CSW62,To give hope to rural women and girls in Africa

 

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CSOs meeting in Nairobi during the Pre-CSW conference

Feb 19th- 20th, Over 40 Africa womens’ rights organizations convened at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for a regional meeting with an aim to agree on priorities over issues that affect women and girls in rural areas across Africa.

The conference (#CSWAfrica) hosted by the Africa Womens’ Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) together with Africa’s steering committee and delegates purposed to set the agenda straight ahead of the UN Commission on Status of Women (CSW62) coming up next month.The theme; Securing Africa Rural Women Footprint at CSW62 and beyond, was in line with this years’ CSW priority theme- Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and empowerement of rural girls and women.

The strategic meeting mainly called upon African rural women to share their realities to influence policies that could lead to achieving gender equality.

It is important to note that rural women constitute one-fourth of worlds population. They are leaders,producers and service providers. Over years, their contribution has been found to be very vital to the well-being of families, communities, economies and the overall achievement of the Millenium Development Goals (MDG’s) and Agenda 2063.

Moreover, rural women account for a significant proportion of the agricultural labour force and produce the majority of food grown, especially in subsistance farming, and still perform most of the unpaid care work. Yet their rights and contributions have largely been overlooked.

Rural women continue to experience unequal opportunities in access to healthcare, sexual reproductive health needs,  education, infrastructure, food security, nutrition, technology and general access to information. Sadly, they often bare the brunt of gender based violence, sexual exploitation, harmful cultures such Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), child and forced marriages and subsequently denied access to justice.

A good number of rural women face more difficulties than men in accessing public services, social protection, employment and markets due to cultural norms, security issues and the formidable lack of identification documents. Women without Identification cards cannot access health, education, pensions, application for property title or deeds and other social services in addition to their ability to vote!

Additionally, while women have equal property ownership and inheritance rights, gender disparities in land holdings persist worldwide.

Whereas governments have put in place various legislations and policies to protect the rights of rural women and girls, their realization still remains a pipe dream due to lack of awareness among these groups. Again, continued gender imbalances and partriachy jeopardize the realization of these existing laws and policies.

Such conferences provide a great platform for nations to deliberate towards the acceleration and implementation of the Beijing Declaration among other regional and global declarations geared towards the achievement of gender equality. CSW62 offers a perfect opportunity for building alliances to achieve gender equality and empower rural women and girls.

Continue reading “CSW62,To give hope to rural women and girls in Africa”

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#9 Reasons why we could be losing the fight against #FGM

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Some of the tools used for female genital cutting

Today marks three years since I actively joined the #EndFGM movement in Kenya.

Ever since I learnt of the practice, I purposed to make a personal contribution towards its eradication. I have been a passionate activist and blogger against the practice; writing for my site and guest blogging for a couple of other sites, touching on various areas around FGM, Child /forced Marriage.

Nonetheless, my consistent focus on the issue has spiraled me to becoming a top authority figure in the field; https://agilience.com/en/komba_lorna, meaning I can authoritatively speak about the subject from an informed perspective, without fear or favor.

Over the years , I have observed the the bandwagon make progress and also falter along the way. Indeed both quantifiable and non-quantifiable progress has been made especially in terms of awareness creation through media advocacy, and also through social media channels. There also has been slight progress in terms of enforcement of policies and legislations. In effect, lives have been saved through averted FGM incidents. Additionally, there have been various media reports about girls who were at risk of FGM being able to complete primary/secondary/tertiary education after being spared or being rescued from the cut.

The fight against FGM in Kenya has been and is still receiving tumultuous resistance. A revisionist movement is slowly but surely pushing back. Unless campaigners revisit the journey and make right whatever is wrong, we risk detouring back to the starting point!

My candid observation arrived at 9 main reasons why we could be losing the battle.

#1. Unrealistic, far fetched counteractive strategies for combating FGM

Every practicing community has its own reasons for upholding the practice and would therefore not welcome any other divergent views, even from one of their own. Having stated this, organizations that get through to communities imagining that they know best what the community should do lose terribly. What works for community A might not work for community B. Imposing change on communities only brings forth backlash.

Grassroots organizations often lose it especially when implementing what the donor wants versus doing what is right! Such initiatives are neither community led nor community owned. It’s no wonder you hear of girls undergoing the cut hours after a community public declaration ceremony/ Alternative Rites of passage (ARP) ceremony!

I would wish to focus on this point because I feel here is where we get it wrong! Unless the community takes center stage in leading the fight against FGM, we would rather save the resources or direct them elsewhere.

#2. Tired Reasons for practicing

Well, when I joined the bandwagon, I could almost recite all the reasons as to why FGM should end. These ‘Recitable” reasons make perfect sense to survivors of FGM and those who have second hand experience of FGM. I have not long ago written an article about ‘Changing the FGM conversation’ (https://www.girlsglobe.org/2017/04/21/the-fgm-conversation-has-to-change/) Briefly, (for those who won’t bother with the link) I believe it’s time we moved the conversation from the known health and social cultural issues to a more holistic approach; framing around the socio-economic and political impact of FGM, so that reasons for abolition make sense to every person,young and old. We honestly need to focus on how such cultures obstruct the emancipation of girls and women.

#3. Social media disconnect

Where-as I recommend the use of social media to create awareness on FGM and push for realization of its various agendas through its critical mass as well as exchange of ideas and experiences, the only challenge remains its exclusiveness. Most of the discussions that take place on social media hardly proliferate to the afftected population. It as though the two groups (online and offline) exist in two different worlds, one functioning as the others’ mouthpiece. Social media has also become a place where a lot is said and very little done, where after talking individuals retrieve back to their conform zones-a bickering space, if I may describe it.

How many people in rural Kenya can access internet, let alone afford smartphones. Of course,it is new media but we cannot drive real change without touching and feeling the ground.

#4.  Lack of capacity
There is a ton of campaigners, some of whom are survivors, who have great passion to advocate against the practice but lack the basic know-how. They lack skills to manage organizations and finances that come along . They do not know how to speak on media, they can not monitor and evaluate their projects, they do not know how to embrace technology etc.

#5.  Lack of passion and greed

Similarly, the #EndFGM wagon has been infested by joy riders who are either looking to make a living out of the cause, looking to make a fortune, looking for fame or looking to sabotage the cause! As a result, the latent public is obviously slowing down progress made by the active committed lot.

It is absurd that campaigners compete against each other, organizations compete against each other at the expense of a girls life, instead of working together! This is not a contest!

#6. Loopholes in the law
The 2011 Anti-FGM act as it stands does not satisfactorily secure girls from FGM. We all know where the loopholes are and must work to address them sooner than later. I will not say much about it for fear of contempt of court due to the on-going petition against the FGM law.

#7. Inability to tap into devolution
Ever since Kenya adopted a devolved system of governance, campaigners have been unable to take advantage of the opportunity. Never before have we been closer to the government. The devolved ministries of gender and sports/culture need to be actively engaged. It is a good thing that campaigners can now easily access their leaders. I applaud Kajiado county for fully domesticating the Anti-FGM law, to suit their context.

#8. Lack of political will

If elected leaders made eradication of FGM their priority. It would be a thing of the past. But we all know they will never risk losing their political seats! Very few have publicly spoken against the practice but a majority avoid the subject as a plague!

Well forget number 9. I shall not bring up the common issue of lack of funds. This is the most mundane excuse that I keep hearing. If we seriously want to end FGM, we do not require billions of shillings, we require the will and honest conversations..

Conversations emanating from bottom coming up to the top and not the other way round!

#ZeroToleranceToFGM

 

 

AU Expected to lead the fight against corruption for better Sexual Reproductive Health services in Africa…

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Kadiatou Konate (left) and Djelia Diallo (right), some of the youngest FEMNET members from Guinea during the 31st GIMAC consultative meeting held at UNECA, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

My ‘Writivism’ this year kicked off on a rather high note! Just the right momentum required to roll through the year! Well, In the course of last week, I got an opportunity to participate in a regional dialogue on ‘Ending corruption whilst advancing sexual reproductive health in Africa’. The interactive yet simmering dialogue, convened by Africa Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), in Addis Ababa, brought together Ministers of Gender, young women organizations, United Nations and Africa Union Representatives from women organizations across Africa.

The dialogue which would in turn feed its outcomes to this years’ AU Summit, aimed at providing a platform for women’s rights organizations to interface with policy makers to discuss how to prioritize and finance for sexual reproductive health rights- with the necessary measures to prevent losing the funds through corruption. The dialogue therefore zeroed around the 30th Session of the AU Summit theme; “Winning the fight against corruption: A sustainable path to Africa’s transformation”

Malawi’s Minister Gender Affairs Hon Dr. Jean Kalilani led in the official opening of the dialogue. In her opening remarks, she said,

“ Corruption is destructive and retrogressive to the development of the African Region for it denies men, women and children equitable access to public services such as Sexual reproductive health rights which are core services to women and girls, if these services are unavailable or inaccessible women and girls suffer adverse impacts”

From the discussion, is was apparent that corruption has taken root in public health care institutions, paradoxically, institutions mandated with improving and preserving lives. Without a doubt, there is an urgent need to address such an issue at the helm of millions of lives across Africa.

Public health practitioners and organizations use power and influence to self enrich at the expense of patients. Corrupt activities include bribery, theft, nepotism, kickbacks, embezzlement, bureaucratic activities and misinformation.

Examples shared among the Participants during the dialogue included;

• Charging of services where services are to be procured freely
• Charging exorbitantly
• Referring patients at public hospitals to privately owned (by doctors) clinics
• Sexual exploitation
• Drug and pharmaceutical cartels within the public health system
• Misinformation
• Failing to provide information about Sexual Reproductive Health Services

In these instances, patients are likely to lose lives at the hands of health care providers. Infant mortalities, maternal mortalities,obstructive labor and pregnancy related complications are bound to occur.

Dinah Musindarwezo, Executive Director FEMNET, urged civil society organizations to actively engage policy makers to prioritize focus on sexual reproductive health and ensure that financing of the same is given utmost attention.

1st panelist, Esther Kimani, Program Officer Trust for Indigenous Culture Health (TICAH) suggested for gender responsive budgeting which would in turn increase budget allocation to SRHR programs. She however said that this can only be achieved if women get involved in the budgetary allocation processes.

“Preventing health sector corruption is a complex and difficult task, however audits and accountability should be spearheaded by special units within governments to expose corruption. Anti- corruption laws and regulations need to be enforced and culprits, investigated and expedited” Pointed out Second Panelist, Hanatu Kabbah Program Officer IPAs

Paticipants agreed that policy makers should engage local and traditional leaders who are popularly misguided about sexual reproductive health services. Religious leaders too need to be involved in policy formulation for they have power to disseminate information and power to provide guidance relating to sexual reproductive health rights, to a critical mass.

Additionally, Young people need to actively involve themselves in development of policies to bargain for better budgetary allocations, to provide knowledge on SRH issues that affect them and thereby provide guidance on the way forward.

There is need for governments through responsible ministries to raise awareness about SRHR through education programs in schools and learning institutions. Proper women/youth friendly centers that attend to SRH queries need to be set up. Moreover, there is need to collect concrete data that will inform decision making.

During her speech, Hon. Dr. Kalilani pointed out that her government , Malawi has ratified and domesticated various regional instruments that give SRH a priority and that advocacy should be enhanced to encourage other governments that have not yet ratified to the conventions such as the Maputo Protocol to do so as a commitment to enhancing SRHR for girls and women.

SRHR are related to many aspects including girl child education. Girl Child education is negatively affected by harmful traditional practices, FGM, gender based violence and child marriage. Effective, affirmative provision of sexual and health rights interventions will have a ripple effect across Africa nations.

Lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services contributes to gender inequalities, discrimination, violence and disempowerment of girls and women!

It is estimated that Africa is losing more than USD50bn every year as governments and multinationals companies engage in criminal activities thereby hampering development projects and denying citizens access to crucial resources.

FEMNET, through its most recent press release to the AU has urged for resources lost through corruption to be recovered in Anti-Corruption efforts to replenish the gaps on provision of health care services, education and the establishment of infrastructure to improve the quality of life for its people.

Such recommendations will spearhead for accountable, affordable, sustainable, quality and available sexual reproductive health services across Africa!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Christine Omao, A passionate SRHR Advocate!

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Christine Omao

Earlier on this year, I met Christine Omao during a workshop by The Africa Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) -a training of trainers (ToT) for young women activists that was meant to equip them with necessary skills required for their advocacy work at the grassroots, #YoungWomenSay. I immediately fell in love with her energy, exuberance and passion for the work that she does. Christine is a woman who would easily charm you! I have been following her work and I have also met her during other different workshops;  Wait until you read what she does- That too will fascinate you!  

Christine Omao works at Dandelion Kenya since January 2015 to lead advocacy on sexual reproductive health and rights including safe abortion, at the grassroots, regional and global level. She leads mentorship programs in schools and community outreaches within Nakuru county and engages women on safe abortion advocacy. She manages Dandelion Kenyas’ strategic partnerships with Personal Initiative for Positive Empowerent (PIPE) to explore the intersections of HIV and SRHR.

At Dandelion Kenya, she is the focal point for the Kenya Adolescent and youth reproductive health and rights network which is a youth led network with 30 member organizations from all over Kenya, championing young people’s access to SRHR information and services. As a member of the network and through Dandelion Kenya, she led Nakuru young people’s input into this years Africa Union (AU) consultation meeting that outlined young people and especially young women’s needs in regards to the Demographic Dividend. The outcome fed into the January 2017 AU summit to Addis Ababa. The network has also been involved in the FP2020 consultations for young people representation.

She particularly has passion in advocacy for young women’s access to family planning and participated in empowering Africa youth through the demographic dividend dialogue in Berlin Germany. Through Dandelion Kenya, she has been involved in budget hearings and preparation of the Reproductive, Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health (RMCA&H) cost implementation plan for Nakuru county. She is among the founders of the Nax4p movement, a movement of young people within Nakuru trained by DSW on family planning leveraging on social media platform such as #SRHRDialogues, spearheaded Dandelion Kenya for advocacy. In addition, Chrstine is a member of FEMNET and a champion for DSW Kenya!

Here is the interview I held with her!

Why abortion and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR)

Being a mentor to young women and girls, I would suggest that it is high time we stop burying our heads in the sand as we continue to lose our girls to issues that can be worked on. According to available statistics, children as young as 8 years are sexually active! 

A recent research by AMWIK shows that young people depend on the Internet as their first reliable source of information concerning SRHR, followed by their peers. Why can’t we be their first and trusted source of information? What are these peers telling each other? What sort of conversations are they having among themselves?

Three weeks ago , a 12 year old girl approached me and asked if its true when using a male condom you should use two to guarantee safety. I could not condemn her because she is young, clearly she is engaging in sex. I gave her the right information!
Sustainable Development Goal 3 talks about good health and well being for all. I am responsible for ensuring this goal and targets attached to it are realized. We cannot continue losing young girls and women to unsafe abortions, we cannot continue losing young people due to STIs and HIV.

These are things that can be prevented as early as now.. We just need to voice these issues out. And as a nation we shall only achieve our full potential when ours SRHR are protected.

What do you consider some of your successes?

Huh! They are so many!..

There is a girl by the name Naomi Mumbi who is now pursuing her Bachelors Degree in Michigan State University. Naomi directly links her success to our project and she also happens to be a mentor to the other girls at Dandelion Kenya.

The other success story is about a girl called Mary (not her real name) whose parents disowned for engaging with boys in the neighborhood at age 13. She was handed over to me when she was 19, and had dropped out of school. She had given up on her education. I was able to mentor her and help her go back to school. She recently joined campus and is a first year student. Am so proud of her. She is a role model to the other girls. Am proud of myself too!

What are your dreams and aspirations for young girls and women in Kenya?

I would love to see girls and women free and safe from all forms of Gender Based Violence. I wake up every day hoping to change a girls life. I take it upon myself to ensure that every girl I know of is able to achieve her dreams. I would want to see a world where girls and women can make their own choices without anyone judging them based on their gender.

Ending partriachy, achieving gender equity and equality is what gets me up from my bed every morning!

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Christine Omao, during The National Dalogue on Protection of Children Against SGBV

 

What are your future plans?

Mhhh… Giving back to my community where FGM is quite rampant (Kisii). In future I intend to move back to my rural home and work with my community to end Female Genital Mutilation, (FGM) and ensure that all girls get an education.

I will also influence policies that protect our girls from Gender Based Violence- until women achieve there Sexual Reproductive Health Rights, until women are free from all forms on GBV.

What are some of the challenges you encounter during your work?

I receive a lot of backlash from the community since my work touches on sensitive, taboo topics. Most of the time we are denied access to villages to sensitize young people on SRHR, we are viewed as bad people who want to spoil young people.

Policies by the Ministry of Education (MoE) on sex education limits our work and some program implementation because we are denied access to some schools as mentors, we are viewed as enemies of their work.

Lack of proper funding also drags our work, we have projects that cannot be implemented without sufficient funding..

 

Surviving gang rape..

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Speaking to Rhoda* at the Bridge Centre, Mukuru Kwa Njenga

Mid December 2017, I set out to meet amazing girls at the Bridging Centre in Mukuru Kwa Njenga, Nairobi. A drive through the overpopulated, shanty housed slum, with seemingly narrow pathways dotted with overly delighted kids engulfing the whole neighborhood in screams and yells of joy as they darted across the road, playing polythene paper stuffed soccer ball, I finally arrived at the bridging Centre which is situated adjacent to a hospital deep within the slum region.

I met and interacted with a couple of girls. Rhoda caught my attention. She is a courageous girl. She is confident, smart and assertive. She posses unique skills and adorns a ‘tom boy look’. She has been through a lot in life… Here is her story

“My name is Rhoda* I am 18 years old. I am an artiste. I love to rap, I do spoken word and write scripts. . My stage name is Rapper G! I live in Mukuru Kwa Njenga. I have dropped out of school not once,twice, after Form 1 and now Form 2 due to lack of school fees and few dicliplinary cases here and there.

Rapping/Spoken word is the only way I get to somewhat express and release the pain and heartache that has mauled me throughout my life.

My mother is a vegetable seller. My father lost his job three years ago and has been unable to get a descent job ever since. Life at home became tough. My mother was struggling to feed, shelter and school me and my three younger siblings. At 17, I departed home in search of a better future.

Unknowingly, I entered into gang life to protect myself from lots of ghetto trouble. My best male friend inside the gang further protected me from other gang members. He later on persuaded me to leave gang life for he feared for my life. He said it wasn’t just my thing and that I was wasting my life. I heeded to his advice. To be safe, I had to shift places.

I decided to look for a job and turn over a new leaf. I easily got a job as a waitress at a local bar close to where I lived. Six days into my new job, my boss and his three friends drugged me and raped me the whole night, in turns..

When the drugs cleared from my system. I woke up feeling dizzy and with a throbbing headache. I was half naked, blood stained and my body pained as though I had been beaten thoroughly. I tried to get up and walk but fell down like a drunkard. I lay still, hoping that it was just one of those crazy dreams and it would soon be over.

In my hullucinations, I heard footsteps moving to my direction. I slowly opened my eyes and saw my boss. He was smiling. He ordered me to get up. He dragged me through the back door to his car and asked for the direction to my home. He drove me home and ordered me to give him my dirty, stained clothes and also asked me to take a shower. I knew I had been raped. I peed in a basin inside my bathroom. My vagina pained! I coined throughout my peeing!

I showered for about an hour while crying my heart out. I kept staring at the blood stained water as it made its way through the sewer hole. I walked out of the shower, the bastard was still standing in the middle of my tiny living room. He told me what he and his friends had done to me.. I swear if I had a gun I would have shot his brains out! He asked me to sleep and never tell anyone whatever had happened and if I did he would kill me! I fell on my sofa and pretended to sleep. When he left. I took the bloody urine. Poured in bottle and took it to a nearby hospital. I was immediately admitted. They did tests on me and gave me medication. After one day, I was discharged from the hospital and handed back to my parents who had been informed about my ordeal.

I hated being a woman. I felt dirty and unworthy! I felt guilty! That was my second worst sexual experience since I had just lost my virginity a month prior to the rape incident. Loosing my virginity was a painful experience. I hadn’t gotten over the pain yet!

To date I have never pursued justice because three months ago, my parents and I reported the incident at a local police station and the police officers laughed at us and told us without concrete evidence we were wasting our time.

Nonetheless , I have been receiving counseling at local councelling Centre.

Trust me, I can never fully heal..

With the support of DREAMs Innovation Challenge,I have decided to go back to school. They too are offering psychosocial support and counseling at the Bridge Centre near my home. I feel safe with them. I also use the computers at the Centre to write and edit my scripts. I have written so many pieces on Gender based violence especially on rape and defilement ..
In January, I shall be going back to school to perfect my spoken English and perfect my English writing skills. I love art and art is my life and my future. 

I sincerely thank DREAMs IC for believing in me..

Continue reading “Surviving gang rape..”

A second chance, is all I ever wanted..

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Lilian* together with her mother and her daughter.

Hope, resilience, determination and focus are written all over Lilian’s face. ‘Am conscious of my mistakes, but all I need is a second chance’ discloses Lilian. Amid the hardships in Lilian’s life, she still believes that one day, the sun will go down..

 

“My name is Lilian* Am 16 years old. I am a single mother to a 5 month old baby girl. I live in Mukuru Kwa Njenga slums, Nairobi.

When I was about 8 years old, my mother moved me upcountry-Western Kenya-to live with my grand-parents for she could not afford to feed and take care of her 5 children. She ‘distributed’ us to relatives and remained with only two of my siblings.

Life upcountry was not as tough as life in the city. At least we had food and most of the other basic needs. I was enrolled to a nearby primary school. I loved school and stayed focused. I made new friends and was a darling to many.

Life changed when my grandmother passed on. My 86 year old grandfather was not as hardworking and caring as my grandmother…Nevertheless, I continued with my education. I sat for my KCPE exams and garnered 300Marks emerging one of the top students in the school. I was very happy.

My dreams of joining a secondary school were trashed away simply because my poor mother and alcoholic father could not afford to pay for the required school fee for Form1. I got called to some of the best schools in Western but sadly I could not go.

Poverty and misery was glaring into our eyes. I lived with so many cousins. We used to scramble for food and steal each other’s clothes. Some of my cousins had to leave since life was becoming unbearable.

At 13, I started my menses. There  was no one to buy for me sanitary towels. For two years I used old clothes and rags as pads. During heavy flow, blood would leak and stain my clothes. I would become a laughing stock to my peers. I chose to avoid school whenever I had my periods.

Being idle in the village, and having lost hope for education, I decided to get a boy who would marry me, at 15. I later on got a boyfriend-a Boda Boda rider. He was great. He bought me pads and gave me money. We used to see each other quite often. He said he loved me. I loved him too. We dated for about six months without any intimacy. Then one day I agreed to have sex with him for the first time.. Little did I know that life would take another turn!

How could I have sex for the first time and get pregnant? I wondered…My boyfriend denied responsibility for the pregnancy. I got very distressed,embarrassed and scared at the same time. I did not tell anyone, but with time my protruding belly spoke for itself. When my mother heard of the news, she was very upset and wanted me to get rid of my pregnancy!

I refused and stood firm to my decision. She picked me up from the village and brought me back to Nairobi. I knew she was going to force me to abort. To my surprise, she did not! She changed her mind. Ever since she has been quite supportive.

Then on one bright day, while basking outside the house and enjoying the the sun rays that softly and sweetly sipped through my skin; benefiting from the natural Vitamn D, as my baby took a nap, I was approached by an organization that works to help girls who had dropped out to school due to various factors, to re-enroll back to school. They said they were called DREAMs IC . I did not believe them, I thought they were traffickers. I shared the news with my mother when she returned home from her house to house cloth washing business. She encouraged me to find out where they were. Later that week, we went to visit them to verify their legality. I was shocked to meet other girls at the Centre whose situations weren’t  different from mine.

I did not sleep that night! I was very excited! And thanked God for yet another chance at life! I immediately joined the other girls together with my baby-whom I drop at a day care at the same Centre. Life has never been the same. I was given my basic utilities plus my baby’s. We were so happy!

I have completed the six months learning program under the DREAMs Innovation Challenge. I too have secured a slot at a nearby day secondary school.This coming January, I will be going back to school. I have been given a back to school starter pack containing all the basic essentials and am really exited to get into a secondary school. Am also grateful that my mother has offered to help raise my baby.

I always dreamt of becoming a Neurosurgeon. I believe this is the perfect opportunity to make my dreams come true! I thank DREAMs IC for their support. Because of them, I will realize my dreams..

NB: Name has been changed to conceal identity of the girl..

About DREAMs IC

DREAMS Innovation Challenge is a project that was started with the understanding that in Kenya adolescent girls and women bear the the brunt of the HIV endemic, with females in the 15-24 age cohort accounting for21% of new infections (Kenya HIV Estimate Report 2014)

Low education attainment from dropping out of school is one of the factors that predispose girls and young women to the risk of getting HIV. This project targets adolescent girls and young women aged 15-24years who have dropped out of school and are from resource poor households who are at risk of early marriage, expectant or have children, community members of Siaya, (Sihay, Nyalenya) and Nairobi (Kangemi and Mukuru) as well as duty bearers, service providers who are responsible for supporting the participation of AGWYs in education and transition to secondary school.

The project dubbed ‘Keeping girls in School’ seeks to address the livelihood that girls and young women will drop out of school as a result of lack of support to effectively deal with gender related issues, specifically puberty, sexual reproductive health and HIV thus increasing their vulnerability to HIV.

Girl Child Network (GCN) is working in partnership with LVCT Health, Grow and Know, and Afrucan Voices Foundation under the coordination of Trocaire on the DREAMs IC Project in rural Siaya and the urban informal settlements of Nairobi to address the underlying access, enrollment and retention issues among girls in secondary school.

 

My mistakes will not define me..

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Alice* Speaking to me at the Bridge Centre, Mukuru Kwa Njenga

Alice* is totally set out to ashame those who ridicule her and those who do not believe in her. She says that her mistakes will not in any way define her. She has been through tough moments; moments that almost prompted her to take away her life. She is calm and quite friendly, but you’ll be mistaken to assume that she is soft..

Here is her story..

“My name is Alice* (Pseudo name). Iam 17 yeas old, a single mother to an eight month old baby boy. I got pregnant while in form 2.

My boyfriend disowned me plus my baby. He does not care about us.

I  am second last born of five children. I live in Mukuru Kwa Njenga slums. Life here is tough. My mother has no job. My father is a casual laborer. He makes very little money. He is therefore unable to fend for all of our needs -from food to education to shelter. 

I used to engage in sex with my boyfriend for money. He would buy me food, clothes and pads. When I got pregnant, my boyfriend took off. My mother was quite mad at me. Her constant bickering pushed me to the wall. Were it not for my merciful father, I would be dead right now! One day I had resolved to take my life away..

 I remember very well that night. I stood quietly at the banks of River Kimondo. Ready to take a dive. Something stopped me. I slouched down as though I was carrying a heavy load and started crying. I looked up to God in total adoration and asked him why he brought me to this cruel world. I wondered; Why should I bring a child to this tough and unfair world. If am unable to survive, what of my unborn baby. We would be better of dead together. The stupendous array of stars that dominated the sky gave me inner peace. I lay down, to calm down, to relax my swollen eyes… I didn’t care the danger that faced me… In any case I was useless. Why fret over death?

I was awakened  by garbage collectors, the following day. Who thought I was dead.. I woke up, and cursed why I was still alive. The already bright sun on the east  stung into my eyes. I staggered back home…feeling empty.

My attempts to abort my baby hit a dead end. The men I asked help from wanted sex in return. That meant I would have had to sleep with about 15men to raise money required for the abortion..KES 5,000!

Nine months later a baby was born. Life became even tougher. There was no money for hospital bill (KES5000, I was helped to birth by a traditional birth attendant). My dad really struggled to clear the bill. Still there was no food to feed the baby and no clothes for the baby. I felt really bad, I cried most nights. My baby cried and I cried along with him. It was a pathetic scene.

One day while sited hopelessly in the house. I was approached by a lady who introduced herself as a community facilitator working for DREAMs IC. She explained to me what they do . I was very curious to know more si I immediately followed her to their Centre located within my neighborhood. I left the Centre feeling quite hopeful. I shared the news with my father. He was happy about my decision and offered to give full support. 

I thank the DREAMs Innovation Challenge  Project. They accepted me plus my child. They have shown me unconditional love. They have provided for my baby’s essential needs, especially diapers. And most importantly, they have given me a second chance to life. I am through with the six month learning program. Come January, I will be enrolling back to school. My dad is willing to pay half of the tuition money, while DREAMs project will pay the rest. In addition DREAMs has given me a back to school starter pack containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, shoes, pads, panties, soap, a towel, books, pens, shoe polish and a brush. 

When I joined the Centre, my self esteem was really down, but now with the help of teachers and through sharing experiences with the other girls, am much more confident.

I am glad I can now pursue my dream of becoming a Human Rifhts Defender. In the slums, girls are mistreated and are also quite vulnerable . In future I will fight for their rights tooth and nail. For now I can only watch when am called names; prostitute, ugly, second hand, useless, fat girl! So many names that lay heavy in my heart.. I am slowly developing a thick skin..”

NB: Name changed to conceal the identity of the girl

About DREAMs IC

DREAMS Innovation Challenge is a project that was started with the understanding that in Kenya adolescent girls and women bear the the brunt of the HIV endemic, with females in the 15-24 age cohort accounting for21% of new infections (Kenya HIV Estimate Report 2014)

Low education attainment from dropping out of school is one of the factors that predispose girls and young women to the risk of getting HIV. This project targets adolescent girls and young women aged 15-24years who have dropped out of school and are from resource poor households who are at risk of early marriage, expectant or have children, community members of Siaya, (Sihay, Nyalenya) and Nairobi (Kangemi and Mukuru) as well as duty bearers, service providers who are responsible for supporting the participation of AGWYs in education and transition to secondary school.

The project dubbed ‘Keeping girls in School’ seeks to address the livelihood that girls and young women will drop out of school as a result of lack of support to effectively deal with gender related issues, specifically puberty, sexual reproductive health and HIV thus increasing their vulnerability to HIV.

Girl Child Network (GCN) is working in partnership with LVCT Health, Grow and Know, and Afrucan Voices Foundation under the coordination of Trocaire on the DREAMs IC Project in rural Siaya and the urban informal settlements of Nairobi to address the underlying access, enrollment and retention issues among girls in secondary school.