Annually, we celebrate International Widows Day on 23rd of June as observed by the United Nations as from the year 2011. This day mainly focuses on widows as a special group of women in drawing attention to their voices and to galvanize the unique support that they need. Therefore, this day is an opportunity for action towards achieving full rights and recognition for widows. In Kenya, Come Together Widows and Orphans organization in partnership with the Ministry of Public Service, Gender, Senior Citizens Affairs and Special Programs on 23rd June 2022 celebrated the day in Siaya County by commemorating and recognizing the widows. The theme that guided the activities of that day was; Dignity- Economic empowerment and social justice for widows and therefore to make it a success the following stakeholders from different institutions were involved:
- State Department of Social Protection.
- Women Enterprise Fund
- Uwezo Fund
- National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF)
- Anti-FGM Board
- Commission on Administrative Justice (CAJ)- Ombudsman
- Come Together Widows and Orphans Organization (CTWOO)
We arrived at the ground at 9.00 am where registration of widows started immediately. Due to the high turnout of participants CTWOO managed to register at least 1,024 widows, who had attended the event.
1ST SESSION COORDINATED BY RUTH RANDA -MARKETTING RESEARCH AND COMMUNICATION OFFICER FROM WOMEN ENTERPRISE FUND (WEF).
We had the Capacity Building Session from the partners in attendance. The session was aimed at strengthening widows` capabilities to develop, implement and maintain an effective health sector of achieving financial stability. This helped in the achievement of our day`s theme; Dignity- Economic Empowerment and social justice for widows.
- WOMEN ENTERPRISE FUND (WEF)
Ruth Randa from WEF officer started by congratulating the widows for availing themselves for this special day that the world recognizes them. She continued by saying that widows are not supposed to struggle economically, yet the government have already set aside the funds which they can apply for and as well accessing them. She mentioned that Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) is a loan product at the constituency level and is given to the registered women groups interested in expanding or starting new businesses. She continued by saying that a group can access loan amounted to 100,000 up to 750,000 with no interest rate.
More focus was made on Thamini Fund a widows product under the Women Enterprise Fund. Thamini is loan facility that provides widows access to interest free group loans with no administration costs. The loan product is expected to improve the lives of widows and their families. It is targeted at widows in Kenya aged 18 years and above within certified widow led groups.
The features of the loan are:
- Must be a registered Self-Help Group of 10 members and above comprising 100% women of which at least 70% should be widows, and must have been in existence for at least three months.
- All leadership positions must be held by widows.
- Must have an account in a Bank/SACCO FOSA/Post Bank/Deposit Taking Micro-finance (DTM).
- Groups must be trained on specialized and holistic business management skills by the WEF officers as a prerequisite for the loan application.
One month grace period applies to the Thamini Loan cycles.
NATIONAL GOVERNMENT AFFIRMATIVE ACTION FUND (NGAAF)
Dorothy Maloa officer from NGAAF started by congratulating all the widows who had arrived in the venue in the celebration of the years` International Widows Day. She again welcomed all the visitors from outside the area who had arrived in the venue. She said that the Kenyan Government have played a crucial role in ensuring that all people at all levels have financial accessibility in order to empower them financially for inclusive and participatory development. She continued by saying that NGAAF is a fund that falls under the ministry of public service, Gender, Senior citizen Affairs and special programs. She mentioned that this fund is a product of the Kenyan constitution in support of the Government commitment in putting in place measures to redress past disadvantages among certain segments of the population, and as well help in the achievement of Gender equality and self-reliance. It is anchored on the Vision 2030 development blue print under the social pillar to address the plight of vulnerable groups -widows included, by reducing poverty and inequality through enhanced access to financial facilities for social- economic empowerment among women, youths, persons with disabilities, needy children and elderly persons in the country. She emphasized that, for them to be eligible of accessing this fund they must fulfill the following requirements;
- Women must be in a registered group of 100 members
- Youths must be a registered group of 20-25 members
- Persons with Disability 10-15 members
Uwezo Fund Officer from the national office MR. Mwangi started by welcoming all the attendee in Siaya County. He continued by saying that in most communities’ widows are left behind when it comes to economic empowerment and are mostly left behind as vulnerable group of people in the communities we live. He explained Uwezo Fund as a flagship programme for vision 2030 aimed at enabling women, youth and persons with disabilities access finances to promote businesses and enterprises at the constituency level, thereby enhancing economic growth towards the realization of the same and the Sustainable Development Goals No.1and No.2 (eradicate extreme poverty and hunger) and 5 (promote gender equality and empower women). The Fund is highly devolved and adopted the concept of bottom-up approach with decision making done at the grassroot level.
He continued by saying that the Fund was established vide Legal Notice No. 21 of 21st February, 2014 – Public Finance Management (Uwezo Fund) Regulations, 2014 and was launched by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Kenya on 8th September 2013. He mentioned on the requirements that are needed in order to benefit from this loan product being;
- Group Membership must be at least;
- For youth groups; 70% youth (18-35 years), and leadership, 100% youth.
- Women groups 70% women, and leadership, 100% women
- PWDs 70% PWDs, and leadership, 100% PWDs.
- The applicant group must apply for the loan from the constituency, be appraised and recommended for funding by the respective Constituency Uwezo Fund Management Committee (CUFMCs).
2ND SESSION (SPEECHES)-COORDINATED BY ENG CHARLES MWIRIGI CEO-WOMEN ENTERPRISE FUND
Boda Boda Safety Association of Kenya (BAK)
Mr. Mubadi thanked all the participants for gracing the event in the recognition of widows worldwide. He assured the widows of safety to be provided by the boda boda operators in the region and ordered the county chair to ensure that widows rights are observed and protected. This is to ensure they live a fulfilled life just like the others.
Ms. Bernadette is the Chief Executive Officer of the Anti-FGM Board. After introducing herself she begun by honoring all the participants in attendance for the commitment they had showed in observing the International Widows Day. She noted that the area has minimal numbers of FGM practitioners and for that she commended the participants for the great reputation they have by treating women with dignity. She urged everyone present to join in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation since it is a form of Gender Based Violence and an abuse of Women rights which are also Human rights.
Mr. Peter in his speech noted that the government is in the fore front in addressing the widows’ plight and that is why the Uwezo Fund was not left behind in ensuring that the widows of Siaya are economically empowered. He noted that Uwezo fund lends money to groups from KES 50,000 to KES 500,000. He explained to the participants that each subcounty has an office and Youth Officer to train people on how to apply, and the repayment terms of Uwezo Fund. Mr. Lengapiani further made it clear that there is a board in the constituency level that determines which group have qualified to get the Uwezo Fund. He concluded by challenging the participants present to reach out to their constitutional Youth Fund Officers in order to know more about the fund and so as they can apply for the fund.
COME TOGETHER WIDOWS AND ORPHANS ORGANIZATION (CTWOO)
Dr. Dianah Kamande HSC, is the founder of Come Together Widows and Orphans Organization (CTWOO). She began her speech by thanking everyone who had both taken part in planning for the day’s activities and also for attending. She recognized guests present, and other widows’ organizations which are; Manna Missions, Rona Foundation and Ambassadors of Hope widows for serving widows. Ms. Dianah also recognized and endorsed the widow leaders and urged the widows present to go for the leadership positions so as to have more widows on the decision-making tables. She went ahead and specifically thanked the Ministry of Public Service, Gender, Senior Citizens Affairs and Special Programs for always being a home for widows and being on the forefront in addressing the plight of widows, by coming up with a special loan product for widows which is Thamini Fund. In her speech she noted that Kenya has been celebrating International Widows Day since 2016 hence making the IWD in Siaya the 7th to be celebrated in Kenya. Ms. Dianah explained that Siaya alone has over 54,000 widows according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. She cited COVID 19 PANDEMIC, road accidents and harmful traditional practices such as widow inheritance as some of the factors that have highly contributed to the high numbers of widows. Despite that there have been achievements such as;
- Nationwide outreach activities resulting in the formation and operationalization of widows’ groups where they run Economic Empowerment Programs, over 60 of our groups (from the widows and survivors of Gender Based Violence) have benefitted from the Affirmative Action Fund.
- Launched widows’ groups in various counties around the country. This has helped us to unite and bring widows in counties together.
She concluded by challenging the widows to form groups and register them in order to apply for the Affirmative Funds and most especially Thamini Mjane loan to ensure they are economically empowered. She emphasized that Economic Empowerment is very important since it promotes their ability to achieve their other rights, and well-being while also reducing household poverty, increasing economic growth and productivity.
WOMEN ENTERPRISE FUND
Commissioner. Njoki began by thanking everyone present for dedicating their time and efforts which showed that they were Passionate about women. Commissioner. Njoki noted that they are aware of the widows plight and to address that that’s why they came up with a product for widows which is Thamini Mjane Loan. She explained that Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) is a government initiative that enables the government to reach out to the needs of women at the grassroot level. This has a had a very positive impact on their lives. Notably, a big share of the funds has been disbursed to Siaya. She noted that 24.4 billion has been disbursed all over the country ever since WEF was founded, reaching out to about 2 million women. She quoted that when you empower a woman, you build a nation. She concluded by noting that WEF has a vision of reaching out and empowering more women, and soon they are launching an initiative-MAMA CARE.
3RD SESSION COORDINATED BY AREA ASSISTANT COUNTY COMMISSIONER.
Hon. Samuel Atandi-MP. Alego Usonga
He began by welcoming everyone in his constituency- Alego Usonga. Thanked the Government and other organizers for the decision to hold the International Widows Day in the county. He also appreciated all widows for taking up both roles of a mother and father, citing that he is very conversant with the plight of widows. He then called upon everyone to fight widow abuse such as widow property disinheritance, widow inheritance, harmful traditional practices such widows sleeping with corpse, in order to uphold dignity and make widows lives matter for their rights are also human rights.
Hon. Otiende Omollo-MP.Rarieda Constituency
He emphasized that they people of Siaya do not take it for granted that the International Widows Day was celebrated in their County. He supported that it is true that widows’ rights are also human rights. Hon. Otiende noted that it is everyone’s collective responsibility to protect the rights of widows. He explained that in his constituency -Rarieda they have a particular project called Ondoa Nyasi where they have been building modest dwelling from a grass thatched house to a proper semi-permanent house for widows. He said that he has been doing this from his own pocket and also from the help of his friends. So far, they have built 77 houses. In addition, they have also been resolving land issues and fighting against harmful traditional practices. He concluded by advocating for the adoption of the widows’ charter in Siaya County.
Hon. Jebii Kilimo
Hon. Dr Linah Jebii Kilimo Presided over the International Widows Day 2022 event themed: Dignity-Economic Empowerment and Social Justice for widows.” She noted that the International Widows Day sheds light on the Epidemic of Widowhood a humanitarian crisis that has gone unnoticed for long. In her keynote address during the event, she highlighted that the Ministry is happy to work with widows of Kenya and to see their lives changing because they have a difficult task of taking care of their families in the absence of their spouse. She emphasized that the ministry is committed to supporting women through empowerment programmes and that’s why it has come up with Thamini Loan to help uplift the livelihood for widows, she added that it is committed to work in addressing injustices and other issues that affect widows. The CAS read the following speech on behalf of Cabinet Secretary Prof. Margaret Kobia.
“I am very humbled to join the great women of Kenya to mark a very important day in the United National Calendar the International Widows Day. Indeed, to stand with you celebrate and share your success and challenges together is a milestone in our history as a country. Taking cognizant of integral role, you play single-handedly feeding for your children and raising families while at the same time, participating in National Development of our country in the midst of your struggles. Over the years most of you have suffered in silence, painfully struggling with depression, emotional and financial constraints. It is for the same reason that we are gathered here today to salute and honour your efforts as our unsung heroines’. Ladies and Gentlemen, it is estimated that globally widows population is about 258million and together with their children all over the world endure extreme poverty. Various forms of human rights violations including stigmatization, ostracism, homelessness, ill-health and discrimination both in law and custom. Without the economic and social protection of their husbands many widows are treated as financial burdens by their families. They are susceptible to losing their rights and property to inheritance or even be forced out of their homes and communities. These and other injustices stemming from entrained patriarchal view of society, diminishes the value of woman and society and more significantly results to substantial obstacles to development today.
In Kenya it is estimated that the population of widows is about 8 million. Nearly 15% of the population and the number keeps increasing by the day. I would love to recognize the many widows, who have lost their loved ones while on duty protecting our motherland. These Scenario has resulted to a high number of widows and young families without their bread winners. I commend you all for all your resilience, strength and determination a midst tough times. You have believed in the noble cause and managed to pull through under such difficult circumstances. We are all aware of the many widows in our country. We know and recognize them as one of the most marginalized groups in our society. It is notable to say that in July 2021 the government of Kenya led by his excellency Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, the president of the Republic of Kenya and the Commander in Chief of the armed forces together with his cabinet secretary of Public Service and Gender Affairs, Prof. Margaret Kobia launched Thamini Mjane Loan specifically for widows. The loan is interest free and widows are encouraged to apply it and start their own business. So even as this year title goes on Economic Empowerment and justice as a country, we take pride that we started it last year. We are all aware of the plight of many widows in our country. We know and recognize them as one of the most marginalized groups in our society. Just like Kenya millions of widows and their children all over the world endure extreme poverty various forms of human rights violation. The state department of Gender is committed to empowering vulnerable groups including widows to be self-reliant through funds such as Women Enterprise Fund (WEF), Uwezo fund, Thamini Loan, National Government Affirmative Action (NGAAF) and soon mama care.
The graduates are encouraged to turn the acquired skills into enterprise and businesses after they have been trained. The government have committed to leaving no one behind neither leaving you the widows alone hence the rest of the widows are enshrined in our constitution, equal rights for men and women, equal protection for property rights of men and women and equal rights within marriages are provided for within the constitution in order to be fully fed to non-discrimination. The constitution also provides legislative and other measures including affirmative action programs and policies designed to redress any disadvantages, suffered by individuals or groups because of post discrimination. To our heroines today, we celebrate you and encourage to support one another and take advantage of the government initiatives and apply for the ends to start and expand your business. I thank you all for gracing this occasion.”
ISSUANCE OF CHEQUES
Women Enterprise fund Disbursed KES.30Million where 24Million was to all women groups while widows’ groups benefitted 6Million Thamini Mjane Special Loan Product for widows. National Government Affirmative Action Fund issued Twenty-Seven Million Kenyan Shillings Cheque. For Siaya County NGAAF W.E.E and projects.
HON. SENATOR JAMES ORENGO, EGH
In his speech the Honourable Senator of Siaya County began by welcoming everyone present in Siaya County. He acknowledged and thanked the government together with the organizers for the decision to hold the International Widows Day in Siaya County. He emphasized that indeed Women rights together with widows’ rights that they also Human rights and needs to be treated with Dignity. He also challenged more women to get into leadership and endorsed the ones already in leadership.
He presented the Certificates to the following participants and recognized them for raising voices as Widows Human Rights Defenders.
- Ms. Dorothy Awino Oinga-Power Women International
- Ms. Patrisiah Orem
- Mr. Steve Omondi Okoth
- Hon. James Orengo, EGH- Senator, Siaya County
- Hon. Gideon Ochanda- MP, Bondo Constituency
- Hon. Elisha Ochieng- MP, Gem Constituency
- Hon. Dr. Otiende Amollo, EBS-MP, Rarieda Constituency
- Hon. Opiyo Wandayi-MP, Ugunja Constituency
- Hon. Samuel Atandi- MP, Alego Constituency
- Hon. David Ochieng-MP, Ugenya Constituency
- Hon. Dr.Christine Ombaka- Woman Rep, Siaya County
- Mr. Maurice Odhiambo- Founder, Manna Missions
- Ms. Roseline Orwa-Founder, Rona Foundation
- Ambassadors of Hope Kenya.
To conclude with, the event was a success seeing that it surpassed the targeted 1500 participants expected to attend. The turn up from the local to National Leaders cannot be ignored and it is proof enough that they are on board in the fight for widows’ rights. It is also evident that more voices are being raised in advocating for widows’ rights. A lot has been done and is being done by the Government together with other stakeholders in order to address the widow’s plight. This was evident through the cheques issued by Women Enterprise fund, Uwezo Fund, Equity Bank, Echo Bank and National Government Affirmative Action Fund. Even though the fight for widows’ rights is far from being won at least there is notable progress.