Mwanajuma’s Fight for Her Family’s Future.

Mwanajuma Islam, a widow and mother of five children from Kamuthe in Nanighi ward, Fafi Sub-County, Garissa County, epitomizes resilience in the face of adversity. Widowed and left to fend for her three daughters and two sons, Mwanajuma’s story is one of determination, struggle, and eventual empowerment through community support.

Mwanajuma’s life took a drastic turn after the death of her husband. The cultural practice of widow inheritance, where a widow is expected to marry a male relative of her deceased husband, posed a significant challenge. Mwanajuma’s refusal to be inherited complicated her access to her husband’s dues, leaving her in a precarious financial situation. To sustain her family, she relied on basket weaving and simple tailoring, working tirelessly to make ends meet.

“When my husband died, I struggled to get his dues from his place of work where he worked as a night guard. The reason for this was that his clan would not allow me to access his death certificate because I refused to be inherited by one of his clansmen. This hurt me, but with assistance from the Kamuthe Women’s Rights Network, I was able to get an audience with the chief. After listening to my case, I got the chance to get the certificate and claim my husband’s dues of KES 20,000,” recounts Mwanajuma Islam.

The challenges Mwanajuma faced extended to her children, manifesting in her eldest daughter’s plight. At the tender age of 15, her daughter became pregnant, prompting her to drop out of school. Hastily, she was married off while still in class seven. The child’s marriage led to severe complications during pregnancy, exacerbated by her young age and the physical and emotional demands of childbirth, further compounding their struggles.

Mwanajuma, along with her daughter and grandchild, engages with ActionAid Kenya’s Project Coordinator Zamzam Hassan in Kamuthe, Fafi Sub County, Garissa County

After two years of her daughter staying at home and returning from the unsuccessful marriage, Mwanajuma made a pivotal decision. She sought support from the Kamuthe Women’s Rights Network, an organization dedicated to empowering women in her community. This empowerment and support network provided Mwanajuma with the knowledge and courage to take decisive action for her daughter’s future.

Realizing the disadvantages her daughter faced due to child marriage and pregnancy, Mwanajuma was determined to ensure her child received an education. She brought her back home and re-enrolled her daughter in school, and today, she is proudly in Form 1 at secondary school. This is even after committing to raise the baby on behalf of her daughter.

“I was very challenged as I desired her (her daughter) to go back to school and realize her dreams. I believe that after her school, she will get a job and be able to support her kid and the family,” Mwanajuma reflects.

Her words highlight the hope and aspirations she holds for her daughter’s future, a future where education paves the way for better opportunities and a break from the cycle of poverty.

Mwanajuma Islam’s story is a testament to the power of resilience and the importance of community support in overcoming life’s adversities. Despite facing significant cultural and economic challenges, Mwanajuma’s unwavering determination to provide a better life for her children stands as an inspiring example.

Mwanajuma weaving mats to sell for an income to support her family

Through the empowerment and resources provided by the Kamuthe Women’s Rights Network, Mwanajuma’s actions not only transformed her daughter’s life but also set a precedent for other women in her community to follow. Her journey underscores the critical need for continued support and empowerment initiatives for women, particularly in rural and underserved areas. By investing in the education and empowerment of women and girls, communities can break the cycles of poverty and disadvantage, fostering a brighter and more equitable future for all.

Kamuthe Women’s Rights Network is a sub-guarantee of ActionAid Kenya’s Women’s Rights Programme, supported by Irish Aid through ActionAid Ireland.

Author: Ezra Kiriago ,Communications Coordinator ActionAid Kenya.

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