat, Titus Maero and Ben Oroko. www.mediadiversityafrica.org

Clothes dealers from Nyeri Central District recently launched a Savings and Credit Co-operative Society (Sacco) in an event held at Consolata Cathedral hall in Nyeri Town. The event was graced by the Minister for Special Programmes Hon. Esther Murugi’s Personal Assistant David Kuria the Personal Assistant in the Minister for Special Programmes. In her speech read on her behalf by the PA, Murugi said that the formation of NYEKATRA Sacco Society Ltd with affordable registration fee has opened the door to all other Nyeri County traders to join the institution without discrimination. “I am pleased to note that the registration fee is affordable almost to any interested trader and expect that the Sacco will be home to traders of all calibre,” noted the minister. She advised the Sacco management to approach the public ministries such as the Ministry of Youths and Sports and the Gender and Social Services among others for advise on the banking institutions they can access for co-operative funding. Murugi noted that in today’s financial world, Saccos are potential collateral providers for its members to access funding from Non Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and international bodies among others. The Sacco Chairman Peter Wachiuri said that it will begin by serving traders within Nyeri County before extending its services to other counties. “Our main aim is to give loans to our members who are low income earners at a low interest rate without demanding for collaterals,” he said. According to the Chairman, the Sacco was registered in June this year. It was started back in 2009 as a self help group. It had a membership of 150 members then, whose number has since multiplied to more than two. To register, one is required to pay a registration fee of KSh500, buy 5 shares at KSh100 per share and be saving a minimum of KSh500 every month or KSh20 daily. One qualifies for a loan after six months. “Our plans are to invest in real estates and in the transport industry. We intend to buy a 25 seater bus and buy plots for construction,” said the chairman. He also said that they will in future import second hand clothes in containers, lend members loan facilities including school fees and buying and selling of properties among other services.

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