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Sunday, 03 September 2017
Published in PROJECTS

During this research study I’ve had the chance to hear stories about brave women who decided to break sexist rules and to move forward. Accepting a job, disposing of their money, divorcing their husbands or refusing to see their daughters being forced to marry. But I have also learned about their context and not everything is positive.

Lamu is a city of very traditional and sexist cultural norms and massive economic poverty, just like the rest of the country, just like many other countries in Africa and all over the world. This makes it very difficult to find a way out of male violence against women. The police station receives about 4 or 5 reports on the issue each week, but nearly 100% of the reports end there since the police themselves recommend to talk to your husband, or to the people’s authority, in order to tackle the issue and reach an agreement to “forgive the first mistake”, because “you’re not going to put your husband in jail”.

Comisaria policía

Then, if you have broken through your own fears and achieved to file the report not letting your parents, friends or relatives persuade you, you must go to the hospital and pay about €10 to get a medical certificate assessing your injuries. This may not be shocking, but here the average salary is €30, and given that the vast majority of women don’t have access to the labour market, it is an unreachable amount for many of them.

However, not everything is negative. Lamu currently has a female judge committed to women’s rights, who works with female lawyers’ associations to enable women to defend their rights in court for the lowest possible cost. Before I talked to her, many people told me how great she was doing because she was starting to impose heavy sentences on rapists.

Lamu violencias machistas

Thinking about what is the most positive aspect of the research study, I would say women’s fighting ability. When you spend time sitting next to them and listening to them, you don’t come across women who are tired of life because they work all day, inside and outside the home, experiencing all kinds of violence and discrimination. You come across cheerful and smiley women, eager to make a joke, ask you things about your city, to learn and dream. You can find a woman who, while breastfeeding her child and moping the floor, tells you that she wants to open her own beauty salon in two years. Another woman, while she takes her child to the hospital, tells you on the way there that she wants to work her way up to get money to build a second floor at her home, hers and her children’s home. That is why, they are not women who have given up, they are women who keep fighting to improve their lives and their families’ life.

To conclude, all that remains for me to do is thank every person who has made this project possible, specially to Lola and Merche for making it happen, the coordinators team and former coordinators who have joined me along the way, and particularly to the women who have been part of this paper, for every glance, every handshake, every kiss and for sharing in such a pure and real way their outlook on life. It has been a real challenge to conduct a research study on this topic here, but it will always be the best decision of my life.

Asante Sana.

Badaee.

 

Author: Ana Fernández | Translator: Sonia Moscardó

Sunday, 03 September 2017
Published in PROJECTS

Despite it being the aim of my research, it’s a topic difficult to address. For me, it is due to the respect they instill, I’m terrified of them seeing me as a teacher who comes to give moral lessons. However, I think it is a topic that has to be talked about and addressed without fear.

The starting point to talk about violence is to not separate the public sphere from the private sphere, which means not to treat violence cases as ‘domestic’ cases that happen to some people at home and as something not to talk about, but as a consequence of men wanting to maintain their position of power and that women all over the world suffer socially.

Therefore, we started talking about who has the power. We are all clear about the answer, men. But, after one of the women said in the interview that they had more power “because they are the ones who bring the food”, I felt it was necessary to talk about how in the past male superiority was acquired by fighting wars, hunting, working, etc. But nowadays they have power because of tradition, not because of their actual situation. Since the women are the ones who work and run the household, they are the protagonists of this new reality in which both men and women work, but men still have more power.

And, once we manage to reach an agreement on it, I bring myself to talk about violence. But in order to talk about violence, first we need to talk about what we understand by violence. Women start to talk about different types of violence: taking all your money not even leaving you some for medicine is violence, hitting you is violence, forcing you to do all the housework and threatening to hit you if you don’t do it is violence, etc.

Violencias machistas 01

From there, we started to look at the types of violence one by one. We started with physical violence, what it is and who is affected by it. When I ask if all men resort to violence, some answer all of them, others say the majority. One of the hardest moments was when we decided to ask the opposite: Who has experienced physical violence? And all of them started to raise their hand until one of them clarified: “all of us have experienced physical violence".

It was comforting to see how some women encouraged other women from the same tribe to talk, to not be silent, because later would be too late. I took the opportunity to tell them that the same happened in Spain, people said that these things must be solved at home, saying the phrase: “you shouldn’t wash your dirty linen in public”. I explained that only in recent years, people have started to stop accepting it as commonplace, and are starting to criticize it and take action, at least against physical violence.

The problem is that when we talk about Spain, they picture a very resourceful place with many possibilities, and it is true that, compared to their situation, it probably is. However, they find it very difficult to get out of the situation of violence in which they have to break religious, cultural, moral and economic rules in order to choose to report it and start a new life.

It was very complex to tackle the issue of sexual violence and to tell them that having sex against their will is violence, even with their husbands. It is very difficult to address this subject, in Spain people recently have started to talk about it with the No means No campaigns. I believe the fact that they hear it lays the first stone in the foundations of change. When we talk about sexuality many of them laugh and others make jokes about how to avoid having sex with their husbands when they don’t want to. In the end, they say that they have to defend themselves; when I mention that we are starting to give self-defense classes at the University, they ask me to teach them how to defend themselves. They say it while sharing jokes and knowing looks, but the step has been taken, they know it is wrong, they know their lack of power does not allow them to fight the battle right now, but they want to defend themselves in the future.

Another complex issue was economic violence. As I said at the beginning, some of them recognised the denial of their right to dispose of their own salary as a form of violence. But later, when we talked about salary, many acknowledged that their husbands have their account numbers and that they manage to hide some of the money, but not all of it. Then, they start a very interesting debate on what they should do, if it is right or wrong that their husbands know it, and how some of them manage to dispose of their own salary. The picture of this moment could not describe better what the creation of women’s support networks is.

Violencias machistas 02

I could tell word for word how everything unfolded and I wouldn’t be able to transmit the power I felt in that room. Women listened to us, got the message and were willing to talk, that was a gift that will be with me for the rest of my life.

Change won’t happen overnight, change will be pole pole, brick by brick. I have no doubt that these brave women who have experienced all kinds of violence throughout their lives are resilient, they know what they have been through and they don’t want that for their daughters. This will make them pass on a different kind of values that will be a shift towards a more equal society.

 

Author: Ana Fernández | Translator: Sonia Moscardó

Sunday, 03 September 2017
Published in PROJECTS

What is work? Since the Industrial Revolution in Europe we see work as the one that takes place out of home for which you get a salary in return. However, this leaves out the care of children, home, the cattle, the orchard, and all that work that doesn’t make money.

This difference may make sense in Spain, where there is a difference between the office and home. However, the difference makes no sense for Kenyan women. Here everything is work. The women of the Project get up at 5 or 6 in the morning, start to clean the house, make breakfast and lunch, get their children ready for school and go to the project facilities. Here, they start work at 8 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon, during that time they also feed their babies, have lunch with their friends… everything is part of their routine, which may seem chaotic at first glance, but becomes a very coherent form of conciliation that we lost a long time ago in the Western world.

But these women’s schedule does not end at 5 in the afternoon, when they come back home they still have chores to do, such as go fetch the water, make dinner or feed the animals. The same happens when you ask them about the weekend and they say with a smile that is was great, the next thing they do is the gesture of doing laundry since that chore takes up most part of their weekend.

Therefore, thinking about it, what makes a difference at Afrikable is not having a job, since they are always working, it is the right of getting a salary every month what has changed their lives. During the interviews, when asked about how the project has changed their lives, they did not think twice: “Now I feel more free because I’m economically independent. I can pay for my children’s education, I can buy food and medicine and, above all, I can choose how to spend the money without relying on my husband”.

Dignificar el trabajo 01

This independence, however, is relative. Despite getting a salary, many women need to use every strategy possible to freely dispose of their money. I’ve seen the recognition of their right to dispose of that money like a conquest, their husbands not letting them buy necessary things is male violence. One of my favourite moments from the interviews was when women told me about the way in which they support each other in order to achieve disposing of their money, like a real guerrilla warfare towards economic empowerment.

It is completely true that getting a salary at the end of the month gives them the respect from their husbands they did not have before, they have to respect their working hours, the NGOD’s rules, and many are economically dependent on their wives, thus they become the family’s economic engine. This helps them to feel fulfilled, to see their work recognized. If it isn’t the case, they can dream of another life, if necessary.

 

Author: Ana Fernández | Translator: Sonia Moscardó

Sunday, 03 September 2017
Published in PROJECTS

When I talk about education I feel a special respect since both of my parents work in the field, therefore it is a profession I’m close to. But before starting, I would like to reflect on what education is. It can be understood as having completed basic studies or university studies, but as I understand it, it means having certain values and integrity that allow you to respect people and to make their life easier.

There are 6 women in the Project that have completed secondary education, none of them have university studies, and a vast majority did not learn how to read and write during their time at primary school. The reason for early school-leaving have been lack of economic ability, together with a male-dominated culture that guides women towards marrying young and devoting themselves to the home. It hasn’t been that long so as to forget that in Spain years ago, if it was to be decided who in the family would study, the girls could already put on the apron because it wouldn’t be them.

In Kenya education is expensive; primary education is starting to be accessible, but secondary education is a privilege that many families cannot afford. Therefore, here education marks the difference between social classes.

But, does not getting an education make them uneducated people? No. Here you find the women with the most integrity I have ever met. They work together side by side, with their ethnic, religious and family differences and they do it in the most respectful way I have ever seen. They get to know each other, listen to each other and take care of one another like one big family. They also show respect and education to all the voluntary people who come every month from very different contexts, taking time to get to know them, giving them smiles, hearing their stories, accepting their way of doing things and taking care of them.

About their vision of education, they all know the importance of studying and hope that their children don’t have to drop out of school like they did. When asked about what they want for the future, a vast majority say education for their children. That is a great victory; they couldn’t get an education, but that hasn’t prevented them from seeing their brothers, male cousins or other men they knew who got it having other opportunities for the future, which they now want for their children.

Another question from the interview was who they considered to be more intelligent, girls or boys; the majority said girls. Not because they are more or less smart, but because they are aware that women have less opportunities. They know that if they don’t do well in school and don’t complete their studies, they will have fewer arguments to refuse to marry, and this makes them be better students.

Aprender en igualdad 01

In the same vein, when we gave the talk to female teenagers, all of them said they wanted to complete their studies and pursue a career, from pilots to doctors, but pursuing a career. Men have a better chance of finding a job without being qualified, working in the sea, in construction, in security, etc. However, the possibilities for women with no education are much more reduced.

This faith in education does not mean that this is free from sexist attitudes. For example, when asked about the head of the household at school, the correct answer is the father. Or when choosing who in the family will have an assistant teacher, boys are always chosen over girls so that they can leave school early to help their moms. But change is pole pole, step by step.

In conclusion, I would like to refer to the words of a girl who said in her interview that she trusts that education is the tool that will make young people understand that women and men are equal, that women aren’t animals, and they cannot use force against us. In Spain we are losing faith in education as a tool for change and we see how the new laws that aim to achieve equality fail to enhance education. That is why it is exciting to see how these women, from a completely different society who haven’t had the opportunity to get an education, know that having a different future or not depends on whether you get an education.

 

Author: Ana Fernández | Translator: Sonia Moscardó

Sunday, 03 September 2017
Published in PROJECTS

This year I completed the Master’s Degree in Gender and Equality at the University of Pablo de Olivade in Seville and when I had to choose a topic for my Final Project I did not hesitate to focus on a place that was already part of my life, Afrikable, and on the women I admire the most, the women of this project.

This paper focuses on assessing whether economic empowerment and the creation of women’s support networks are a good way out of violence against women. To that end, I have approached legislative reforms, finding out about the public resources women of this island have, pondering the role of ethnic, cultural or religious differences among the women who are part of the project, and listening to the strategies that women currently have to resist and extract themselves from situations of violence.

I could try to search the information online and fill the project with national and international official statistics, arguing that Kenya is ranked 135 out of 159 countries in the Gender Inequality Index published by the United Nations or claim that according to national statistics, more than 44 % of women suffer physical violence throughout their lives. But based on my way of looking at life, that project would be meaningless because it would lack its essence, which is to listen to the protagonists, the indigenous women in Lamu who suffer Male Violence and have been resisting it throughout history.

That is why, in the months of June and July, I have done a research study thanks to the opportunity Afrikable has given me to look for these answers. In this research study, I have done in-depth interviews with the women who are part of the project, interviews with the women who have coordinated it in the last years. I have learned first-hand about the existing public resources, both the judicial system and the health system, and I have also given talks on Women’s Rights and Male Violence to Afrikable workers, the latter also carried out with teenagers.

Sonrisas infinitas 01

Despite the challenge of going overseas and completely changing context, it has been really easy to approach them, talk to them, listen to them and learn from them, especially learn. I was very afraid to look like a coloniser 2.0 who dares to come here to say what is right and what is wrong based on my Western standards and according to the public resources in my country, which are not many, but do exist. But my aim was quite the opposite, I’ve come to Afrikable because I was a holidaymaker in 2015 and I had the pleasure to meet the heroines that give the project shape and meaning. I have come to gather their testimonies because I believe in the value they may have for many other women.

In the next entries I will try to share the findings of this research study, focusing especially on Education, on how the level of education influences marriage equality; on Work, on how pursuing a career gives women economic empowerment; and on Male Violence, both in my conclusions after the interviews and talks and on an special post on the Male Violence Talk.

I hope that it is successful in approaching these women’s reality, Afrikable’s protagonists. I take with me the experience of getting to know a different reality and sharing priceless moments with these women, their wisdom to resist the most difficult situations and their fighting spirit towards change.

 

Author: Ana Fernández | Translator: Sonia Moscardó

Monday, 17 July 2017
Published in PROJECTS

Jorge Burón, a Political Science student at UAM (Autonomous University of Madrid), shares his experience during the fourth and last talk of a four-part cycle on Rights, Freedom and Democracy, from the point of view of politics he will undertake for Afrikable’s women beneficiaries, as part of his internship in the area of women empowerment in Lamu.

"In the last talk I don’t know if we have closed a cycle or started what could be a beautiful and hard road that must be walked always looking straight ahead and surpassing all obstacles that inevitably stand in the way.

It is difficult to analyse how this has happened and how it has evolved from the first day when we were strangers and we saw each other for the first time, until today that I know their lives and they greet me by my name, they hug me and kiss me. And even when I tell them that it’s my last day, that I’m going back to Madrid, they tell me: ‘Jorge hakuna Spain, Jorge hapa Lamu’. This time some tears were shed.

What has happened here in between? What have we achieved, if we have achieved anything? Will it be useful or will it be forgotten? Will they think about their lives and their children’s lives differently? Do they dream of a better world now or do they have nightmares when they feel the inequality even more? I don’t know the answer; I don’t think they are the right questions.

Grupos de debate 00

No one came to teach anyone. But for a month we have talked and thought about our lives, how they are, how we would like them to be and what we could do about it. Without lessons of any kind or master classes, I think we all have learned something in what I have always liked to call talks, because that’s what they were. Beautiful talks between strangers that have become friends and that I think now look at the world a little bit better, at least more objectively, with more perspective. We know the rights and freedoms of Kenya better, but also the wishes of human beings, the social, safety and freedom needs. What democracy means, what our real concerns are. And that we live in worlds that are so different they are almost opposites and we are almost the same because we are very much alike when we start talking about these things.

I’m really sad that it’s over.

I’ve been very lucky to be able to participate. Asante sana! Sincerely. Badae! See you soon :)"

 

Author: Jorge Burón | Translator: Sonia Moscardó

Monday, 10 July 2017
Published in PROJECTS

Jorge Burón, a Political Science student at UAM (Autonomous University of Madrid), shares his experience during the third talk of a four-part cycle on Rights, Freedom and Democracy, from the point of view of politics he will undertake for Afrikable’s women beneficiaries, as part of his internship in the area of women empowerment in Lamu.

"During the third talk, we talked about rights. About specific rights. About rights that appear in the Constitution of Kenya, and disappear in their society. Those they should know about, but what for if the reality is that they are not respected? The 2010 Constitution is one of the most advanced political texts in sub-Saharan Africa. But, what does it matter if the reality is that it fails to defend its citizens even though it has many fundamental rights drafted?.

But then, why were we talking about rights if it seems like, even if they are written on a paper, they don’t exist in their daily lives? They asked for it, they wanted to know them, and I prepared them and showed them to them. I think they already knew what they wanted them for, why they wanted to know them, even though I didn’t understand where things were headed yet. Once again they were the ones who would give the talk.

And not only them, in this third talk we had my colleague Ana, a student of the Master’s Degree in Gender Studies of Seville who came to Afrikable to do her master’s thesis with the women and who had already been here two years ago in the Volunteer Holidays program. Who better to tell them about their rights and their situation as women regarding those rights that are rarely respected and if you are a woman even less? So it was the two of us. Along with Lola, the founder of the project (together with Merche) who we were lucky to have and who had just arrived to the island. She provided essential support to bring about new dynamics to the talk and bring it to a successful conclusion. It was a success indeed, thanks to them and to Khadija, as always.

So we talked about rights. About their rights, those they have even though they are not fulfilled, those their Constitution shows off. About freedom of movement, Article 39.1, that no one can order you where to go or where you should be, no one can stop you from going or being where you want to be. About equality between men and women in marriage, Article 45.3, both sides have the same right and freedom to decide on their lives and their household. About universal access to emergency medical treatment, Article 43.2, if your child breaks a leg a doctor has to see them straight away, no excuses. About the right to life, Article 26.1. About equality before the law, Article 27.1. About all those issues that are central to their lives and they were organising in their heads. They were astonished, paying attention like never before, which is a lot to say, capturing and absorbing all the information well aware of its importance. In one of those heated but fun discussions they like to have, the real question, the purpose and the point of it all came to light.

Constitucion Kenia 01

One of them said that if they didn’t claim those rights, if they didn’t fight for them it was because they knew they didn’t stand a chance. Only a few of them are heard and many others are not heard because no one will listen to them. And it was then when another said, as if it were an evidence well-known by all: ‘but let’s see, if these rights are not for us, we must know them to pass them on to our children so they can experience them.

It has been the longest, most exciting, productive and beautiful talk so far. The more help, the easier, of course, but it also seems like we are going somewhere, that we are starting to take a direction. An idea about democracy and freedom that can be useful and necessary even though everything is contaminated by corruption, even though sometimes we fall into pessimism and it seems like we are stuck in stagnation. It’s not true. The children who listen to the talks and don’t understand while they cry in their mothers’ arms, start to make a lot more sense, sitting there watching and listening to the talk, even if it’s only so that they start to hear the words of the rights that one day they will have to defend and enjoy."

Derechos de la mujer 01

 

Author: Jorge Burón | Translator: Sonia Moscardó

Monday, 03 July 2017
Published in PROJECTS

Jorge Burón, a Political Science student at UAM (Autonomous University of Madrid), shares his experience during the second talk of a four-part cycle on Rights, Freedom and Democracy, from the point of view of politics he will undertake for Afrikable’s women beneficiaries, as part of his internship in the area of women empowerment in Lamu.

"Yesterday we talked about gender equality and I don’t know if we understood each other. I don’t mean the language, which is also an obstacle because simultaneous translation does not always work perfectly. How can one mediate as an interpreter in a discussion with 20 people at the same time? It’s complicated, but even so we understand each other quite a bit. Besides, I think it’s better that way. Sometimes they look at me after saying something and they all laugh at the same time as if to say ‘Poor guy doesn’t understand anything we say’. No need to, right? What am I going to teach them about their lives? About their husbands? About men?.

It was during the times that we managed to have a fluid English-Swahili dialogue when we did not understand each other much: ‘What inequality? Of course we are different. So what? What is the problem? Everyone plays a role, fills its role, contributes with some things and receives others.’ What if it’s true? But sometimes, many times, it doesn’t seem to be true. If a woman gets a job, often the husband leaves his and dedicates himself to the contemplative life, why should he work if she does it? A man who does not find a woman, kidnaps one, rapes her for three days and lets her go. But, who’s going to want her now she has been defiled? So he asks for her hand and they marry her. If they get divorced, the husband disappears; forget about the financial aid, the woman and the children have to live as they can, and the State does not help much either so that the maintenance obligation is complied with.

Not all of them do this, not all of them are like that, but these stories are their testimonies. Some of them have experienced it, and many more outside Afrikable, and others will experience it. So life does not seem the same for everyone, and yet they don’t see it?

Igualdad 01

Or maybe they don’t know what is it that they have to see. But unlike us, that think we know everything and actually we are just as blind as them or even more, they do listen, they do want to learn to look. They, these women, truly have an open mind, which does not mean knowing a lot of things as we think in our Western world, but wanting to learn lots of things. They really do have an open mind. Right before the end of the session, when it seemed like we weren’t going to find a point of connection, they saved the day again and said to me: ‘But let’s see, which are those rights we don’t have? What would the freedom we should have change? What’s with women’s rights? We don’t know them. Tell us about those rights, we want to know what they are, tell us about it and maybe we agree’. They are teaching me so much and I have so little to give them. But at least we have that, even though it’s hard, we manage to understand each other, because they have an open mind and they open mine.

So next week we will keep trying, this time we will talk about those rights they want to see but don’t know and those injustices they experience and that maybe one day can change for them, for their daughters, for their society. Disappear.

 

Author: Jorge Burón | Translator: Sonia Moscardó

Monday, 19 June 2017
Published in PROJECTS

Jorge Burón, a Political Science student at UAM (Autonomous University of Madrid), shares his experience during the first workshop of a four-part cycle on Rights, Freedom and Democracy from the point of view of politics he will undertake for Afrikable’s women beneficiaries, as part of his internship in the area of women empowerment in Lamu.

"I was feeling nervous when I came into the room half an hour before the time of the talk to prepare my introduction in Swahili, it was translated by Khadija. It was just five sentences but many of them do not speak English and it seemed to me a small gesture, although I continued in English with Khadija as an interpreter.

What shall I begin with? Should I tell them about Kenya’s political institutions first? Do we talk directly about the August 8th elections? Do I ask them what they think about the rights of their Constitution? After a presentation on what it means to have rights, to be free and to live in democracy, I did not know what to do. Until it began, and then they did it.

All I had to do was ask them about their concerns: everyone said education and health. One said safety, another equality for women. Khadija only said corruption. That is the problem here and she knows it; she knows a lot. What is the point of a Constitution or voting if everyone steals from us, if women continue to be battered and raped, if the police only work for those who pay them and for others can be a danger?.

Taller Derechos 01

And then they definitely took over. They discussed, shouted, grumbled, laughed with resignation. I didn’t understand anything they said because they spoke in Swahili, but I understood them. They talked about politics and rights, many of them for the first time.

The first day we found out that democracy is not just voting. Democracy, as they said, means to be free. Democracy is knowing which are our rights and demanding them when we are not allowed to exercise them. It is to keep fighting for what we deserve instead of giving up. It is discussing our problems and solutions. The society that we have and the one we want.

At the end of the talk I asked them what they wanted to discuss at the session the following week: constitution, institutions, women’s rights... Everyone, with no exception, said women’s rights. It is obvious that they know what they want.

It was only the first talk and I learned more about politics, democracy and society; about fighting, hope, resignation and progress than in all years of my degree. I hope they continue to teach me and that when I leave, they feel like they can achieve what they want. What they are so sure about."

 

Author: Jorge Burón | Translator: Sonia Moscardó

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ABOUT AFRIKABLE

Afrikable is a Spanish charitable organisation, registered in the National Register of Associations under number 1/1/594088 and in the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for Development (AECID)'s Register of Non-Governmental Organisations under number 2033.

 

In Kenya our association is called Afrika Able Organization and is registered with Kenya's NGO Coordination Board under number 10976.

WHERE ARE WE

  • Lamu, Kenia.
    Madrid, Spain
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