ISSUE 075 January 16-31, 2013
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
January 16-31, 2013
A bimonthly newspaper by the Media Diversity Centre, a project of African Woman and Child Feature Service
Fear of violence remain real Threat of intimidation scaring women aspirants in Kisumu By OLOO JANAK Women who are vying for various political seats in Kisumu County, particularly within Kisumu City and its environs are worried by the spectre of violence and insecurity that has reared its ugly head in the lakeside city since last year. The last quarter of 2012 was particularly worrying after two groups — “American Marines” and “China Squad” — repeatedly clashed in the city leading to the destruction of property and deaths. The killing in broad daylight of a Kisumu politician and businessman Shem Onyango Kwega by gunmen sent cold chills in the spines of many people including local politicians and the business community. There have also been attacks and killings of people who are not politicians including professionals and ordinary people in what has generally been viewed as an upsurge of violence and security in a town where ordinarily one felt very safe from criminal gangs. The situation has particularly been worrying to women candidates as the two groups veered towards different political groupings at the national level. While some local stakeholders have dismissed the reported political alignments, others have claimed that “China Squad” was increasingly leaning towards The National Alliance Party, now with United Republic Party (URP) in the Jubilee Coalition.
The “American Marines”, believed to be the more dominant and claiming more superiority and operating from around the main Kisumu Bus Park, has largely been seen as pro-Orange Democratic Movement now part of the Coalition for Restoration of Democracy along with Wiper Democratic Movement and Ford Kenya, as well as several other smaller parties. There are those who are arguing that political campaign period is normally “a season of harvest” and many of the mostly jobless youth in the town swing from one political group to another or “sell their services to the highest bidder”. It is known there are many other smaller groups and all of them have
been active in this charged political campaign period, increasingly aligning to different political camps and individual contestants. This makes an explosive mix, sparking fears of possible violence. “Of course the possibility of violence looms large in Kisumu but it transcends any gender considerations and it may not necessarily be only women aspirants who may be targeted,” says Betty Okero, Coordinator of
Civil Society Organisation Network, a governance organisation that has been involved in conflict mitigation in the area. However, women who have experienced violence whether physical or psychological still have their fears. Risper Akinyi, an aspirant for Kisumu West Constituency on Narc ticket says she and other women have so far only been subjected to verbal violence and insults from rowdy youths and
Youths demonstrating against the rise of militia gangs in Kisumu. This has led to insecurity and women are the most affected. Pictures: Oloo Janak drunkards most of who demand handouts. She notes that so far none of them has suffered physical attack. “But as we go round campaigning, we feel the threat of violence is real, particularly in the city centre. So as women, we are also forced to surround ourselves with youths in case we are at-
“But as we go round campaigning, we feel the threat of violence is real, particularly in the city centre. So as women, we are also forced to surround ourselves with youths in case we are attacked.” — Risper Akinyi
tacked,” explains Akinyi. Her sentiments are echoed by Farida Salim, an aspirant Kisumu Town Central Constituency who says the fear of violence is real. “But so far we have not been attacked physically although we fear that male candidates could easily hire goons to disrupt the nominations and actual campaigns,” observes Salim. Quite a number of women have come out to contest seats in Kisumu this time round despite the fears, emboldened by the new constitution and growing tolerance of women leaders in Kisumu and Nyanza Province in general. Kisumu and Nyanza produced the first ever African Woman mayor in post-independent Kenya, Grace Onyango, fondly referred to as “Nyar Bungu” and she later became the first Continued on page 4
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ISSUE 075, January 16-31, 2013
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Initiative seeks to transform Nyeri’s tainted image By WAIKWA MAINA A group of professionals are out to turn the image of Nyeri County around for the better by curtailing rising cases of gender based violence. The initiative is driven by the fact that family institutions are the society’s pillar and peace cannot be realised at community or national levels unless there are stable and peaceful family institutions. A few months ago, Nyeri County dominated news headlines, but for the wrong reasons. There were too many cases of husband battering that were highlighted in the Press.
This led to stereotyping of Nyeri women to the extent that those living away including students did not want to be associated with their home county. Nyeri Young Women Empowerment Initiative and association of young women from all parts of Nyeri County aims at holistically addressing domestic violence related issues which are blamed for killing family institutions. The initiative also seeks to empower vulnerable young women in the county. “We cannot talk of peace in the community and society or at local and national
Youth want miraa cultivation and consumption regulated By KARIUKI MWANGI Over 1,000 youths from Embu County have petitioned the Government through the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation to come up with guidelines to control growth and consumption of miraa (Khat) so as to avert the negative impact it has brought to the community. Led by Sammy Muturi, the youth argued that the production of the stimulant has had negatives impact despite its economic importance. “We cannot tell people not to plant miraa because they are using the income to pay school fees and other responsibilities, but we have to ensure that it is controlled to develop the community,” explained Muturi. Speaking during a campaign tour against drug abuse in Kiriari, Embu North District, Muturi asked the ministry to come up with guidelines that will restrict those below 18 years from chewing miraa. He noted that many youth have dropped out of school due to the menace while others are being employed as casual labourers in the plantations. “If something is not done urgently, there will be very few educated people in the county in a few years to come,” Muturi lamented. He pleaded with parents to consider giving the youth who have completed education a piece of land to cultivate so as to ensure they are productive members of the society instead of engaging in illegal activities. “We have lost so many youth through suicide, and other anti-social behaviour which is caused by drug consumption and the loss of self-confidence,” said Muturi. He added: “This in itself is distressing to other youth.” He noted that the solution to the drug menace in the country lies in the hands of parents, teachers and the community at large to work together and ensure they bring up a well-reformed generation for the future.
levels unless we have stable family institutions,” says Muthoni Wanjau, coordinator Nyeri Young Women Empowerment Initiative. “This is because whatever happens at the family level is a reflection of the larger community.” According to Wanjau most women in Nyeri County are more economically empowered by men. She says that this is because as efforts were made to empower the woman there were issues that were ignored which have today brought this problem which is a big threat to family institutions. Wanjau attributes the rising cases of domestic violence to poverty levels but where women are more economically empowered. “During these empowerment programmes, there was the misconception that economically empowered wife must sideline husband. We were not trained on how to manage homes when we got economically empowered but at the end of the day, each woman needs a family,” Wanjau notes. She adds: “This misconception has resulted in many single parent families with children who are not psychologically stable.” Poverty Her sentiments are shared by Samuel Wandimi, a research and community empowerment programme officer. “When people are poor, they are more
prone to violence which starts with quarrels over petty issues. Land is also a key contributor to domestic violence in Central Kenya region,” observes Wandimi adding that land ownership has been a problem as it does not usually change hands until at death. According to Wandimi, violence in Central Kenya escalated with the collapse of key agricultural industries. He notes that most men were reduced to recipients instead of playing their roles as head of families and providers. “This is a fact that has made them feel demoralised and results in violence at slightest provocation,” he explains.
However, Wandimi warns that violence does not solve any problems and that dialogue, consultation, appreciation and tolerating each other is the only way to peaceful coexistence. Wanjau says the organisation’s objective is to help young women understand that their success is for their family and they must learn to incorporate their husbands. Nyeri Young Women Empowerment Initiative was registered in 2007 but became fully operational in 2010. However, due to financial constraints it has not been able to meet its set targets.
Muthoni Wanjau, coordinator Nyeri Young Women Empowerment Initiative. She has been in the forefront fighting to change people’s negative perception of Nyeri women. Picture: Waikwa Maina
Bilharzia therapy underway in Mwea By CAROLINE WANGECHI A recent study conducted in Mwea, in Kirinyaga South District by Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) shows that the prevalence of Bilharzia infection among children aged 9-14 years stands at 61.5 per cent, with over 50 per cent of the population testing positive. In a bid to address the problem, bilharzia control plan is a major step towards eliminating the endemic, neglected tropical disease. It is in view of this reality that Merck Pharmaceutical has spent over $25 million in the production of 25 million tablets to fight tropical and neglected diseases like Bilharzia, in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), the programme will be rolled out in 56 districts targeting to eradicate the disease by providing treatment to over 16 million Kenyans who are at risk of infection. The pharmaceutical firm is com-
mitted to donate 25 million tablets per year to treat the worms affecting over six million children in Kenya. Plans are underway to scale up it to 250 million drugs annually by 2016. The Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation in conjunction with WHO will target school going children between 9-14 years in Mwea, Coast, Eastern and Nyanza among other regions which are Bilharzia pandemic. According to Dr Stefan Oschmann, President Merck Serono and member of the executive board, they are targeting to mark the 100 millionth tablet donations at Mukou Primary School in Mwea, Kirinyaga County where paddy rice farming has led to the spread of the parasitic worms. “We will scale this project to 250 million tablets per year and we are going to donate this amount up to 2016 to make it available to children,” said Oschhmann. According to Dr Dirk Engels, WHO global coordinator for Preventive Chemotherapy and Transmission Control of Neglected Tropi-
cal Diseases, 90 per cent of infections are found in sub-Saharan Africa.
In collaboration with Merck, WHO took up the prevention and chemotherapy of Bilharzia victims to donate drugs 250 million people affected by the worms worldwide and who have been neglected over the years since praziquantel therapy is considered the most effective treatment in the fight against the parasitic worm. He noted that China and Brazil have been able to curb human Schistosomiasis which they are trying to eradicate in Africa, and mostly Kenya where there is irrigation being done to avoid stunted growth and cognitive development which leads to anaemia. “We are rolling out the chemotherapy to see that the human Bilharzia is eradicated completely in Kenya and particularly where irrigation is being carried out,” said Engels. He added: “Research has shown that children who have Bilharzia infection will get liver and
kidney failure after they attain the age of 40 and above and it is not clinically possible to detect victims.” The programme will target 56 districts in the country where five million children will benefit from the free tablet every year in the mass treatment to children with severe cases leading to liver and kidney complications after 40 years. According to Dr Dorcas Alusala, National Coordinator for Neglected Tropical Diseases at the Ministry of Public Health, prevalence of the worms is attributed to poor disposal of human waste in water canals and rivers thus sustaining the cycles. Alusala noted that through the ministry they are reaching out to school going children to make sure that they get the chemotherapy at an early stage to curb the development of worms. “Bilharzia is a disease that affects school going children and matures when the children are teenagers,” Alusala said. She reiterated: “We want to make sure that their growth is not hampered by the water borne disease to enable them learn properly.”
Congestion at Nyeri Hospital blamed on early birds By MARK MWANGI Poor services in hospitals are due to large numbers of patients gathering at the institutions in the early morning hours. According to Dr Julius Mwago, Nyeri Provincial General Hospital Medical Superintendent, patients who have been turning up at the hospital early are to blame for others not being attended to. Mwago was reacting to complaints raised over services offered at the hospital which he blamed on patient congestion. Speaking in his office, Mwago said patients should not complain that doctors are slow and reluctant in offering services. “Serving patients is our responsibility since this is public service,” noted Mwago. He added: “A huge numbers of our patients are students with minor casualties who flock in the hospital very early in the morning instead of seeking medical attention during the day.” Mwago revealed that many patients seek-
ing treatment at the hospital are not seriously ill while a segment of them are high school students complaining of fevers yet it is only because they do not want to attend school for that day. “Such patients should be coming in the afternoon to give space to people with serious illnesses,” Mwago advised.
The facility has embraced modern technology of recording and storing information using computers in keeping patients’ report and prescribed medication. He called on members of the public to have the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) card so that when one is admitted there will be no conflict between the hospital and patient in settling bills. He observed that some patients create disruptions after being discharged as they fail to pay their bill claiming that what is on their invoice is unaffordable.
Mwago dismissed claims that doctors at the hospital are handing over their duties to interns (trainee doctors). “The interns are qualified personnel. We offer attachments to students taking medical courses like any other public institution. Therefore, there should be no claims that we are using students to attend to patients,” reiterated Mwago. He said the hospital has a complaints’ box which is not effectively used by the public. The medical officer also admitted that there is shortage of medical personnel at the institution, something that is being experienced in all hospitals country wide. “In the whole country there is a shortage of doctors. Even being the best maternity hospital in the region we face the same challenge,” observed Mwago. He added that the hospital receives funds from the Government even though money used to run the hospital is generated from inpatient and outpatient services.
ISSUE 075 January 16-31, 2013
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Tourists come to the rescue of pupils in Siaya By ANTONY TIAPUKEL There are many children around the country who would like to read or have a quiet place to do their school assignment but are not able to do so. Libraries are few and far from many students especially those in rural areas. However, for children studying in Siaya lady luck came knocking on their door when 66-yearold Pauline Browne-Cooper, an Australian tourist raised KSh280 million to build a modern library. The facility is expected to benefit 5,000 children in Nyadorea Village, Siaya district. This is seen as a step towards promoting education in the region. Cooper who first visited Kenya in 2004 said her mission is to assist poor children in Kenya get basic materials to study and improve their lives. With assistance from her colleagues, Sally Lloyd (fundraising officer), Glen Suuinley (project manager), and Barbara Curtis, Cooper raised the money from her country to complete the project.
When the Reject caught up with Cooper and the team at Tipilikwani Bush Camp in the Masai Mara Game Reserve, Narok County recently, she narrated how she was moved by the desperate
need for education by children. Cooper recalled how they had stopped for lunch in the small village and children approached them begging for pens. “I had no option but to make their dream a reality,” she noted. “Initially we bought some pens at the local shop and handed over to the children amid excitement,” said Cooper. Later as they were walking down the village street, she spotted a group of children playing football. “On closer inspection I realised that they were playing soccer and their ball was made from rolled up plastic bags bound together with rubber bands and ropes.” This was something she had never seen in her entire life.
“What I saw made me visit one of the schools in the region and I was dismayed to discover that the school practically had no resources,” explained Cooper. She noted: “These children are clever and ready to learn, they speak Swahili, English and a local language. Despite being barefoot, they love to go to school even when they do not have a pen and a book. Sometimes they even do without lunch.” Since then, Cooper embarked on a mission to raise funds for the children and their school library. She saw to several trips in and out of Nairobi
Pauline Browne-Cooper with her colleagues Sally Lloyd from left, Glen Suuinley, and Barbara Curtis fundraised funds from her home country to improve education in Siaya. Pictures: Antony Tiapukel to purchase basic school supplies such as pens and paper as well as soccer balls. She hired drivers and vans as well as camp hands to personally deliver the materials to the schools. “My conviction is that education is the right of all children of the world. It is not a privilege and Kenyan children are not an exception,” she noted. This mission led her to register a charity organisation — Kids in Kenya — aimed at as-
“What I saw made me visit one of the schools in the region and I was dismayed to discover that the school practically had no resources. These children are clever and ready to learn, they speak Swahili, English and a local language. Despite being barefoot, they love to go to school even when they do not have a pen and a book. Sometimes they even do without lunch.” — Pauline Browne-Cooper
sisting disadvantaged children in the country. Kids-in-Kenya is dedicated to improving educational opportunities of thousands of disadvantaged children in poor community. Cooper has also formed a small group of committed and enthusiastic volunteers in Australia who have, over the past seven years provided basic materials such as pen and paper as well as and balls and rubber thongs. “We purchase the goods in Nairobi and we personally deliver them to the schools in Siaya District, thereby ensuring they arrive intact and reach the children who are most in need,” she explained. While their mission is intended to maintain the supply of very basic resources into the foreseeable future, it is also planned to extend the work, by improving classrooms, building adequate library resources and raising sufficient funds to assist deserving children to go on to complete secondary education and in some cases even attend university. According to Stephen Ochieng, a beneficiary, the library serves pupils of more than ten schools in the area to access reading material and also prepare adequately for national examinations.
Children trained on sustainable life skills By JOSEPH MUNENE Over 382 vulnerable children from poor families in Ololulunga division, Narok South are now getting access to good health care and education. Through the support of KE590 Olepolos Mennonite Child Development Centre project sponsored by Compassion International, the orphans are girls who had been rescued from or protected from female genital mutilation and early marriages which is common in the area. According to Harnet Esho, a supervisor with the non-governmental organisation, the project which was started in 2007 has been used to campaign against retrogressive cultural practices. “We have been educating the community to shun retrogressive practices that violate children rights and many of them are responding positively,” noted Esho. Through the project children are
supported spiritually, physically, socially and emotionally. “They are also taught proper hygiene as well as how to co-exist and promote positive tribalism that will embrace peace and unity since Narok is cosmopolitan area,” explained Esho. The children are also equipped with livelihood skills such as tailoring, beadwork, farming and entrepreneurship. They are also taught how to play musical instruments to ensure they become self-reliant in future.
One of the project’s two programmes Is Child development sponsorship which caters for children’s education. It deals with children aged between three and 20 years. The other programme is on child survival and it includes mothers and children below three years. Under this programme, women are taught how to protect and care for pregnancies, family planning and religion as well as how to sustain themselves economically.
However, Esho notes that they have been facing some challenges as some men are making it difficult for the women to implement what they have been taught. Others do not attend learning sessions with their spouses as is required by the programme. However, despite FGM being outlawed, “the cut” goes on. According to a Daily Nation report, a group of Maasai girls aged between eight and 16 years are among helpless girls in the Maasai community, who have been rescued and sent to shelters like the Tasaru Rescue Centre near Narok Town. All of them were reportedly saved from attempts by their parents to force them to drop out of school, to submit to circumcision and then be married off.
“They are also taught proper hygiene as well as how to co-exist and promote positive tribalism that will embrace peace and unity since Narok is cosmopolitan area.” — Harnet Esho
They were saved from mutilation often by their own brothers, local elders and chiefs as well as head teachers of their primary schools. At least two went to the centre by themselves. The centre, run by Councillor Agnes Pareiyo was started over five years ago. It currently houses 96 girls, 16 more than its formal capacity. Working closely with the Children’s Department, the local administration and organisations such as World Vision, the centre organises seminars and workshops to teach Maasai girls about the folly of circumcision, dropping out of school and being married off early. Attempts have been made to find primary and or secondary schools for the girls, which often takes a long time and depends on sponsors. In the meantime the girls are offered comfortable accommodation and food.
ISSUE 075, January 16-31, 2013
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Criminal gangs deterring women from political engagement By WAIKWA MAINA Re-emergence of militia gangs such as Mungiki, cultural factors and stereotypes are discouraging women from engaging in competitive politics in Nyeri County. So far the region has no woman who has indicated interest in the strong seats that include presidential, senate or governor. So far only three women have declared interest in Parliamentary seats and two in ward representative seat. The rest are crowded in the women’s representative position. Othaya businesswoman Mary Wambui Munene has indicated her interest in the Othaya parliamentary seat. The other women are Mary Wambui for Kieni Constituency and Special Programmes minister Esther Murugi, who will be defending her Nyeri Town parliamentary seat. There is the perception that elective positions are a preserve for men, and women can only contest for the county women representative position. According to Councillor Muthoni Wanjau this state of affairs is not amusing.
“I am only aware of two women contesting for the ward representative position. This imbalance is caused by the perception that apart from the county women representative seat, all the others are a preserve for men,” says Wanjau.” While many would think that women are not qualified for these positions, apparently, they appear to have been subdued by militia groups. “Re-emergence of the Mungiki criminal gang and dirty campaigns have led to women shying away from competitive politics,” says Wanjau. Her sentiments are echoed by InformAction.tv Central region Coordinator Samuel Wandimi who notes that such criminal gangs and other forms of political violence are a real threat in the region.
“It is true women feel threatened. They are scared of harassment and intimidation from criminals and hired goons,” says Wandimi. He adds: “I urge them not to get frightened, voters are now enlightened and will vote for a candidate of their choice no matter how far the organised criminal gangs and other political opponents go in intimidating women canBussiness woman Mary Wambui addressing mourners during muturis funeral at Witima village in Othaya ,Nyeri didates.” County. Picture: Waikwa Maina. Wandimi observed that it was regrettable that the gangs are used politiIn the 2002 General Election cam- The project with support from US- says Kang’ata. He adds: “The Constically nationally and, local levels. paigns, several people were killed and AID is advocating for peace before, tution is very clear on discrimination property worth millions destroyed. during and after elections with a spe- but Parliament is yet to make necesYoung mothers were rendered wid- cial emphasis on non-violence. The sary laws related to political gender “The rot in Judiciary led to many ows in incidents that saw many chil- Project was launched in November violence and discrimination in favour locals resorting to use criminal gangs dren orphaned when the killer gang 2012 and will run until September of the woman.” to settle scores even at family level. went on rampage killing political op- 2013. People have been desperate and had ponents to their preferred candidates. Violence against women in polost faith in courts. Those who are Kang’ata says that political crimes The most affected places were litical campaigns and especially sexual rich contracted Mungiki to collect Othaya where most residents were violence has been pointed out as one committed against women are dedebts on their behalf and the trend perceived to be against Mungiki’s pre- of the more common and prevalent liberate, which means that it is a has not stopped.” form of discrimination and it goes ferred presidential candidate. crimes. Family members are still using the Among the victims was Muturi According to Wanjau, violence against the Kenyan constitution and criminal gangs to settle domestic is- Ngunjiri alias Kiratu, who was butch- against women who are vying for the Universal Declaration of Human sues. There were incidents where fa- ered in broad daylight as the public political seats should be treated dif- Rights. thers in-law hired gang members to watched helplessly. No action has been ferently. However, Peace Initiative Women continue to suffer bepunish young men who mistreated taken to date against the killers as his Kenya is advocating for an end to vio- cause the police are ill equipped to their daughters or chased them from widow and children languishing in lence against women and a platform monitor, investigate and prosecute their matrimonial homes when mar- poverty. political gender violence. “Some offifor equal opportunity for all. riages failed to work. Wanjau says despite the law wom“If one rapes a woman during cers should be specifically trained for Already, security agents have en remain unprotected from political campaigns, is the charges should go these purposes,” Kang’ata proposes. raised concerns over re-emergence of violence. Other challenges facing women beyond normal because of the extra Mungiki in Central Province, though suffering caused to the woman can- candidates in the region are time nothing has been done to tame them. didate in her political career,” notes and the scope of areas that they can The gang has been accused of “I recall the case of one woman Wanjau. She adds: “Such a candidate cover. extorting money from the busi- candidate from Eastern Province who is most likely unable to continue While male candidates can camness community and especially, the was forced to eat her hair among other with her campaigns which will also paign up to late hours of the night, matatu industry, and it is suspected dehumanising acts meted against her,” affect other women intending to ven- women campaigning at night are at a that the funds will be used to support says Wanjau. She adds: “Suspects who ture into politics.” higher risk of being attacked. Traditheir preferred choice of candidates. commit crimes against women durHowever, according to Irungu tional domestic responsibilities also As the country marked Mashujaa ing the campaigns are treated like any Kang’ata, an advocate, there are no do not allow women to stay out late. Day last year, Japhter Rugut, Central other criminals.” Wanjau notes that besides physispecific laws to safeguard against poProvince Provincial Commissioner cal violence, women candidates also Currently, a project dubbed Peace litical violence in Kenya. warned the gang that the Govern- Initiative Kenya is advocating for “The law is not specific on women. face sexual harassment and use of ment will not tolerate their activities violence free and peaceful elections It is a general law against violence. Its vulgar language meant to demean and vowed to tame them. that will embrace gender equality. enforcement is also a big problem,” them.
Threat of intimidation scaring women aspirants in Kisumu
Continued from page 1 woman to represent Kisumu Town as Member of Parliament. Other female MPs who followed in her trail were Phoebe Asiyo in Karachuonyo and Grace Ogot in Gem, who both trounced male political giants. The two made quite a mark in the 1980s and 1990s. The last two elections in 2002 and 2007 saw a yawning gap with no woman MP being elected in Nyanza despite spirited efforts. Most of those who contested seats in the two elections had to contend with a lot of violence, gender discrimination and outright rigging during political party nominations. “Violence makes women shy off from politics and we would like all
stakeholders to work hard to reduce this if not stamp it out completely,” says Caroline Owen, of Nyahera Ward in Kisumu Municipality.
Owe who is a civic leader was a victim of violence during party nominations in 2007 but went on to win the seat against great odds, including changing parties. Currently the Kisumu County Governor seat has attracted a number of women candidates. These include Atieno Otieno a Nairobi based lawyer, Ahono Obadha a trade unionist from Nyando and Ruth Adhiambo Odinga, a sister to Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is also the presidential candidate
for CORD coalition. For the women’s representative, there is Dr Rose Kisia, a former Moi University lecture, Rose Nyamunga, wife to former Nyando MP Erick Opon Nyamunga, Grace Woigo, from the civil society sector in Kisumu. Woigo contested the Kisumu Town East Constituency seat in the last general elections but lost to Shakeel Shabbir. A number of women have declared interest to contest parliamentary seats in Kisumu this time round. Rosa Buyu who lost to Olago Aluoch in Kisumu Town West Constituency is back to make a second attempt. She is reported to be conducting an aggressive campaign often adopt-
ing a forceful tackle towards the outgoing MP in what is feared could turn violent again. Farida Ahmed Salim, who has worked closely with the local civil society groups and is also as a lecturer at the Kisumu Polytechnic is contesting Kisumu Central Parliamentary seat. Others include Grace Akumu (Nyakach) and Caren Atieno Bodo (Kisumu Central).
Some of the women contesting as County Ward representatives included Anne Ogembo (Kaloleni Shauri Moyo Ward), former Kisumu Mayor Priscah Auma (Kaloleni Shauri Moyo Ward), Caroline Owen (Dago ward) and Alice
Wajewa Odek (Nyalenda B Ward). Apart from violence, the women lack financial and other resources to mount effective campaigns against their male competitors. There have been interventions by local leaders including non-governmental organisations, political leaders and parties led by an inter-parties consultative forum chaired by former Baghdad Boys leader turned peace crusader Audi Ogada and religious leaders to diffuse the tension and violence in the town. Some of the women leaders have come out to participate in these peace forums and hope calm will prevail even though the fear of violence remains real.
ISSUE 075 January 16-31, 2013
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Rising child abuse cases in Taveta worrying By BENSON MWANGA “He held my mouth to prevent me from screaming for help and defiled me,” these are words of a nine year old girl in Taita Taveta County. The girl from Mwatate District was defiled by a man who has since been sentenced to life imprisonment after the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that he committed the offence at Alia Village, Mwatate location in August last year. The minor represents over 500 cases of child abuse reported in the region last year and the number could go up this year if measures are not taken to address the issue.
The Children’s Department in the region says that cases of sexual abuse among minors in both primary and secondary schools have reached alarming levels. Presenting a report on caseload analysis for both boys and girls, Taita District Children’s Officer Lenah Sitati said a total of 217 minors between the ages of five to 18 had been sexually abused in the recent past. The number of boys sexually molested outstripped that of girls. “A total of 110 boys and 107 girls were sexually abused between July, last year to June this year. March had the highest number with figures standing at 34 followed by June with 31 cases respectively,” said Sitati. She noted that 37 boys and girls had been counseled, 10 reintegrated with families, 22 others placed on supervision with court order, 11 committed to charitable children’s institutions and six parents bonded.
“Cases of child abuse have become rampant because some parents are protecting culprits making it difficult for law enforcement officers to end the vice. This habit must end to enable us protect the girl child education that is under serious threat,” said Sitati. It also emerged from the meeting that even the harsh sentences imposed on offenders had not served as a deterrent. Sitati said many school going girls
Primary and secondary school students in Taita-Taveta County dancing during a school event. The students bore the brunt of child abuse in the region. Pictures: Benson Mwanga have been sexually molested while others dropped out of school owing to early marriages and premature pregnancies. “We want parents to cooperate with law enforcement officers to end the vice. Anyone found protecting criminals will face the full force of the law,” she warned. Sitati told the Advisory Committee chaired by Taita District Commissioner Njenga Miiri in Wundanyi town that among the cases reported in the region include sexual, physical, emotional and psychological abuses, child labour and trafficking. Other cases include child prostitution, incest, sodomy, defilement, early pregnancies, and early marriages among other gender based violence.
“Stakeholders should campaign against all forms of child abuse and ensure that they are eradicated. We should also campaign against child neglect and advocate for children
rights,” she observed. The meeting called for the establishment of a Children's Protection Unit (CPU) in the wake of increased cases of sexual exploitation among minors. The committee members said the unit would ensure that minors who have been sexually abused were protected from emotional trauma and also stop interference of their cases. Noting that poverty levels are high in the region, the members further said they would lobby health facilities to fill P3 forms for free. The committee accused parents for perpetuating child abuse cases by failing to report to the authorities for action. According to a human rights organisation, such cases have exposed children to the risks of contracting HIV. Taita-Taveta Human Rights Watch chairman Haji Mwakio said
that Voi District was leading with the number of child abuse cases in the region followed by Wundanyi, Taveta and Mwatate districts respectively. High poverty levels, breakdown in marriages, corruption and widespread consumption of illicit brews and drugs were also to blame for
increased cases of child abuse in the region. The research conducted by the human rights organization, police and the Children’s department shows that cases of female genital mutilation and gender based violence have also been on the increase in the area.
Church flooded and NEMA urged to intervene By Lydia Ngoolo The first sight of the compound belonging to AIC Mui church in Mwingi East district would make one think that it is a lake. It is a compound that has been flooded by water since the commencement of the short rains. The worshippers cannot count the numerous times they have worshipped from outside the church. “Many are the times we have worshipped from outside the church. We occasionally come and find the church flooded with water. We therefore have no other option apart from standing and worshipping from outside for we cannot access a single chair,” said the pastor of the church Martin Maithya.
The church elders led by the pastor Martin Maithya said the church is now sitting on stagnant water which has been there since the onset of the long rains. He said all the water from River Wambeu and other streams have settled there. “The neighbors around have put barriers and there is no other option for the wa-
ter apart from settling here at the church compound. As Christians, we did not want to raise alarm. We had decided to settle the matter slowly but we cannot bear it anymore,” said Maithya. He said as a church, they have spoken to the neighbors several times but they turn a deaf ear to them. He added that they have taken the matter to the District Commissioners’ office but they were instead given the DO who never showed up. “I will make sure that the next time I visit the office, I will not leave the DO behind. I will make sure that I come with him so that this matter is settled because we cannot continue like this,” said Maithya. Maithya said they worship in fear. The water level continue rising with every raindrop. The pastors’ house, the church and the well are all flooded. There is no more hope for the well because it has been filled with water. “I cannot imagine that we buy water from outside leaving the church well flooded here. We cannot access the well at all. I think it will sink anytime but who is to pay for the damage,” said one church elder who did not want his name mentioned.
He said just the other day they were welcomed with pangas and arrows when they wanted to make a through way for the water. He said he was taken aback when the worshippers were threatened with pangas during a recent attempt of evacuating the water from the compound.
“We had waited for long for the DO to come and the situation was becoming worse every day. We decided to make a canal for the water in one of our neighbors only to get such threats and recoiled,” said Maithya. Maithya said surprisingly, the owner of the farm had hired some youths from the area and armed them. They were told that whoever makes an attempt of touching a branch of tree on the owners fence, will be telling the youth to lacerate his/ her neck. He said though he is new to the church, such floods have never been witnessed in the church even during the El-nino rains. He said the neighbors have denied the water way and diverted it to the church compound. “It is a threat even to our children. In good days when we worship from inside we have to
make sure that there is somebody keeping a closer eye on the children because it is easier for them to drown in it,” added the pastor. He said the neighbors do not want the water to pass through their shambas and thus have diverted the water to the church. He said even without going to the extent of involving the government, the neighbors who claim to be God fearing should keep off from Gods sanctuary. “They can play around with any other place, anywhere but not any place related with God. One cannot tell the reason as to why these people have taken such lamentable move. It is not a matter of showing out their teeth if God decides on letting lose his wrath,” said Maithya. The government through National Environment Management Authority has been urged to do speedy intervention on the flooded compound belonging to AIC Mui church in Mui location of Mwingi East district. He said the church is now asking NEMA to intervene. He added that even the church well cannot be accessed. It is now submerged. He said they fear that the buildings may sink or collapse due to this problem.
ISSUE 075, January 16-31, 2013
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Malnutrition, reason for high child mortality at the Coast By Kigondu Ndavano Coast has the highest number of children with stunted growth due to poor nutrition. This is especially among children aged below five years. Food shortage is to blame for the worsening numbers, a major concern to the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation. The ministry has, however, launched major campaigns to improve nutrition among mothers and babies in the region amid research findings that the area has some of the worst cases of malnutrition. “Coast has some of the worst cases of malnutrition and we have launched several projects meant to improve nutrition among women and children at various levels, including at family and public institution levels”, explained Dr Anisa Omar, Coast Director of Sanitation and Public Health. She was speaking during the launch of national measles immunization at Malindi Hospital.
By TOM RACHUONYO
According to Omar, a major research programme was been undertaken to ascertain the reason behind the growing cases of malnutrition and it showed that the main culprits were mothers who failed to breastfeed their babies within the first six months before introducing them to other foods. “Some mothers at the Coast hesitate to follow the stipulated period for breast feeding and introduce food so early, sometimes leading to the baby rejecting breast milk yet it is what builds the child’s immunity to many infections” explained Omar. Lack of food by affected babies compromised their immunity and exposed them to infections. Omar noted that mothers were also expected to show attachment, affection and love to their babies during breast feeding to create a bond with them. According to Omar, while the 2008-2009 national malnutrition level stood at 35 per cent, at the Coast the situation was the worst nationally standing at 39 per cent. She noted that this was worsened by poor breast feeding and nutrition among expectant mothers with the number of underweight babies being born in the region standing at between 15 to 20 per cent.
“Many babies born at the Coast are normally in danger of acute malnutrition and this exposes most of them to easy sickness,” explained Omar. She challenged Coastal people to follow advice by health experts when it
Elders sign memorandum to end female circumcision
Coast Director of Sanitation and Public Health and Dr. Anisa Omar administers anti-measles immunization to two and a half years old Sophia Hassan during the launch of the national program at the Malindi District Hospital. Picture: Kigondu Ndavano
comes to nutritional issues. Omar observed that poverty and general food insecurity were to blame especially in the dry parts of the Coast where rainfall was low leading to scarce and low agricultural yields. However, she said that the Government, through the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation had launched supplementary food intervention programmes that are aimed at alleviating food shortage and malnutrition crisis. “All patients who come to hospital with signs of severe or moderate malnutrition are put under a supplementary food programme both at the inpatient and outpatient levels,” explained Omar.
Those with serious conditions are admitted and taken through a feeding programme to enable their recovery before they are discharged. “We know poorly fed mothers end up giving birth to unhealthy babies and that is why we admit such expectant women and put them under supplementary feeding,” she explained. Omar said hospitals such as Malindi had a free maternity shelter to host expectant women who are malnourished or who it was feared may develop complications at home and perhaps compromise their life and that of the expected child. The shelter provided ex-
pectant mothers with food and all other health facilities apart from allowing a closer monitoring by doctors. According to Omar, Kinango area in Kwale County has had serious cases of malnutrition in the Coast, an occurrence mainly blamed on poor food security at family level. She said that the Government was keen to reduce malnutrition levels by at least 5 per cent from the present 10 to 15. Omar noted that expectant women at the Coast and areas prone to food shortages were being encouraged to attend clinics where they would be assured of good attention and avoid compromising the health of their unborn babies. With Coast prone to malaria infections lack of health attention affected some expectant mothers who even turn anaemic yet such infections if discovered early are easily treated.
The Coast region has been successful in dealing with the malaria with admissions having been reduced from 30 per cent to four per cent. This has been achieved through intensive distribution of free mosquito nets targeting expectant mothers and those attending ante-natal clinics. “We have started a programme where we presently involve men
and husbands in ante-natal clinic to ensure that they are familiar with the food and health needs of their expectant wives,” explained Omar. She noted that the ministry was keen to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in the health sectors by reducing the mortality rates. She said that the region’s mortality rate stood at 448 deaths against 100,000 people while in the 2008 it went up to 584 deaths against 100,000. However, Omar noted that maternal health programmes have not been very successful in some parts of the Coast because majority of expectant women feared voluntary tests including tests for HIV. She encouraged the women to attend clinics so that they can be counselled and tested. “If they turn out positive they will be put under free ante-retroviral therapy (ARV), a situation which will help improve their health and reduce the risk of infecting their children with the virus. However, Omar appreciated that deliveries in hospitals at the Coast has continued to improve. The deliveries in hospital had reached 52 per cent by June 2012 from a mere 25 per cent earlier. She said the ministry was working hard to ensure deliveries at the hospital rose to 60 per cent and above.
The war on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) took a new twist among the Kuria community in Migori County with the most unsuspected characters joining in the fight. Elders from 10 villages in Kuria Constituency, Migori District recently signed a pact with the Ministry of Gender, Children Affairs and Social Development in collaboration with a local non-governmental organisation to end the illegal practice. The elders were picked from model villages which included Matare, Komotobo, Kugitimo, Nyaroha and Maeta in Kuria East and Nyabikaye, Tarang’anya, Ikerege, Ngisiru and Nyabohanse in Kuria West are set to be FGM-free zones following the memorandum of understanding that the elders signed. “We seek to solve the FGM issue through the villagers’ perspective by involving them directly to end the vice copying from a system that was successful in Senegal,” noted Mary Kwamboka, project manager with the Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA). The declaration form was signed by village elders, ADRA representative, a children’s officer and assistant chiefs from each of the villages at Chinoti and Ikerege divisions in Kuria East and Kuria West districts, respectively. Kwamboka said they chose the specific areas which are inhabited by the Wakira and Nyabasi clans who are known for circumcising their youth at the end of every year. The other two clans Wagumbe and Bwirege carried the ceremony which rotates bi-annually last year.
According to the declaration form, the model villages will work with child protection agencies like local NGOs and the Government to end the vice and bring any culprit to book. They will also educate other villages to shun the vice. “We chose 1,000 households in the villages which have refused to circumcise their girls through chiefs and locals churches. These households will be a model to others and translate to over 10,000 residents,” noted Kwamboka. According to John Lang’at, Children’s Officer Kuria West they carried out the same exercise in June 2010 where over 160 elders from all Kuria clans signed a declaration form to end FGM at Kegonga town. However this was not successful. “The elders’ pact failed and did not pass through as the elders back-tracked on their promise which included bring to an end child abuse and early marriages. However, we hope this model will be successful,” observed Lang’at. Last year 123 girls from St Mary’s Mabera High School in Kuria West and over 200 at Komotobo Mission in Kuria East escaped FGM. “The pact which was signed before the end of 2012 was done after Lang’at liaised with several local NGOs and started a rescue centre at Komotobo Mission ahead of the festival in December. The ceremony was attended by police officers, local chiefs as well as primary and secondary school children and over 2,000 residents in the two venues which ended in a two-day ceremony.
ISSUE 075 January 16-31, 2013
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Misconceptions hinder birth control in North Eastern By Parsai Joto Use of contraceptives is a one of the most guarded secrets by women in North Eastern Kenya. Many women who are using one form of family planning or another, are doing so under a heavy cloud of secrecy without involving their husbands. At only 24 years, Sophia Ibrahim, is already a mother of four. She does not want to have more children but the community where she comes from has failed to embrace family planning. For Abdi to take contraceptives, she has to do so in secret with fear of the repercussions if word goes out that she is using any family planning method. The stigma and myths associated with family planning are well known to the health providers within the North Eastern Province of Kenya. They are, therefore, forced to protect their clients within all means possible. This is why when Abdi walks into the health facility, nurse Rose Wangui hurriedly closes the door behind her. Abdi has her face covered with burqa — a black cloth worn by Muslim faithful to conceal the face but with enough space for eyes to see through.
Within a few minutes Abdi steps out of the health facility, leaving behind for safe custody the prescription card which is the only evidence of her secret visit. “She came for the injectable contraceptive because it offers her the privacy that she desires. The birth control measure is a closely guarded affair that her husband must not know about,” explains Zahara Hanshi Hussein. Hanshi, a programme manager of Sisters Maternity Home (SIMAHO) in Garissa town says their biggest frustrations are male chauvinism, culture and religion. “Injections for birth control have been gaining popularity among Muslim and Somali mothers who would like to have fewer children or space their births,” observes Hanshi. Further, population explosion in Northern Kenya has been blamed on lack of contraceptive commodities and a hostile culture. However, according Hanshi, their centre receives an average of 80 women every month who come for the Depo-Provera, which is an injectable contraceptive. This is popular among most women because there is no evidence that they are on it so the secret of their contraceptive uptake is kept from their husbands and close relatives. “They fear the wrath of most husbands who are opposed to family planning and would rather watch as the women deliver as many babies as is possible without a worry to their health,” notes Hanshi.
North Eastern Kenya is dominated by the Somali community among whom family planning is sensitive and treated as a taboo subject. To make matters worse, culturally women do not discuss birth spacing with their husbands. Other than the myths and misconceptions around family planning, the region has also been hit by limited contraceptive use. Despite regular food shortages due to prolonged droughts and high infant mortality, there has been a registered rise in population in North Eastern, spurred by factors such as low uptake of contraceptives and a tradition to have large families. In times of crisis when skilled birth attendance and emergency obstetric care may not be readily available, a pregnancy could be fatal. According to the recent national Demographic and Health Survey, the preferred number of children in Northern Kenya for women aged between 15 and 49, is nine children. However, Dr Boniface K’Oyugi, chief executive officer National Coordinating Agency
Women discussing issues that affect them in Garissa town. Use of contraceptives has been dominating their discussions of late. Below, some of the contraceptives available in Kenya. Pictures: AWC. Population Development notes Islam as a religion is not against family planning. Says K’Oyugi: “Opponents of family planning are die hard traditionalists and views expressed even contradict the Quran. In our own board, we have members drawn from the religion with whom we freely discuss the issues.” Hanshi agrees saying that where charges have been placed on family planning services clients keep off due to high poverty levels. The women are forced to take the option between feeding their families and paying for contraceptives. Sisters Maternity Home operates the Tunza Project which offers family planning services. A modest fee of KSh50 is charged to sustain the services for clients who come to the centre that offers integrated services to locals. The organisation follows up the communities who are nomadic as they move from one part of the region to another in search of pasture and water for their livestock. “For the women, we give them Depo-Provera since delivery facilities here are non-existent,” says Hanshi. According to Noor Abdulahi, health education programme officer with Simaho they distribute about 3,000 condoms per month through various outlets. “Even for this the uptake is disheartening and our main targets are divorced or single women,” explains Abdulahi. He notes: “We fear that with reported cases of HIV infection among the Somalis there could be an increase in the number of those infected.”
The region also lacks health facilities that can offer professional health care for mothers at delivery. Hawa Ali, a 27-year old woman had been at a maternity shelter in Garissa for four months because of the high risks associated with her pregnancy. Dozens of other mothers who arrive at the shelter are weak from lack of food, coming
from remote villages where there is no access to medical care. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) together with the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) have been offering women in the region a wide range of reproductive health care services. These include distribution of clean delivery kits in the eventuality that women cannot give birth in a health facility. Hawa and her husband, have nine children, and have benefited from special services. They have also been counselled by UNFPA’s partners about voluntary family planning methods. Due to the prevailing circumstances, she has decided to use long-term family planning through the use of implants. Despite the few positive converts, profamily planning campaigners continue to face opposition from among others leaders of religious organisations. Chairman of Garissa County Council, Omar Abdullahi Idessa says: “Family planning is outlawed by our religion and as Muslims we believe and trust that the children we give birth to belong to God.”
On a recent visit to Garissa, Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA executive director, came face to face with the reality of what it means to have big families among the Somalis. One shocking example was Mohammed Abdi, a 56-year old man who lives in Garissa. Abdi owned 200 heads of cattle that were wiped out by drought last year. At the time of Osotimehin’s visit, Abdi said he was expect-
ing his 25th child from one of his three wives. However, poverty has rendered him helpless and he can only afford to send nine of his children to school. “Even if I had only two or three children, how would I pay for their school fees when all my livestock is dead?” Abdi poses. He adds: “I will give birth to children until I die. Without cattle, the children are my safety net.” According to Osotimehin it is better to educate people about the different choices available in family planning so that they can enjoy their human rights fully. “Without access to relevant information and high-quality supplies and services, that right cannot be exercised. It is important to help families to have children when they want to have them and choose a number which they can educate and provide for within their own context,” says Osotimehin. Those who give birth to children without accessing proper health care face difficult circumstances. According to 25 year old Pasha Ibrahim, who lives in Dertu, about 110 kilometres away from Garissa town, those who give birth under the care of traditional birth attendants face life threatening circumstances. A mother of two who is married as a second wife, Ibrahim says she is done with giving birth and will not have more children. However, despite the challenges, Northern Kenya needs to have the right information on family planning and birth spacing that will enable the communities within demystify myths and misconceptions over contraceptives.
ISSUE 075, January 16-31, 2013
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Firms now investing in employees living with HIV By HENRY KAHARA People infected with HIV virus have faced rejection for long. Stigma, which many a times is associated with the fear of being infected, has been in the limelight since the time the virus was discovered. The stigma has defied odds despite the massive education about the virus. Nevertheless all is not lost, at least there is light at the end of tunnel. Society is gradually accepting HIV survivors. Today, even companies which previously sacked those infected with HIV are now investing in them. Unilever is one such a company, for more than a decade the company has been investing in its HIV positive employees. Alfayo Nyaemo, an employee in Unilever is an example of the beneficiaries of the programme. Alfayo Nyaemo and his colleague Josphine Ouma. They are both living positively and are some of the According to Nyaemo, the programme has helped a lot as beneficiaries of Unilever’s HIV Wellness Programme. Pictures: Courtesy Internews the survivors are able to deal Nyaemo explains. with HIV meant less absenteeism,” other programs like nutrition and with the problem directly. wellness. He adds: “The good thing with says Kimetto. He notes that stigma which ac”At Unilever we have declared He says it all started in 2000 companies those who are infected knowing your status is that you get makes people deal with their status to know how to live especially if when the former president declared there is no person who will die of you want to have more days in the Aids a national disaster. Their com- HIV or Aids related illness. This is secretly. world.” pany, which currently employs more not a disease which can kill,” conAccording to the Unilever’s than 16,000 employees had many of cludes Kimetto. For now, their campaign has ex“Because of the social stigma as- HIV and Aids wellness coordina- their workers living positively with sociated with HIV and Aids, many tor, Aron Kimetto, the programme HIV. At that time, many people were tended to the neighbourhood. They are moving out from Voluntary prefer to keep their status secret. is gradually boosting the company’s not able to afford medication. Due to the high loss the compa- Counselling and Testing to doorThis contributes to the invisibility business bottom line. Kimetto says that before they ny was going through, the manage- to-door Voluntary Counselling and of the epidemic and makes life more started investing in their employ- ment started working on the next Testing and people are responding difficult for the infected person.” Nyaemo knew about his status ees who are infected with HIV, they step in order to recover. The idea of positively. investing in those who are infected in 1997. This is after the death of his waste countless resources. He explains: “We realised with HIV clicked in their mind. wife. “During those days, informaAccording to Dr Joshua tion and knowledge about the virus that we are losing readily avail- However, the big question was how Kimani of the Kenya Aids Control was very scarce. Once one was de- able labour. For instance you have to implement it. The other reason why they de- Programme, the most important clared positive, people saw him or educated a person and he is very productive in the company but he cided to invest in the programme thing is for one to know his or her her as an outcast,” he says. He adds: “I remember a time succumbs to death due to Aids re- is realization of how many people status so that he or she can live were dependent on their employees. carefully. when my health had deteriorated to lated ailment.” According to a research done on “We learnt that many of our eman extent that people never thought ployees were depended on by their HIV and Aids related stigmatization, I would survive but the company Kimetto observes that many extended families, this means death discrimination and denial done in helped me out and my health imUganda and India, rejection not only companies lose valuable workforce of one, catastrophe to many.” proved drastically.” In 2001 they came up with a exists in developing countries but For now, Nyaemo is a HIV am- due to Aids related illness.” He admits that before they em- strategy, a programme on how also in developed countries. bassador both in Unilever and outAll over the world, ignorance, side. “HIV does not mean death. braced the programme they used to to educate their employees about People who are positive can also record very many cases of absentee- Aids. This they did through peer lack of knowledge, fear and denial have led to serious and often tragic live long if only they take preventive ism as some of their employees had education. to attend clinic. It was until when In every 50 people, there was a consequences, denying people livmeasures,” he observes. Nyaemo remarried a woman they opened a clinic inside the com- peer educator. ‘Train our trainers’ is ing with HIV access to treatment, services and support. who is HIV negative woman and pany’s premises when the phenom- how they labelled it. According to Ann Njogu, a This people are employees in they are blessed with two children. ena changed. “Our production drastically the company. For now peer educa- nurse field officer from Kenya As“I have three children and I have revealed to them about my status. picked up as absenteeism went tion programme has developed not sociation for Prevention of TB and I also speak about HIV openly,” down. Treatment of people living only on issues of HIV but also in Lung diseases (KAPTLD), Kibera site, stigma to HIV is because of the way both the Government and non-governmental organisations approached the fight against the epidemic at the beginning. “Poor information people got when the disease was new and late intervention by the Government are some of the major reasons which contributed to the stigma,” explains Njogu. She notes that during 1990s the church, Government and health personnel avoided people living with HIV people because they asso— Aaron Kimetto, HIV Wellness Coordinator, Unilever ciated the disease with sex.
“We realized that we are losing readily available labour. For instance you have educated a person and he is very productive in the company but he succumbs to death due to Aids related ailment.”
Women face difficulties in accessing justice By TOM RACHUONYO Poverty, illiteracy and corruption have been a major hindrance to women’s empowerment and especially access to justice. A research carried out in Migori County on 401 respondents of whom 61.3 per cent were female found that domestic violence directed towards women was most rampant with 33.9 per cent respondents being affected. The research titled Baseline survey on Access to Justice for Women in Migori County noted that due to low literacy levels about 79 per cent of residents in the county said awareness of women’s rights and the Constitution was low. The study also found that 29.4 per cent of women are sexually harassed and discriminated against when it comes to issues of land and property ownership, right to income from land and access to engage in business. According to Margaret Wanjiku, the chairperson of the Foundation for Women’s Rights in Kenya (FWRK), which conducted the research, despite strides made in women’s empowerment, the social economic and political status of women still leaves a lot to be desired. Alice Njau, a board member at FWRK noted that cultural practices like Female Genital Mutilation, early marriages as well as wife inheritance and/or neglect also compounds the problem.
The research found that 72.3 per cent of residents prefer to seek justice through police compared to those who opt for the Judiciary and use of provincial administration. However, 58 per cent complained of corruption, lack of gender desks and lethargy in police departments as a hindrance in getting justice. The Judiciary was not preferred because access to the only two magistrates’ courts in Migori and in Kehancha, and a High Court based in Kisii town was not easy. However, according to Grace Kirugumi, a magistrate at Migori Law Courts the research was carried out before Judiciary and police reforms. “The departments have since reformed and improved,” she noted. The report was launched by the chairperson of National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) Winfred Lichuma who lauded the survey reiterating its importance. She noted that the police in Migori County be informed of the trend and culture undermining women’s access to justice. Lichuma noted that the findings should offer sober reflection to Government and non-state actors on the dire situation across the country that women face in the patriarchal society and fill the gap between genders in seeking justice. “The survey could not have come at a better time when the country is implementing the new Constitution that has entrenched issues of women and human rights,” said Lichuma, adding that she is happy with the women’s empowerment campaigns that have been going on nationally.
ISSUE 075 January 16-31, 2013
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Kevin Agutu brings a ray of hope for Usigu orphans By OMONDI GWENGI Sky is the limit for a group of orphans in Usigu, Siaya County, who have decided to turn soccer into a profession. Instead of begging for their livelihood, they have formed a soccer club under the navigation of Kevin Kepher Agutu and are going places. Indeed, the a wind of change is now blowing in East Yimbo Location, Bondo District in Siaya County and Agutu is the brains behind the football club that aims at nurturing upcoming talents in soccer around the region. For a long time, most of the local football clubs have comprised of the older players and have excluded the younger boys who have nowhere to showcase their interest and talent in the game. It is this neglect that motivated Agutu to set up a club that would enable young people play with their peers as they develop their talent. He started in 2007 with 14 players, who were all orphans but talented in playing football. “I wanted to engage the orphans in something useful and to show them that being orphaned is not the end of the world and that they could still use their talent to move forward,” explains Agutu.
When he was starting Agutu had no money to buy the necessary gear except the passion to fulfil his dream. “I was just from school and with the help of my friend Caleb Odhiambo, we made a ball out of paper bags which we would use to play with,” he recalls. What they were doing did not go unnoticed and the Director of World Voices of Positive Vincent Onyango, was impressed with what he saw and promised to buy them a ball and outfits. “He promised to buy us a ball and some uniforms that would enable us develop the young talent,” says Agutu. By then he could only motivate the children by giving them sweets to boost their morale. In 2007 at a ceremony to mark World Aids Day, a tournament was organised and the East Yimbo Location Football Club won their first trophy. This gave them motivation as they now knew that they were making some positive steps towards a future. The news spread like bushfire and soon they were attracting the attention of the provincial administration. The area chief developed some interest in knowing what the group was all about. Since then they have been participating in various tournaments in the district and have also started a girls’ football club.
From top: East Yimbo Location Football Club members displaying some of their trophies. Kevin Agutu, the founder of the club that has enabled some orphans to go back to school. Pictures: Omondi Gwengi. the group. This was also the time that Sakata Ball Tournament was launched. “The children had a desire to participate in the tournament but I had no money. However, I was forced to find ways of making the necessary arrangements and they were able to participate in the tournament,” explains Agutu. He adds: “We also got certificates for participation and a ball.” The team has been going places. They registered for Rando Junior Tournament and emerged in second position out of 12 teams that participated. Their goalkeeper represented the team from Bondo in one of the Copa-Cola tournament in Kisii. East Yimbo Location Football Club basks in the glory of having one of their players Kevin Omondi aka Ford flying to South Africa for CopaCola tournament.
Managing such a club has not been easy for the 27-year old. However, it is all not rosy as at times they get promises that are not fulfilled. “You are sometimes promised funding by some sponsors but not all of them fulfil their promise on time,” he laments.
Through participation and excelling in sports, two of the orphans got sponsorship to secondary school after passing their Kenya certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations. “Having recognised the talent and academic performance of these children, some sponsors came to their rescue and this further motivated the other children,” says Agutu. In 2010, the number of children rose to 63 and forced Agutu to split
“I wanted to engage the orphans in something useful and to show them that being orphaned is not the end of the world and that they could still use their talent to move forward.” — Kevin Agutu.
Having drawn orphans from the village, there is high expectation from their guardians to convert the hobby into an income-generating activity for them. “We participate in tournaments and only receive a trophy without any monetary award. However, most of the guardians or parents have accused me of misusing their children for selfish interest,” he explains. Agutu is optimistic that East Yimbo Location Football Club will one day emerge to be a football academy that will mould local talent in the region. “This is just the beginning of a long journey and I am hopeful that we will have our own academy that will help nurture some local talent,” he says. Agutu notes: I am also working towards organising for exchange programmes for the children in order for them to get exposure.” For those who love football but cannot play, Agutu has come up with a drama club where the young can be educated on matters of health. “There is a health talk programme where we always have our sessions twice a month,” Agutu explains. He adds: “Although we started up a farming project, it could not continue because the children were school goers and running a farm was challenging to them.” Agutu also has also started a liquid soap-making project. “I would wish to see the young people getting engaged in income generating activities rather than depending on their guardians/parents for help,” he says.
ISSUE 075, January 16-31, 2013
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Afforestation takes root as farmers favour Coast gold By Kigondu Ndavano
The government has intensified campaigns to encourage Kenyans to grow commercial trees for income generation and environmental conservation under a national drive meant to increase areas under the forest cover. Experts from the Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI) say that the potential exists in farmlands and what farmers need are professional guidance through the release of information on trees that are suitable for planting in their areas. A report released by Msingo Mbuvi, a leading research scientist with KEFRI indicates that despite having been introduced into the country early in the century, intensive research had established that several trees were suitable for planting on farms because of their high economic and ecological value to the farmers.
By KARIUKI MWANGI Women and children in Embu County are unhappy lot after Kenya Forest Services demanded that they pay KSh600,000 in order to harvest mature trees in Mt Kenya Forest. The residents of Njukiri, near the Njukiri Forest in are up in arms over the sale of mature trees to tycoons saying the process was not transparent. Led by Johnstone Nyaga, chairman of Embu Tourism Development Organisation and a member of Njukiri Community Forest Association, the residents complained that the procurement process was complicated and not transparent thus locking them out. “The residents have always been extinguishing fires in the forest whereas their crops are also destroyed by wild animals only for people from outside the area to benefit,” he stated.
According to the research, there is need to popularise those trees of proven social and ecological value to the farmers to encourage them set aside part of their farms for tree planting. “The selected tree or trees should be able to address the livelihood needs of the farmers while conserving the environment,” says Mbuvi. He adds: “This is will in addition exhibit attributes such as faster growth, ready market for its products, ease to be converted into various byproducts as well as multipurpose and multiple uses.” The Casuarina — equisetifolia — which today could be easily described as the gold of the Coast when it comes to commercial tree-growing, has emerged as one of the most preferred tree of choice by farmers in the region as well as others parts of the country. “Casuarina grows in the Coastal region as well as in the arid and semi-arid areas, lake region and the highlands,” explains Mbuvi. He adds: “Its uses range from nitrogen fixing, windbreak, firewood, charcoal, poles, chips, pulp and paper, transmission poles and land reclamation.” Interestingly, Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) has been keen to ensure the tree gains even
Casuarina Cunninghamana tree growing along the Kenyan Coast. Inset: The fruit and leaves. The tree has been identified by scientists as essential for its social and ecological values. Pictures: Internet. more commercial popularity because as the scientists explain “the planting materials are easily available and it is easy to plant and manage with farmers successfully intercropping the tree with food crops in the initial two years of planting”.
KEFRI has also produced a simple guide to all farmers in the Casuarina growing zones to aid them on the most suitable ways of planting its species in the country. The guidelines cover information on seeding regimes, nursery and field management as well as its uses in Kenya and globally. The Coast gold — that is the Casuarina — is a genus of 17 species. In Kenya different Casuarina species have been introduced for
planting in different dates from early in the 19th Century including Casuarina cunninghamiana (1908), Casuarina Glauca (1910), Casuarina junghuhniana (1956) and Casuarina torulosa (1952). That the tree has gained huge popularity in Malindi and parts of Kilifi County. “Although widely grown along Kenyan Coast both in plantations and on-farms, planting in other parts of the country has been expanding across the altitudinal range from the Coast to the highland of Mount Kenya,” explains the report.
Scientifically, the report explains, Casuarina equisetifolia is important as a nitrogen-fixing tree of considerable social, economic
and environmental importance in Africa. This is mainly done underutilisation in agro-forestry systems for soil stabilisation and reclamation work to protect and rehabilitate over exploited soils. Countrywide the species is grown mainly along the Coastal region by both small and large scale producers with the small scale farmers accounting for 81.8 per cent of the production. It is an important multipurpose agro forestry tree species mainly grown for construction poles. The tree generates huge amounts of seeds with one kilogramme of mature cone producing approximately 29 grams of seed and one kilogramme of clean seed has 600,000900,000 seeds.
Residents of Kilifi County to participate and support vision 2030 By ADAM JUMA Prime Minister’s Gender Affairs advisor Beatrice Gambo noted that the first step in realizing the vision 2030 is to elect good leaders who support and not oppose the projects. Speaking during the launch of the Kilifi County Consultative Meeting on the Medium Term Planing in Kilifi recently, Gambo called on the residents to shun leaders who oppress the government’s effort to implement the vision 2030 in the County.
Cost of harvesting Government forest leaves community disgruntled
“The achievement of the Kenya Vision 2030 will be determined by the successful implementation of the Medium Term Plans which started in 2008. These plans need leadership that is focused towards vision 2030 not self centered leaders” she said Kilifi County Development Planning Officer,
Matthew Musyoka, pointed that sixty percent of all Vision 2030 projects in the country are to be implemented in the Coast Region with Kilifi taking at least a third of all the Coast projects. He said “there was need for all the people in the County to prioritize the projects that would be undertaken in the second medium term plan that would see Kilifi shift from being regarded as one of the poorest regions in the country.” He noted that emphasis should be put on reducing poverty which currently stands at 71.8 percent and improving livelihoods at the community levels using all the available resources. He noted the rivers Sabaki, Nzovuni, Rare, Goshi rivers would be tapped to provide water for domestic as well as irrigation purposes in the County. Director of the Transition Co ordination in the Transitional Authority Gitonga Mbaka, emphasized that the government was keen in ensuring that all people contribute towards the
success of the region. He informed the residents that the county integrated development plan would provide the framework to integrate economic, physical, social environmental as well as spatial planning of the county. “The transitional authority was expected to facilitate the development for the county government’s budgets during phase one of the transitional period after the general elections to be held in March 2013,” said Mbaka.
The county consultation forums are aimed at securing the views and county development priorities that will inform the formulation of policies, programs and projects of the second medium term plans which is expected to cover 2013 until 2017. The stakeholders prioritized Land ownership education and health as their key priority areas.
The residents would have liked to buy the trees to build better houses saying that they felt ambushed and only came to know of the sale when the trees had already been sold to other people. Nyaga said the residents who applied for the tender were unable to raise KSh600,000 required because of lack of adequate time and notice. According to James Ireri, chairman of new Njukiri Muungano Community Forest Association, , they have over 500 members who routinely guard forests as per the Forests Act, but none of them benefited from the sale of the mature forest. “Kenya Forest Service should conduct civic education and sensitise the residents on how the process was done so as to safeguard the relationship with the community and help restore confidence,” noted Ireri. However, Embu County Forest Coordinator Samuel Waweru, who held a meeting with the residents, said the selling of the mature eucalyptus plantation was a normal forest operation in which all the tendering rules were followed.
Waweru said the prequalification for licensing was advertised before the process took place where six millers, who met the conditions, were licensed to carry out the tree harvesting. He noted that no one was prevented from prequalification saying that someone from Nairobi explained to the local community the procedure and advised them to get together and raise money. “The process was legal and professional,” said Waweru. He added: “The performance contract requires them to raise KSh5 million which they could have done through sale of mature forest produce.” Waweru noted that the community members who could not afford the tender would not benefit with firewood, labour in felling the trees and or growing crops in the cleared forests for three years using the shamba system.
ISSUE 075 January 16-31, 2013
Water project receives assistance from Hungary
By KARIUKI MWANGI
A glass of water sparks an initiative for water tanks
“I started this initiative in Ndeiya, Kiambu County after I asked a 13-year old girl to give me a glass of water during a visit,” says Kimani. However, instead of being served with water, the girl reported that she had not gone to the river to fetch water that morning and would have to walk a long distance before Kimani can quench his thirst. As Kimani’s throat remained dry, the girl was forced by her mother to go for the water amid tears. “She took some time before she returned and when she brought the water, it was marred with dirt and not clean for consumption. I did not know what to do but I had to take it, considering that she had walked for miles to fetch it,” Kimani recalls.
By ALLAN MURIMI
The envoy has been touring other parts of the country to find out the various projects that the government of Hungary can help in ensuring Gachoka MP Mutava Musyemi (right) and Mbeere South District Commissioner Layford are achieved. He said that the amount of funds Kibaara commissions a Ksh 25 million KIAMBI water project in Gachoka Constituency. that are going to be channelled in Mbeere will Picture: Kariuki Mwangi depend on the amount required to complete it. “Our continued support of the various proj“Tapping water by gravity to the various home- area. ects in Kenya will also depend on the availability He said completion of the two will ensure the of other partners and the political will of the lead- steads and institutions will be easier and cheaper ers in the region to ensure the area has sufficient compared to getting the water from Embu which water that gets there is enough. “The people here have been relying on relief water both for domestic use and irrigation,” Juhasz will cost a lot of funds, which are not available,” donations since there is very minimal rainfall and Musyimi pointed out. reiterated. He noted that the Gitaru Water Project is ex- there is no water for drinking leave alone for irGachoka Member of Parliament Mutava Musyimi, who accompanied the ambassador, said pected to complement another water project that rigation despite the fact that the big dams which that the project will help in averting the rising has been on course to tap water from the upper provide 65 per cent of electricity are built there,” part of Embu County to the arid and semi-arid he stated. cases of wildlife-human conflict in the area.
Lack of water in rural and slum areas has resulted in many girls failing to go school as they seek this precious commodity for their families. Many of them have to walk long distances in the wee hours of the morning or late in the evening to ensure that water is available for domestic use within their households. However, this is soon to end especially for the girls in Kiambu County who have been forced to juggle between going to school and fetching water. However, this punishment on girls has not gone unnoticed and one Paul Kimani, popularly known as Wamatangi, has started an initiative that will see the people of Kiambu town get water at their convenience. The initiative, which was started in 2006, has distributed over 6,000 tanks to children homes and churches with an aim of making water accessible to as many people as possible.
Major afforestation programme kicks off in Mbeere district Mbeere residents have embarked on a tree planting exercise that will see the region turn green. So far, the residents have planted about 2,500 trees around Kiang’ombe Hill in an attempt to rehabilitate it after charcoal burners destroyed indigenous trees. According to Dr John Wajii, Mbeere North district livestock production officer about KSh360,000 has so far been spent on the rehabilitation programme aimed at boosting water levels at the two springs which provide water for Kuune Water Project.
The rising cases of human-wildlife conflict involving crocodiles will soon be a thing of the past. The Hungarian government is funding a water project at a cost of KSh40 million in Mutuavare, Mbeere South District that will foresee thousands of residents evade the frequent attacks by crocodiles as they fetch water in the Seven Folk’s Dam. Speaking while on a tour of the affected areas, Hungarian Ambassador to Kenya Sandor Juhasz said that the magnitude of problems caused by the water shortage in Mbeere is dire and requires external support. He said his government will be partnering with the Maji na Ufanisi, a non-governmental organisation to fund the Gitaru Dam Water Project which will entail tapping water from the Gitaru Dam and channelling it downstream using gravity. “I have toured the bigger part of this region and noted the long distances that the women have to walk to get water for domestic use not forgetting the huge number of people who have lost their lives due to crocodile attacks,” Juhasz said.
By NICOLE WAITHERA
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
When he asked why the water was that dirty, the girl narrated how many of her colleagues skip some classes as they are often too tired by the time they return from the river. This is the action that compelled Kimani to find a lasting solution to the problem and ensure the girls stayed in school. Kimani decided to visit the family a few weeks later, with a clean plastic water tank. The joy on the family’s face was a clear indication of their relief. Kimani also came in with a contractor who placed the tank at a spot where the family would be able to harvest rain water. From then on, Kimani has never stopped. He has strived to ensure that families have easy access to water. Instead of concentrating on individual families, Kimani thought it was wise to give the tanks at community level where one would benefit ,many people. He has shifted his attention to churches which he argues are a central point that everyone can access. “At least everyone is able to come to church and the water tank will serve a bigger community,” explains Kimani. The tanks have been distributed in Banana, Kabete, Kirangari, Kibuku, Limuru, Thika, Gatanga and Kiambu town. Kimani says that the girls can now proudly stay in school, as their walks to the stream have been reduced. The water they get from the tanks is clean and safe for consumption. Kimani has also been approached by several children’s homes who appealed to him for water tanks as they have many children to cater for and the water being supplied by the municipal council is unreliable water leaving them adversely affected. “So far, we have handed over 1,000 water tanks that hold 1,000 litres to various children’s homes. This will ensure that the children have adequate
water to use,” he notes. Kimani notes that the rural poor have often times been neglected when it comes to water development strategies and majority of the houses do not have piped water. This is despite the fact that in some cases, the springs and rivers by pass them.”
According to James Kinyanjui, a beneficiary of the water tanks, his children no longer suffer from water borne diseases. Kinyanjui says that his daughter’s performance, a pupil at Wangige Primary School, has greatly improved considering that she no longer has to fetch water in the wee hours of the morning. “She is now a top student yet she used to go to school crying every morning. I think she was just too tired. Today we just fetch water from the nearby church,” he says. Hannah Wangari, a pupil, expresses her excitement at the project, terming it as life saving to many. “Water is life. When the people in the area see water, they feel relieved. We used to go to the river for water or ask from a few rich neighbours who had dug boreholes but now we all we do is trap and get clean water,” says Wangari. Apart from the tanks, Kimani has started a driving school that trains people for free. He argues that majority of the youth in the area are not able to secure jobs and do not have the fees to access university education. “The high dropout rate in the area worries me. I started the driving school so that the youth in the area could at least have a skill that will help them in their daily lives,” he says.
“Primary schools in the area have been incorporated in the project and each pupil will be required to plant a tree and maintain it to maturity,” said Wajii. More than 500 residents of the arid region depend on water from the hill but charcoal burners had degraded it by deforestation. “The Government will assist local communities to sustain their livelihood from the hill in a sustainable way,” noted Wajii. He added: “They will be expected to conserve existing natural resources.” According to Josephat Nyaga, chairman Kuune Water Project, the rehabilitation programme had been derailed by destruction as residents grazed their livestock on the hill destroying the indigenous trees. He called on the Government to sensitise the public on best practices and discourage them from burning the forest so that the planted trees could sprout out. The hill has been an area of conflict between the residents and the Government since it is not demarcated. The local council refuses to take responsibility although it is within a trust land and is under their custody. This has led to residents encroaching on it and destroying water sources. The Kenya Forest Services has been unable to protect it fully since it is not within their jurisdiction.
Every year before the planting season, the local community torches the hill believing that by doing so it will attract rain. According to Benson Karani, area District Officer, management and conservation of the hill is important and those who have encroached it will have to move out. He advised those charged with implementation of the programme to ensure accountability. He noted that donors were interested in positive results. “The community will be sensitised on good governance and better production methods so that they do not have to cut trees for charcoal burning,” said Karani. He added: “They will be educated on how to implement the new charcoal rules and forming charcoal associations.” The rules are aimed at making the charcoal industry attractive to investors for sustainable production while promoting conservation and reforestation. Charcoal production will be emphasised since it is one of the coping mechanisms of the community during the dry season. The rehabilitation is part of a major project aimed at mainstreaming sustainable land management and agro-pastoral production system in Kenya. It has been initiated in Kyuso, Narok North and Daadab.
ISSUE 075, January 16-31, 2013
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Peace initiative calls for calm during elections By Duncan Mboyah Like Ghana, Zimbabwe and Cameroon, Kenya is going for the General Elections this year to elect a new crop of politicians. This election is taking place five years after the 2007 disputed elections that left over 1,000 people dead, thousands maimed and several properties destroyed. Unlike the previous polls that erupted in violence, this time around the electoral body and the security personnel say they are prepared for any eventuality. According to the Chairman of Independent Boundary and Electoral Commission (IEBC) Chairman Isaak Hassan, preparations have been made and parties whose followers are bent on causing chaos will be punished severely. But as Hassan made the statement, the nomination exercise that was slated for January 17 proved a challenge to the electoral body. Days before the nomination exercise, a number of ugly incidences were reported in some parts of the country where some people were injured and property destroyed. Violence and conflict, particularly against women and girls has been on the rise too even though women, who have a constitutional right to claim at least a third of the elective positions at the polls, seem to have once again been pushed to the periphery as direct and discreet threats continue to be unleashed against them.
“With the violence on the rise as the official date of voting draws nearer, political parties and politicians from all political parties must uphold the rule of law and promote peace for the good of Kenya,” says Jebiwot Sumbeiywo, Chief of Party Peace Initiative Kenya (PIK). She notes that politicians from both sides of the divide must exercise restraint and avoid using the youth to promote violence and crime, if peace is to prevail in the forthcoming polls. She challenged political parties to adhere to principles of the electoral code of conduct (2011) and help promote gender equality; tolerate ethnic diversity and condemn and avoid violence that erupts from intimidation during the coming polls. More than 200 church ministers from the North Rift, a region that was heavily affected by the violence after the 2007 post-election violence, have conducted prayers and called on the area residents to shun violence and avoid hate speech. Drawn from various denominations, the officials vowed to preach peace and reconciliation through the gospel. Two weeks ago, the Anglican Church also held a mass prayer session in Mombasa County calling on politicians to restrain their followers and help preach peace. As the prayer sessions were on in most parts of the country, the Tana River ethnic conflict pitting the Pokomo and Orma communities flared up again. In the past four months, the Tana delta clashes have claimed over 200 lives including 50 security officers sent there to quell the violence. Property worth millions of shillings has been destroyed and over 1,000 houses burnt in what is suspected to be politically instigated violence. “Gender based violence has become
2 1. Armed youths preparing revenge attack in Tana Delta. Over 100 people have been killed in the last four months. 2. Victims of the Tana Delta clashes being attended to at a local health facility. 3. Armed administration policeman in patrol of the area after arsonists burnt houses before fleeing. 4. Not even police men are spared. An injured policeman being attended to by a colleague and a good Samaritan after being hit by an object in the clash zone. Pictures: Reject Correspondent very rampant in the violence-prone Tana delta and women are suffering silently,” says Sumbeiywo. She notes that women with babies are unable to run from the dangerous gangs and always get killed or injured in battles that they do not know there cause. She observes that in Ngambo Village, an expectant woman and her husband were hacked to death and mutilated on their farm when the wave of attacks started in September, last year. “We are calling on the government to protect the citizens and also help stop the clashes in the Tana delta,” she adds. Violence has also been witnessed in Migori County where a woman aspiring for the position of Governor was recently attacked by machete wielding youth merely for her political ambitions. In Kisumu, for instance, the emer-
gence of militia gangs dubbed 4 “American Marine” and “Chinese Squad” are causing fear and anxiety within the town and its environs as these gangs remind residents of the defunct Baghdad boys that terrorised residents in the 1990s during the campaigns for multiparty democracy. In Nairobi’s Mathare slums and other informal settlements including Korogocho, Kibera, Mukuru Kwa Njenga and Kiambiu conflict has also been on the rise with militia groups angling themselves for political gain. Worst hit is Mathare slum which has already been divided into two with either of the residents criss-crossing into the other zone for fear of being killed by the rivals. So far several houses have been torched and retaliatory attacks are feared. According to Jerotich Seii Houlding,
head of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) programmes in Kenya, the organization is trying to ensure that violence against women is stopped and peace prevails in the forthcoming polls. She notes that conducting mature and peaceful elections under a new Constitution will send the right message to the world that Kenya is indeed a united nation devoid of ethnic divisions as was witnessed in the last elections. According to the Elections Act (2011) using threatening, abusive, insulting language or engaging in any kind of action which may advocate hatred, incite violence or influence the voters on grounds of ethnicity, race, religion, gender or any other ground of discrimination is outlawed. Directly or indirectly, using the
threat of force, violence, harassment or otherwise preventing the conduct of any political meeting, march, demonstration or other event of a political nature or any other person from attending or participating therein has also been outlawed. PIK is funded by USAID to create a grassroots network that prevents and mitigates violence, including genderbased violence, in Kenya’s most conflict-affected communities. The project is being implemented by the Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW), the Federation of Women Lawyers – Kenya (FIDA), PeaceNet, and the Rural Women’s Peace Link (RWPL), Sauti Ya Wanawake, Pwani, African Woman and Child and Well Told Story.
ISSUE 075 January 16-31, 2013
Unfiltered, uninhibited…just the gruesome truth
Sexual harassment fails to escape media houses By ROBERT WANJALA Newsrooms are no exception to the rising cases of sexual harassment. Many female journalists have found themselves in compromising situations as they exercise their duties. From being asked for sex, to sexual innuendos, the journalists have found themselves in vulnerable situations. Most female journalists blame their vulnerability to poor remuneration and pressure to meet tight deadlines. “Imagine you have targets and tight deadlines to meet. You are poorly paid, sometimes based on the published work. You need to eat, dress and do your hair and at the end of the month the landlord is at your door step. What am I supposed to do?” poses a journalist. Another who sees nothing wrong in being asked for sexual favours says: “What do you do if there is this person dying to spend some of his fortune on your good looks? I grab the loot and run.”
But these journalists speaking out of ignorance do not see these actions as sexual harassment. Their sentiments receive the wrath of Lillian Cheptoo who does not agree with the theory of compromising one’s dignity for news. “Such instances are there and for me I always stand my ground. No story is worth my dignity and rights. Ignore such advances and prove you can perform and no one will follow you up to anything,” explains Cheptoo. Sexual harassment is common especially in the work place. The United Nations Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women defines sexual harassment as any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favour, verbal or physical conduct or gesture of a sexual nature, or any other behaviour of a sexual nature that might reasonably be expected or be perceived to cause offence or humiliation to another. Sexual harassment may occur between persons of the opposite or same sex. Both males and females can be either the victims or offenders. William Janak, chairman Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA) echoes Cheptoo’s sentiments saying professionalism and self-respect must be the guiding light for all journalists.
“Whereas KCA advocates and lobby’s for journalists’ professional as well as social welfare, it only intervenes in cases reported to the association,” notes Janak. He regrets that most correspondents do not report their complaints to the KCA or any other organ that can come to their rescue making it difficult to intervene. KCA advocates for better working conditions, security and welfare for correspondents with their respective media organisation. It also strives at enhancing members professional capacities through organising seminars, their ethical conduct within members and media industry. But for Mercy* who will be graduating from School of Information Science at Moi University this year, her experience as an intern has been an unfortunate one. The pressure for meeting tight deadlines and the sexual demands to get the help she so much needs is becoming too much to bear. Mercy’s formative days were full of optimism with the dream of becoming a reporter and a voice to the voiceless.
Journalists on assignment at Tata Chemicals, Magadi. Below, a print journalist taking photos. Female journalists have continuously been victims of sexual harassment in media houses. Pictures: David Mbewa and AWC. Her day starts at dawn and by 8am, she is at her desk reading all the newspapers catching up with the latest events so she is upto date while awaiting assignments from her supervisor.
“I am always the last to be assigned work. It all began with harmless comments on my weakness and strong areas of writing,” says Mercy. She recalls her supervisor saying: ‘Mercy I know you have the potential of making a ‘superb’ writer if you took this attachment seriously. You have all the aspects of a good journalist but the only problem is you are not ready to ‘stretch’ a little bit.’ Barely a month into her three month internship, Mercy has so far encountered numerous sexual advances right from her supervisor to the office cleaner. The innuendos did not stop there. They went further to say: ‘Three months may not be enough for you to grasp the onus of writing well. You will need some extra training if need be away from office. I will be out in the field with you to help you on how to spot good stories and in the office I help you on how to angle them.’ At first all this sounded exciting for Mercy and she purposed to avail herself to benefit from the wealth experience of this editor, but little did she know that the extra training was to come at a price. Mercy says her three months seemed like a year. She fought against sexual advances that strained her working relation with her ‘trainers’. Mercy’s story is no different from other sea-
soned female journalists or interns. Joan* a victim of Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) says she was lured by her supposed news sources into having sex before being granted the interview. “I had this pressure from my editor over a story that I had suggested to him. The story was from this wealthy man and by all standards it had all the news values. My source agreed for an interview in one of the private hotels in the outskirts of Eldoret town,” recalls Joan. “I arrived at the venue on time and learnt my guest had checked in. I was kept guessing for almost an hour with phone calls after another. Finally I was directed to the second floor in a residential room.”
She says after meeting the source he confessed how much he had been tracking her down for a relationship. While Joan confesses to have seen it coming, the allure and intimidation of money from the 50 something year-old affluent man was so real and too much to resist. “I never gave in to his sexual demands, but I will be a liar to say he never spent a fortune on my day-to-day bills for a good while before giving up because I was not going to sleep with him by all means,” she says. Others have had their male counterparts set them up for selfish interests. Another female scribe says her male colleague used her to extort some money and information from a politician only for her to learn later that the ‘journalist’ benefited at her expense.
Executive Director: Arthur Okwemba Editor: Jane Godia
“There was a media briefing on the ICC cases in a hotel within the town. Together with my colleagues we all assembled and after the briefing he walked to me and asked for my phone number. Later in the evening he called and invited me for dinner with his ‘friends’ at an exclusive resort in Nakuru town where I was working by then,” she recalls. “We were all alone he kept telling me he was to meet some of his friends at the club. It was tempting and hard to resist his advances for a one night stand, I thank God I escaped,” she says while adding that the politician forcefully managed to caress and kiss her while in his sleek car. He dropped me at the estate that night but of course with some KSh5,000, I guess as a sign of good times ahead in case I changed my mind.
Sub-Editors: Mercy Mumo and Carolyne Oyugi Designer: Noel Lumbama
Contributors: Oloo Janak, Waikwa Maina, Kariuki Mwangi, Caroline Wangechi, Antony Tiapukel, Mark Mwangi, Joseph Munene, Waikwa Maina, Benson Mwanga, Lydia Ngoolo, Tom Rachuonyo, Parsai Joto, Omondi Gwengi, Henry Kahara, Kigondu Ndavano, Kariuki Mwangi, Adam Juma, Nicole Waithera, Kariuki Mwangi, Allan Murimi, Duncan Mboyah and Robert Wanjala
The paper is produced with funds from
Published on Jan 22, 2013