On 14th September 2021 to 17th September 2021, we conducted a widow’s tour in the four counties of: Isiolo, Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Embu. The widows tour reached the widows in the four counties and enlightened them about their Rights and Economic Empowerment. The tour brought widowhood bright to public, widows were linked with various institutions like, FIDA-KENYA, Women Enterprise Fund, Uwezo Fund and ANTI-FGM Board for Economic Empowerment, provide awareness to widows on Gender-Based Violence and identified the effects of Covid-19 on widows in the selected counties.
At the end of the widow’s tour, we were able to provide widows with a platform to articulate their plight as well as share ideas and concerns with relevant authorities, reduced cases of Gender Based Violence on widows and their children, increased awareness on Affirmative Action Funds and reduced cases of harmful traditional practices especially Female genital Mutilation.
ISIOLO COUNTY WIDOWS SENSITIZATION SEMINAR
We were received by the County Commissioner Isiolo and His Deputy County Commissioner. We were honoured to have a warm welcome. The chief guest was Hon. Linah Kilimo Chief Administrative Secretary for the State Department for Gender Affairs.The training to Empower Widows with knowledge on their rights was done by @FIDA-Kenya lawyers led by their team leader Ms. Irene Ochola.and their psychosocial support team has helped in counselling Widows. Ms. Irene Ochola from FIDA-KENYA highlighted the challenges widows goes through in accessing justice. They have special needs because they go through a lot from their husbands’ family members and cultural practices in the society.
They have been getting reports about some people still practising harmful traditional acts against widows such as shaving their heads, locking them up, denying them bath.
Economic Empowerment training was done by Women Enterprise Fund. Widows were taught about Thamini 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.
Uwezo fund officials Led by Mr. Mwangi taught widows about the existence of the fund.
Uwezo Fund is 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.1 (eradicate extreme poverty and hunger) and 3 (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.
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.
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).
The training on presidential directive to end FGM was done by Mr Nyerere head of Programs at the Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Board Kenya. The board does the following:
- Supervises and coordinates public awareness, sensitization and advocacy against the practice of FGM.
- Designing programmes aimed at eradicating FGM
- Mapping out other stakeholders involved in the fight against FGM
Hon. Linah Kilimo promised widows that the government will continue working with them and ensuring they are economically empowered.
MERU COUNTY WIDOWS SENSITIZATION SEMINAR
The meeting was organized by Kiengoi Ward Widows in Igembe South Constituency, Meru County. We were received by the area chief and the secretary Njuri Ncheke.
The training was on Widows’ rights, access to justice, Succession and other major issues that affects Widows after loss of their husbands like harmful cultural practices.
We had training on Women Economic Empowerment opportunities available for the Widows. This was done by Women Enterprise Fund officials who trained on all their loan products with special focus to Thamini Fund.
The Uwezo Fund led by Mr. Mwangi trained on how to apply for the loan and their amazing repayment period with a grace period of six months that is long enough to help widows grow their business.
Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Board also trained the widows on becoming champions of saying no to FGM because FGM is a harmful cultural practice that MUST stop. The officer reminded the Widows on the Presidential directive to End FGM by 2022. The Widows received copies of The Act of
THARAKA NITHI COUNTY WIDOWS SENSITIZATION SEMINAR
The event was organized by Agnes Nkanya Foundation and was held at Mukuuni PCEA Church Magumoni ward. The widows were sensitized on their rights by FIDA-KENYA while WEF and UWEZO Fund sensitized them on economic empowerment and accessing government affirmative funding.
The Women Enterprise Fund team was led by Ms. Ruth Randa, Manager Marketing, Research and Communication.
Tharaka Nithi County have so far received a total of Kshs.292,450,000 benefiting 25,007 women. The repayment rate is 101%
Also, UWEZO Fund led by Mr. Mwangi disbursed Kshs.14,179,000 to Tharaka Nithi County.
The event was held at Nyangwa A.C.K church. The meeting brought together 17 widows’ groups from Mavuria Ward, Mbeere South Constituency in Embu County.
Governments should provide specific laws to protect the rights of widows in Kenya,” Irene from Fida-Kenya urged. They need to be cared for because most widows live in extreme poverty.
The psycho-social support program empowered widows emotionally and psychologically to face life’s challenges by determining the best coping strategies for each. Nurturing coping abilities enabled survivors to take up risks that contribute to improving their lives and those of their children. Emotional imbalances were overcome as women increasingly take charge of their lives. Through their counsellors they were able to attend to widows one on one and widows were happy.
ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE WIDOW’S TOUR
1. Widows in the region were provided with a platform to air their plight as well as share ideas and concerns with the relevant authority and civil societies.
2. Increased awareness among widows on the Affirmative Action Funds and how they can take advantage of them to improve their livelihoods.
3.Reduced cases of Gender Based Violence surrounding widows
4. Reduced cases of harmful traditional practices due to awareness created over widows’ rights. This was achieved by local government, elders like Njuri Ncheke and widows agreeing to work together with government to stop female genital mutilation.
CHALLENGES FACING WIDOWS IN THE FOUR COUNTIES.
- Lack of shelter. Widows in the four counties we visited most of them are living in abject poverty. They lack basic needs like food clothes and shelter. This was evident by a widow in Meru County by the name Dorcas Kambura who is living in a shanty house with their children.
- Legal aid centers. The widows requested legal aid centers in their counties. This will be possible for them to air their issues especially the challenges they are facing in relation to succession, discrimination and disinheritance.
- Widows’ policy. Widows requested to have the policy which protects them from harmful traditional practices. This is because widows are marginalized.
- Access to quality education. Most of the widows who had children in school lamented that it is difficult to school them. They requested the government to set aside bursaries specifically for widows’ children.
The event was successful we were able to reach 1000 widows in the four counties. We look forward for holding widows tour to other counties so as to reach many widows all over the country.