The Other Woman

Celebrating the International Women Day

As the World celebrates the International Women’s Day, Action for Children in Conflict joins millions and millions of voiceless Women who may be may not even be aware of the celebrations are taking place across the globe. AfCiC wishes to reflect on the situation of Women in Kenya focusing on the life of an ordinary woman in Thika. However we would want to look at education, health, water and access to justice with a view of bring out the true picture of an ordinary peri-urban woman in Kenya

According to the Kenya Bureau of Statistics, there exist serious gender disparities in the country. In North Eastern Province Gross Enrolment Rate for girls is 29% compared to 112% in Western Province. In Nairobi’s informal settlements only 22% of 15 to 17 year old girls were enrolled in school compared to 68% nationally and 73% in rural areas. Furthermore, in a country filled with cultural norms, girls in many communities are still seen as homemakers who do not deserve to go to school and are subject to female genital mutilation among other forms of violence. Extreme poverty and hunger continues to cripple many women in the slums and rural areas reducing possibilities for women to enjoy any opportunity that comes their way including the free primary education. With the little resources that some families have, they prefer to send their boys to school since it is believed that they are future wealth sources to their parents than the girls, as they will go on to be breadwinners.

With no information and right to negotiate safe sex, women continue to carry the burden of HIV/AIDS with millions dying for lack of essential life prolonging drugs like ARV’s and poor diet. Action for Children in Conflict through its work with communities in Central Kenya have identified a very worrying trend where elderly mothers have taken up the responsibility of taking care of their grandchildren, sometimes as many as 12 children all below 8 years, These category of women is most traumatized and burdened by HIV and AIDS, they are unable even to meet the very basic nutrition since there is never enough food in the house. Furthermore the very elderly and weak women have gone back to doing hard labor in local farms and quarries to feed the orphans. The situation is worse with younger women of reproductive health age whose inability to assert their sexual rights continue to be exploited by men and exposed health risks over and above HIV and AIDS. This includes denial of opportunity for visiting the hospital since every time they go out they have to get permission from their spouse resulting in the women missing out on existing services like family planning and other essential screening that would easily keep away diseases like cervical cancer away.

It will be acknowledged that Kenya has very good laws from the Constitution of Kenya 2010 which provides for a wide range of opportunities for protection and development of women. However the story is different when it comes to implementation, women will unlikely have the opportunity to succeed their deceased husband, have a say in the domestic budgets and in some places women will not even own property in their names. In most instances women will instantly be evicted from their matrimonial homes when their husbands die, sometimes even before the burial takes place. The most dominant areas of discrimination are concerned with laws on inheritance, sexual and gender based violence. At this point let us go through the life of Anne

Anne Akinyi is is a happy joyous 35 years old mother of seven children and a resident of Kiandutu slums in Thika forty minutes drive north of Nairobi the capital city of Kenya. Ann ‘s parents migrated to Thika almost fifty years ago when the town known then as the Birmingham of Kenya due to its very vibrant industries that not only kept the economy of Kenya thriving but also employed thousands of workers from across the East Africa region.

Well, Thika as an industrial giant in East Africa is a story of the past save for just two or three factories that keep going despite the economic meltdown. What remains to witness the good times that have since gone are empty factories, some that can be said to be dangerous since they have been left unattended including the chemicals that were being in use.

However, while the ghostly shells of factories are a worrying reminder of the past, the abandoned mothers; parents of hundreds of vulnerable children are a source of concern. As we celebrate the International Women’s Day, a thought for Ann and hundreds of women like her who live in extremely hard circumstances is in order. Life is a daily struggle to Ann, as she tries to eke a living from nothing barely getting enough to feed her children. With limited education Ann does not have access to family planning or any reproductive health education. She actually lives the day as it comes and hope for a better tomorrow, the question is will tomorrow come for Ann. At one point in her life Anne was happily married with a lot of support from her husband, extended family and friends. However the passing on of the husband from what then was referred to as a curse disease resulted in her being kicked out of the matrimonial home together with her five children, she has since gotten another two children through other associations while trying to go back to a stable family.

While Ann suffered the pain of being evicted from a home she had put together with her husband the pain of losing all the property they had jointly gotten together with the husband is very evident in her face. However the most frustrating part is when her children cannot go to school because of very basic requirements like uniforms and her children sleeping without food days on the end. In the meantime the stigma and harassment by the community because she is single, is her biggest problem and brings her down to a point of desiring to leave the world. We celebrate Ann and many other women who like her struggle through-out their lives to make a living not for themselves but for the sake of children and society. Action for Children in Conflict wishes to continue investing in the wellbeing of women like Anne, by making life more bearable through organization, trainings, linking up the women with essential services and including medical and small business development opportunities.

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