Ugunja, Kenya- Empowering Kenya's Widows: NGOs seek to reverse the discrimination against Kenya's widows

[adapted from Think Africa Press] In the Uganja area of the Nyanza Province in Kenya, upon death of their husband, many widows land is forcibly taken away from them by their in-laws. Such practices render most widows landless in communities where they lack the right to inherit property, leaving them isolated and left alone, especially if illiterate. In addition, widows are often subject to physical and emotional abuse, being routinely stigmatised and left to fend for themselves.

'Most of the widows in Ugunja area are landless and faced with the serious challenge of providing for their children. This has contributed to the high rate of HIV infection in the area as "most of the young widows are sometimes forced to sleep with men so that they can support their small families; men are taking advantage of the current situation"'.

Yet the Ugunja Community Resource Centre (UCRC) is passionately working to empower widows in the Nyanza province through educating women on their rights to land and encouraging them to seek legal redress. As one resident reports, “The organisation has enabled me to know my rights as a woman, many people still believe that women do not have rights of property. After the civic education, I have learned that the law protects and safeguards the rights of a woman too.”

Under the Law of Succession Act in the Kenya Consitution, women's rights are well defined. Yet, Jacqueline Ng'ang'a of Women's Empowerment Link (WEL), a Nairobi based NGO, states that women in Kenya are often denied their rights. With decisions about their lives made by their husbands, she calls for more government action to implement women's legal rights which are too-often contradicted by religous beliefs and cultural practices.

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