How I Celebrated the World Orphan Day

Lulu is one orphan who impacted me greatly. Thanks to Anita home for putting a smile on her face. Lulu is one orphan who impacted me greatly. Thanks to Anita home for putting a smile on her face.

Julius Mwangi

The world celebrated the World Orphans Day on 7th May 2014. This day was celebrated bearing in mind the stark reality faced by orphans world over.  We celebrate this day by narrating the story of Lulu.

Lulu is a girl aged 12 who has no mum and no dad. She lost them when she was 4 in 2007 during the Kenyan Post Elections Violence.  And so I decided to listen to her story. Throughout the entire conversation with her, I could not help feeling a heavy lump of sadness in my throat.

The story of Lulu the orphan begins where she suddenly found herself alone after the death of her parents in the most cruel manner.  She only remembers being put into a lorry and taken to an IDP camp. In the IDP camp a kind family took care of her until she was taken by the children department and committed to Anita Children Home in Nairobi.  Several things happened which she has no recollection of. First all  her parents lost their lives. She does not know whether they were buried or not. She only remembers that her parents loved her so much and when she was hurt they would rush to give her attention.

Lulu is at the moment in Standard two.  She is much older than her classmates. This happens to be the fate of most orphans, they pass through many hands before they get stability and are able to join schools. They thus join schools when they are much older than the rest of the other students. After sometimes they become objects of ridicule from their teachers, peers and the public. Homes like Anita among others therefore offer an important service of ensuring that orphans will always be protected and provided with basic necessities.

However, as I continue conversing with Lulu, she shows me her drawings. And she asks me

“Are they beautiful?”

“Yes” I answer. I stare at her drawings which are little sketches of a mother and a dad holding her in the middle. 

“I miss mum and dad” she says. I just look at her again and the lump in my throat swells more. And I am nearly pushed to tears

She leaves me and joins other girls to play. And I am left thanking God for the beautiful solace Anita Home offers to orphans. And I am happy that I remembered to spend my day with an orphan. 

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Why does the Marriage Bill Discriminate on Account of Mental Illness? Where Are My Human Rights?

By Maina Mucuthi

The marriage bill can be downloaded from here

When the new constitution 2010 was passed, everybody Kenyan citizen got their right to life and non discrimination enshrined and guaranteed in this document. Upon further analysis of the document, at no point did it clearly desegregate people suffering from ailments. This could have been as a result of the realization that ailments can afflict any person and they are momentary in nature. Additionally, the drafters of the constitution could have understood that having an ailment is not reason enough not to enjoy all the rights enjoyed by others not having ailments.

The 11th parliament has been very vocal in telling anybody who cares to listen that they are the supreme legislation body and it is their primary responsibility to make laws for Kenyans. They have also been very vocal in making it clear that in their legislative role, nobody should tell them what to do or purport to school them on how they should conduct their business. Despite the election of capable and learned people into the August house, I stand to disagree with some of the work product of the august house – specifically the marriage bill as currently drafted.

Clauses 5, 11, 12, 66, 73 and 89 of the bill are discriminatory against persons with mental illnesses. According both to medics and from the definition offered by the Oxford English Dictionary, mental illnesses include but are not constrained to Dyslexia among others. Dyslexia is characterized by difficulty with learning to read fluently and with accurate comprehension despite normal intelligence.

The Users and Survivors of Psychiatry in Kenya (USP) have said that the clauses deny persons with mental conditions and disabilities the right to marry and found a family while perpetuating stereotypes about people with mental conditions. The group further says that the bill establishes discriminatory grounds which not only violate persons with mental health conditions and disabilities but also opens up more avenues for abuse of others in vulnerable circumstances. “Categorizing “incurable insanity” as a ground for divorce will serve, and already serves, as tool for the powerful side in the marriage to abuse the other side, whether or not there is a disability or illness.” USP say

“You take away the right to marry, you take away the choice to self-determination, right to own property, ability to engage in commerce, operate bank accounts, right to health, who to live with and other liberties that enhance the quality of life for all Kenyans on an equal basis with all the other citizens. We will be creating a subclass in society of superior and inferior citizenship which is unconstitutional and against international legal obligations that bind Kenya as a State in the world.” USP add. I agree with this lobby group when they further say that mental illnesses/disorders are categorized as Non-Communicable Diseases as they have the potential to be long-term and chronic but it is not always the case. These conditions are manageable if affected individuals can live a normal life with the right support systems, policies and access to consistent medical bill.

“This bill seems to imply that having a mental illness or condition such as depression or anxiety is full time. The nature of illness in the human body is unpredictable just as our humanity is, and if this Bill had gone through public participation as envisioned in the Constitution they would have received an education on the same from the persons affected, their families and professionals as stakeholders to the life changing consequences that emanate.” USP say. Finally I ask, does it mean that because I am ill I do not qualify to enjoy all the rights like other Kenyans? Am I a lesser Kenyan just because I am ill? If I have learning difficulties, how does that make me a bad or poor husband such that I do not qualify to enjoy the institution of marriage?

Gender based violence against men needs to be addressed

This article looks at  gender based violence directed against men.  Some of the abuses here seem extreme as they are perpetrated in situations of conflict, however they are used to illustrate the nature of SGBV experienced by men. Picture source

By Millicent Agutu

It is a fact that daily there could be an act of violence against some men at a domestic level etc. In Kenya for example there are various media stories of men being battered by their wives, injured or even being killed. There are unconfirmed reports too showing that some men after buying investments for their families get killed by their  wives who seek  for freedom. It ends recommending that organizations should equip themselves to addressing the needs of such victims be it domestic or other forms of violence.

According to various institutional and media reports of Sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) perpetrated against men have increased. However, response to these reports has been limited, as existing evidence and programs have primarily focused on prevention and response to women and girl survivors of GBV. Communities and organizations are not equipped to deal with male survivors of sexual and gender violence because it undermines the ideals of social constructions of masculinity. Compared with females, male survivors lack access to reproductive health programs and are generally ignored in gender-based violence discourse. Yet, male survivors are known to suffer from numerous physical injuries and psychosocial disorders.

SGBV perpetrated against men and boys often go unreported by survivors due to socio-cultural factors associated with sexual assaults, including survivor shame, fear of retaliation by perpetrators and stigma by community members. In Kenya too during the post electoral violence period of 2008, there were many reports of violence against men in the form of forced circumcision, rapes and other humiliating experiences of a sexual nature. Before discussing the impact the victims go through, we look at the various forms of abuses against males that have been the subjects of various reports and media.

Rape – A number of different forms of male rape do take place. Victims may be forced to perform fellatio on their perpetrators or on one another; perpetrators may anally rape victims themselves, using objects, or force victims to rape fellow victims. At times victims are been ‘made to masturbate their culprits orally’ or rape each other in front of their perpetrators. At times too victims are  forced to commit acts of incest.  There is also the notion of ‘rape plus’, the ‘plus’ being HIV/AIDS, or another consequence of rape, which may have been the very purpose for the rape in the first place.

Enforced Sterilization – Enforced sterilization largely comprises castration and other forms of sexual mutilation. Castrations are performed through the use of crude means such as, forcing one victim to bite off another’s testicles, chopping them off or through pulling off the testicles.

Genital ViolenceThere are cases where victims private parts are hit or subjected to electric shocks. There are instances of forced circumcisions.

Enforced Nudity – The most common way of sexually humiliating men is forcing them to strip naked in public. There are reports of men being made to repeatedly undress and dress, undress and stand naked for periods of time and undress in public or forcing males to wear women underwears and bras; taking pictures and video taping them in explicit sexual positions.

Enforced Masturbation – There are also cases where groups of male detainees are forced to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped or being forced to masturbate their captors. The forced masturbation of the victim and the perpetrator is considered to be one of the most common forms of sexual violence experienced by men.

Therapists working with men who were sexually abused in childhood  report findings such as guilt and self-blame; low self-esteem and negative self-image, Problems with intimacy; sexual problems; compulsions;  or dysfunctions; substance abuse and depression and symptoms of post-traumatic Stress disorder. Societies should create ways and means of helping male victims of SGBV deal with their pain. However, Kenya as a society tends to have a few facilities to address problems of SGBV affecting men.

The article summarizes Lydia Maingi’s presentation on Addressing male gender based violence  presented at the First International Conference Against Gender Based Violence, Kenyatta University from 1st to 3rd August 2012.

Kenyans Celebrate Heroes Day by Dramatizing the Life and Times of Wangari Maathai

Nation online 19th October 2012

Wangari Maathai’s memories will always inspire Kenyans to strive for that which is good for the Kenyan communities. Her legacy and that of many unsung women who have contributed to the building of peace and harmony in Kenya and to the development of Kenya cannot be over emphasized. Long live our heroines!

Mumbi Kaigwa is commemorating the life and passing on of Kenya’s most celebrated woman, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Prof Wangari Maathai.

She has assembled an outstanding cast of Kenyan actors and secured performing rights to a Pulitzer Prize-winning script about a brilliant woman whose life and death parallels Wangari’s in surprisingly similar ways.

Ms Kaigwa is also giving a chunk of the funds she hopes to raise from staging that play to the Nairobi Hospice, which is celebrating 20 years of assisting terminally ill patients.

Under her new theatre company, the Arts Canvas, Kaigwa and her troupe will stage Margaret Edson’s Wit from Tuesday to Sunday at Braeburn Theatre.

It is directed by Nyambura Wariungi, who worked in both film and theatre in Canada for more than a decade before returning home this year to make a movie and direct the Wit.

Wit features an amazing cast as well. It not only includes Kaigwa, who is celebrating 40 years of performing on stage, television and film this year, it also embraces a whole new crop of local film, theatre and TV talent, such as Dan Aceda, Samson Psenjen, Njoki Ngumi, Mugambi Nthiga, Fridah Muhindi, Sahil Gada, Wangui Thang’a and Musa Mwaruma.

Because Wit traces the life and death of Dr Vivian Bearing in dramatic detail, one might expect the play to be painfully depressing.

On the contrary, Wit is filled with ironic humour, sarcasm and self-awareness on Bearing’s part. Stunning is also an apt term for Kaigwa’s performance as the dying don who dramatically appraises the process of her passing almost to the very end.

Being a scholar and researcher with a literary flair (like Wangari), Bearing chooses to document the gruelling eight-month process of experimental treatment that she endures at the hands of medical researchers, students and specialists who claim to hold the cure to her ovarian cancer, but in the end she (and we) find out, they don’t.

Like Bearing, Wangari was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She also endured months of experimental treatment that eventually failed. Nonetheless, for both women, death is not the end of the story by any means. See the play to find out what I mean.

Self-discovery

One of the beautiful bits about Wit is the way John Donne’s poetry is interwoven into the script. Also inspirational is Bearing’s deep affection for language, one of the elements of the university professor’s life.

But what I found most striking about the show was the process of psychological self-discovery that seemed to parallel Bearing’s physical treatment for cancer. For while the chemotherapy wasn’t successful, the soulful insights that she gained in the process were transformative.

Bearing, like Wangari, had been uncompromising in her professional life. However, this is the point at which the two women’s lives differ. For Bearing had got so caught up in her own genius and in the genius of the 17th century poet John Donne, that she had forgotten about compassion and human kindness.

Her students had suffered as a consequence. It is only when she is awakened to her own need for comfort and kindness that she reflects on her cold-hearted treatment of everyone around her. The realisation, however painful the process, is liberating for her.

Wit is a must-see, especially as it touches on a topic that affected one who was and remains very dear to many Kenyans, the Nobel laureate, Prof Wangari Maathai.

The law supports wealth inheritance for all: Daughters and Sons

In the past several arguements were advanced to deny women of inheriting their parents’ estate. This fact condemned women to poverty and also made them subservient to the partriarchy. Times have changed now and both men and women are entitled to an equal share of inheritance from the estate of their parents. The notion that women have no inheritance right has been dispproved by various legal precedents. Read on

Story by standardmedia.co.ke on 18th October 2012

In my view, the law as it is now, it matters not whether a daughter of the deceased is married or not when it comes to consideration of whether she is entitled to inherit her parent’s estate.  Article 60 (f) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 provides for elimination of gender discrimination in respect of land. The marital status of a daughter is not a basis to deny her the right to inherit her father’s estate…’’ — Lady Justice Mary Kasango (February 17, 2011)

Reality is now sinking that the cultural tradition of locking out daughters from inheriting their parents’ property  is outlawed.

A reader sent an email to this column complaining that daughters of deceased tycoons should be ashamed of fighting for their parents’ property.

The writer was referring to the daughters of the late Starehe MP Gerishon Kirima. He argued that only his sons should claim the estate worth over Sh1 billion.

According to the reader, it is unafrican for single or married daughters to claim the property of their father.

“Daughters have no property rights under our traditions…they should live in areas where they are married and leave inheritance to their brothers,” he argued.

EQUAL RIGHTS

For Lillian Cherono, also a reader, her concerns are whether daughters have rights to claim in court property of their parents.

“I have a friend (a spinster) whose biological father passed on two months ago leaving investments in property in Nairobi and Eldoret,” Cherono wrote.

According to Cherono, disputes over the estate pitting brothers and uncles of her friend have already started.

“Her brothers and uncles told her that she was out of the equation as daughters have no property rights in succession…is this true? What can she do? ,” Cherono asked.

However, even as some communities lock out daughters from inheriting property, the laws have changed.

Since the passing of the new Constitution daughters who moved to court demanding their rights to inherit property of their late parents have emerged victorious.

Even a series of successive judicial precedents set by the Court of Appeal and the High Court are proof that the tides have changed.

Take the recent case of Consolata Ntibuka who challenged her brother’s decision to evict her from her late father’s land at the High Court in Meru.

Lady Justice Mary Kasango who presided over the succession dispute ruled that daughters have a right to inherit their parents’ estate.

“It does not matter whether a daughter was married or not when considering whether she is entitled to inherit her parent’s estate,” Justice Kasango said.

To refresh memories, the Constitution forbids the State or any person from discriminating on the basis of a person’s marital status.

Article 60 of the supreme law further provides for elimination of gender discrimination in law, customs and practices related to land and property.

Therefore, Articles 27 and 60 of the Constitution clears the air whether married and unmarried daughters have a right to inherit wealth in the family.

Even before passing of the new Constitution, courts invoked the Law of Succession Act to guarantee daughters property rights.

According to Lady Justice Martha Koome when ruling in the case of Priscilla Kamau in 2005, daughters — just like sons — have equal rights to inherit.

“The law does not distinguish  between the children of a deceased on the basis of their gender or marital status,.” Justice Koome ordered.

NEW DAWN

Fast-forward to 2008. Lady Justice Kalpana Rawal dismissed the application of a Maasai custom that allegedly blocked daughters from inheritance of family property.

The case involved daughters of the late Maasai tycoon Lerionka Ole Ntutu who died without leaving a will on distribution of his estate.

The daughters told the High Court that their brothers planned to exclude them from inheriting the family property.

Justice Rawal overruled the Maasai customary law and applied the Law of Succession Act in favour of the daughters.

“Any tenet of customary law, which would abrogate the right of daughters to inherit the estate of a father cannot be applied,” Justice Rawal ruled.

Even the Court of Appeal recently demonstrated that customs and traditions that lock daughters out of succession have no place in society.

When delivering judgment in the case of Rono verses Rono, Justice Philip Waki ruled that marriage should never be a ground of locking daughters out.

“Arguments that daughters would get married are not a determining factor on distribution of the net estate of a deceased,” Justice Waki ordered.

Justice Waki said courts had a duty to exercise discretion judiciously when it came to distributing estates in dispute.

There was a protracted family dispute over property inheritance as some sons argued that their sisters would be married and move away.

The writer is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya

hayodo@standardmedia.co.ke

Poster: Grassroots and faith based Symposium on the Gender Dimension of the 2012/2013 Electioneering in Kenya

Find the symposium programme here

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UN: 142 Million Girls Could be Married Before 18

NEW YORK / NAIROBI, October 12, 2012 (CISA ) –

If current trends continue, the number of girl child marriages will increase dramatically over the next 10 years, according to Marrying too Young: End Child Marriage, a new report released by the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA,  on the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child. The report also finds that, despite laws to prevent its practice, child marriage has remained mostly constant in developing countries over the past decade.

“No social, cultural or religious rationale for child marriage can possibly justify the damage these marriages do to young girls and their potential,” said UNFPA Executive Director, Dr Babatunde Osotimehin. “A girl should have the right to choose whom she marries and when. Since many parents and communities also want the very best for their daughters, we must work together to end child marriage.

It is the only course by which we can avert what otherwise is the human tragedy of child marriage.”
In 2010, 158 countries reported that 18 years was the minimum legal age for marriage for women without parental consent or approval by a pertinent authority. Still, in 2010, one in three girls, or 67 million girls, were married before their 18th birthday in developing countries (excluding China).

Half of these child marriages took place in Asia, with another one fifth in sub-Saharan Africa. But the practice is also widespread in some communities in Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
Progress has been made, and the report finds that child marriage has declined in some developing countries, including Armenia, Bolivia, Ethiopia and Nepal, among other countries.
By 2030, the number of child brides marrying each year will have grown from 14.2 million in 2010 to 15.1 million that is over 14 per cent if current trends continue
“Child marriage is an appalling violation of human rights and robs girls of their education, health and long-term prospects,” said Dr Osotimehin. “Marriage for girls can lead to complications of pregnancy and childbirth—the main causes of death among 15-19-year-old girls in developing countries.”
A group of young people came together at The UN complex in Nairobi to mark this day. It was the first and officials from the UN hoped that in future there shall be much more publicity and awareness for the event.

Ms Batula Abdi, National Programme Officer in charge of Youth at UNFPA urged the girls to stand firm in their resolute and believe that they can even do better than the boy child.
“We are enabling and empowering young people. We do this through advocacy, to create a legislative environment so that they are able to enjoy their rights, including their right to education.  UNFPA also focuses on Family Life Education with the purpose of ensuring that young people have decision-making skills, skills to resist peer pressure. We teach these both in school and outside school.” said Ms Abdi.

Others who addressed the young people include Ms Eshila Maravanyika, Deputy Director, United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Ms Irene Mwakesi, National Information Officer, UNIC and Janice Nduati also from UNIC.
Girls who are poor, have little or no education and live in rural areas are most likely to marry or enter child marriages. Girls living in rural areas of the developing world are twice as likely to enter marriage before 18 as their urban counterparts, and girls with no education are over three times more likely to do so than those with secondary or higher education. Girls’ vulnerability to child marriage substantially increases during humanitarian crises.
“When I was 14, I was pressured into getting married, but I knew this was not good for my health or future. The girls in my village who got married young stopped going to school and some even died giving birth,” said Salamatou Aghali Issoufa, a young woman from Niger who was able to convince her parents to delay her marriage. “I wanted to stay in school and become a midwife.”

Governments and leaders have been urged to end child marriage by: Enacting and enforcing national laws that raise the age of marriage to 18, for both girls and boys, using data to identify and target geographic “hotspots” – areas with high proportions and numbers of girls at risk of child marriage, expanding prevention programmes that empower girls at risk of child marriage and address the root causes underlying the practice and mitigating the harmful impact of child marriage on girls.

The UNFPA works to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

 

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