Friday, December 29, 2006

Kenyan Diaspora Investment Forum

I'm sure tons of people have blogged about this event, so I won't say much about how it went; except that it was very well run, for a Kenyan event! The last one I went to was four years ago - it put me off completely - and the food especially was a terrible scene. In this case the event was free and they still fed us, in a very well thought out fashion. They seriously want our money.

I'm a very well trained Kenyan woman. It wasn't until I was on the tube afterwards that I suddenly realised I never even thought to bring up the main reason why I'm not going to be making those Kenyan investments. I didn't even think to think it, in a public forum, but it will control my investment decisions in a big way. The only reason I would send my money home is if I hope to follow it one day. But if I'm going to face as practically standard the risk of being gang raped if I get car jacked, I have to think twice about going. I have to think four hundred and twenty times about going with my daughter. Never mind trying to explain to my partner (who is very keen on the idea of emigration, as many of the English are) why he should risk the safety of the females in his life by moving to a country where the police laugh when a woman turns up to report she's been raped. When I hear that in low income areas of Nairobi a woman can be gang raped in her own home twice in three weeks, and the social climate in which she lives is such that nobody says anything, how is that supposed to make me feel about my significance as a woman to Kenyan society?

The finance minister, Mr Kimunga, made a very impressive two hour presentation (he was only supposed to have 15 minutes, and he needs to learn self discipline and editing, it ruined everyone's day. I had to miss the breakout sessions at the end, as babies waiting at home for their mothers brook no such excuses) on the wonderful effects being seen in Kenya of good governance and serious fiscal management. He highlighted tax spending on health, saying one could now afford to get sick anywhere in the country as all dispensaries have medicines. Are there any effects of all this progress and good governance on the police? Five years ago if I turned up at Kileleshwa police station to report a rape I would be laughed at, and the same obtains today. What are they paid? When I left Kenya it was something laughable like Kshs 5,000 per month. Do they get any training on how to handle rape victims? Does anyone remind them occasionally of their duty of care?

This is a matter for Parliament to concern itself with in a big way, because these are crimes of disrespect. Nowadays we even hear of 'revenge rapes'. A culture is seriously ill when it can produce a man prepared to hire himself out for such depravity. It is only possible for men to leave their homes to do such things because they are aware that their victims do not matter, that the senior men of their society simply do not care. This is a matter that needs to be addressed from the top down, as corruption has been. Anyone looking for confirmation of the power of parliament to affect social behaviour has only to see the look at the amazing proliferation of the cases of gang rape since the perpetrators got a tacit message of tolerance in the throwing out of the anti rape bill.

All the progress and good governance in the world is of no moment if a society fails to make provision for its vulnerable members - if only because we're all going to be vulnerable at some point in our lives. So why the wait, for a categorical message of intolerance from the government? For a clear declaration that such behaviour is unmanly and unKenyan? If the problem is lack of exposure among MP's, can we please do something creative like requiring them to do a day of volunteer service at Nairobi women's hospital. Let them help handle emergency admissions, let them do bedside visits and meet some of the victims. Or are our MP's just big men who eat well, sit back and smile, expecting that this can never happen to them? Note that it's not just women getting raped. Perhaps they are waiting for someone to get really creative and hire a gang to gang rape some MP's.

Still, it remains mainly a female problem. On the day of the forum, there was a sad declaration from the podium. Someone stood up and admitted, to hearty laughter, that one of the hardest things for Kenyan men to adjust to when they move to the West, is not being able freely to beat their wives and children - to acknowledge that the abuse of women and children is wrong. Nobody shouted shame at him. People laughed. Kenyans think it's funny for a woman to suppose that she's fully human. Where is the message from Parliament to help start a sea change in this social attitude? To make it plain to all of Kenya that when a woman is raped (or beaten by her husband) the shame belongs only to the rapist (or wife beater), and the woman should be praised and respected for her resolute survival.

At present my investments are in the UK, and one pays tax on investment income. The UK has many faults, but in this country if an HIV positive man goes about having consensual sex with unwitting partners, he can be and is prosecuted for murder. In Kenya he can combine the sex with GBH and snigger at his victim on the street the following week. What's more, if she's fortunate enough to get the care she needs immediately, including surgery to restore her continence to some degree, and a course of anti retrovirals to protect her from HIV, employment law doesn't protect her from losing her job. Her company may freely choose to fire her for being off sick so long due to the effects of the ARVs. Human rights issues affect investment in many ways, and I can tell you they're affecting mine. You don't come asking for my money with one hand while withholding all respect and caring with the other.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Stacey Wanjiru Kariuki

I have finally achieved a major first step in a project I've been picking at for over 6 months; how to help a woman called Stacey stay alive. She is now equipped with a reloadable visa card! I was wondering how to fundraise to get her some serious money, toying with ideas like doing a sponsored walk carrying my baby on my back. But the directness of the internet appeals. She's a such a good writer! You read her story and you feel everything she felt, your stomach churns, and then you can give money straight into her hands, for vegetables and medicine. Here's the story:


My name is Stacy Wanjiru. I am a Christian and a mother of two, a son, eight years old and a three months old daughter. I was born in a family of two(my sister and i) and was brought up in Webuye until 1986 when our family moved to stay in Eldoret. I am 34 years old now, HIV+ and a divorcee. I had been happily married for ten(10) years since 1996 to 2005 when one day i plunged into a misfortune which changed my life completely.

It is the events of this fateful day that have resulted to my present situation which i find very challenging. On that day i was with my husband and our son, driving home from a party. Three men car-jacked us and mercilessly raped me infront of my husband and son when they couldn't get money from us (which is what they were asking for in addition to our mobile phones). They then left us in that traumatising mess. My husband took me into the car and drove us home speechlessly. He left home immediately not even taking me to hospital and come back drunk the following day. This strange behaviour continued for a week after which he said he would never want to see me and i should leave his house.This became unbearably painful for me. I had to seek help.

A this point i approached a friend who gave me refuge in her home. She also took me to Nairobi Women's Hospital for check up. It was then that i learnt i had conceived and cotracted the HIV Virus following my predicament. It was painful. I became hopeless and helpless. I felt like i had reached the end of my life. I did receive Counselling at Nairobi Women's Hospital though it all sounded void. With time however, after interraction with other HIV+s, i started thinking positive and accepting my situation. The Cousellor at Nairobi Women's Hospital wrote to the Wholistic Caring and Counselling Center requesting for my accomodation. My mind shifted from abortion to adoption for the child i was carrying. I had no way of sustaining the child and i was HIV+. I thought it impossible to take care of this baby.

I was taken in at Wholistic Center and have received great help ever since. I gave birth to Faith (through Ceaserian Section) three months ago, 9th December 2005.

I am now a mother to a healthy baby girl (my 2nd child). I have come to love this child regardless of how i conceived her and would want her to have the best in life. It is not easy though. It is very disturbing and actually worrying to imagine a life with my situation alone and with a nursing child. I could say so far so good. I have been housed and fed. It is not going to be easy to be this dependent for long, soon i will be out of Wholistic. My thoughts are that if i could get a funding, some financial assistance that could help me to stand on my own, that is, find shelter, fix my baby's care, feed myself well and have a business to sustain our needs, then life would be less challenging. I am hereby writing to solicit any funding that anyone could offer to help me stand on my own. My hopes are that, i would start selling second hand clothes and make a living.

I appeal to you or anyone through you to consider my plight positively, and assist me because you will have saved both my life and my child's.
I kindly request that you may have the heart to help me in settling down to a normal life. That would include;-

House rent
Baby's formula milk
Personal effect
Business Capital (As a one time gift)
Furniture inclusive of kitchenware

This would be the breakdown of the cost of the above in Kenya Shillings and US Dollars

House Rent
Ksh. 4000.00(US 56) monthly
Ksh. 48,000.00 (US 676) annually

Formula Milk
Ksh. 5000.00(US 71) monthly
Ksh. 60,000.00(US 845) annually

Personal Effect
Ksh. 4000.00(US 56) monthly
Ksh. 48,000.00(US 676) annually

Business Capital Ksh. 50,000.00 (US 704)

SUB TOTAL 206 000.00 Ksh (US 2901)

You have noticed I have not included the cost of furniture (kitchenware etc) .I was suggesting that with your goodwill you would probably contribute " hand me downs" or used furniture to minimize the expenses incurred
If and when my business picks up I will let you know (whether be in the cause of one year or earlier)
I thank you in advance for your concern and genuine help. More that I ask that you pray that my strength will prevail and that my baby will grow healthy. It's a long and weary journey but with friends like you somehow things work out. God bless you mightily.

God's Best.
Stacey Wanjiru.


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Stacey Wanjiru Kariuki
Account Number KS168658KE
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