September | 2015 |

Monthly Archives: September 2015

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Pregnant, HIV/AIDS positive and Orphaned- The Sad Story of Mary

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Category : Naya Blog

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

Wasn’t it once said that East or West, home is best? That wasn’t true for Mary. In fact home was nothing but a nightmare for her.

Life in Manyatta slums was hard in itself. It only got more complicated that she was staying with her single mother who was battling her own wars with alcoholism. When she was sober, which was once in a year, she was clueless and in her own world, when she was drunk she was verbally and physically abusive.

Mary longed for the opportunity to give the slum her back, for good!

Until one day God opened for her doors, or so she thought.

When Mary met a woman who promised her heavens without shedding a sweat, the deal was too good and she didn’t think twice, not even once. She grabbed the opportunity with two hands. She didn’t ask the woman what kind of work she would be doing or where she would be based.

The assurance of quick money was all the motivation she needed.

In hindsight, maybe she would have asked, maybe she would have still been with us today.

But she didn’t.

True to her words, her new benefactor offered her a bed fit for a queen. She had access to more than  three meals a day! Her former life already seemed like a distant memory.

“Adios poverty,’ she must have chanted.

Paradise did not last forever. Her benefactor gradually asked of her things that she wasn’t comfortable with. Male visitors started trooping into their new house. Visitors that she was required to entertain.

At first it was just standing there in skimpy clothing and looking all pretty and dazzling. Then she had to waltz around her the visitors and dance with them. Sometimes the visitors would grab her buttocks or breasts and squeeze them. They seemed to be having the time of their lives.

She didn’t complain because after these little tasks these generous men stuffed money into her private parts.

‘Continue being good to us, and we will repay the favor”, they kept assuring her on their way out.

These visits became more frequent and more intense until the Caesars demanded what was owed unto them -SEX!

By now this demands did not outrage or surprise her anymore. Not least because they assured her of more money if they had sex with her, and even more if she let them in without condoms.

The men were even older than her dead father but she convinced herself the end justifies the means.

Her benefactor however started receiving payment on her behalf and giving her crumbs from the bread.

In addition to her new job description, she was still expected to do all the house chores from cleaning to cooking!

The three meals she had started getting used to also disappeared instantly.

She was now nothing but a sex slave!

“Enough is enough.” She thought to herself one night while crying and thinking about her mother’s condition back at home.

That very night she packed the few clothes she had and left for the streets. She had no idea she had just jumped from the frying pan into fire.

With no one to turn to or nowhere to go she just roamed and not very far from the Manyatta Bus Stage, she found what she would refer to as her little haven.

Here, with her job experience, she easily fit into the group of girls like her who peddled their flesh for a plate of fish.

She soon started making ‘good’ money (about fifty shillings per client) that she momentarily forgot her poor and now ailing mother.

However, it wasn’t long before there was trouble in paradise.

Her new ‘friends’’ clients were deserting them for her and naturally they weren’t happy.

Not that Mary was concerned. She had money to buy flashy things and some left overs to indulge in drugs and alcohol.

She was living the life.

That wasn’t to last forever.

She started experiencing some sharp pains in her stomach accompanied with a cough and fever.

She stayed at home for about a week.  Her condition only got worse with every passing day.

When she finally went to the hospital, they found her three weeks pregnant and  HIV/AIDS postive.

It was just too much for her. Mary collapsed.

When she came to, she decided to seek refuge back at home. Only to find that her mother was no more.

That was the final straw.

Pregnant, HIV/AIDS positive and an orphan!

She took her own life!

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Her lifeless body was found in her mother’s shack with a recorded phone message apologizing to society for her actions, including her suicide.

In a tearful message Mary asked the society to show concern for young girls and to provide the necessary support to enable them make informed life’s choices and avoid being misused.

Mary didn’t have to die. But now that she is dead, may her life’s story not be in vain.

But Mary is not a story in isolation. She is just but one of young girls who are recruited into prostitution rings in Kondele and other slum areas with a promise of better tomorrow only to be used as commodities in profitable illicit money making schemes.

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Editor: @Varaq


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Here at last; Welcoming the Sustainable Development Goals!

Category : Naya Blog

(Photo Courtesy: Water Project)

By Robert Aseda, (@Varaq)

Today is one of the most important days in the history of our planet. Fifteen years from now, a century from today, even a million years later, the world will remember this day; the day we buried the Millennium Development Goals and adopted the highly ambitious 17 Sustainable Development Goals!

Our world has never been at a more defining moment! And we were alive to LIVE the moment.

The world realized major gains in previous attempts at accelerating global development including the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) and the International Conference on Population and Development Program of Action.  Maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS, child mortality, poverty rate, illiteracy among others have been severely reduced in most countries.

However, the truth remains that as we come to the close of one agenda, a lot still has to be done.

Gender equality and women empowerment for example still remains a mirage in many countries in the world. Women in certain parts of the world are still exposed to retrogressive cultural practices such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation while others are still discriminated upon based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Many young girls and boys are still unable to access education or youth friendly health facilities or even decent pay for decent work!

That’s why as world leaders  launch goals to guide global development for the next fifteen years, we must take stock of previous attempts, what worked and what didn’t and what we must do differently to realize accelerated global growth.

Even before implementation starts, the inclusive nature of developing the goals must be applauded.

Member Countries gave out their views and what they wanted in the next phase of development as opposed to the top down approach of the Millennium Development Goals.

The deliberate plans by governments to open participation to civil society organizations and young people in a meaningful manner in developing goals, targets and indicators was also a welcome break from a past of mutual suspicion between government and civil society organizations.

But the job is not done. The first step is creating awareness of these new set of goals and what it means to child soldier in Congo, carbon emitting companies in China and the young person in Kenya.

However, this should not just be about elite young people.We have to make these goals ‘sexy’ and ‘palatable’ to all. Young people from children headed households, those in slums, those without formal education, and those living below the poverty line must be involved in the domestication and implementation of these goals.

It is unfortunate that fifteen years after the start of the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals many people remain unaware of such.

We must get it right this time, if we are to bequeath the world to the next generation.

As Barrack Obama did remind us during his visit to Nairobi, We did not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrowed it from our Children.

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“Gender Based Violence Is Never Your Fault”

Category : Naya Blog

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

When Awinja got married to Mr. Ochieng she thought God had finally answered her prayers. Having been brought up in the poorest village in Rabuor, she couldn’t ask for more than getting a proposal from a well know carpenter.

The early years of her marriage were quite envious; night outs to the local hotels for dinner, a lot of shopping at kibuye market just to mention a few.

Cupid had answered her prayers, at last!

It was not until they were blessed with a first born daughter that things changed. Suddenly her husband lost interest in her since she had grown ‘fat’. Her nights became lonely since her better half spent them with bartenders. He would show up late in night just to disturb her uncherished silence.

He started being violent, for the flimsiest of reasons….. Not preparing meals, not being awake when he finally staggered home, if she asked where he had been. …

Her once soft skin was plagued with deep scars, her once stunning beauty eroded with worry and concern.

Even when her life was literally on the line, she chose not to go back to her parents’ home, not just for the sake of her child but for fear of ridicule.

She couldn’t have her friends knowing she was nothing but a punching bag. So she faked a smile and strutted around town like a colossus.

One midnight though Awinja had had enough, after narrowly escaping to be burnt alive she grabbed baby Mercy and took to her heels.

She swore never to return to the beast she called her husband.

Awinja still has the scar of fire on her left hand. She says she has moved on and forgiven his husband but will never trust men again. She is currently a house help in Kisumu and she supports baby mercy with the little money she gets.

Baby Mercy is in school doing very well.

She says it’s never too late to walk out of abusive relationships.

“It’s never your fault, nobody should ever treat you like you don’t matter, like you don’t belong.”

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Society Must Create Enabling Environment for Youth To Thrive

Category : Naya Blog

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

Ever seen that advertisement of a young man stranded at the shop asking for packets of biscuit because he couldn’t stand the shame of buying a condom in a crowded shop? He then leaves the shop after a while only to find the girl gone. Do you think the man will shop for a condom next time??

How comfortable are young people accessing sexual and reproductive health services, including just buying condoms? Isn’t it interesting that a society that despises teenage mothers and frowns upon abortions, judges young people that access these services?

What’s the consistency in that??

Wouldn’t an enabling environment for use of contraceptives tackle most of the challenges facing our young people?

The society is so judgmental when it comes to teenage affairs. You cannot talk about your sexual needs and problems to the society. They will actually see you as a bad person, a pervert and a spoilt brat who wants to spoil others.

A boy and a girl cannot be seen together in this society. All that people think is that whenever a boy is with a girl all they can afford to talk about is sex se sex. They punish them in the name of correcting them while in the real sense they are marking things worse. This only forces these teenagers to do things behind their back.

Where is the stand? Youths caught up in this confusion end up making wrong decision hence increase in STDs, abortion and unwanted pregnancies.

The society must create an enabling environment where young people thrive and are not inhibited.

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Why We Really Need Youth Friendly Services in Seme

Category : Naya Blog

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

I look forward to school holiday because they enable me to visit my grandmother in Seme Kaila but also to interact with other youth from my hometown.

Before I go home my friends usually remind me to carry them condoms, a commodity so precious, yet so rare.

Condoms are probably the cheapest things one can get, especially those ‘yellow’ SURE ones issued by the government, right? Not in Seme, my home town.

Even the once I carry aren’t enough.

My friend Junior decries the state of inadequate access to sexual and reproductive health services including condoms.

“Sometimes we are forced to recycle condoms because we cannot afford to buy condoms every time. Sometimes it’s a choice between food and condoms. It means that after using condoms, I have to rinse it with clean water, apply some oil and store it for yet another session. It’s not just me alone”

Junior has never heard of a youth friendly facility, neither are the hospitals accessible, despite the provisions of the national guidelines on provision of youth friendly services.

‘Do I have to walk for long kilometers just to get a condom? Isn’t recycling just easier?”

Whereas they recognize the risks they put themselves through recycling condoms, to them half a loaf (recycling) is better than no bread.

‘Mike most of the people think that we are okay and healthy but the truth of the matter is that we the youths of seme are suffering and we have been marginalized.’

Junior reminds me that teenage pregnancies in Seme that was aired by a local television was majorly because of limited access to contraceptives.

He is incensed by wastage of public funds by policy makers and little or no investment in youth friendly services.

“Bring us more condoms when you come back but tell our policy makers that we want youth friendly services, not just for condoms but also for other services including family planning methods”

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Stopping Rape Is Our Collective Responsibility

Category : Naya Blog

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

Rape is an act or more so a mis-act, a misplaced agenda, an inhumane vendetta, a behavior only reserved for cowards and people who don’t belong to the society we live in.

It is one of the most devastating crimes here on earth. Many of the victims are usually badly wounded, some become pregnant, and others contract STIs and HIV/AIDS while others die due to the excruciating pain and bleeding.

The trauma that comes after rape is one of the horrible experience one can ever have. Victims develop panic attacks, nightmare, and depression. Their life changes completely. This is the worst kind of punishment that you can ever render to a person.

To be able to get rid of rape in our society, the government needs to put in place harsh punishment for the offenders. If the punishments aren’t punitive enough and the perpetrators freely roam our streets, then the message being sent is that we accept it or see it as normal.

As much as we are in a capitalist society where people are busy minding their own business and earning their own bread, there’s need to be responsible and be each other’s brother and sister’s keeper. We should cease to be eye witness of rape cases and be reporters of rape cases each time they occur.

Benjamin Franklin once said that Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

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No Woman Should Die When Giving Birth

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

For most women, pregnancy is a time of happiness, fulfillment and great expectations.

However, for some this happy moment is just like a big balloon waiting to burst.

It is estimated that more than 800 women die daily from complications during birth. This is according to the World Bank report 2015. These cases of maternal mortality are highest in developing countries in the sub-Saharan region in Africa, Kenya included.

In Kenya maternal mortality is highest in rural areas and amongst the poorest communities. Most of the rural areas are characterized with lack of proper health care services maternal health included. Most of the women in rural areas are poor and thus choose to give birth at their homes with the help of mid wives. This is despite the government declaration of free maternity services.

Majority of these mid wives are only equipped with general knowledge about giving birth and they cannot tackle complication that arises during and after birth. These complications could be in terms of severe bleeding, infection, and high blood pressure during pregnancy.

These, alongside unsafe abortions, are major causes for maternal deaths.

These deaths can be prevented. It starts with deliberate allocation of resources to reproductive health and generally improving the dilapidated healthcare system, especially in rural areas.

When pregnant women have access to skilled care before, after and during child birth, even their general health status improve.

We believe all women in Kenya deserve to have a full access to both antenatal care and skilled care and support during child birth and after child birth. These services need to be done in settings that meet human and physical thresholds of competence.

This just goes beyond formulation of policies and declarations, these plans must be implemented fully including with budgetary backing for the plans of action.

No woman should die when giving birth.

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SAY NO TO FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION

Category : Naya Blog

By Michael Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

I bet most girls love Beyoncé’s track “IF I WAS A BOY” not because a boy child is any better than them but because of the many challenges they go through in life as girls as they grow. We have to understand that they never chose to be girls and if they knew what it takes to be a girl child they would opt for the opposite. Imagine what a single sex Kenya would look like.

Why do you deprive a girl her sexual pleasure by letting her undergo the cut,…why does the process too have to be ruthless, cutting someone with no anesthetics involved not forgetting the bleeding that can lead to death…why subject a group of innocent girls to one razor risking being infected with STDs and HIV/AIDS…why sew up their genitals leaving a wheat grain space which troubles them during short calls which are meant to ease one… why tie their legs up in the name of enhancing quick recovery only to render them immobile…

Some girls have lived to curse their parents since their wounds have never fully recovered…In death cases the perpetrators walk away freely with the saying “accidents are bound”…IT IS HIGH TIME NON PROGRESSIVE CULTURAL PRACTICES ARE ABOLISHED IN THE SOCIETY AND THE GOVERNMENT TAKES ADEQUATE TOUGH AND HARSH MEASURES/ACTION ON THE PERPETRATORS OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION

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PRESS RELEASE- WE STRONGLY CONDEMN AND DEMAND FOR ACTION AGAINST THOSE SEXUALLY VIOLATING WOMEN

PRESS RELEASE

 

WHAT: WOMEN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS CONDEMN AND DEMAND FOR ACTION AGAINST THOSE SEXUALLY VIOLATING WOMEN

 

WHERE: LAICO REGENCY HOTEL

 

WHEN: 8TH SEPTEMBER 2015;   11.30 a.m.

 

WHO: ORGANISATIONS PROMOTING WOMEN RIGHTS AND WOMEN EMPOWERMENT

 

 

OUR POSITION

We young women and young people from the undersigned women rights organizations wish to expresses our anger, utter disbelief and condemnation, in the strongest terms possible, the savagery actions of one quack doctor Mugo wa Wairimu. We demand for the immediate arrest of Mugo wa Wairimu and his prosecution to the fullest extent under the Kenyan law. We are also demanding the immediate closure of all his clinics and illegal health practice.

 

We urge the Jubilee government and the president in particular to denounce the sycophancy of Mugo Wa Wairimu as a strong message to criminals who want to use political activism as cover for crime. We wish to remind the government that it has a moral and constitutional obligation to ensure that public health facilities are properly resourced to provide the public and especially women with quality reproductive health care. The medical authorities have been negligent and far from competent in supervising the health sector to ensure public safety. We demand the immediate overhaul of the structures entrusted with the responsibility to oversee medical practice in Kenya

 

It is shocking that in a country that claims to be guided by the rule of law, a criminal purporting to be a health care provider has been allowed to prey on vulnerable women with the greatest impunity. His actions of luring women with free reproductive health services, sedating them once in his clinic, and then raping them, can only be likened to horror movies, and from people who do not deserve to be part of humanity and a civilized society.

 

In a well done expose by Citizen Television, the quack, who is also a known blogger, is seen violating every aspect of confidence placed on him by a female patient. In the viral footage, the unscrupulous doctor is seen sedating the woman before proceeding to rape her when unconscious, and subjecting her to physical and mental anguish. Whereas this was just a single incidence captured on camera, we are disturbed that many women who have fallen victim to this quack’s heinous acts are out there suffering in silence; especially with his well calculated strategy of luring poor women into his clinic with the promise of offering them free treatment.

 

But that’s not the worst from the quack doctor who remains unapologetic and unremorseful in the wake of the serious charges against him, including not being registered and not having a valid practicing certificate. We wonder and question the lackluster response by authorities for not ensuring that his business was permanently closed when he was found to break the law early this year.

 

But this quack doctor’s case is a representation of an emerging and disturbing trend where women are being subjected to sexual violence with impunity. The cruel culture of rape has pervaded every aspect of our society that there’s every risk of seeing it as normal at the very best and funny at worst. According to Crime Scene Investigation Unit Reports, 83% of women and girls in Kenya report one or more episodes of physical and sexual abuse in childhood. Further reports reveal that over one in four women meet their first sexual encounter in the hands of rapists.

 

Every day in the media reports of women, girls, children who are raped and violated are made. Yet no arrests are reported with the same frequency. The perpetrators continue to freely roam our streets, further encouraging the despicable rape culture. Children are defiled in our homes by people close to them, young women are raped by taxi drivers, there are cases of alleged rape by Members of Parliament and others are also stripped naked by touts in the name of indecency, this is not the Kenya we want.

 

Young women, girls and children in Kenya are not safe in their homes, streets, schools, villages and now even at hospitals where they go to seek help. This is totally unacceptable and there should be no room to tolerate this. While we acknowledge that judicial reforms are ongoing to make prosecutions effective and fast, we feel that the reforms are taking longer than expected. Meanwhile, more women continue to pay the price. We have paid enough. We now demand Actions.

 

We therefore demand:

  1. A press statement and commitment from the office of Director of Public prosecution on how he is acting on this issue.
  2. Establishment and operationalize of sexual offender database in accordance with the recommendations of the Sexual Offences Act. And the Publication of the database and faces of all sexual violence offenders in Kenya
  3. Re-open the file and investigate the case of the young woman OB number 51/6/11/2014 featured on Citizen TV.
  4. We call for improved, accessible, friendly, and free health care system from the government facilities to reach to young women and girls who have no access to proper health care.
  5. Remove all barriers to uptake of reproductive health services by women and youth, and ensure access to friendly reproductive health services. The services must be in the right place, at the right time, at the right price (free where necessary) and delivered in the right style to be acceptable to young people and women.
  6. Clear communication from the Doctors and Dentists board and all Medical regulatory bodies on the actions the body will take on medical and health professionals who continue to abuse their professional privileges advancing injustices against patients in particular sexual violence and abuse of any kind.
  7. We call for the computerisation of the Occurrence Book (OB) system, for ease of tracking of cases and flagging repeat offenders.
  8. We call for more action from Kenya Medical Association (KMA) to publish and circulate names of unscrupulous Health care providers or facilities providing health care without a license on national newspapers.

 

Signed

  • Young women’s Leadership Institute
  • Network for Adolescents and youth of Africa NAYA KENYA
  • Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH)
  • Dandelion Kenya
  • Youth Changers Kenya
  • Okoa Dada Kenya
  • Fortress of Hope Africa
  • Women’s Students Welfare Association (WOSWA)
  • National Youth Consortium
  • Africa Youth Advocacy Network