June 19, 2024

Invisible to Visible, Kwale Widows Disclose

Uwajali wajane organisation founder Mwanasha Gaserego addressing the media (Photo By Caroline Katana)

By Caroline Katana

Email, thecoastnewspaper@gmail.com

For many women around the world, the loss of a partner is magnified by a long-term fight for their basic rights and dignity within family setup.

Despite the fact that there are over 258 million widows globally, widows have historically been left invisible, unsupported, and unmeasured in their communities.

Today, many a widow, whose partners are missing or disappeared or died under any circumstances, undergo unique experiences that require attention.

Past experiences show that widows are often denied inheritance rights, have their property grabbed after the death their spouses and at times face extreme stigma and discrimination as well as perceived ‘carriers’ of disease.

Worldwide, women are much less likely to have access to old age pensions than men, so the death of a spouse lead them to destitution and suffering.

In Kwale County, there are over 800 registered widows under Tuwajali Wajane Organisation (TWO).

TWO founder Mwanasha Gaserego started the journey of identifying and registering widows to empower them to access opportunities toward achieving full rights and recognition.

“Empowering widows to support themselves and their families also means addressing social stigmas that create exclusion, and discriminatory or harmful practices,” she said.

The founder urged the two government levels to take action and commit to ensure the rights of widows as enshrined in international law, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“Currently, TWO deals with 35 groups of widows with a total number of 821 of women widows, we have started a new initiative of bringing their girls on board because they are likely to face same challenges in future.”

PROGRESS

Today (December 7, 2023), at least five groups of widows in Msambweni of Kwale County, has benefited water project and farming tools to do organic farming and enhance food security.

The project was implemented by global one organisation through TWO.

The groups went through agricultural training on how to make organic fertilizers that is not costy through the use of local materials like dry leaves, water and animal excrement.

Organic farming is set to improve livelihoods of the groups through agribusiness. This kind of agriculture is among the climate change adaptations hence supporting the government’s pattern of combating climate change vision 2030.

PROBLEMS

Poverty, violence, health and conflict related situations are the obstacles that hinders widows development.

Sita Sefu of Kiwaka Dzibwage widows group and a mother of three, said discrimination of widows by in-laws was real.

“My partner died on the year 2021, after burial ceremony I was sent away by my in-laws, my later husband was a staff at Kenya ports Authority so there was a lot for me to inherit and take care of children but all in vain, my father in-laws said I have no other business in the family so I should go and remarry elsewhere,” she said.

She said the lack of women empowerment was the genesis of rights violation.

“Though the employer of my late husband took the matter to police station, I had no idea of defending for my rights so I decided to forgive and surrender everything, by then my brother-in-law was in custody for mistreating me but I asked for his release, as of now I’m still staying with my family in my father’s home,” she claimed.

Zainab Salim of Kumekucha widows group and a mother of five, lost her partner on the year 2020 and this occasioned her to escape violence narrowly in the hands of her mother-in-law.

“The moment my in-law learnt the demise of my late husband, she asked me whether I would continue leaving with them or I’ll take my leave, she didn’t mind the agony and trauma that I was going through at that moment, what saved me is that my late husband was a police officer so his colleagues stood by my side and threatened to take action to anyone who will violate my rights,” she said.

The United Nations observes 23 June as International Widows Day (resolution A/RES/65/189) since 2011, to draw attention to the voices and experiences of widows and to galvanise the unique support that they need.

Faida Hassan Shee of Furaha Bazo widows group praised the efforts by TWO founder for empowering and ensuring a fair share of inheritance, land and other resources to widows. Apart from this, the organisation ensured they also benefited from pensions and social protection that are not based on marital status alone, decent work and equal pay ,and education and training opportunities.

Global One 2015 Kenya organisation finance and administration officer Wahome Kinywa said the groups would be required to form a cooperative and sell their products at a better price.

“We are optimistic that one day their products will be sold in supermarkets because they are fully equipped with agricultural skills , so we believe this will enhance food security and change their livelihoods,” he said.

The officer added that the pilot project of organic farming was successfully implemented in Garissa County.

“Kwale is our second county to implement organic farming and here in Msambweni a total of 150 widows through TWO are now climate change resilient because we have implemented water projects to every farm where it will be done,” he added.

The groups will be receiving inputs from organisation before kicking off.

Nelly Amoite, gender officer in Kwale county, said there was need for organisations, counties and national government to join hands and sensitise communities against gender based violence.

“We are grateful with the efforts made by different organisations on bringing communities on board on matters gender based violence, many cases are now reported to the relevant authorities unlike before,” she said.

Even when national laws exist to protect the rights of widows, weaknesses in the judicial systems of many states compromise how widows’ rights are defended in practice and should be addressed.

Lack of awareness and discrimination by judicial officials can cause widows to avoid turning to the justice system to seek reparations.

Programmes and policies for ending violence against widows and their children, poverty alleviation, education and other support to widows of all ages also need to be undertaken, as action plan so that they can accelerate achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

In post-conflict situations, widows should be brought in to participate fully in peacebuilding and reconciliation processes to ensure that they contribute to sustainable peace and security.

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