A Kenyan Journalist Writing About Health

Archive for the category “Girls”

Slum Film Festival to Launch G-Involve Film Project

The Slum Film Festival will on Tuesday 13 June 2017 launch the G-Involve Film Project, from 6:00 pm at Alliance Francaise, Nairobi. The film project G-Involve seeks to encourage young people to GET UP and GET INVOLVED in the governance of their communities.  It places a great premium on election of leaders with integrity, it aims to build a culture of active citizenship and responsibility, create constitutional awareness among the youth, and promote positive and meaningful engagement between citizens and their leaders.

During the launch, films will be critiqued and there will also be explorations about the power of film as a tool for social change.

Film Synopsis: The struggle is very real when Pendo,  a young lady living in the slums realizes that she must motivate her peers to break the pervasive yoke of ignorance in order to fight a war for change in the governance of their community.  Their disillusionment about constitutional rights leaves them out of reach from the only weapon that can yield victory.  Can Pendo walk the extra mile and lead her peers to triumph? Watch trailer below.

Girl with Hearing Impairment Defies Odds

Siphilisiwe is a thirteen year old girl with hearing impairment. She is a Form 1 student at Malisa Secondary School, Zimbabwe.

Even though she has difficulties in hearing, many people otherwise dismiss her as being deaf. No surprise there, because issues surrounding disability are barely well understood in many of our communities. Lots of misinformation, stigma and discrimination surround people living with disability. Young pupils with disabilities are more likely to be victims of bullying from their peers. Such children also face various forms of exclusion from some community members who fail to understand the nature of disabilities.

Siphilisiwe (left) studying with a frien


“People used to call me isacuthe (the deaf one) and my peers did not want to play with me. I felt unwanted. At school, my performance was bad as I did not get everything that the teacher taught,” Siphilisiwe says.

Life however changed for this young girl when she began using assistive hearing aids, courtesy of Plan International. Her performance in class has since improved notably.

Asked about her hopes and aspirations, she said: “I want to be a nurse. I want to help the less privileged.”

Although many African governments today provide free primary education to children with disabilities, more focus is still needed on the issues affecting such children. The 2010 progress report for the UN Millennium Development Goals notes that despite some countries’ progress towards achieving the goal of universal primary education, children with disabilities represent the majority of those excluded from such free education schemes.

Since 2003, the Kenyan government prioritized Education for All, including free primary education. This led to a significant increase of enrollment rates in public primary schools, including schools with special education facilities.

An Educational Assessment and Resource Center (EARC) in Western Kenya.










However, according to a report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), only 26 000, or 1.7% of the estimated 1.5 million children with disabilities in Kenya, have actual access to some form of education. Meaning that most of the Kenyan children with special needs are not receiving any educational support. There could be various reasons for this, including poverty, lack of appropriate information by parents about the need for their children with disability to attend schools, few special education schools, limited training of teachers and lack of assistive devices like hearing aids and Braille books. Out of 149 districts in Kenya, 72 of them have Education Assessment Resource Centers (EARC’s), which have been established to facilitate the identification, assessment, referrals and placement of children with disabilities.

The 22nd Day of the African Child takes place across Africa on June 16 2012, taking the theme: “The Rights of Children with Disabilities: The Duty to Protect, Respect, Promote and Fulfill”.


Images: Plan International,


Depo-Provera: An Injectable Contraceptive

What is Depo-Provera?

Depo-Provera (medroxyprogesterone acetate) is a drug very similar to progesterone, a hormone normally produced by the ovaries every month as part of the menstrual cycle. Depo-Provera is an injectable medicine that prevents pregnancy for up to 3 months with each injection (“shot”).

How does it work?

Depo-Provera prevents pregnancy by preventing ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary). If an egg is not released, pregnancy is unlikely. Depo-Provera is given as 1 shot in the buttock or upper arm. The first shot should be given within 5 days after the beginning of a normal menstrual period, and shots should be repeated every 3 months.

Is it effective?

Depo-Provera is as effective as tubal ligation (having your tubes tied) and more effective at preventing pregnancy than several other methods, including birth control pills, condoms and diaphragms. It does not, however, protect against AIDS or any other sexually transmitted diseases.

Is the effect permanent?

No. Depo-Provera only works for about 3 months. The shot must be repeated every 3 months to prevent pregnancy. After a woman stops using Depo-Provera, her normal ovarian function returns after a short time. However, it takes an average of 9 to 10 months to get pregnant after getting the last shot.

How long can I take it?

You should not use Depo-Provera for more than 2 years unless no other form of birth control is right for you. Using Depo-Provera can cause you to lose some of the calcium that is stored in your bones. The longer you use Depo-Provera, the more calcium you may lose. The calcium may not return completely once you stop using it. This can lead to osteoporosis.

Are there side effects?

Most women have some changes in their menstrual periods while using Depo-Provera, including irregular and unpredictable bleeding or spotting, an increase or decrease in menstrual bleeding, or no bleeding at all. After 1 year of use, about 50% of women have no bleeding at all. The absence of periods is not harmful, and periods usually return to normal after Depo-Provera is stopped. If unusually heavy or continuous bleeding occurs, you should see your doctor. Other possible side effects include weight gain, headaches, nervousness, abdominal discomfort, dizziness and weakness or fatigue.

Can I use it if I am breastfeeding?

Depo-Provera can be used safely in women who are breastfeeding. Long-term studies of babies whose mothers used Depo-Provera while breastfeeding found no bad effects.

Who should not use Depo-Provera?

Women who have any of the following should not use Depo-Provera: liver disease, a history of blood clots (phlebitis) or stroke, vaginal bleeding without a known reason, cancer of the breast or reproductive organs, known or suspected pregnancy, or allergy to the medication in Depo-Provera

Information Source:


Q&A on Monthly NHIF Contributions Expected of Kenyan Housegirls

I remember sometime in December 2011, the government announced that employers had 30 days to ensure National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) deductions for their house helps were made, or else face the consequences. The deadline passed on 9 January 2012.

So how’s that going for you? Has your housegirl started making these payments? Or are you making the payments for her?

I wonder how many of us, or our housegirls have complied. But perhaps most of us haven’t because we didn’t quite understand what was required; whether it is we the employer, or if it is the housegirl herself who is supposed to make the payments from her salary, how she is supposed to get a membership card, where the payments are supposed to be made, how they are supposed to be made…etcetera etcetera.

Well, I sought out some of the answers to the questions which me and fellow moms with housegirls had, and I thought to share them here for the benefit of others who may have similar queries.

Who pays the money; is it the house help (via deduction from her salary) or is it the employer (without deducting from the salary)?

Ideally, payments come from the housegirl’s salary. However, if you wish to pay for her (without deducting from her salary), you are free to do so.

How is this money remitted?

The money can be sent through MPESA on business number 200222, or paid through any Cooperative Bank, National Bank or KCB accounts. It is not possible to pay cash at the NHIF offices.

How much is the contribution per month? Can the money be paid lump sum (e.g. for a quarter of a year) or does it always have to be done on a monthly basis?

She is required to remit Ksh 160 every month. Yes, payments can be done lump sum.

In what category does she register as; salaried or self-employed?

She registers as a self-employed.

What documents does the housegirl need to be registered as an NHIF contributor?

She needs a copy of her national identity card and 1 colored passport photo. If she has children below 18 years (dependants), she is required to produce copies of their birth certificates/birth notification, and 1 colored passport photo for each child.

Where does she register?

At the nearest NHIF office.

What of housegirls who have no national identity cards? How do they get registered?

They are allowed to use their waiting slip.

Are non-Kenyan housegirls also required to remit NHIF monthly payments? E.g. those from Uganda, Tanzania etc?

Yes they are required to. As long as you are working in Kenya and are earning a minimum of Ksh 1,000 then you should remit payments. To be registered, such a person is required to produce their passport, alien certificate or work permit.

Incase you decide to make the payments for your housegirl and yet she is still on probation for the first three months (you’re still unsure if you will keep her on or not), do you still have to remit her NHIF payments during this period?

NHIF payments should be made on a monthly basis regardless of employment terms, i.e; permanent, contract or casual basis. Besides, it is important that you do so as this comes in handy incase she is taken ill during the time she is with you.

What if she is married and her spouse is making payments to NHIF, is she still required to make her own payments?

Both spouses are required to pay if they are employed. Under the law, ‘all persons resident in Kenya, over 18 years and whose total income is not less than Kshs. 1,000 in any given month are required to contribute to the Fund irrespective of whether the spouse is a contributor or not’.

How many members of her family (dependants) are covered and up to what ages?

Each person is able to cover one spouse only. To include a spouse, she is required to produce a marriage certificate, a copy of the spouses’ ID card and 1 colored passport photo of his.

Children are covered up to the age of 18 years. However, if the child is over 18 and is undertaking a full time educational course at a university, college, school or any other educational establishment, he/she can be included as a dependant. However, the contributor is required to produce evidence from the educational establishment as proof of dependence.

If one has a child with permanent disability (such as physical or mental disability), the NHIF cover is for life, though a letter from a doctor confirming the same is required as proof.

To include children as dependants, she will be required to produce colored passport photos of each child, and  their birth certificate/birth notification.

What if there is no marriage certificate? Does NHIF recognize traditional marriages?

Yes it does. However one is required to produce a sworn affidavit from the Magistrate.

Are there specific hospitals she and her dependants can access, or can they access any hospital?

She can visit any hospital accredited with NHIF.

If she falls sick, what is the process of making respective claims?

NHIF encourages use the membership card at the hospital because reimbursements are made directly to the hospital.

Is the medical cover both an In-patient and Out-patient one?

No, at the moment it is only In-patient.

If one has been a contributor for sometime and has not received an NHIF card, does it mean that such person is not properly registered?

Yes. One is only a contributor but not a member if they have not submitted a duly completed form to NHIF for processing and issuance of an NHIF card. It is the responsibility of an employer to ensure that a contributing member is registered and issued with a membership card.

How long does it take to get the membership card?

Urgent cards take 24 hours to be printed. Normal cards will take up to 14 days. A member can go to the nearest NHIF office to inquire if the card has been printed once the set deadlines have elapsed.

What is the penalty for non-remittance?

Penalty is 5 times the amount they should have paid.

By what date of each month should this money have been remitted to NHIF?

By the 9th of every month.

Where are the NHIF offices located in Nairobi?

At NHIF Building, at Devcon Building in Industrial area and at Bandari Plaza in Westlands.

There are also NHIF satellite offices in Ruaraka, Buruburu, Ongata Rongai, Kenyatta National Hospital and in Eastleigh.

For see those outside Nairobi, click here.

NB: I sourced these answers from Maureen Tinderet (Compliance Officer at NHIF), and from the NHIF website.

This article was originally published in Mummy Tales – the blog by a Kenyan mom.

Irene Choge of NTV: The Most Memorable Story I’ve Produced

I had a chat with Irene Choge, a journalist with NTV about her career as a broadcast journalist.

Irene specializes in health matters, education matters and generally stories of human interest.

“I love giving a voice to the voiceless,” she says.

Irene’s most memorable story is one that she did about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Merti, Isiolo in 2011. The subject of the story titled ‘Dissent Over the Cut’ was a little girl whose father was strongly opposed to her undergoing the ritual.

“Maybe it’s because the little girl I featured is the age of my daughter, and I was able to tell her story, to give her a voice. This I did through the experiences of other characters, older women who had undergone a similar experience (FGM),” says Irene.

The story went on to win an award for her, that is the ‘Best Children Rights Media Awards (Best Article) 2011’.

Here is the story:

Evelyn Simaloi, a Journalist Shares Her HIV Story

Fellow journalist Evelyn Simaloi, 33, has been living with HIV since 1999. I have interacted with her in a professional capacity for the last 2 years, and watched her struggle through her ups and downs with HIV and AIDS, and her strong will to provide for her son Emmanuel.

Her son, whom she refers to as Manu is also HIV positive, which she says she infected him when breastfeeding, a time when she was in denial about her status. Despite having a low CD4 count, she has for years resisted taking ARV drugs.

Award winning NTV journalist John Allan Namu journeys with her as she shares her story. I once or twice saw Namu interviewing her months before he broadcast this story, and I always wondered what kind of story he would produce. Well, here it is.

Courtesy: NTV

Dorah Nyanja: “I Sacrificed My Well Paying Job for Less….”

Dorah Nyanja is a clinical officer and social entrepreneur, changing lives for the better in Kibera. A trained official with a Masters in Public Health, she left a more comfortable career to begin her own clinic among some of Kenya’s poorest citizens.

Courtesy: TEDxKibera talk.

A Rape Survivor Opens Up About Her Ordeal

Wangu speaks out after the nightmare

By Maryanne Waweru

“What if I had skipped work that morning?” “What if it had not rained and there was no traffic snarl-up in the city?”

This fruitless attempt to re-arrange a traumatic past is a matter that 32-year-old Wangu Kanja is all too familiar with. For almost three years, these “What if?” questions dominated her mind. She spent these dreadful years in a depressed mood, involuntarily drowned in the sea of self-blame following a harrowing attack. These “What if?” questions, for which there were no easy answers, were slowly and insidiously crippling her psyche.

Wangu Kanja. Photo:

In 2002, Wangu lived through an experience that will be forever etched in her memory. A marketing consultant with a taxi firm in Nairobi, she was pursuing a potentially lucrative transport deal with an important client. Would her company win this tender? She was ready to pull out all the stops — even if it meant travelling late at night.
She remembers that on the evening when she went to meet her business contact, it was cold and rainy, and the evening traffic in Nairobi was heavy. Driving with the man, who was accompanied by his friend, Wangu recalls that the man decided to stop at his house to pick his pullover. Thereafter, the two would drive Wangu home. It was at the man’s gate in Kimathi Estate, Nairobi, that they were accosted by another vehicle.
Suddenly, the four or five men in the other vehicle stepped out and roughly forced their way into Wangu’s car. As they were driven away, the other gang member followed closely in their car. “Perhaps to ensure that they were not followed, the men drove in circles around Buru Buru and Outering area.”

After what appeared like a lifetime, the armed men stopped both vehicles at a dark alley. Shoving and ordering them about, they forced Wangu’s partners into their vehicle and abandoned them. All gang members now drove off with Wangu as their lone captive.

Recalls Wangu: “It was about 10.30pm. As I sat in the company of the four or five strangers, I knew my life was over.” As she explains, staring into open space, it is clear that Wangu is crying. “I made a silent prayer, hoping against hope that some sort of miracle would happen.”
Her fears were somewhat assuaged when one of the men assured her that no harm would befall her because, he said, she was like a sister to them. “There was some sincerity in his eyes,” Wangu recalls. “His tone of voice offered me some comfort.”

Not long after, they reached an isolated enclosure along Jogoo Road, Nairobi, where the gang split up, with some of them leaving for another mission. Wangu was now left under the charge of two men. Inside the enclosure, one man was left manning the entrance as the other walked deep inside with her. She reveals that at that late hour, in the pounding rain, and with a gun to her head, she became a victim of rape.
The following day, a confused and emotional Wangu reported the matter to the police and then headed to hospital for medical care. But while her immediate medical concerns were taken care of, the trauma of the ordeal was too much for her to bear.

Years of intolerable pain

Against her conscience, Wangu recalls, she changed into a person she could hardly recognise. For two-and-a-half years, she drank heavily. “I was what you would call the ‘walking dead’,” she says. “I was so angry, so hateful, so ashamed and so depressed that I didn’t know whether I would ever regain control of my emotions.”
It was during this period that she closed her mind to the whole world. In her solitude, she tried in vain to undo her pain. “What if I had not met that client that day?” she wondered. “What if I had postponed the meeting?” “What if I had skipped work that day?” “What if we had used a different route?” “What if it had not rained?” “What if I fought back…?”

She replayed the events of that evening over in her mind. “I recalled in vivid detail everything that happened,” she says. “I had recurring nightmares and flashbacks.” Was there something she might have done differently to ensure that the man did not force himself on her?

It was after hitting emotional rock bottom and finally accepting that there was nothing she could do to reverse the ordeal that she finally snapped out of her depression. “I was tired of feeling sorry for myself,” she stresses. “After the rape, I didn’t want to live. I was overwhelmed by feelings of shame and regret.” One day in 2005, she recalls, “I woke up and decided that I had had enough of sitting around and wallowing in self-blame.” It was then she sought professional help. That, she says, was when healing began.

Since then, Wangu has been talking openly about her nightmare. Mainly, she speaks in public forums: schools, churches, places of work and conferences. Fearlessly, Wangu shares her story with the aim of creating awareness about the trauma of sexual assault. She also teaches how one can avoid risk situations, and how to survive such an experience and continue to live a normal life.

“Speaking out has been therapeutic for me,” she says. “Not only is it a healing process, but the feedback I get from people nourishes my spirit. When people say that I have made a difference in their lives, it feels rewarding. Many women who have been raped tell me they are too afraid to speak for themselves and are glad that I speak for them.”

A hostile response

In a society that is socialised to shy away from openly discussing sexual matters, and more so to share an individual’s intimate personal experiences, it has not been easy for Wangu. Going public, she says, carries many challenges.
“People have threatened me, telling me that in the African community sexual matters cannot be talked about publicly.” Men and women, she says, have ridiculed her, telling her to stop publicising what they describe as her “shameful experiences”.

Wangu says we live in a society where rape is a subject that many people would rather spurn. The belief is that if one never talks about it, then it will disappear.
Some people have even told her that the alleged sexual assault is a figment of her imagination. “They say that sex is sex, and there is nothing like rape,” she reports. “They tell me that I should instead concentrate on being grateful that I am alive, because many others have been murdered in the process.”
Wangu, who recently set up the Wangu Kanja Foundation, says she is already experiencing opposition from unlikely quarters — women, especially mothers whose daughters have been raped. She explains: “Most perpetrators of sexual violence are people well known to their victims. I have on occasion been warned by mothers against poking my nose into domestic affairs.” Women, she says, are more interested in protecting their family name.

She has encountered mothers who dismiss their daughters’ sexual assault claims as baseless, insisting that the girls are merely seeking attention. “One mother even sent her 17-year-old daughter, who had been repeatedly raped by her father, to a psychiatrist because the mother believed the young woman was a pathological liar and therefore a mental case,” says Wangu.

Wangu, whose foundation works in collaboration with advocacy groups, children’s organisations, hospitals, counselling institutions and legal firms, says that whenever she is reaching out in primary and secondary schools, pupils and students confide in her about formerly undisclosed incidents of sexual assault.
“There is a lot of stigma around rape, fuelled by myths and misconceptions,” she observes. “Society also tends to blame the victim, saying the victim should not have dressed in a certain way, or should not have taken a certain (dangerous) route, or should not have been out past a certain hour, or should not have been drinking.”

Role of family in recovery

Wangu underscores the role of family in the victim’s recovery. Saying the process of recuperating from sexual assault takes time, she stresses that survivors require a great deal of support from those closest to them. “Many times, family and friends also fall into the trap of believing some of the rape myths, especially those that have to do with the victim somehow being responsible for the assault. But they should listen and not be judgmental.”

This, she says, is because the victim is already dealing with shame and guilt, and should not be burdened with condemnation from those closest to them.” She, however, says it is normal for family and friends to have strong subjective feelings following the rape of a close relative, but cautions that they should strive to deal with their emotions appropriately.
“As with the survivor, family and friends of the victims of assault may have strong feelings of anger and even self-blame, but they should guard against venting these emotions on the survivor,” advises Wangu. A survivor, she says, can be twice the victim, first of the rape and secondly of censure and condemnation.
In spite of her trials, Wangu has been lucky to have the support of her family. Immediately after the rape, she says, her sister accompanied her to the hospital. Besides, her parents have been supportive. Hardest hit has been her father, whom she says has had a difficult time accepting that his daughter was indeed raped.
Of her attacker, she says, “I have forgiven him. If I were to meet him today, I would tell him that I forgave him. It is pointless to hold a grudge.”

Wangu, who is still single, says she hopes to get married and settle down in a family someday. You may visit her website here

This article was originally published in The Standard newspaper.

2011 UPDATE:

Wangu Kanja, who was awarded the Women’s International Day UNSUNG HERO AWARD 2011 by the US Embassy in Nairobi on March 8th. She received it in recognition of her extraordinary efforts to promote the empowerment of Kenyan women and girls. Information courtesy: PHR

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