Come Together Widows and Orphans Organization (CTWOO) held a widow’s seminar which involved both legal and economic empowerment of more than 100 widows from different widows’ groups, the majority of them being from Mseto widows and orphans’ community-Based Organizations. This event was made a success by the special appearance of different officers from the Governor`s office, State Department of Gender- Taita Taveta, National Government Affirmative Action Fund, Women Enterprise Fund, Commission on Administrative Justice (CAJ) whose contribution led to the accomplishment of the days` aim; economic and legal empowerment.
We arrived at the venue at 10.00 A.M, in the morning. The event started well off with a set of entertainment from Mseto Orphans Community Based Organization widows. In the process, there was an exhibition of the products made from the acquired skills of basketry, weaving, and fashion. Among the products were; baskets, braids, caps, mats, and handbags. Madam Judy the MC, called the meeting in order, where all the invited guests and widows were gathered in the room that was set for the event.
RECOGNITION OF THE ADMINISTRATORS
The Mc, started by giving a chance to leaders from the invited widows’ group an opportunity to introduce themselves. Thereafter, she requested the government administrators from the area, to give their message to the participants, starting with the village elder. The village elder Mr. Fulgencea Mbele started by welcoming all the invited guests and continued by congratulating all the widows for their appearance in large numbers indicating their great need in learning.
Area assistance Chief, Mr. Joseph Mwamburi
He came after the village elder who started by welcoming all the participants and stakeholders to the event. He proceeded by congratulating the Mseto leadership for their recommendable work of bringing widows into a group where they can access social, spiritual, economic, and emotional support. He mentioned that there is a great need in coming together for the well-being of each other. He concluded by saying that the widows of Mseto Orphans CBO have the full capacity and ability to exploit the available resources for their wellbeing, but there is a big challenge of resources being inadequate to fully support their projects.
The Mc, again welcomed the chief to address the meeting. Chief Bernard Kenge (Mwachabo Location) started by welcoming all who had attended the event. He mentioned that the County Commissioner, DO promise to walk together with the widows in the area as far as development and their well-being is concerned. He concluded by saying that the County Government of Taita Taveta is on the frontline in ensuring that the rights of widows and orphans are safeguarded.
Ward Administrator Mr. Juma Jumasis
Hewas as well welcomed to say a word to the meeting. He began by congratulating the Mseto CBO widows more their coordinator madam Marie Clay for joining together to assist each other. He emphasized more on the forthcoming government plan of involving public participation and advised them on the need to take part in giving out their opinions and what they think it can be done to empower them.
Madam Jennifer Dali (Youth and Gender adviser of Governor Andrew Mwandime)
She was the last one to be to speak on the part of the administration. She began by saying that it’s their role to listen to the needs of widows, and unite and galvanize them equitably. She emphasized more on the violence against widows and said that Governor Mwandime and his government are ready to support widows and take part in the elimination of any type of violence against widows. She continued to advise the widows on the great need to report any noticeable form of violence against them and their children in the Governor`s office whom she said is ready to work one on one with the citizens.
She concluded by explaining about County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) which she said it’s the core five-year development plan that integrates the long-term spatial, sector, and urban plans with inputs from the Governor’s manifesto, national government plans, and programs, that requires views and expectations of other development actors and the public at large. She emphasized more on the great need for widows to participate once it is announced in their area.
Our capacity building included economic and legal empowerment which aimed at strengthening widows` capabilities to develop, implement and maintain an effective health sector of achieving financial stability and a violence-free working and living environment. Invited guests from National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF) and the Women Enterprise fund provided economic empowerment by educating the widows on financial literacy whereas the officers from Commission on Administrative Justice (Ombudsman) and the gender Office empowered the widows on legal issues. The capacity building was done by officers from Taita Taveta Offices.
National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF)
Dorine Ngeil (Taita Taveta County NGAAF Coordinator)
started by introducing her colleagues to the meeting where afterward she proceeded by saying 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’s commitment in putting in place measures to redress past disadvantages among certain segments of the population, as well help in the achievement of Gender equality and self-reliance. It is anchored on the Vision 2030 development blueprint 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 fulfil 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
Dorine concluded by promising the widows that this time round the leadership with work together; from the county level up to the ward level to avoid duplication of projects, especially during bursary allocation.
Women Enterprise Fund. (WEF)
Harvester Tsuma (WEF officer)
started by congratulating all the participants for availing themselves, as well as recognizing WEF. He 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. He 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, after a 3-days free financial literacy education. He mentioned that they reach out to every women`s group that requires their assistance with no charges. He concluded by encouraging the widows no to fear but step out and apply for the fund. He called upon his colleague to enlighten widows specifically on Thamini Fund.
Focused on Thamini Fund where he said that, it is a widow’s product under the Women Enterprise Fund. He continued by saying that, it is a 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.
Commission on Administrative Justice (Ombudsman)
(Coast Regional coordinator) started by introducing her colleague to the meeting. She began by explaining the role of CAJ as a commission under the Kenyan constitution. In this regard, the Commission is empowered to, among other things, investigate complaints of delay, abuse of power, unfair treatment, manifest injustice, or discourtesy. She continued by saying that; their role as Ombudsman is to ensure that citizens access their services equitably in accessing required justice, in issues like; inheritance, land ownership, and individual right enhancement. She mentioned that most of the widows in Kenya lack justice due to inadequate information on the best ways to seek justice and hence end up losing everything. She insisted on the great need of raising awareness of legal issues.
State Department of Gender.
Madam Charity Kiboro (County Director),
started by congratulating the Come Together Widows and Orphans Organization for their recommendable work in empowering widows. She mentioned specifically Gender-Based Violence against women more so on widows. She gave out the Government toll-free (1195) where they can report violence related to them.
MESSAGE FROM MADAM DIANAH KAMANDE – GUEST SPEAKER
The MC of the day gave madam Charity Kiboro, an opportunity to welcome madam Dianah, who started by congratulating the previous work of the acting Governor as the area MP. She continued by quoting the statistics of widows being more than 24,000 widows according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), emphasizing that the number is still rising and hence there is a need to safeguard their well-being and help them cope with life as normal. Madam Dianah continued by reporting her meeting with Governor Andrew Mwandime concerning the support of widows in Taita Taveta County. She said that the things discussed included; Launching of the widow’s chapter in Taita Taveta early next year.
Madam Dianah continued by narrating her widowhood journey that gave birth to the establishment of the Come Together Widows and Orphans Organization. She said that it started with a few widows coming together to comfort each other spiritually and socially. The organization grew and it now extended its services to all widows countrywide.
Madam Dianah proceeded by saying that we partner with the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF) which facilitates widows’ groups with the fund that boosts their existing businesses as well as assists them in starting new ones. On this, she emphasized that this fund is a grant and not a loan. She posed the question to the widows whether they have already applied and they replied by saying that they had no information concerning the fund. She insisted on the need to move forward and apply for funds. She concluded by speaking of the Thamini Fund which specifically gives interest-free loans to widows groups. She emphasized the need to make use of the Government Funds that are set
aside for their development to avoid the County Government Returning the funds to the National treasury.
The meeting ended well with the day’s aim being accomplished. The widows benefited from both the economic and legal empowerment of different officers. Widows have the required capacity to do exploits but they are dragged behind by the challenges they face after losing their spouses. It concerns us all to support them and protect their rights as well as to give them hope of living a better life for themselves and their children. The day ended well as planned. We were encouraged by the great and recommendable job done by our widows from Mseto Widows and Orphans Community-Based Organization. They have been able to acquire skills that have helped them make products out of which they earn income to sustain themselves.