Sheroes – Vivian Kityo: Protecting Child Mothers

“At 10 years old her stomach swells with the growth of new life. Children hiding within the fragile frames of children, mothers being made out of infants.”

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In July 2013 The Ugandan National Bureau of Statistics alleged that, out of the 1.2million pregnancies recorded in Uganda each year, 25% are from girls under the age of 18. These pregnancies, around 300,000 in total, are almost all unwanted resulting in abortions or unintended births. Early marriage, sexual violence, early initiation into sexual activity and a lack of information are some of the greatest drivers behind this epidemic.

Vivian Kityo is putting a stop to all that.

Born and raised in Kampala, Vivian trained as a nurse before going on to receive a degree in Health Administration. Throughout her many years on Uganda’s maternity wards, Vivian was overwhelmed by the steady stream of young  girls who came to her with unwanted pregnancies. Many had been raped or violated, others where child brides , none of them were old enough to be mothers. Frustrated by the lack of support and the seeming increase in the rates of unwanted pregnancies, in 2005 Vivian founded Wakisa Ministries, a crisis pregnancy centre aimed at  providing the essential support services girls needed but rarely had access to.

Based in Bakuli, a suburb about 5km west of Kampala’s city-entre, Wakisa Ministries is Uganda’s only teenage and child pregnancy crisis centre. Currently supporting 22 girls the youngest of which is 10, the centre offers essential ante-natal care as well as sex, relationships and health rights education. Most importantly, the centre teaches these girls how to care for their children including breast-feeding and infant care. wakisa-ministries

Akina Mama Wa Afrika (AMwA) our partners in Uganda, have partnered with the centre to research the prevalence of sexual and gender based violence in relation to unwanted pregnancies. Through their work AMwA discovered that 43% of young mothers had been ‘unwilling’ to have sexual intercourse, confirming the fact that sexual and gender based violence are root causes for unwanted pregnancies in Uganda. As young mothers, many girls are unable to complete their schooling, leaving them with fewer economic opportunities and therefore vulnerable to economic and sexual exploitation. This not only robs the country of a stronger economic workforce, but it also slows down much needed social, political and economic development. The stigma of pre-marital sex can, especially where pregnancy is concerned, leave girls isolated from their families and communities. Such a stigma, combined with the responsibilities of caring for another life at a young age, and the experiences of sexual violence many of the girls have endured can leave young mothers with serious psychological and emotional trauma making Wakisa Minstries such a necessary service.

As part of her vision to see these girls not only survive but thrive, Vivian and Wakisa Ministries provide recipients with a range of business skills from candle making, to tailoring, jewellery making to knitting and  urban agriculture. By 2020 Vivian hopes to enrol her girls in vocational training schools and to create a comprehensive policy that will end child marriage in Uganda permanently. As the recipient of the New Vision Women Achiever Award and featured as one of Africa’s most influential women in business and government, Vivian Kityo is a woman to be reckoned with and a true Sheroe. We wish her the best as she keeps pursuing the good fight!

Words by Irene Kagoya and @Justina_Kehinde

(@amwa_ug and @FORWARDUK)

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For more information on Wakisa Ministries click here

For more information on Akina Mama wa Afrika click here

 

SHEROES – Winny Obure: Community Activist

 

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A feminist and human rights activist, Winnie Obure is a member of the Young Women’s Leadership Institute (YWLI), our partners in Kenya.  As part of her commitment to community mobilisation, during the 16 Days of Activism Winnie shared her experiences of community advocacy  with victims of sexual violence in Kiambui.

In late November 2016, Winnie Obure marched on Shauri Moyo police station to protest the rape of a 15 year old girl by local police officer, Njogu. Although the rape had been reported by the girl’s father, the station refused to record it to protect their colleague. Backed by other community activists, Winnie demanded the incident be recorded in the station’s Occurrence Book (OB). For their demands the women were arrested. Phones confiscated and prohibited from seeing visitors, they spent the night in jail.

Early the next morning they were charged in court for ‘creating a disturbance at a police station’ . However, their names and files were missing from the court registry and records. To date, each time they appear in court they are told their ‘files are missing’.

In her attempts to secure justice for the girl, Winnie discovered that the victim’s aunt had received 5,000 shillings (50USD) from the police for her silence. Negotiation and even collusion with abusers is an underlying form and cause of gender based violence which prevents justice being enacted and undermines the worth and esteem of the victim. In poor communities where the cost of legal action is too expensive financial  pay-offs can be a lucrative, and seemingly beneficial, alternative. 16-days-rape-ywli-1

Yet despite these challenges, Winnie did not give up on the case. Taking her protest to social media with the hashtag #ArrestNjogu the case caught the attention of hundreds. With mounting pressure the officer was finally arrested. The case is currently ongoing.

Standing up against violence in the community is not an easy task. As a young human rights defender Winnie has regularly found herself in precarious positions even to the point of having to move house as a result of intimidation and threats. However she is adamant that real change occurs when we involve many people. Alone and isolated activists can be left vulnerable, but together we rise.

At the end of 2016 Winnie Obure was one of five recipients of the Integrity Champions Award presented by the Society for International Development. She is a true hero – we salute and stand with her.

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Words by Felister Gitonga, (@ywli_info)

Edited by @Justina_Kehinde (@FORWARDUK)

 

SHEROES – Edna Adan: Mother of Somaliland

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‘Hooyoda Somaliland’ or ‘the mother of Somaliland’, Dr. Edna Adan Ismail’s lifelong fight for women and girls rights and maternal health has put her on the map as one of the most influential female campaigners on the African continent. Her work as a campaigner, a midwife and a politician has transformed the global women’s rights agenda, especially where it concerns African women and girls, in the process inspiring and empowering millions.

When looking back at Edna’s life, it is pretty difficult to ignore that she has ‘first’ plastered all over her name. From becoming the FIRST Somali trained midwife in the UK in the 1950s to the FIRST Somali female to drive a car. She was Somaliland’s first, First lady, and went on to become the FIRST Somali female to publicly to speak out against FGM. She’s also the FIRST female founder and director of a maternity hospital in Somaliland – in short, she has always been a pioneer. It’s with no doubt then, that she is our  FIRST featured Sheroe!

Raised in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, in 1954 Edna was awarded a scholarship to study nursing, midwifery and hospital management in Borough Polytechnic, now London South Bank University. After completing seven years of service, Edna returned to Somaliland as the country’s first and only qualified nurse-midwife.

In 1965, Edna moved once again, this time to Libya to work for the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the Regional Technical Officer for Mother and Child Health. In her fight to safeguard the rights of women and children, Edna became particularly vocal against FGM, and its wide spread prevalence across the African continent. She returned to her home country when her husband at the time, the late Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal became Prime Minister of Somali Republic and later the first President of Somaliland. Edna held many prestigious political posts during her political career including Director at the ministery of health (1977-1979), minister of social affairs and family welfare and foreign minister, which she held  until 2006. As the only female to hold prominent posts in government and the only voice for women and girls, Edna was a force to be reckoned with, treasured by young women and an inspiration to generations.

7996492986_69afcefd8c_bBy 1991 the Somaliland that Edna knew and loved had just come through a crippling civil war to claim its independence. However, following the devastation,  the country’s health system was completely destroyed and Somaliland had the highest rates of infant mortality worldwide. Alongside infant mortality, FGM continued to be practiced throughout the country. Type III, the most invasive form (read more here), is still widely practiced across Somaliland leaving many mothers vulnerable to maternal mortality due to health complications during childbirth.

Since qualifying as a nurse-midwife, Edna’s lifelong dream has been to train specialised midwifes with the necessary skills to appropriately deliver the children of women who have undergone FGM, as well as to continue the fight against the practice. In 2002 Edna successfully opened the first maternity hospital in Hargeisa. Having sold all her possessions (including her cherished Mercedes!) and using her savings to acquire the government land to build the hospital from scratch, by 2002 the Edna Adan Hospital opened with an  operating theater, pharmacy, laboratory and library. Edna also embarked on the process of training 1000 Somaliland women to become qualified midwives and by 2012, opened the Edna Adan University to further the training of nurses, midwifes, laboratory technicians, pharmacologists and public health officers.

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Now at 79 years old, Edna continues to be a voice for the voiceless women and girls subjected to gender based violence throughout the world. Through her tireless campaigning, she has brought their stories to the ears of various notable figures including Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton, and has worked to make FGM a global humanitarian issue recognised by the UN as a form of child abuse, gender based violence and a  denial of women and girls human rights. For her work Edna’s name was added University of Toledo’s Medical Mission Hall of Fame and she was made an honorary Fellow of both Cardiff University, Clark University and the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

It is not a surprise Edna is called the mother of Somaliland, or even, as the Huffington Post described her, the Muslim Mother Theresea. We had the honour of meeting her at the 2016 African Women’s Diaspora Forum in London where she continued to empower and inspire women to fight the good fight of women and girls’ rights.

May her work continue and may her light never dim.

Words by Rahma Abdilahi (@ssap)

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For more information about the Edna Adan Hospital click here