Habitually, the International Widows Day is celebrated on 23rd June of every year, but can as well be celebrated on any other day in June. This year was no exception and the day was celebrated as usual in different parts of the world and in Kenya it was celebrated in different counties among them Kilifi County.
This years’ International Widows Day theme was Highlighting the disproportionate suffering of widows as a result of Covid 19 pandemic. The event was held on 26th June 2021 in Deputy County Commissioner’s office grounds Chonyi, Subcounty Bandara Salama area-Mwarakaya ward, Kilifi South constituency in Kilifi County.
The event was hosted and organized by Hope and Dreams (CBO) in partnership with Come Together Widows and Orphans Organization (CTWOO). The event was graced by Hon. Dr. Jebii Kilimo, BA, EGH together with other attendees that included;
- Area District Commissioner.
- Come Together Widows and Orphans Office Team led Ms. Dianah Kamande HSC.
- Hope and Dreams members led by Ms. Prudence Kai.
- FIDA – KENYA Team.
- Ms. Ilham Hisham
- Ms. Roselyn Charo
- Ms. Gacheri. C Mhlika
- Mr. Samuel Gikunju
- Center for rights education Awareness (CREAW) represented by Mr Stephen Kioko.
- Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) Team.
- Mr. Felix Mukhania
- Mr. Juma T. Mambo
- Ms. Charity Kadzo
- Chonyi Council of Elders
The event began at around 10:30AM and the addresses were made in the following order with the help of the Master of Ceremony (MC) Mr. William K. Mganga.
Ms. Prudence Kai.
Ms. Prudence begun by letting them know that she is a widow herself and have accepted her widowhood status. She explained to the widows present that she too has faced the same challenges as them and is willing to walk with them throughout the widowhood journey and help find a solution to their challenges and that includes advocating and fighting for their rights. She urged the widows to be resilient and fight on no matter the challenges.
Ms. Prudence also urged them not to be silenced by anybody but rather be vocal until their grievances are addressed by the government. In her written speech Ms. Prudence went ahead to highlight that as she is celebrating the International Widows Day, she has mixed feelings of happiness and sadness. Sadness because in Kenya there is an estimated 1.2 million widows comprising nearly to 15% of the country’s population and unfortunately life never prepares one for widowhood.
She stated that widowhood is a shock that causes emotional and mental trauma and leaves one socially and economically vulnerable. Ms. Prudence explained that the loss of a spouse is a life changing experience that presents itself in terms of serious psychological and social challenges that affect the widow wellness and sadly there is hardly any support to widows in Kilifi county.
She said that it is by the Grace of God that Widows survive. Her request to the County Board Service of Kilifi was to hire a permanent lady legal officer who will provide legal services to widows, orphans and survivors of Gender Based Violence. She concluded her speech by recognizing and thanking her Hopes and Dreams team.
She begun by identifying herself as a widow and that she was widowed in 2004. She shared a word of encouragement to the widows to accept their widowhood status in order for them to fight on. They should not feel rejected because of their status or poverty nor the neglect they face from their in-laws.
She also urged those that abuse widows to reform from that behavior because it is ungodly. She said that she also faced violation after her husband died and that is when she decided to advocate for widows’ rights. She said that she trains widow groups in Kilifi to do table banking, poultry, beadwork and vegetable farming for them to be independent. She concluded by urging them to always volunteer to attend meetings and barazas whenever called upon so that they can acquire vital information.
Ms. Ilham Hisham -FIDA
Ms. Ilham Hisham begun by greeting the members present and passing her regards that she was pleased to visit Kilifi for the second time on the grounds after being there first time where they together celebrated and marked the day of the African girl child. She explained to the members present that FIDA-K has got offices all over the 47counties. Ms. Ilham noted that they had a display table in the event for those with legal issues to get the required advice and assistance. She went ahead and explained that FIDA-K also offers financial advice to self-help groups. She told the widows that they are all welcome also to go seek such advises from their office. She talked of a program called Group Therapy that they run where they group people and offer them a platform to share their grief experiences. She advocated for the need of a will to avoid disinheritance especially when the head of the family dies.
Mr. Stephen Kioko -CREAW
Mr. Stephen Kioko begun by introducing himself and one who understands what the widows are going through since he is a son of a widow. He urged the widows not to give up but be resilient and work hard to give their children the best.
He explained to the audience that CREAW is a national women’s right non-Governmental organization whose aim is to see a society where women and girls enjoy full rights and live-in dignity. He went ahead and noted that the organization also champions, expands and actualizes women’s and girls’ rights and social justice. He concluded by noting that they have got counselors and lawyers who offer pro-bono services to women who need the services.
Mr. Felix Mukhania-WEF
Mr Felix from Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) explained to the participants that the fund is under the Ministry of Public Service and Gender. He explained to the audience that WEF is an interest free loan given to women organized in groups.
He continued that the fund offers loans in different stages, where each stage had a repayment period. The loan does not have a service charge, but has a 5% administrative fee. The fund offers a grace period of 1 month, before groups can be required to make repayment.
Mr. Felix insisted that a group would only qualify for a subsequent loan if they had repaid the previous loan. He also noted that the loans have grown up to a limit of 1million. He noted that WEF offices are normally located at constituency levels in every sub county.
Madam Dianah Kamande HSC- CTWOO
Madam Dianah begun by encouraging the widows that the government has not forgotten about them and a good indication was the chief guest Hon. Jebii Kilimo. She thanked Ms. Prudence for organizing and mobilizing widows for the event. She urged the widows to support her in the work of uniting widows and fighting for their rights.
Madam Dianah also encouraged Ms. Prudence to continue the good work she is doing. She explained to the audience that they CTWOO has partnered with the government in championing for widows’ rights since 2016 when the first International Widows Day was celebrated in Kenya. She pleaded with the partnered organizations present to always listen and help the widows whenever they present to them their issues. She condemned disinheritance and advocated against any other form of abuse that widows face in the society. She emphasized on the importance of skills training to the widows.
Hon. Jebii Kilimo, BA, EGH
Hon. Jebii begun by noting that it is indeed a great thing to stand, share and celebrate with the widows their challenges and success. It is a milestone in the history of the country and in the history of Kilifi since for the first time the International Widows Day was celebrated there.
Hon. Jebii noted that the government has recognized how widows single-handedly raise their children and manage to contribute in the development of the country in the midst of their struggles. Over the years most of the widows have suffered in silence painfully dealing with depression and grief emotions it is for this reason they are gathered to recognize them as the unsung heroines.
In Kenya it is estimated that the population of widows is about 8 million nearly 15% of the population and the number increases by day. She recognized the many widows who have lost their loved ones while on duty protecting their mother land. She explained the scenario has resulted to a high number of widows and young families without their bread winners.
She then commended all the widows present for their resilience, strength and determination amidst tough times. She congratulated the widows for believing in the noble course and managing to pull under such difficult circumstances.
Hon Jebii remarked that many people are aware of the plight of widows in our country as well as recognize them as one of the most marginalized groups in our society. She quoted this year’s International Widows Day theme which is Highlighting the disproportionate suffering of widows as a result of Covid-19 Pandemic.
Hon. Jebii Kilimo concluded by thanking all the partners that had taken part in the event. She also commended widows for their resilience amidst the Covid-19 impact. She assured that the state department has committed to empower vulnerable groups widows being among them.
There is evident on the government agreeing to mark and celebrate the International Widows Day in different regions of the country. It is also notable from Hon Jebii’s speech that the government is paying attention on the challenges faced by widows and what can be done to address those challenges. Indubitably, with the government on board it is evident that the fight against widow abuse will be won in the near future. Also celebrating international widows Day shows that we are living in times where every individual, group or community matters regardless of their status quo.