Friday, May 11th, 2018
Is a polygamous marriage ever peaceful and happy for all the wives, or is jealousy and competition a given? Fridah Mlemwa finds out.
In a country where polygamy is now legal, many women are entering the institution of marriage as second, third or even fourth wives.
Are all of them desperate for a man, even a married one?
Are they happy? Fulfilled? Longing to get out? We talk to four women in polygamous unions who give us the lowdown.
Mary, 38 years old
“It was never my plan to get married into a polygamous union, let alone get married again after my marriage of six years ended in divorce.
“But when I met Mark, I didn’t hesitate to say yes when he proposed that I become his second wife. I was in love, felt cared for and he offered the security of official marriage recognition.
“Oddly enough, I knew the first wife because we worked together. I had known her before I started dating her husband. There was never a confrontation with her, only a silent understanding of what was happening. And when Mark took the step to marry me under customary law, she did not present a problem.
“It is easy to assume that the second wife has it rosier because of being the youngest, but that is contrary to my experience. I have invested time and money in my husband’s construction business. I am helping him build our business and our home.
“My co-wife and I live in separate homes in different parts of Nairobi, both catered for by the husband. I live with my two children, who I had in my previous marriage, while the other wife also lives with her own kids. Our husband has also built two homes for us in our rural area; those are in proximity to each other.
“Although we live separately, I have had my fair share of drama, mostly stemming from jealousy and competitiveness. This revolves around how our homes are built and furnished, where the children school, and the vacations we take; these are always up for discussion.
“However, the drama is minimal since we do not socialise with each other, which has affected our children’s relationship, which is non-existent. That said, I don’t regret my six years so far, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other thing.”
“I was over the moon when I got became Rashid’s second wife. I knew he was very much in love with me because, apart from his evident adoration of me, he was always pointing out to the ways I complemented him as opposed to his first wife.
“The first wife was not amused; she was unhappy to have a new, younger woman taking away her husband’s affection.
“I was not bothered by the older woman’s resentment. I was in my early 20s and life was exciting. My husband’s first marriage was still childless when I got in. However, she conceived a child during my first year of marriage. This unsettled me. I worked towards getting a child of my own as well, to also please my husband.
“This marked the beginning of rivalry between me and his first wife. Even though we both lived in our own houses in Mombasa, we always struggled to outdo each other – to be the better wife.
“Being the younger wife, I was favoured. My husband spent most of his nights at my house and gave me so much love and affection, I even forgot that I was in a polygamous marriage. Regrettably, it is true what they say; all good things come to an end. My husband surprised me with a new, younger wife.
“The shock of a third wife brought conflict and unhappiness. I had been made to believe that I was his only love, that I was perfect after the first wife fell short. I always felt special and superior to the older wife.
“The anger, resentment and pain drove me to flee from my marriage; I packed my suitcases and left for Germany. For a month I stewed in that anguish before I got round to accepting the situation. Once I came to terms with my new situation, I came back to Kenya, to my husband.
“Although we are all legally married to Rashid under Islamic law, we have not accepted each other. We do not get along and are always trying to outdo each other. We each have two kids now and are always competing for his love and attention.
“When my husband gets too preoccupied with the other two, I seek attention from other men, flirting around in order to still feel beautiful and wanted.
“I was sad when my children met the other kids for the first time last year. My youngest, who is five years old, called his father a liar after finding out that he had younger siblings because he had thought he was the youngest. We are now trying to teach the children to relate well with each other.
“When my husband’s IT and branding company started making losses, even bigger cracks started forming in our marriage. All of us wives are unemployed, and it became harder for Rashid to provide for us. Each of us was trying to grab the little that he had left.
“That was the wake-up call that prompted me to seek employment. I, the first wife, our children and Rashid moved to Nairobi to seek greener pastures. As we both settled in different homes, I found work and sought more education to create an alternative source of money to supplement my family.”
“Love fooled me into a marriage that has tried me to my very limits. I was in my mid-20s when I met Abdi, who wooed me with lavish presents such as the latest phones in the market, shopping sprees, exotic vacations and generous pocket money.
“Although I was an independent woman pursuing a career in law, everything took a back seat to this dazzling man.
“I was met with an outpouring of love from his family and even his first wife. I was warmly welcomed into his family and made to feel part of it.
“My Islamic wedding was nothing short of perfection; even the first wife was highly involved and came bearing extravagant presents. I was an honoured second wife.
“But the honeymoon came and went away with all the good in the relationship. I was introduced to ‘the second wife’, although I was legally the second wife.
“Abdi already had a second wife that his family and friends knew of, who had his children, but she was not officially recognised. Turns out I was effectively the third wife. Additionally, my husband changed. He stopped giving me presents and treating me to anything nice.
“Things got worse subsequently as I took a year to study at the Kenya Law School to became an advocate. Although it was something that we agreed prior to the formalisation of our union, it was not well received.
“Abdi started abusing me verbally and withholding financial support. I struggled to study through the snickering and disapproval from my parents-in-law and the first wife. Ultimately, I failed some of my units and with the pressure to return to Mombasa to my husband mounting, I abandoned my studies.
“My relationship with my husband deteriorated even further when I got back home. He began physically assaulting and starving me. It was a struggle to get him to pay rent.
“As my marriage fell apart, the first wife and my mother-in-law added insult to injury by inciting him against me. They all attacked me for not having a child. It got to a point where my mother-in-law started pushing Abdi to marry another woman as they labelled me barren.
“After living in that torment for two years, I had a baby boy. Things took a positive shift. Abdi started treating me with respect and buying me gifts, but things never got back to how they were in the beginning, at least not for me. I stay in this marriage for the sake of my child, but I hope to escape and rebuild my career.”
“I was married to Otieno 23 years ago as the fourth and youngest wife. He used to work in Mombasa as a hotel manager, where we met. I was introduced to my co-wives who accepted me, and was married traditionally.
“Usually, when the man is well off, he has the advantage of making the decision to marry so he didn’t consult the others about letting me in. Since my husband was rich, all he did was introduce me to the others.
“I started living with the second and third wives and their children, all under one roof in Mombasa. The first wife took care of the rural home in Kisumu.
“Since the first wife didn’t have any children, she took the role of caring for the children when they went upcountry. All the children went to high school in Kisumu and were thus cared for by the first mother. The second wife has five kids, the third wife has four, and I also have four.
“On the surface it all seems peaceful but of course, jealousy and rivalry is also rife in our communal marriage. Gossip and suspicion of foul play like bewitching each other’s kids and seeking favour from the husband to get more inheritance is rampant between us.
“But we have managed to co-habit peacefully even in the face of all the challenges. Our husband builds homes for each of us and gives us land and we respect each other.”
When Mr Joseph Gathogo decided to buy meat for his family in the evening of Wednesday, his intention was to brighten their faces with a delicious meal. He actually prepared it for them when he took it home, as his four children gazed with awe.
Mr Gathogo, a bodaboda operator had promised his children a ‘present’ during the day and he had finally availed it. It was about 6.30pm and the time for supper was nearing by the minute.
However, his decision to go back to work for some minutes to earn more money marked the last time he would ever see his children in a happy mood. “After buying the meat for them, I decided to go back to work to see if I could get at least a client. In five minutes, I found a client and ferried him to the next village,” said Mr Gathogo.
But when he was coming back, he decided to check on his mother and upon entering her home, he was served with food.
“Even before I could take the first spoon, we heard a loud bang on top of the hill. We all got out and after a brief conversation, we realised it could have been a dam that had exploded,” recalled Mr Gathogo.
Immediately, his wife called him to enquire if he had heard the loud sound, but unfortunately, before he could ask her to evacuate their four children to a safer place, her phone went dead.
Forgetting the meal he had been served, Mr Gathogo rushed to his motorbike and speedily rode towards his home to save his family.
“I felt there was danger ahead and so the first thing that hit my mind was saving my wife and four children. I rode very fast,” he recalled.
He remembered how as he sped towards his home, the rumbling of the water increased and its intensity horrifying.
By the time he arrived at the gate of his home, the water had reached him. He saw his wife rushing out of the house carrying two children but even before they could go anywhere, they were swept away.
His wife survived after the water carried her to a safer place. However, their three children, one who was a month old, did not survive the tragedy that has shaken the nation.
On Friday, Mr Gathogo identified three of his children at the Bahati sub-county mortuary but one was still missing.
He was left with nothing, not the property he owned nor the children he had worked hard to brighten their lives. All he has now is his wife.
“All my children were swept away as I watched after climbing a tree to save my life. I have been left without any belonging. I am just the way I was born. Even the clothes I am wearing are donations,” he said.
The Patel Dam tragedy in Solai, Nakuru county, that claimed dozens of lives in one night this week is clear illustration of a much bigger problem that has afflicted this country over the last three decades or so. In Kenya, licensing has been reduced to a simple revenue collection stream for government.
I was horrified a few years ago when I heard the then Governor of Nairobi, Evans Kidero, announcing his government had waived all licenses for the refurbishment work at the Kenya National Theatre!
I got in touch with the Governor’s office and pointed out the dangers of that announcement: That waiving licenses meant that the county government was not going to inspect the quality of work being carried out. Fortunately, the Governor’s office clarified that what Dr. Kidero meant was that the license fees were waived, but the relevant licenses would have to be acquired after proper inspection.
Nevertheless, county governments all over the country (including Nairobi) are always collecting annual business license fees without doing any inspection of the premises. It is no wonder we have so many unsafe and insecure businesses but all have valid licenses.
As a high school teenager in the mid-1980s, my father would occasionally ask me to follow up on the business license for his shop. The process started with a visit to the municipal council office where I would pick the application form. On returning the document to the council after filling, the licensing clerk would attach inspection forms from three departments, namely, health, planning and environment. A few days later, the health inspector would visit the shop and check whether there was running water, a clean toilet with a working cistern, a bathing room for workers and so on.
Next; an inspector from the planning department would visit and check if the shop has a fresh coat of paint (inside and outside), cracks on the walls and floors, leaking roof, broken pavement slabs and so on. Then finally would be an inspector from the environment department to check that there is a proper rubbish disposal (dustbin) and that there are no signs of uncollected garbage within the vicinity of the shop. We were even expected to unclog the drains along our street!
But what do we have today? Businesspeople simply log on to the license portal on the internet, make the payment and print out the licences at the comfort of their offices. No inspection, no verification of details of nature of business; nothing! It is no wonder people are being licensed to operate discotheques inside residential estates.
This problem is not just at the county level: Why, for example, are drivers required to renew their licenses? How does paying Sh600 per year (or Sh1,400 every three years) help in improving road safety?
After the Patel Dam tragedy, an officer from the Water Resources Management Authority was reported in the press saying that Warma had ordered Patel Coffee Estate to “regularise” the ill-fated dam. It is utterly ridiculous! How can they license a structure whose construction they did not inspect?
Government is not a business to be evaluated on the basis of how much money it is earning! The fees paid for licenses are meant to cover the cost of carrying out the inspection. For this reason, they should be collected only after inspecting.
Perhaps a good starting point to get out of this mess is to abolish all license fees. Let licensing officers re-learn how to do their jobs without the pressure to raise more revenue. Maybe they will start doing the right things.
www.MungaiKihanya.com; Twitter: @MungaiKihanya
If he were alive today, Nelson Mandela would probably be puzzled to find that it has become popular among South Africans frustrated with the pace of change to join former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe in casting him as a villain.
The charge against Mandela, who became South Africa’s first democratically elected President on May 10 24 years ago, is that he let white South Africa off the hook by bargaining a deal which left the racial minority in charge of the economy and society. His reconciliation policy, it is claimed, made whites feel good but did little for blacks.
How justified is this? Should South Africans blame Mandela for the survival of racial bias, poverty and inequality? Or does he remain an inspiration? The answer lies somewhere in between these two poles.
Before explaining why, it’s as well to warn against the tendency to see apartheid’s end as Mandela’s work alone. As he never tired of pointing out, he was part of a collective: Key strategic roles were played by former president Thabo Mbeki and the country’s current leader Cyril Ramaphosa, among many others. This week 24 years ago saw the beginning of democratic government, not rule by one man.
Whether Mandela and his colleagues could have done better depends on what their critics think they should have done. If the answer is that they should have insisted on far more radical change, how were they to achieve this since the apartheid system was not defeated militarily? And how was the new order to feed its people if it frightened away the capital which remained in the white minority’s hands?
Mandela’s reconciliation message may have partly reflected his view of the world. But it was also a product of the African National Congress’ (ANC) view then that the minority retained the power to destroy the new democracy and so a compromise with it was essential.
This sometimes led to skewed priorities. Preventing a white backlash was at times taken more seriously than black opinion outside the ANC which was also not sure about the new order. But the ANC’s view that apartheid could only be ended by a compromise was, essentially, accurate. Those who continue to complain that Mandela and his colleagues settled for far too little have never said credibly how it would have been possible to get much more.
Critics are right to insist something was missing from the settlement which made Mandela president. But the problem is not that there was too much compromise; it was that there was not enough.
The compromise, which produced 1994, concentrated on changing the political order so that everyone became a citizen with equal rights. That was essential. But it left untouched an economy, society and culture which, like the political system, worked only for the few. The political bargain should have been followed by a similar negotiation on opening up the economy. It should also have tackled the biases in the places where ideas and knowledge are produced — schools and universities, for example, and those in the wider society where inherited privilege in access to healthcare, transport and other essentials have limited the effects of the political changes Mandela and others achieved.
This was a missed opportunity because the years leading up to the settlement which produced the 1994 democratic government saw parallel negotiation on the economy, social issues and education and culture. This could have set the stage for a bargain on change in these areas but the opportunity was ignored. This has produced the bitterness that sees Mandela as a problem, not a solution.
This flaw needs urgent attention. Unless it is addressed, South Africa will remain what it is today: Angry and fractured, still trapped in many of the chains which apartheid created. Mandela and those who worked with him hoped for more — a society in which the old barriers would break down, not one in which they remain, although on new foundations. What they hoped for has not been achieved partly because they failed to find a strategy for addressing the ills apartheid created. But the new society for which they hoped will not be created unless the values which they championed at the time are revived. The message that South Africans share a common humanity is not a sham. It is essential in a society which remains deeply divided.
The deal over which Mandela presided was not enough to build a workable future. But the values he and those with whom he worked endorsed will need to play a core role if that future is to become reality.
The writer is a professor of Political Studies, University of Johannesburg this article was first published in The Conversation
Last Saturday, Nairobi was grey and grimy as usual. It is the day, too, that I received an interesting call. The caller, a young man about 22 years, requested to hold court with me. His voice quivered with urgency.
He came to my office buoyant and radiant. My guest, let’s call him Mike, has a diploma in engineering and has a friend, almost his age, who is “doing very well”. According to Mike, the lad rolls in SUVs and lives in upmarket apartments.
In a nutshell, Mike’s friend is living a popstar’s life. “There are many young guys like him,” Mike purred. Now Mike’s friend has philanthropic instincts. He wants to help Mike to join the club and live a flashy lifestyle.
So, Mike needed some Sh250,000 seed money. That is all he needed to become a millionaire at 22. Mike’s friend would use the cash to purchase “genuine currency paper” and print about Sh1 million. The cycle will continue till Mike chooses when it’s enough.
To cut the long story short, after pitying Mike for the desperation and naivety, I advised him to go sweat at his father’s quarry and make an honest living. But then, I was stunned. There is a scary problem with the youth — they strongly cherish shortcuts to riches. They covet a life of luxury that’s clearly beyond what they can afford. And worse, there seems to be intense pressure to fit into a particular frame.
Most of the young people are desperately looking for meaning in life from materials and fame. They want to paint an image of excessive indulgence — for admiration and respect from their peers. They want to excite their girlfriends. This vanity, though, unveils a deep-buried struggle with esteem and a paralysis of values. It exposes a fragile value system and attitudinal orientations that are largely at odds with established and acceptable norms.
The youth want to match what they see in movies and social media. Every day, their friends post carefully choreographed pictures of binge, luxury, and fun. They want to join the bandwagon.
Unfortunately, amid this desperation and restlessness, the get-rich-quick cloud the imagination from respectable creative and productive undertakings. Consequently Kenya is losing a generation and energy to idiocy.
Clearly, it has vanished from the youth’s psyche the time-honoured ideals of patience, resilience, hard work and working smart as the surest way of succeeding. No one want’s to sweat. Instead, the instant reality of fast food, instant pictures, instant Google results have etched into our psyche to demand instant riches. When the riches don’t come through hook or crook, they become bitter and desperate.
MILK AND HONEY
Of course this is not new. In 2016, the East African Institute carried a survey that found out that 50 per cent of the youth were comfortable in amassing wealth illegally as long as they are not caught.
Some, would, if given a chance, leave Kenya for the US — where, mistakenly, they believe is the land of milk and honey.
Yet, the instantaneous riches and gratification so beloved of the youth are, more often than not, ruinous. This explains why the rate of stress and depression is ticking upward.
We can easily cry hoarse for lack of opportunities, but that is a scapegoat. Every generation has had its challenges, but it is in the challenges that lie great opportunities. Young people like Mike should learn to spot those opportunities and pursue them.
Even in the US where our folks venerate, young people sweat through life.
The youth need some media literacy and critical thinking. They need to distinguish virtual life from reality. When they sober up they will learn that there are no short-cuts to riches, otherwise they will be eternally miserable.
Scramble for Western region votes has gone a notch higher after Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress and Moses Wetang’ula-led Ford-Kenya yesterday reiterated their bid to merge in an effort to consolidate the vote-rich region. Deputy President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga too want a slice of the region.
Mr Mudavadi yesterday said the ongoing dialogue with Ford Kenya was going on well, and will soon lead to a new party, different from the agreement in the National Super Alliance (Nasa).
“We are satisfied that emerging political realities dictate that we seek to strengthen the emerging partnership ANC and Ford Kenya,” Mr Mudavadi told journalists in Kisumu yesterday.
He said that a joint technical committee was almost done with its work, and will update the two parties in their next individual meetings.
As Mr Mudavadi rallied his troops behind the deal in Kisumu, Mr Wetang’ula was addressing women members of the county assembly from his party in Elementaita, Nakuru County, waxing lyrical about the prospects of the proposed partnership.
“Moving into the Ford-Kenya-ANC merger, we have resolved that we shall form the next government with others or others will form the next government with us. Being outside government is not funny,” Ford-Kenya deputy party leader Boni Khalwale said.
But while the two leaders supported the bid, last week, divisions over who between them will be the leader of the yet-to-be-formed party exposed the thin foundation that the proposed relationship rests.
Mr Wetang’ula will also get another chance to rally his troops around the deal today when the party leadership meets the National Executive Council, and the parliamentary group in Nakuru.
The meeting will make a formal stand, or way forward, on the proposed partnership, and the future of Ford-Kenya in Nasa—a coalition Mr Wetang’ula had last month said turned his back on him, when he was removed from his Senate minority leader post in favour of Mr Odinga’s ally and confidante, Siaya senator James Orengo. It is out of this anger, Mr Wetang’ula explained, that the party wanted to forge a new alliance with ANC led by Musalia Mudavadi.
The two leaders have argued they want to unite the western part of Kenya, majority of whom are from their ethnic Luhyia community, before forging ahead as a united front to look for support in other parts of the country.
“We will sit and relook at our position in the Nasa coalition. We will also hear from the team working on the modalities of the ANC-Ford Kenya merger because we need this to be a unanimous party decision,” Ford-Kenya secretary general Eseli Simiyu said of the meeting.
But as ANC and Ford-Kenya insist on the merger, the deputy president has been making inroads in the region in an attempt to take advantage of the fissures in Nasa to gain political support in the region.
“I have been an emissary of the Deputy President in Western Kenya, and I have attended over 10 meetings these past few days. The reception has been cordial, and it can only get better,” Nandi senator Samson Cherargei told the Saturday Nation.
Mr Cherargei had joined Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula in a meeting in Vihiga county two weeks ago in which the two leaders joined the DP’s bid to oppose calls by Mr Odinga to amend the Constitution to bring in a third tier of devolution for the creation of 14 regions to manage distribution of resources to the 47 counties.
Kakamega’s Senator Cleophas Malala’s selection to deputise Senator James Orengo in the senate is a strategic move by ODM to consolidate their influence in the region. This is after opposition senator, majority of whom are in ODM, felt the seat should be given to western region.
Meanwhile, Mr Odinga’s deputy, Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya, has declared his intention to run for president in 2022, hoping to galvanise the support of the same region—western Kenya—to ascend to the top seat.
“I want this thing, same case to Mudavadi and Wetang’ula. Now, let us look for it, and if we will need to talk in the days ahead, that is okay,” Mr Oparanya said.”
The county chief has defended Mr Odinga’s inroads in the region.
Over 70 pharmacies have been closed down in a crackdown by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board in the Rift Valley region this week.
The crackdown which began on Monday also saw a number of the rogue operators convicted in court, the board told the Nation yesterday.
“We conducted a crackdown in the Rift Valley region and arrested tens of people who were charged in court. Two were jailed for two years while others will serve three months without the option of a fine,” said Julius Kaluai, a senior inspector with the board.
The board targeted pharmacists operating without licenses and quacks selling medicine to the public.
Addressing the media at their offices in Nakuru town, Mr Kaluai said the process was aimed at ensuring no rogue medicine outlets operate. He urged the public to stop defending those operating pharmacies illegally.
“The public should be at the forefront in the fight as they are the ones at risk,” Mr Kaluai said.
Families and friends of the victims of the dam tragedy in Solai, Nakuru, yesterday started the grim process of identifying their bodies ahead of burial.
Some did not find them, raising fears they could still be buried in the mud and debris collected when an estimated 70 million litres of water swept down from Patel Dam, clearing entire neighbourhoods over a two-kilometre radius.
By the end of the day yesterday, there were still 40 people unaccounted for, with the government saying efforts were being made to locate them.
Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Mongo Chimwaga said 23 bodies had been identified out of 45.
MUD AND DEBRIS
“The death toll stands at 45 and we are making efforts to establish where the missing people are,” said Mr Chimwaga.
As the sun rose for a second day over the villages near Solai shopping centre, hundreds of residents joined the search teams from the Nakuru county government, the Red Cross, the military and volunteers, digging through the mud and debris.
The body of a boy was recovered yesterday taking the death toll to 45.
In Nairobi, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Noordin Haji, directed the police to investigate the matter, identify those deemed culpable, and hand in a file to him in the next 14 days.
In Solai, standing on what is left of the dam, Vinod Jayakumar, a senior manager at the farm, defended his employer, Mr Patel Mansukul, in an interview on Citizen TV, attributing the tragedy to heavy rains and asking residents of villages in the area to pray for the downpour to stop as it is the cause of their woes.
“It is not illegal,” he said of the seven dams that the Water Resources Management Authority says were not sanctioned as they have neither been inspected nor authorised by the government agency.
“It has been there for almost 60 years and the dam which has caused us a problem has been there for almost 20 years. Just because it happened you can’t say it is illegal,” said Mr Jayakumar.
As he spoke, authorities were working on draining two dams near the one that burst as they were found to have cracks.
At the county and the Nakuru Level Five Hospital mortuaries, friends and families struggled to hold back the grief as they trooped in to identify the bodies of their loved ones.
Twenty nine bodies retrieved from the scene had been taken to the county facility and 16 were at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital.
According to the nurse in charge of the Nakuru Level Five Hospital Mr Alphazard Kemboi, 10 out of 16 bodies taken to the facility had been identified.
Mr Kemboi said 15 of the 18 patients admitted to the hospital had been treated and discharged. One who suffered serious injuries is set to undergo surgery.
At the Nakuru county mortuary, there was confusion and anguish as some of grieving families failed to find bodies of their loved ones.
Counselling desks had been set up at the two facilities to help the families cope with trauma.
Like many distressed families, Mr Sammy Rotich arrived at the county mortuary by 7 am to help identify the body of his sister-in-law who died alongside her three children.
He had hopes of tracing the bodies.
“I have gone to the two mortuaries, but I have not seen any of the bodies. Their house was among those which were swept away by the raging waters. I do not know what to do,” grieved Mr Rotich. Ms Margaret Kong’ina found the bodies of her daughter and grandchild but could not find that of her niece in either of the mortuaries. She said her daughter had two children aged six and four who were swept away by the water on Wednesday night.
“When I saw the destruction caused in the entire village, I got distressed but I waited for the water to subside before I could start looking for my daughter and her children. I began searching at dawn and found bodies of my daughter and grandchild in a ditch about five kilometres downstream,” said Ms Kong’ina.
“I have not found the body of the other child aged six, even after looking for her in the two mortuaries.”
Ms Susan Wanja, who lost her father and nephew also failed to find one body. She said she only managed to identify the body of her father but was yet to identify her nephew.
“I received the information that my village and my entire home had been swept away while I was in Nyeri. I have been able to identify my father, but I’m yet to find the body my nephew,” she said.
Mr Bernard Mureithi said he lost 14 family members and had identified all their bodies.
Devastated, Mr Mureithi said all were members of his extended family, mostly cousins and in-laws.
Mr Isaac Mwaniki learnt that his wife had perished in the tragedy. Their child, 16, survived the tragedy.
“I was at work when the incident occurred. I rushed home and was shocked to see what had happened,” said Mr Mwaniki amid tears.
His wife was overpowered by the water and swept away.
The daughter, who clung on a tree, was rescued, treated at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital and discharged.
“My daughter escaped death by a whisker. She was left with injuries on her legs but for now she is fine,” said Mr Mwaniki.
Every two out of three workers in Kenya is a man, new data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics has revealed, painting a bleak picture of the disenfranchisement of women in the workforce.
The newly published 2018 Economic Survey by KNBS shows that women are grossly underrepresented across all sectors of the economy, making up only 36.5 per cent of the active workforce. This is despite the fact women make up more than half of the population.
In the administrative and support service sector, for instance, there are eight times as many men as women, making it the most unequal industry in the Kenyan economy. This includes jobs such as general management, clerical services, cleaning services and office administration- tasks which do not biologically favour men in any way.
Glaring inequality was also observed in the manufacturing industry, which employs four times as many men as women. It is perhaps due to this gap that the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, which is chaired by a woman, Ms Florah Mutahi, launched a mentorship and networking programme in March aimed at increasing the participation of women in the sector.
Notably, women only outnumbered men in two sectors; human health and social work activities, and as caregivers in households. These are sectors where wages are traditionally low or sometimes non-existent.
The statistics do not surprise Ms Daisy Amdany, the executive director of the Community Advocacy and Awareness Trust, and who for a long time has been in the trenches fighting for women’s rights.
“These statistics may appear shocking but is only in 2010 via the promulgation of the new constitution that women were recognised as bonafide citizens.
“The disempowerment of women is systemic, enabled by our patriarchal society. Women have historically been excluded socially and economically and their low participation in the workforce is a manifestation of that exclusion,” she said.
Before the new constitution, women had no legal recourse in case they were disinherited, which gave them little access to land, that in Kenya remains a key factor of production. In addition, many parents would prefer to educate their sons and marry off their daughters early, creating a dynamic where women had to be reliant on their spruces for support.
“Little access to education meant little access to employment. Their inability to own property due to disinheritance meant that they could not walk into a bank and get capital as they had no security,” she said. Economically sidelining women has only served to engender poverty as female, with women making up the bulk of the population living in poverty in Kenya today.
The data shows that even as more women increasingly delay marriage and childbirth in favour of education and career, female-headed households report higher levels of poverty than those headed by men. According to the Economic Survey households headed by women recorded a poverty rate of 30.2 percent, while those headed by men were at 26 per cent.
Dr Onyuma Samuel, an Economist and a lecturer at Egerton University, points out that keeping women out of the labour force jeopardises the economy and makes development that much harder.
“If the largest proportion of the population is not engaged in productive work, the economy suffers and development, by any indicators, becomes harder to achieve. Countries that have increased the participation of women in their workforce have reported that about 48 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product is now contributed by women,” he said.
Women have been historically sidelined in the economy, many of them relegated to the role of homemaker and carer, and although those attitudes are changing, they still persist today.
Dr Onyuma says affirmative action could be key in getting more women gainfully employed, but there is reluctance to meaningfully implement this in both the private and the public sector.
“The government has willfully ignored the two-thirds gender rule that is provided for in the constitution, resulting in a situation where the most visible government institutions- legislature, judiciary and executive all have fewer women than is required. If the government does not lead the way, how is it supposed to compel private corporations to do it?” he poses.
Several studies show that in the private sector, women are even scarcer at senior positions, making up only 20 per cent of all board positions. Out of the 65 listed companies at the Nairobi Stock Exchange, only five have a female chair of the board. Firms with women chairs include Isabella Ocholla-Wilson of Unga Limited, Anne Mutahi of Standard Chartered, Lucy Waithaka of Eveready East Africa, Catherine Ngahu of Uchumi and Susan Mboya-Kidero of Liberty Kenya Holdings.
Yet, despite the statistics, there are those who believe the boys have been neglected in favour of girls. Right after the release of the results of last year’s primary and secondary school national examinations where girls emerged top, pundits took to newspapers and television channels to state that empowerment programmes need to shift focus from girls to boys because the “boy child” had been left behind.
More contentiously, Maendeleo ya Wanaume (MAWE), an organisation established as the antithesis of Maendeleo ya Wanawake, has tried to position itself as a champion of men and boys, whose activism is rooted in correcting perceived wrongs committed by society against men and boys.
Mawe’s self-styled firebrand chairman Nderitu Njoka has learned the art of capturing attention with his headline grabbing antics, the most recent of which was a heartfelt plea to the United Nations Security Council to posthumously prosecute biblical characters King Herold and the Egyptian Pharaoh for signing decrees which led to the massacre of boys.
But Ms Amdany has little patience for those that complain that the advancement of women has come at the expense of men.
“Leaving the boy child behind is a misleading campaign not based on facts. It is led by individuals who want to discredit women empowerment movements as there are no statistics that show that the empowerment of women leads to disempowerment of men,” she said.
What Ms Amdany means is that the fight for gender equality is not a zero sum game — the advancement of one gender does not have to come at the cost of the subjugation of the other.
The Supreme Court yesterday dashed the hopes of a man who was seeking to be allowed not to provide for his ex-wife on the basis that she is capable of fending for herself.
Mr Charles Michael Angus Walker Munro had moved to the Supreme Court seeking to reverse a decision of the Court of Appeal, requiring him to provide for his former wife, Pamela Ann Walker Munro. Mr Munro is a Kenyan while the woman is a Briton who had settled with him in Kilifi.
Five judges of the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal stating that they have no jurisdiction. According to the bench led by Chief Justice David Maraga, Jackton Ojwang’, Njoki Ndung’u and Smokin Wanjala, the case was a family issue.
The court said this is a family dispute in which the main issue of contestation has always revolved around the award of alimony. At no stage has it transmuted into a constitutional question.
In declining to hear the case, the judges dashed the hopes of many men who had hoped that the apex court would set a precedent by ruling in favour of Mr Munro.
Court papers showed that the two were married in May 31, 1997 in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, England. Both were going through a second marriage.
They lived and cohabited at various places in England until 2007 when they relocated to Kenya and settled in Kilifi.
The court heard that all was well until March, 2009 when Mr Munro left for England to ostensibly attend a wedding but he never returned.
Ms Munro accused the former husband of reneging on the payment of her maintenance, welfare and upkeep. She argued that whereas he is a Kenyan by birth, she was a housewife and a British citizen staying in Kenya.
When she moved to court in 2013, seeking dissolution of their marriage, she sought alimony of Sh250,000 per month, pending the divorce. The woman argued that she has no work permit and cannot therefore engage in any gainful employment.
She accused him of desertion by leaving the matrimonial home in Kilifi for England where he began or continued an adulterous relationship with another woman.
She said he was a rich man but had refused to pay her a single cent by way of alimony or maintenance. She said the matrimonial home was large and grounds expansive requiring personnel to tend them.
In reply, Mr Munro said the woman was capable of fending for herself and gave examples that she owned a boat and trailer and a grand house in a desirable location in England.
Besides, she lives alone and has no dependant and also receives part of the naval pension from her first husband.
He also argued that she should go back to England and look for a job in England but instead, she has opted to stay in Kenya on a permanent holiday and expected him to maintain “her luxurious lifestyle”.
Justice Christine Meoli had in May 2013, ruled that he pays her and interim alimony in the sum of Sh127,000 per month.
But Mr Munro appealed the decision, arguing that spouses had a duty to maintain themselves. And in the event that she was unable to be gainfully employed in Kenya, she should pack her bags and head back to England.
Justices Asike Makhandia, William Ouko and Kathurima M’Inoti noted that there were serious misgivings from both parties regarding their incomes.
They said the trial judge had noted that in her initial affidavit, the woman “cut a forlorn figure financially” until the man filed a replying affidavit showing that she had her own assets in England.
The Court of Appeal judges dismissed the case, saying that if he previously made the payments, though she still had her own income, on what basis then should he turn around and demand that he should be excused from maintaining such responsibility.
“The fact that the appellant abandoned the respondent, a foreigner, is the more reason that the appellant should be called upon to maintain her at the same level as when they were cohabiting and before the desertion. The appellant cannot be heard to say that if the respondent was marooned here she should make her way back to her motherland. We think that such submission is outrageous, offensive and heartless. The appellant brought her here and must therefore play ball,” the judges said.
With the decision, the man moved to the Supreme Court hoping to reverse the decision.