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Sunday, 03 September 2017
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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
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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
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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
Written by

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

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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
  • +34 605 722 162