Drugged, raped, imprisoned by ‘husband’, suing maternity hospital – who’s accountable for Kenyan woman’s plight?
When I told a friend about a landmark case where two poor Kenyan women were suing the government for illegally detaining them in a maternity hospital for failing to pay their bills, he said, half in jest: ‘But they had nine months to save for it didn’t they?”
A fair point some might think.
But it also reveals the gaping chasm between the rich and the poor – not just economic, but in our ability to comprehend one another’s life experiences.
Does it matter how many wives the South African president has and whether he is faithful to them? Should we care whether he enjoys dancing semi-naked in a kilt made of animal tails?
Jacob Zuma, the ‘100 percent Zulu boy’, is a colourful polygamist with four wives and more than 20 children.
As I listen to the girls’ stories, coaxed out with hot tears, I struggle to find an answer to this question: what makes a man rape a young girl?
Mercy Chidi, who runs Tumani Girls Rescue Centre in the Kenyan town of Meru, has several theories. She has dealt with over 240 rape cases since she opened the centre in 2006, including cases involving girls as young as three.
Watching Kenyan activist Agnes Pareyio demonstrate the three different types of female genital mutilation (FGM) on a life-size plastic vagina was an eye opener to the sheer brutality of the practice.
It laid bare its function – to control women’s sexuality – and their powerlessness in the communities where it is practised.
It helps to kill the acrid stench that sticks in the back of your throat.
But the experience of visiting Nairobi’s largest dumpsite – sited right in the midst of a sea of corrugated iron-roofed slum houses — stuck in my mind for days afterwards.
The saddest part of the stories told by 40 HIV-positive Kenyan women who are suing the government for forced or coercive sterilisation is not that they can no longer give birth.
Most already have children, often more than they can comfortably provide for.
“Getting food is a problem,” said Pamela Adeka, who was sterilised after giving birth to twins in 2004.
NAIROBI (AlertNet) – It’s bucketing down outside, washing away houses and people and causing total gridlock in the city’s evening rush hour.
And when you finally make it home and switch on your tap, it’s dry.
In Nairobi, private water vendors do a booming business, selling water in 20-litre jerrycans to the poor and in 4,000-litre tankers to the rich.
“Will you pass by and see her?” Anne asked me, nodding to her two-year-old daughter who was playing barefoot in the nearby dirt with another young girl.
It’s amazing how children can laugh amidst utter squalor that makes adults want to weep.