Am Victor, Director of Milimani Rusinga Project, a grass-root, a non-profit Community Based Organization in Kenya. We work to eradicate poverty and enact social change through quality education, access to information for the disabled, environmental conservation, healthcare, women’s economic empowerment and sustainable development among marginalized people and groups in Rusinga Island, Lake Victoria, Homa Bay County, Kenya.
Our Mission: A platform where education is given priority to spearhead development in rural and marginalized areas through community development and across cultural activities.
We work in the following thematic areas:
Support for orphans and vulnerable children
Youth and female empowerment
Peace building through community dialogue and reconciliation forums
HIV/AIDS education and prevention
Environmental conservation through promoting agro-ecology to small scale rural farmers.
The women, youth, and disabled residents of our community require our special attention especially now when we are battling the second wave of the Covid 19 in Kenya. Owing to their fragility, we are initiating various empowerment programs and social protection interventions that assure these vulnerable people of steady income, improved food security, employability and enhanced access to education and access to affordable health services.
The intended economic empowerment program will benefit thousands of girls, women, youths, and persons living with disabilities in Lake Victoria beaches.
1. People living with disabilities
Young people living with disabilities have over time been considered as a curse according to the dominant Luo community traditions and many parents. Whenever such cases occur in their families, the most common approach is to hide the case. This denies education for the disabled children, and prevents the children access to other social services that should be able to support their social development in the society.
This vulnerable population faces occurences of rape, defilement, and assault due to the fact that they can’t run whenever attacked by predators, nor can they talk or see.
The deaf find it hard to communicate their problems since many people don’t understand sign language. They can’t report or explain to the authorities or health facilities when defiled. The government hospitals only have a few staff trained in sign language. Most of them are only available in towns and not in remote rural areas like Rusinga.
The lame can’t walk to access such services since they are always locked at home. Their families don’t want to be identified with them. They are often chained in places of worship or at the witch-doctors. Community sensitization is vital.
Our project has therefore been designed to support children living with disabilities, to attain education services by supporting their education, skills development as society awareness. Lack of such services has encouraged neglect besides human rights abuse of such children. As an organization, we have worked with these communities on other children related services and it’s time we respond and include the disability approaches in our interventions.
a. Formal education: We intend to support children living with disabilities of the Rusinga island beaches by enrolling them in formal education where they will be able to learn how to read and write, develop their mind and achieve equality in society. At Milimani Rusinga Project, we already have a training infrastructure as we are running a school facility in Kaswanga.
b. Vocational Training: The cases that are above normal formal education will be supported for a vocational training. We shall offer tailoring, masonry, bead making, shoe making, computer learning etc.
c. Community forum: We shall support community dialogues involving key stakeholders and parents, drawn from the local beaches and communities on disability issues. The discussion will be on how to handle and support the education of children living with various disabilities.
2. Girls and adolescent young women
Adolescent stage is when and where decisions are made around education, work, marriage and fertility that have a critical impact on long-term outcomes. It is a key window of opportunity to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.
The economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic risks pushing many youths into poverty and many jobs lost among their parents and caregivers. The trend disproportionally affects girls and young women.
Girls and young women find themselves pressured to contribute economically to their households including through child, early, and forced marriage, sexual exploitation, and high-risk jobs in essential sectors. The number of Covid cases continues to rise day by day in Kenya. Its outbreak in the country now worsens teenagers’ vulnerabilities not only to early pregnancies and marriages, but also to contracting disease. Teenagers who are out of school following closure of learning institutions to control the spread of the disease, would fail complete studies due to unplanned pregnancies consequent to early marriages.
Sexually active teen girls will face dire consequences after the covid 19 pandemic is over. So far in Rusinga, we have experienced a number of teenage pregnancies which are likely to lead to early marriages. In Africa, discussing sex-related matters with your child is a taboo and many parents tend to avoid the topic, hence failing to take the responsibilities of monitoring and counseling their children.
Depressing economic times for the already impoverished families in the island would push teenage girls into sex. We are working with young mothers aged from 15 to 31 years. Orphans and vulnerable girls feel the brunt because they engage in sex to get food and buy sanitary towels. They voluntarily engage in sex for economic benefits and therefore increase their risks of being infected with the highly contagious coronavirus, which can be passed on through respiratory droplets from nose or mouth of an infected person. These girls also risk contracting HIV/AIDS because they sometimes fail to bargain for condom use due to their vulnerability. When schools are closed and girls and young women are shut up at home, they face greater risk of exploitation and gender-based violence.
Financial support would enable us to effectively mitigate gender based violence and sexual reproductive health services. Funds would also support risk communication and community engagement strategies. We intend to provide gender-based violence prevention and response services such as establishing shelters, safe spaces, and financial support.
Safe spaces or girls clubs will combine training in life skills and livelihood. We want to empower adolescent girls that have been proven effective in a variety of contexts. The vocational training center will be used as a post Covid-19 economic recovery center, offering an secure alternative to early family formation for adolescent girls.