Rispa Atieno Odhiambo 31 years old, mother of four was married under Luo customary law to the late Odhiambo Nyagudi who died in November 2008. After her husband’s death, her in-laws claimed that she had infected her husband with HIV. In 2009, her in-laws chased her away from her matrimonial home and took all her property.
She rented a house at Kihancha beach opposite Ndere Island where she risked her life crossing over to the Ndere Island National Reserve at night to collect firewood which she sold to provide for her family. In 2013 she heard about the mediation done by the elders in the region from a widow group whose members were KELIN beneficiaries. The members then referred her to Elder Oyugi Anyah and Elder Apollonian Mbok.
The elders successfully resolved her case. Thereafter the in-laws agreed to welcome her back to the matrimonial home and promised not to interfere with her again. They reinstated her property, including a piece of land. Unable to build a house for her family, she went back to live at Kihancha beach.
Since Rispa didn’t want to live far away from her land, she stayed in the nearby market area for ten years. KELIN stepped in and built her a house and restore her dignity as the burden of paying school fees and rent was weighing her down.
“Now that I am back home, I will not be forced to engage in risky trades to pay rent and provide for my children.” Risper Atieno Odhiambo
In a society where social norms afford women limited rights, instances of widows being chased away from their matrimonial homes are common. Widows, especially those who are living with HIV, find themselves homeless when they reject harmful cultural practices such as wife inheritance. They end up living in market centers where they are exposed to risky behaviours like sex work or engaging in sex with multiple partners to provide for their children.
On 5 – 7 May, KELIN with support from partners such as ICRW participated in the construction of four houses in Seme, Kendu bay, Nyando and Muhoroni sub counties. This work was facilitated by the ‘GO FUND ME” fundraiser, an initiative of friends of KELIN aimed at rebuilding houses for widows whose cases have been successfully resolved under the traditional justice system but are unable to put up houses in their matrimonial homes due to economic constraints.
KELIN aims to continue with the process of constructing houses for the widows through the support of partners and well-wishers. You can also make a difference in the lives of the Kenyan widows, by contributing to: http://bit.ly/2kdpJUt
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For more information contact:
Programme Manager, Women, Land & Property Rights
Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV & AIDS (KELIN)
Aga Khan Road, Milimani Opp Jalaram Academy
P.O Box 7708-40100
Tel +254202515790; Cell +254721295355