My Name is Dianah Wanjiku, a Widow and a mother two beautiful girls Praise Nyokabi and Cate Precious. I became a widow in 2013 as a result of domestic violence when my husband of ten years came home and had planned to kill all of us in the family, when his attempts failed he turned the knife to himself.
I survived with a lot of bad injuries and was rushed to GuruNanak Hospital where an emergency urgent head surgery was done and was fitted with five plastic nerves in my head because he had interfered with critical nerves in my head. After a week I underwent a hand surgery and was fitted with multiple metal plates because he had broken my left hand. Finally after the second week in hospital I underwent a I realized so many of my visitors in hospital were widows and survivors of past cases of violence who had chosen to keep quiet with their stories of violence.
As a survivor on that hospital bed I still went through Widow’s abuse, my in-laws accused me of my husband’s death, hulled insults and branded a prostitute.
While in hospital my property and even house hold items were taken away. I took my phone and with my brothers help because I had a plaster on the other hand I googled to check if our constitution of Kenya 2010 had my rights as a widow clearly defined and my rights as a survivor of violence clearly defined unfortunately. I found none on the two it’s on my hospital bed I requested to be given a note book and a pen and started drafting a widow’s bill.
After discharge, I invited a group of widows in my house and instead of coming fifteen as I had requested they came a total of twenty five in number. The word went round so fast and in the following meeting, we had 66 widows. The third meeting three Hundred and thirty seven widows, fourth meeting over seven hundred and fifty widows turned up. I got shocked and said to myself, I need to roll up my sleeves and start getting the exact number of widows in this country of Kenya.
Unfortunately widows were absent in the statistics, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics didn't have the statistics of widows neither had they thought they should have one in place. I got contacts from all the morgues both private and public and I started receiving the numbers of married men who died every day. From there I started reaching out to widows through the media (Radio, Television, Social Media and formation of Focus Discussion Groups). From the time of registering the Widows organization in September 14, 2013 to June 23, 2016. we had 1.4 Million registered widows.
The challenges around widowhood were overwhelming and ignored by many who think they are cultural practices that they should never go against. I started coming out on media condemning the practices and my voice started getting support when politicians and State Department of Gender recognized my work with widows. I introduced a widow’s hashtag (WidowsRightsAreAlsoHumanRights) campaign. In the process I visited all the 47 counties in Kenya creating awareness on the plight of widows and Championed for their rights by creating support groups where they started Loss and Grief sharing programmes, Economic Empowerment programmes, Bead work, Financial Trainings and free medical Camps to ensure widows become aware of their health status. I turned all the challenges they told me to a Widowhood Bill. While in
While in hospital I had realized that our constitution has not protected the widows, the financial challenges of finances to traverse the country did not hinder my passion for widows. I value education but I had to terminate my children's education policy to get money back to be able to continue running the organization. Today I struggle to pay my daughters tuition fees to keep them in school but I’m glad that hundreds of widows, survivors of violence and orphans are smiling because of my initiative. I got widowed painfully, faced widow abuse and I purposed that nobody should go through the pain I went through. By Determination, selflessness, Love, Passion to bring change in my community my joy is serving God through Others and not forgetting myself and my children
I also continued to raise my voice and introduced a hashtag that was borrowed so much during 16days of Activism in November- December 2016 (#BreakingTheCultureOfSilenceOnGenderBasedViolence).From the time I started raising awareness and sharing my story and my hospital photos I have over 6,011 women and four men who have come out and joined me and are free during our seminars to share their stories
Why I involved Orphans in my Organization, I had visited a widow in Mathare Slums and came across a girl who was working as a house girl for Kshs 3,000 or $30 to help her mother pay their Ksh 1,500 or $15 house rent. This started when her father died because she was now a partial orphan and the mother could not cater for all their basic needs alone. I managed to raise my voice on social media and the girl got a sponsor and she is doing very well in school. I realized that education was so important and was the only thing that could better our children's lives as widows I started raising my voice on social media, Television, Print Media and got well-wisher who empowered the sexually abused and girls who were in early child labour to go back to school. Many of these abused girls were total orphans and daughters of widows who could not even put a plate of food on the table. I do teen mentorship in schools, counselling in my house and also keep the girls I rescue in my house as I get them well-wishers to educate them.
In company of fellow widows we visited another widow in Gitare Marigu Slums and the widows daughter came asking for money to go and buy sanitary towels, The mother answered "Can you go away and get old rags and use them, what you should be asking me is if there is money to buy food" The girl left crying, to this widowed woman a Sanitary towel is a luxury. This made me purpose to be giving out 10,000 Sanitary Towels and panties every year and 10,000 Boys Boxers and school socks every year.
To me all these category of people are wounded, the widow is wounded by loss of spouse and widow abuse she faces, Survivors of violence are wounded by perpetrators of the act, physically, emotionally, socially and even spiritually, The orphans too are wounded by loss of both parents and Partial orphans by the loss of a single parent they suffer dropping out of school, early child labor, Misuse of drug and substances, early marriages and unwanted pregnancies embracing them and supporting them through my organization in education, drafting bills which when passed into law protects them, Provision of shelter, Provision of food is TURNING THEIR WOUNDS INTO GIFT and in life they will Turn other peoples wounds into gifts because they will become the agents of change.
My desire is to work with all widows, widows’ financial status matters to me and that's why I want to empower them become better than me. The grassroots widows make the largest part of our organization membership. Our Widows are grouped into fundable groups.
Dianah Kamande is a survivor of Gender Violence, specifically Domestic Violence that ushered her into widowhood. She is a trainer on Women in Leadership and Governance in Africa. She is a celebrated widow, Gender Violence and Orphans rights champion. She is a mentor who has mentored many widows’ leaders and her work has been replicated in all the 47 counties in Kenya, and other African countries. She is also the founder of Association of Survivors of Gender Based Violence. She serves as the chairlady of the Parents Association and Board Member of St. Charles Secondary School, Murang’a County. She holds a Diploma in Women in Leadership and Governance in Africa from Nairobi University, and is currently pursuing her degree in Governance, Peace and Conflict Studies at African Nazarene University.
She is award winner Above and Beyond Awards in Boston, USA. Awarded for her Exemplary leadership and Advocacy on widows matters by the Global Fund for Widows in New York, USA. Global Good Will Ambassadors in Atlanta also awarded her the Humanitarian Award.
She was feted with Head of States Commendation during the Jamuhuri Day Celebrations in Kenya on 12th December 2018 for she has championed for rights, given a voice to widows and victims of domestic violence. She has also amplified their voices to National and International spaces.