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“Love brought me pain but I will live and love again”

Posted by Administrator on April 20, 2012

A narrow murram path leads to 30-year-old Cecile Asaji’s house in Kakamega town. Small stones painted with whitewash lie on each side of the path.

Behind them, two lines of freshly watered flowers stretch all the way to the veranda. The petals have only begun to embrace the warmth of the sun.

“I’m glad the sun is out today,” Cecil says, welcoming us into her house. “It’s a good Friday.”

Curled up on her sofa looking relaxed and happy, Cecile is a warm lady to be around. But beneath her happy smile lies an undercurrent of despair, pain and rejection, only recently tempered by courage, hope and determination to once again reclaim her life.

You see, Cecile is HIV positive, and learning to finally win against the demons that once haunted her after the betrayal of her once-loving boyfriend.

Growing up the fifth child in a family of six, with an absent father, in Vihiga district, is where her story starts.

“My father was a banker and my mother was a primary teacher,” she says.

One month after her birth, her father left for the US to work and study, returning when she was 10.

Missing father

Cecile recalls that although she had uncles to look up to, she still missed a father figure.

“I had only seen him in pictures. I wanted to be with him, to spend time talking about ‘my dad’, just like my friends did.”

Nonetheless, Cecile’s life was otherwise stable, and in 1997, she joined St. Mary’s Girls’ School in Mumias. In 1998, at the age of 16, Cecile was struck by Cupid’s arrow.

James* was a close friend of her brothers, and someone familiar to her since childhood, even though he was substantially older than her. In 2000, she joined M’mbale Progressive School in Uganda for her A-levels, but that did not deter love; James, who was in employment in Kisumu at that time, would often travel to see her.

“I was confident that he was a good catch,” she says.”I told myself that he wouldn’t do all the bad things that men did to women. He filled the void that my father had left, and I felt that he was the only man who cared and loved me.”

Cecile devoted herself to him, and dreamed of one day becoming his wife and the mother of his children. In 2003 she joined Kampala International University for her Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication.

With more freedom and her own room, she could date and club as much as she wanted, but she opted instead to be faithful to James.

“It looked like fun. At times I felt tempted to join in. But I didn’t. I had a boyfriend back at home who was faithful. I could not bear to hurt him.”

Cheating boyfriend

Then in 2004, things began to fall apart. They began to squabble. His visits decreased in frequency.

“I sensed that something was eating into my relationship,” Cecile remembers. Her friends thought there was another woman. Cecile sat him down and prodded him. “He claimed that his mother was very sick and needed to see some grandchildren (before she died),” she says.

“I did not want to lose him, yet I did not want to bear a child out of wedlock.”

When her older sister had conceived out of wedlock their father had been very upset and almost kicked her out of the house, and so Cecile knew that the family would not take this kindly. But in the end, and at the age of 23, she gave in and conceived.

“Coincidentally, my father did not pay my fees that year, and I moved in with my boyfriend, which helped me keep it from my family.”

However, the arguments she thought would end with her conception went on. To add insult to injury, her boyfriend began to see another woman.

“Some days, he would come over to the house with her. I guess he wanted to humiliate me and force me to leave.”

Cecile confronted the lady, begging her to leave ‘them’ alone. “I felt like she was inducing our break-up, and told her to stop. After all, I was pregnant with his child. But she said that I had no business dating and should (concentrate on my studies).”

Towards the end of her second trimester, Cecile had a premature rapture of the membrane. “It happened at around 2pm. We did not have neighbours around and I was not familiar with the estate.”

By the time John returned from work and took her to hospital, her condition had deteriorated. “The doctors said that my condition was critical. They removed the foetus to save my life.”

Chris the playboy

After returning to her boyfriend’s from the hospital, the break up that had been simmering burst out.

“He accused me of prostitution and negligence and kicked me out.”

Heartbroken and in physical pain, Cecile returned to her parents in Vihiga where she lied that she had been staying with a student in hope that her dad would send her fees.

“I did not speak about the pregnancy or the misconception.” It was while she was there that she heard that John had married. “I wondered what I had done wrong to deserve this. Hadn’t I been faithful and submissive? Hadn’t I loved enough? What did I lack?”

In 2007, Cecile returned to campus for her final year. This time, she was sullen and withdrawn.

“I could not accept the fact that my relationship had ended. I felt unlovable, undesirable and unattractive.” One day a man dropped by her room. “He said that his name was Chris* and some students in our row were his cousins.” They began to converse.

“He asked why I didn’t know him, yet he knew me well. He claimed that he had graduated the previous year.” From that day on, Charles began to drop by her room.

“He began to ask for coffee dates. He wanted to date me. Having come from a hurtful relationship, and having a largely absentee father, I feared men. Yet, I needed someone to tell me what I wanted to hear: that I was alright.”

She began to warm up to him. They began to date and sex became part of their relationship. “At first, we used condoms. But after some time, we began to have unprotected sex.”

Then Cecile began to hear stories that her new boyfriend was a serial player. It also turned out that he had never had cousins at the university. But what really shook Cecile was a fellow student’s proclamation.

“She cornered me on my way from the library and accused me of stealing her man. Then she said that I would be very wise to have an HIV test.”

Confused, Cecile stopped all physical intimacy with Chris two months after they had started. “I demanded that we go for a test, or there would be no relationship.” However, her boyfriend utterly refused and told her to go alone.

Testing news

“I was totally unsettled and had to go for a test to be sure. The test came out negative!”

Cecile broke up the relationship and swore to never date again. In early 2011, she got a job as banker in Eldoret – which she later lost due to illness. In August, her eyes began to swell and her skin developed severe blemishes. “I went to Moi Referral Hospital and got hydrocortisones which eased the skin problem.”

A few weeks later, she began to develop blisters on her tummy.

“The blisters came in tandem with strong fevers.” Her aunt, who was a medic, heard about her problems and advised that they visit the hospital together. “I hate jabs and I was very reluctant at first.” The tests came out positive for herpes. “I also tested HIV positive,” she adds, with a breaking voice.

“I thought it was a joke. Hadn’t I gone for a test that turned out negative?” Her father broke the news to her siblings and other members of her extended family. “I felt really hurt,” Cecile says. In the following days, Cecile and her father could not see eye to eye.

“There was cold hatred in his eyes whenever we met. He couldn’t stay in the same room with me.” Apparently, her father had a mistress who had repeatedly told him stories of Cecile being a husband snatcher in Eldoret town. He now believed that the stories were true.

Meanwhile, Cecile’s health deteriorated. She began to harbour suicidal thoughts. “I thought, ah, if I just swallow all my ARVs, my suffering would end.”

But a second thought told her that she would leave her first boyfriend, James, enjoying life. “I blamed him. If he hadn’t dumped me, I wouldn’t have been infected.

From despair to hope

Now I wanted to infect him and his wife.” They had recently gotten in touch, and Cecile decided to put her plan into action. Since he was once again showing interest in her, Cecile began to come around.

“He apologised and promised to marry me as a second wife and love me more. He even bought piece of land where he wanted to settle me.” Her plan was perfectly falling into place.

Just about then, this January, she came upon an advertisement in a local paper for a HIV-positive networking group. “They were looking to network persons living with HIV/Aids.”

Through the group, she met an evangelist who became her emotional pillar, and a social support network of people living positively with HIV who gave her hope.

“I met people with different experiences. Slowly, I came to see that I had not come to the end of the road. I could still live.”

She began to let the pain go and stopped seeing her first boyfriend. “I have kept a safe distance from him. Though my dad has refused to accept me, I hope that one day we will patch up.”

Meanwhile, Cecile’s emotional healing continues. “I may not have good feelings towards men, but I want to heal. I want to love and live again,” she says with conviction.”I want to be the woman I know I can be. And I will get there.”

* Names have been changed


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Stories of anguish behind rising diaspora remittances

Posted by Administrator on April 13, 2012


Kenyans living abroad have been sending money home in record amounts of late, and the remittances are expected to rise even more in the coming years.

According to estimates provided by the Kenyan Embassy in Washington DC, there are about 500,000 Kenyans living in the United States while the Foreign Affairs ministry says there are about three million living abroad.

These remittances are intended for investments, school fees, hospital bills and providing a cushion for relatives back home against the rising cost of living.

Kenyans in the diaspora remitted $103.98 million (Sh8.65 billion) in February this year and, according to figures by the Central Bank of Kenya, those abroad sent in a total of $891 million (Sh75.7 billion) in 2011.

Most of the remittances are used for their intended purposes, with development projects springing up in almost every major town. In fact, the Kenyan diaspora was credited with aiding in the rapid rise of Nairobi’s luxury real estate prices, according to the World Wealth Report 2012.

However, it is becoming increasingly evident that not all the remittances are being used for the purposes originally intended.

A good number of Kenyans living in the diaspora have fallen prey to their own relatives, who have taken to swindling them.

Deep resentment has resulted, with some in the diaspora severing communication with those they once held dear. These include cousins, uncles or aunts together with fathers, mothers and siblings who seem to have found themselves an easy way of milking those abroad.

It is, therefore, not surprising that many in the diaspora have a good reason to believe that money trumps family relationships in some cases.

Ms Wangari knows this only too well. She is a registered nurse in Texas, USA, and a single mother of one boy. She has been in the US for 16 years. In 2009, she felt it was time to return to Kenya.

However, before she could move back, she needed a house for her and her son. She discussed with her father the idea of constructing a house on a piece of land she already owned in Ruiru, near Nairobi. They agreed that her father would send her a list of building materials required and the estimated cost, and she would send him the required money.

To make sure she had enough money to fund the project, she hired a live-in babysitter for her son and got a second job with a nursing agency. She started working on weekends, spending less time with her son as he would be asleep when she returned home from her shifts. It was all worth it as they would have more time when they moved back home, she thought to herself.

Construction of the house started in earnest in June 2010. Her father estimated that she would need to send him at least $1,250 (Sh100,000) a month to ensure uninterrupted construction. Wangari wanted to make sure her father had the money every month.

For the next three months, her father would send her photos of the house as construction progressed, and she was satisfied that everything was going according to plan.

Her father made sure the photos emphasised the size of the kitchen and the boy’s room as she had requested that the rooms be specially done to her specifications.

In December 2010, her best friend, who lives in New Hampshire, informed Wangari that she would travel to Kenya for Christmas holidays.

The two friends had met while they were in high school in Kenya, and had been in constant communication. Wangari shared photos of the house with her friend every time her father sent them.

Since the two friends had gone together to see the plot the last time they were in Kenya in 2009, Wangari asked her friend to take some time and go over to the construction site and take more photos of the house.

A couple of days after her friend jetted into the country, she set out to see the house before she embarked on a trip to Mombasa. She knew the location of the plot, so she did not have any problems getting there.

However, she was shocked by the sight that greeted her when she got to the plot. It was overrun by shrubs and it did not seem like anyone had tended to it in years. Something was wrong here, she thought.

She wondered whether Wangari was talking about a different piece of land from the one she knew. Knowing Wangari’s cell phone number off head, she dialled immediately to clarify.

She reached Wangari as she was heading off for her evening shift. She asked her whether she owned another plot close by. Wangari confirmed that she only owned one, which is the one they had visited earlier.

Getting increasingly confused, she told Wangari that she was standing right by the plot and there was no construction going on. Wangari laughed, thinking her friend was just joking. She even asked her friend to go a step further and take a cell phone video of the interior of the house.

Her friend, realising she thought it was joke, insisted she was not joking. There was no house. Parked outside her house, Wangari turned off the car and insisted that her friend was pulling a bad prank on her. Her friend insisted she was not.

While they were on the phone, her friend walked over to nearby pharmacy and asked them whether there was any new construction going on nearby.

She figured they could not have missed trucks going in and out with buildings materials coming in from Thika Road as there was only one path to get there. No one at the shop had seen any such activity and, in fact, there had been no such activity for over three years.

Wangari overheard the whole conversation on the phone. She was dumbfounded.

How could this be? Her father had even sent her photos of the house. There had to be some mistake, she thought.

She asked her friend to stand by as she called her father to ease her anxiety. When she reached him, he heartily greeted her, telling her that he was at the house and it was coming up really well.

She asked her dad to walk over to the pharmacy nearby and meet her friend, who was clearly “lost”. There was a deep silence. “Where is your friend?” he asked her. She replied that she was next to the plot and she wanted her to see the house. Another long silence ensured.

Then the phone went dead.

Wangari tried calling back, but there was no answer. She knew something was terribly wrong.

She called her mother, in who lived in Kitengela, and who had been ailing weeks before, and asked her about the house. Her mother had not seen it, but her father had been giving her updates every evening.

Wangari told her that her friend was at the plot but could not see the house, and she could not reach her father. Her mother promised to go over in a couple of hours and check it out for herself.

When her mother reached the pharmacy, where Wangari’s friend was still waiting, they set off together to the plot.

There was no house.

The area had not been attended to in ages.

She then tried calling her husband several times but his phone went unanswered, which was unusual. She called Wangari and confirmed what her friend had already communicated to her, but telling her there was a mix-up of some sort.

Wangari was devastated.

Her mother waited to confront her father but he did not return home that night. He, however, showed up the following morning and attempted to offer an explanation.

He called Wangari and profusely apologised saying that he had huge debts after borrowing money from his bank, and he knew that Wangari would not have sent him the money if he had told her the truth.

He wasn’t done dropping bombshells. He confessed that the bank was holding Wangari’s title deed as he used it as security to obtain the loan.

To date, Wangari does not know whether the deed is in her name or not, as her father had collected it on her behalf from Ardhi House.

There are many such instances where Kenyans living abroad have entrusted their parents with construction work, only to find out later that the projects never took off the ground, or that they were simply performed below par with substantial funds being pocketed.

Many have believed that their parents would never betray them, only to go home for holidays and discover the exact opposite.

Kevin, a pharmacist in California, had been funding his brother’s education at a private university in Nairobi. He would send his brother the money for his tuition dutifully for two years, and also paid for his hostel stay in Nairobi, where he would go every day after his classes.

In December 2010, Kevin decided to visit Kenya as he had not been home since 2006. He decided that while at home, he would drop by the university and pay his brother’s fees for the following semester in person. He figured that would save him the fees associated with sending the money through a global money transfer service.

A couple of days before he was due to return to the US, Kevin visited the university cashier’s office and provided his brother’s name and student ID number, which he had been given.

No student existed by that name in the institution. They tried interchanging his last two names, in case it was recorded incorrectly, but still yielded no results. His brother had never been registered in the institution.

Still hoping it was some kind of mistake, he called his brother telling him that he was at the university and they could not trace his records. His brother started mumbling some incomprehensible things.

Kevin realised that the $4,000 he had sent his brother over the last two years was all for naught. His brother had squandered the money.

Tension between Mike and his father had been sky high for the better portion of 2011. He had been unable to meet some financial demands his parents had been making, and they had turned on him, accusing him of abandoning them now that he was in America.

Mike, who came to the US in 2007 as an undergraduate student in a Florida college, has been struggling since he set foot in the US. He did not even have enough tuition fees for his first semester, and his hope all along was that he was going to gain employment and be able to pay his way through school.

He quickly found out that the days when students could easily gain employment once they landed into the US were over. He realised that it was not going to be a cake walk raising about $8,000 (Sh640,000) per school year required for international students.

A fellow Kenyan student who is a permanent resident (on a green card) pays between $5,000 (Sh4,000) and $7,000 (Sh560,000) over the same school year, depending on the institution.

Though Mike was lucky to win some scholarships, which reduced his fees somewhat, he was still not able to have any savings to his name.

In 2009, his parents asked him to help them in building a new house as theirs was old. Mike knew he was not going to be able to help out at that moment in time. He asked his parents to give him more time so that he can complete his studies and have some money to spare.

As an international student, Mike was legally allowed to work for only 20 hours a week at a rate of about $9 (Sh720) an hour, and with the tight immigration enforcement rules looming large, he could not seek alternative employment to supplement his small income.

This explanation did not impress his parents. They accused him of lying to them and that he was probably wasting his money on women and drugs. Mike was at a loss for words.

The situation got worse when their next-door neighbour, whose three sons are also in the US, demolished his old house and constructed a large mansion.

“That was the source of my problems,” Mike said sadly. “I did not even have enough to eat yet I was expected to build my parents a new house, just like our neighbour’s.”

Mike noted that his parents did not realise that the neighbour’s sons were not enrolled in school and the fact that they were three meant they could send large sums of money to their parents, which he could not.

Unfortunately for Mike, his father passed away in November 2011 before he could make any sort of amends with him. Mike almost suffered a depression, knowing what his father thought of him. He did not have enough Kenyan friends to turn to during this time, and he could not raise the air fare to travel back home for his father’s funeral.

Though Mike knows he was honest with his parents, his mother still accuses him of “killing” his father and not even bothering to attend his funeral, even as Mike explained that he did not have anyone to help him raise the $2,400 (Sh192,000) air fare as he was in a community with barely any Kenyans.

He has always second-guessed himself, wondering whether he should have just dropped out of school in order to help his parents build a new house, which would have left his heart at peace but probably landed him in trouble with the US authorities.

Most Kenyans cite “competition” among parents with children abroad as one of the major factors that strain relationships with their parents.

Some say their parents always want to match their neighbours step by step, and therefore demand more from their already stretched relatives abroad. They tend to forget that circumstances are not the same for everyone.

Legal Kenyan immigrants are more likely to land much better employment positions than those who have lost their legal status as US companies seek to comply with immigration enforcement requirements, such as verifying that all employees hired are eligible to work in the US.

Over 25 Kenyans scattered across the US shared their experiences with this writer, and all of them held the belief that what most parents and siblings back home do not understand is that life abroad is not as glamorous as it appears on TV. Most immigrants have to labour hard.

Despite the US being “the land of opportunities,” those opportunities are hard to come by sometimes, especially with the battered global economy. With the rising cost of living in the US, Kenyans here all agree that it is becoming increasingly difficult to accumulate decent savings.

The situation is further aggravated by the high cost of living in Kenya, which has resulted in more cash requests for assistance to help cushion their families against the resulting effects.

Many, however, lament that their families at home have a tendency to round off their cash needs to the nearest Sh20,000. Some will also exaggerate the severity of emergencies, hence getting more than necessary.

Some abroad have gone home only to realise that what was quoted for them as school fees had been inflated by almost Sh10,000 per sibling.

The strengthening of the Kenya shilling against the US dollar has also meant that those in the US who send a set amount periodically have to send more in terms of dollars just to maintain the same amount in shillings. They say that they sometimes have to work two shifts, which means they start off at 7am and leave work at 11pm.

Many have learnt that entrusting relatives to collect rent from their properties back home is an easy way of self destructing.

Wangari has decided to stay put here in the US. She has never forgiven her father, nor has she talked to him since the incident. As she looks through the copies of remittance receipts which serve as a sad reminder of a father’s betrayal, she has vowed never to trust anybody blindly again.

Kelvin is now funding his younger sister’s education at the same university his brother claimed to be attending, but he now pays the fees into the institution’s bank account.

Source: http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/1386102/-/ysqh68z/-/index.html

Posted in Features | 6 Comments »

The Day I will Never Forget: The tragedy of female circumcision

Posted by Administrator on February 26, 2012

Posted in Features | 2 Comments »

Rude shock for Kenyan men facing strong US family law

Posted by Administrator on February 10, 2012

Photo | FILE | NATION Kenyan men, however, feel that some women often misuse the protections offered to them by these laws. Some feel that women use these laws to harass them as well as settle old or new scores.

Photo | FILE | NATION Kenyan men, however, feel that some women often misuse the protections offered to them by these laws. Some feel that women use these laws to harass them as well as settle old or new scores.

By ANTONY KARANJA in Dallas, Texas

This is the story of Kibet, a Kenyan living in Massachusetts in the United States, but also the story of many a male compatriot.

Married for 11 years, he accuses wife, Judy, of throwing him out of their matrimonial home after she started dating someone else.

Kibet says it all began as a row over the remittance of money to his family back home, which his wife was opposed to.

She accused him of being more supportive of his family back home than his wife and their two children, an accusation which Kibet denies.

One day during an argument, she hit him and Kibet grabbed her hands to protect himself. His wife started screaming and when he released her, she called the police. When the police arrived at their home, his wife insisted that she feared for her life as he had tried to kill her, though Kibet maintained he was merely trying to protect himself.

The police advised Kibet to move from the home for a while until they sorted themselves out. He then moved in with his brother.

Judy then filed for divorce in April last year, claiming that she could not continue living in an “abusive marriage.” Kibet denied the abuse accusation and maintained that at no time had he assaulted her and that the incident in question was a case of self-defence.

Kibet was then slapped with child support for his two children as well as alimony, which is supposed to restore his former wife to the financial position she enjoyed during their marriage.

That was not all: His wife was also awarded their matrimonial home.

Kenyan families that immigrate to the United States are usually quickly confronted with the task of reconciling their Kenyan traditions and the US culture.

Kenyan women quickly discover that the US takes violation of women’s rights very seriously, a situation that they quickly embrace. The woman also realises that she has an upper hand in matters involving custody of children after divorce, and rarely is a child taken away from its mother.

According to lawfirms.com, 70 per cent of custody cases in US are awarded to women, 10 per cent are awarded to men and 20 per cent are shared custodies.

Immigrant children also become increasingly aware of their freedoms as they integrate into the American school system.

As they interact with other children and teachers, they learn that they are protected from their parents against what is considered child abuse.

Although article 53 of the Kenyan Constitution provides for protection against child abuse, enforcement of the same is inadequate, especially in rural areas.

Cultural norms may be seen as culprits as it may be difficult for a child to report abuse cases by their parents.

Immigrant parents in the US find out that they can no longer punish their children by slapping or even whipping as they used to do in Kenya.

These forms of punishment can easily be lumped into a form of child abuse. Children are known to report the cases to their school teachers as well as to the local police.

School teachers are trained to look out for signs of child abuse and once a case is detected, they are required to report to school authorities, who may in turn contact the local authorities.

This could lead to serving jail time as well as losing custody of your children to the state authorities.

Out of the 24 Kenyan women interviewed for this story, 21 of them felt that there was some bias in the American law towards women, but that it is necessary to protect them from men, while four felt that there was unnecessary bias.

All 26 Kenyan men across the US interviewed felt that the law is biased towards women and that men often get a raw deal.

Most men pointed to state laws that require a man to continue paying child support for a child even if he discovers later that he is not the biological father.

According to a 2006 study published by Current Anthropology, two per cent of married men who had every confidence that the child they were bringing up was theirs ended up not being biological parents after paternity tests were conducted.

Statistics published in 2007 by Rense.com showed that 1.6 million men pay child support for children that are not theirs.

In many states, courts have ruled that no matter what the DNA results show, the man cannot abandon the child unless he can prove that he was tricked into the role by proving fraud and that he must have stopped acting as the child’s father as soon as he learnt the truth.

Kenyan men, however, feel that some women often misuse the protections offered to them by these laws. Some feel that women use these laws to harass them as well as settle old or new scores.

Back to Kibet. At the time of their divorce, alimony had no expiry date in the state of Massachusetts and Kibet would have to continue paying even if Judy moved in with her new partner.

However, he may soon have some relief.

A Bill signed into law in September last year by Governor Deval Patrick set new limits on alimony, curbing Massachusetts’ lifetime alimony payments. This allows those making alimony payments to stop once they retire or once a former spouse moves in with a new partner.

Since the court deemed Kibet and Judy to have a “toxic” relationship, Kibet can only see his children under supervised visitation where Judy’s brother watches close by.

Supervised visitation ensures that the physical and emotional well being of children is guaranteed when the parents are in bitter divorces.

Kibet is seriously considering moving back to Kenya, severing the alimony payments that his former wife enjoys. He, however, worries about permanent separation from his 10-year-old twins.

According to Judy, however, their marriage started getting abusive in 2005. She says she suffered emotionally as Kibet often disregarded her in matters concerning family finances. “He wanted everything his way,” Judy says. “It was either his way or the highway.”

Judy insisted that she did not have a problem with him sending money back home, but she resented the fact that she would always have to beg for certain basic needs to be met at home.

Send money home

“I have never seen a man slash his wife’s grocery list, marking some items as unnecessary while he affords to send money home,” she lamented. “I just felt neglected and not important enough.”

Judy, however, stands by her claim that Kibet abused her and used words that intimidated her.

“Trust me when I tell you he humiliated me in front of the children as if I was a nanny,” she continued. “I had been in that marriage for 10 years too long.”

Nyaga came to the Texas in 2004 leaving Maureen, his long-time girlfriend back in Kenya. He was, however, determined to bring her over so that they could start a life together.

He worked hard and sent her money for a passport, visa processing fees and an air ticket to join him.

Nyaga was ecstatic when Maureen joined him in 2006. He immediately enrolled her in a college where she pursued a nursing course. Maureen graduated in 2010 and invited a large contingent of friends, but she did not invite Nyaga.

Nyaga did not even know she was graduating and only found out from a friend who was at the ceremony.
His friend sent him three photos of his girlfriend in her graduation attire posing with those who had accompanied her to the ceremony.

He was speechless. He had worked so hard to see her through, and he still hoped it was just a prank.
It wasn’t.

Nyaga waited for her to come back home and furiously demanded to know what was going on and why she would mark such a milestone without even letting him know.

Her answer marked a stark contrast to the woman he knew and loved.

“I do not go out with uneducated people,” she said. “You came here before me and you have never graduated and that shows that your priorities are messed up.”

With that, she packed a small bag and stormed out of the apartment.

She did not return home that night.

Unknown to Nyaga, she was already seeing someone else and had already got her own apartment.

She came back the following day and carried away most of her belongings while Nyaga was at work.
Nyaga eventually traced her to her new apartment but she never answered her door for almost a week.

She then went a step farther by taking him to court, claiming that since they had lived together for more than six months, they were statutorily married and she was entitled to half his property.

Since they had lived together for close to four years and they had always presented themselves as a married couple, the judge ordered that the property Nyaga acquired during that period be divided equally among them.
Nyaga was upset by the ruling and decided confront her at her apartment.

When the police arrived, she said she felt threatened by his frequent appearances at her door and that she did not feel safe outside of her apartment. The police arrested him and charged him with stalking.

After two nights in jail, the police handed him over to immigration officials who deported him three months later.

Maureen, on learning his fate, was sympathetic to his plight but she maintains that Nyaga made her feel threatened by stalking her.

She said that though she is grateful to Nyaga for helping her out with her school fees, she felt that he was very possessive and always had lofty expectation for her that put so much pressure on her.

“I was going to take a loan and pay him back all of his money,” Maureen said lowering her voice. “I did not think that it was worth staying with him just because he paid for my studies and honestly it did not have to end like it did.”

Asked why she went for half his property, she said it was done in a moment of high emotions and she did not intend to follow through with the court’s decision.

In a tragic incident in October 2010, Justus Kebabe, a Kenyan immigrant, snapped and took the lives of his wife, Bilha Omare and their two children: son Kinley Ogendi and daughter Ivyn Ogendi, in Minnesota.

During subsequent investigations, it was revealed that Kebabe was abusing Ms Omare while the couple lived in Kenya.

When they got to the US, the abuse continued and at one time the police were called in.

Kebabe was convicted of the crime and sentenced to supervised probation.

After the incident, Kebabe was bitter with Omare, who he blamed for his unemployment woes saying that if she had not reported him, he would have been holding a job.

In the US, if a pre-employment background check on an applicant reveals prior convictions of any nature, it is difficult to find employment even after rehabilitation.

An already violent relationship boiled over with Kebabe’s fears his wife would abandon the marriage once she graduated, as well as his suspicions she was cheating on him.

A family friend claims he was jealous of his wife who was working and was planning to graduate in two months’ from a nursing programme.

At the time of the fateful incident, a supervisor working with a domestic and sexual abuse shelter in Minnesota said that domestic violence can become heightened among immigrant families who are dealing with power struggles between male and female roles.

Betty Balan had noted that many women tend to gain more independence after moving to the US. They discover they can work outside the home and may pursue an education.

The men “feel like they’re losing control of who they are, and their families,” she said. “It’s threatening when someone has more control and more power.”

As some Kenyan men continue to frown at the “biased” laws, women in the interview pool counter by saying that only men who are abusive find these laws biased.

“Kenyan men should understand that the days of oppressing women are over and they should shape up.”

Source: http://www.nation.co.ke/News/Betrayed+in+America+/-/1056/1324434/-/86kn61/-/index.html

Posted in Features, Kenya | 19 Comments »

Feature: “Muffled Killer”

Posted by Administrator on February 6, 2012

There are Kenyan men who make a living selling their bodies to other men. Over 60% of their clients are married. They contribute to a fifth of new HIV infections annually. Here’s the first part of Muffled Killer with KTN’s Anne Soy-Mwendia.

Posted in Features | 9 Comments »

Notes from a white girl journalist in Kenya

Posted by Administrator on February 4, 2012

By On February 3, 2012

Out on Pirate Patrol in Lamu, Kenya. Photo by the author.

Out on Pirate Patrol in Lamu, Kenya. Photo by the author.

Embedded in Kenya, Paige Aarhus talks women’s lib and girl power on the African continent.

THERE ARE A TON OF US around, though I don’t know many personally. I’m based in Nairobi but I’m not an A-lister — like, I don’t work for a wire or a big-name Western news network — and while I’ve seen a handful of ladies at foreign correspondents’ night outs, I don’t hang out with them a lot (they intimidate me).

So I can’t speak on behalf of any foreign female journalists except myself. Nonetheless, I will likely offend both genders and all of my colleagues in writing this. Sweet.

Kenya is still a very much male-dominated country — not in the archetypal “no voting or driving” sense of the word, but women’s lib is just much less of a thing here, especially outside of wealthy and/or expat neighbourhoods. Like, it’s still widely accepted that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, and I am frequently ridiculed by Kenyan men for smoking, drinking, and being unable to cook for myself.

Then there’s the “potentially dangerous job” aspect of the situation. Add on being a noticeable foreigner, which makes you a walking ATM to lowlifes here, and my “easily victimized” triumvirate is complete!

I read the horror stories of female journalists abroad who were sexually harassed, assaulted, raped, and kidnapped — thinking of Lara Logan here — and I shudder. No one wants to be the girl who gets raped, or as one super-sensitive male colleague reflected, “damaged goods.” It’s evil and offensive and fuck that guy, but he definitely hit a nerve there. No one wants to get damaged like that. We don’t even want to talk about it.

Female foreign correspondents know that these risks are very real, in addition to the risk of getting murdered or hurt just for being a journalist without any gender-based influences. I have to seek out sketchy individuals in order to write a lot of my stories. There are always questions of: How far do I want to push it? Which risk is worth taking?

I’ve spent a lot of time in slums and shifty neighbourhoods, interviewed hustlers, victims, thieves, and killers, and travelled solo into regions and countries that people strongly advised me not to. I have taken what could be perceived as risks, and was scared shitless every time I did it.

The author doing a Maori war dance upon reaching Mt. Nyamuragira.

The author doing a Maori war dance upon reaching Mt. Nyamuragira.

Just recently I spent weeks working on a story about organized crime and how gangsters played a role in Kenya’s 2007-08 post-election violence. After the first couple times out, I had to meet low-level, broke-ass gangsters alone on their home turf in Mwiki, a neighborhood miles outside of the city, which was as fucking nerve-wracking as you might imagine.

But so far, nothing horrible has happened — which I think is due more to luck, fearfulness, and oftentimes (sorry) protective male fixers/colleagues keeping an eye on me. I wish I could say it’s totally possible to do this job without any male help or support, or share some one-size-fits-all formula on how to make it work, but that’s not my reality. For me, getting the job done means a careful balance of operating within existing gender constraints, and ignoring said constraints when necessary.

Oh, ladies aren’t supposed to sit alone in sketchy downtown bars? (Well, unless you’re a hooker.) Fine, but I’m waiting on a contact who I must ply with booze. I need to be in a public place in case he is a scumbag. And no way am I taking a cab all the way to the suburbs to do it. Ignore the glares and keep moving.

I’m waiting on a contact who I must ply with booze…And no way am I taking a cab all the way to the suburbs to do it. Ignore the glares and keep moving.

Any lady in Africa knows that they will face some level of harassment when they’re out and about. Mitigate the risks if you can: I tend to dress like a hobo and wear sunglasses. But when your job involves talking/flattering/seducing (kidding!) sources into giving you what you need to know, this harassment becomes much more of a thing.

I’m sure I could get the information and interviews I need even if I was all stern and severe about dudes who hit on me — but sometimes the best way to keep the conversation alive is to be nice, bat your eyelashes, get the info, then flee the scene or lie your ass off before you’re expected to make good on the small talk. Is that horrible? It seems horrible just written out like that.

Example: In October I found myself on Lamu, an island just south of Somalia where three European tourists had just been kidnapped by pirates. I turned on the ol’ “charm” for the police force and was invited on an overnight pirate patrol as a result — score! Photo ops! Experiential journalism! But then I had to spend the night sleeping on a beach next to six bored male police officers who were my only protection against potential pirate kidnappers.

They couldn’t believe I was actually out there with them. The jokes and clever comments began around 2 a.m.  At one point the corporal in charge busted out the whole “I’ve never been kissed by a white lady, can you please give me one kiss?” line, which forced me to invent an elaborate story about my fiancée, who was waiting for me back home and who would murder me if he ever found out I cheated on him. The corporal understood. “I would kill my fiancée too,” he told me. Grrrreat.

On the lookout for pirates near Lamu, Kenya.

On the lookout for pirates near Lamu, Kenya.

So fear not. Guys might hit on you, but they will almost always back off after a polite (or eventually bitchy) rejection. On top of that, most still have that whole “defend the woman” mentality going on. This means my fixer, many of my sources, and my colleagues — locals and foreigners — are more likely to be protective of me.

I was out with an American colleague at a police canteen one night. We were the only two foreigners there, I was the only white girl there, and it got to the point where one bar-hopper was showing far too much gumption in trying to get me to go home with him. My colleague, who I’d known for about six hours, pulled an Incredible Hulk on the dude (perhaps due more to drunkenness than anything), scared the shit out of everyone, and we eventually escaped unscathed.

I stood by, secretly grateful, then did the “Terrified and Bewilidered Girl says please stop fighting!” thing to prevent anyone from getting stabbed in the face with a bottle. It’s not a very Grrl Power way to operate, but when some creep will not go away, or I’m too tired to carry my own backpack, or just cold and in need of a jacket, it somehow brings out the gentleman in my male companions. It’s hard to say that all gender norms are evil; some of them come in handy, and I really enjoy capitalizing on those that do.

I am definitely not saying everything has gone smoothly here. I pretty much only hang out with dudes, and I’m not a “one of the guys” girl — except that now I am.

There is a perception that female foreign correspondents are all total bad-asses who live and work exactly like the boys, no-nonsense. I wish, but man, at least half of my life is completely embroiled in female “nonsense.” I wear makeup, travel heavy due to needing lotion and conditioner at all times, worry that my rugged khakis make me look like a porkchop, cry when a story doesn’t work out, and feel absolutely sick to my stomach when I see how filthy old men treat young, jaded prostitutes around here.

I have to swallow my ladyrage a lot when I’m drinking with male journalists. I’ve been harassed and robbed, missed out on stories, and led down many a wrong road because I’m a girl (or an idiot, perhaps.) Sometimes, I like to blame my setbacks on sexism about as much as I like playing the race card: “It’s because I’m white, isn’t it?”

But you know what? — even if it is true, it’s irrelevant. At the end of the day, what matters is whether you got the story written, not what a pain in the ass it was getting there.

I could get into the shittiness of 20-hour bus rides when you have the world’s worst PMS, or the agonies of attempting a long-distance relationship when you are constantly travelling, boozing, and doing stupid things, or the tendency a lot of us ladies have to say fuck this hot, dangerous, crazy country, I am going home and getting married — but that’s old hat. The job is that much harder when you’re a girl, but waaay more interesting than a kid and a mortgage, so the tradeoff is worth it.

But I am definitely flying back home for the summer on the off chance I will run into my ex. Empowerment!

Source: http://matadornetwork.com/notebook/notes-from-a-white-girl-journalist-in-kenya/

Posted in Features, Kenya | 12 Comments »

A surrogate mother speaks: I rented out my womb for Sh650,000

Posted by Administrator on February 3, 2012

Photo/FILE Kenyan women are renting out their wombs to carry other people’s pregnancies, with some being paid as much as Sh1 million. The trend, that has in the past been seen as a solution in developed countries for infertile women seeking to have their own children, is increasingly gaining acceptance in Kenya.

Photo/FILE Kenyan women are renting out their wombs to carry other people’s pregnancies, with some being paid as much as Sh1 million. The trend, that has in the past been seen as a solution in developed countries for infertile women seeking to have their own children, is increasingly gaining acceptance in Kenya.

Sometime in 2010, a young woman received an invitation to meet a couple she had earlier encountered at a Christian convention in Nairobi.

The well-to-do couple lived in Mombasa but had arranged the meeting at one of Nairobi’s posh hotels, betraying nothing of the extraordinary proposal that awaited the 35-year-old Vivian (not her real name).

Would she agree to carry a pregnancy on their behalf since the wife did not have a uterus of her own?

“It took me eight months to think about it,” recalls Vivian, who cannot disclose her identity or that of the couple under the terms of a contract she eventually signed.

“I asked God to help me make the right decision. It was the toughest in my life.”

Made up her mind

When she finally made up her mind to do it at a fee of at least Sh650,000, the mother of three effectively joined a growing list of young Kenyan women who are renting out their wombs to carry other people’s pregnancies, with some being paid as much as Sh1 million.

The trend, that has in the past been seen as a solution in developed countries for infertile women seeking to have their own children, is increasingly gaining acceptance in Kenya.

Women are usually unable to have a baby because they might have medical complications that make pregnancy impossible.

Those who carry the pregnancy, whether for a fee or for free, are known as surrogate hosts and the owner of the baby as the commissioning couple or genetic parents.

In the past three years, 20 couples have commissioned other women to carry their pregnancy for them at Nairobi IVF Centre, one of the clinics offering this service.

Statistics from the clinic show that close to 30 babies have been born by surrogate hosts during that period.

Last year alone, seven couples sought the services of surrogate hosts, signalling a growing acceptance of the practice.

In a country where surrogacy is treated with a lot of secrecy and reservations, this is quite a high number.

It is also instructive that these statistics are from just one clinic, which also happens to be among the most successful in East and Central Africa, having delivered 700 test tube babies by the end of last year.

The clinic enjoys a success rate of 48 per cent, far above the 2011 global average of 36 per cent, according to the European Society of Human Reproductive and Embryology.

“It is amazing and encouraging to see couples who had been condemned to childlessness agreeing to have someone else carry and give birth to their child, something that was unheard of in the past,” says the director of Nairobi IVF Centre, Dr Joshua Noreh.

And it was not an easy decision for surrogate host Vivian either. Her family and partner completely rejected the idea at first. However, after months of discussion, her partner eventually agreed.

She and the couple then made arrangements to rent a house for her and how her daily needs would be met for the nine months she would be pregnant.

An agreement was also drawn up stipulating the fee and that she would hand over the baby to the couple in the delivery room.

The fee would be paid in four instalments — when she started the procedure, after the first and second trimesters, and the final payment being made after delivery and handover of the baby.

With all the details settled, the couple and Vivian went to the doctor. “We just told the doctor we were friends and did not disclose further details,” says Vivian.

The in vitro fertilisation (IVF) procedure was done and the embryo transferred into Vivian’s womb.

When she was four months pregnant and the signs were becoming visible, she left home, telling family and friends that she had found a job in Sudan.

For seven months, her family assumed she was in the neighbouring country.

“This was the most difficult time of my life especially being away from my children. But I had to do it because I really needed the money,” she says.

Vivian recalls how the couple monitored her on a daily basis. “They were so concerned that they would call me twice a day to find out how I was doing,” she says with a broad smile.

One week to delivery, she was admitted to hospital. “Immediately I delivered, the baby was given to its parents. I did not even see her (the baby).”

They in turn paid her the final instalment. Two months later, she went back to her family, having “spent 11 months in Sudan”.

Up to date her family has no idea what happened. She says this will remain a secret because society is yet to accept surrogacy.

“They see it as a very strange thing,” she says. Says Dr Noreh: “Some couples will be open about it, while others are very secretive. For us, our job is to ensure the couple achieves its goal of getting a baby using accepted medical intervention.”

Every month, Dr Noreh’s clinic, which pioneered IVF in the country, gets at least five inquiries about surrogacy, with some women inquiring how they can be hosts at a fee.

Surrogacy is an arrangement in which a woman carries and delivers a child for another couple or person — genetic parent(s).

The procedure is undertaken to help women who cannot have their own children, either due to lack of a uterus, or medical complications. Cancer of the uterus or other illnesses may result in its removal.

The procedure involves the retrieval of eggs from the woman who is unable to carry the baby and fertilising them in a laboratory using the husband’s or partner’s sperm.

The resulting embryo is then transferred into the surrogate host’s womb to conceive and carry the pregnancy to term.

Once the child is delivered, the surrogate host hands it over to the commissioning couple guided by terms of a contract signed between the two parties.

The increasing interest in surrogacy in Kenya has been triggered by the number of women with a dysfunctional uterus, no uterus at all, or have serious medical complications.

At the Nairobi IVF, close to 30 women who consulted the clinic in the last three years did not have a uterus or had a dysfunctional one.

“While these women qualify to use surrogate hosts to have their own babies, many cannot afford the procedure,” says Dr Olegs Tucs, a clinical embryologist.

According to Dr Noreh, the least amount a surrogate host has been paid in the cases he has dealt with is Sh600,000, but in some cases the figure can be as high as Sh1 million.

“We play no role in such negotiations. Ours is to offer treatment once the parties agree on the fee. But we first advise our patients to get relatives or friends who may agree to do it for free,” says Dr Noreh.

He adds that they have handled surrogate cases where the host, who is either a sister or friend to the commissioning parents, has agreed to carry the pregnancy cost-free.

Besides the fee, the commissioning couple also meets the rent and subsistence costs of the surrogate host.

Judith Ogeto, who was a surrogate host two years ago, says the commissioning parents used to give her Sh40,000 every month for rent and subsistence.

They also paid her Sh650,000 for carrying the pregnancy to full term. The commissioning couple also pays Sh300,000 IVF fees and meets the hospital costs where the surrogate host will deliver the baby.

In total, commissioning parents require a minimum of Sh1.5 million to manage a surrogacy arrangement.

In addition to finances, there are other obstacles the commissioning couples have to overcome. For increased chances of success, the surrogate host has to have had children before.

At Nairobi IVF Centre, married women and single mothers are the main surrogate hosts.

Problems, however, sometimes arise where the woman is married. Her husband has to be involved from the onset.

“He is informed that the wife is going to carry a baby that is not theirs and the strict conditions he has to abide by before and during that pregnancy,” says Dr Noreh.

Some of the conditions include giving up the baby immediately it is born, avoiding sex for the first two months from the time the surrogate host gets the embryo, and not engaging in anything that may endanger the life and health of the baby.

The surrogate host or her husband is not allowed to make any future claims on the baby, thus the requirement to hand over the baby immediately to avoid bonding.

To ensure the surrogate host and the husband abide by these conditions, a contract is prepared and signed by the surrogate host and husband and the commissioning parents.

While the cost of the surrogacy arrangement is high, the number of couples who need the service, but cannot afford it, is rising.

At the Nairobi IVF Centre, nine women who were seen in the past one year did not have a uterus. One of them was born without it.

The latter case happens due to a chromosomal abnormality where a woman inherits only one of the X chromosomes instead of two.

“The other missing X is in most cases manifested in the lack of a uterus or other abnormalities,” says Dr Tucs.

For other women, a dysfunctional uterus caused by fibroids which are difficult to treat or other diseases, makes it difficult for them to carry a pregnancy.

But there are also cases where women with a normal uterus may have to rely on surrogacy to have children.

A woman with a heart disease or other medical condition which might be complicated by the pregnancy leading to death also qualifies for surrogacy.

But Dr Noreh warns that surrogacy is not a procedure of convenience especially for those women who might opt for it because they fear carrying a pregnancy.

Although there have been questions that the surrogate host may influence the behaviour and character of the child, Dr Noreh says this is not true.

“There is nothing transferable to the foetus from the surrogate host. Only nutrition and oxygen is what the host conveys to the baby. The rest is the genetic material of the commission parents,” he says.

AWC Feature

Source: http://www.nation.co.ke/News/A+surrogate+mother+speaks+I+rented+out+my+womb+for+Sh650000+/-/1056/1319640/-/13vph5oz/-/index.html

Posted in Features | 4 Comments »

He gave me the virus, I revenged on womanisers, but that was then

Posted by Administrator on February 2, 2012

Photo/JARED NYATAYA/NATION When Evelyn Nyambura Simaloi was infected with HIV by her lover, the world around her collapsed, until she realised hope and audacity were part and parcel of the struggle against the virus.

Photo/JARED NYATAYA/NATION When Evelyn Nyambura Simaloi was infected with HIV by her lover, the world around her collapsed, until she realised hope and audacity were part and parcel of the struggle against the virus.

Because in our country, and on our continent, HIV has pervaded the most intimate moments in peoples’ relationships, it has burrowed itself deep into the very soul of our most unmentionable of taboos — sex.

It has held us hostage through our own silence and our burning shame. And most strangely, in a country and a continent divided by many things, it has united us, in the deaths of our parents, our brothers and sisters, our friends.

Even our enemies. But amid the pain that HIV/Aids has caused, are threads of hope — that one day there will be a generation that doesn’t know how to describe HIV, because they don’t have to experience it.

This is a story of that hope and the audacity of those, infected and affected, who have remained unbowed by the enormity of the task of finding a cure for HIV/Aids.

In the middle of the ever growing grey rows of apartment blocks in Mwiki, east of the city centre of Nairobi, Evelyn Nyambura Simaloi, and her seven-year-old son Emmanuel are preparing to go on a journey, one that they hope will change both their lives.

Simaloi, especially, has hoped that this day will come for almost all of her adult life.

“It was about two years after I had finished high school; my step-mum had kicked me out for stealing a plate of chips.

“So I met a guy who became my boyfriend and took me in. One day, I was looking for a job and they required that I take a HIV test.

“Around the same time, my boyfriend fell very sick and was admitted at Kenyatta National Hospital Ward 7D. I’ll never forget that ward. Then he later told me that he knew he was HIV-positive. I was really shocked,” she recalls.

The news of her status was a blow she just wasn’t prepared to take. To this day, she still has a photo of the man who infected her with the virus.

At just 21 years of age, Simaloi felt the cruel irony of contracting a disease she thought would kill her just as she was about to begin life as an adult.

This, to her, was yet another dark twist in the tough life she had already endured. When Simaloi was an infant, her father, then, an airforce pilot, and her mother, separated.

Esther Wanjiku, Simaloi’s paternal auntie says: “Me and Simaloi had a special bond. I felt very sad, especially for her, although I didn’t fully understand why they were separating.”

Simaloi found herself in the homes of step-parents whom, she says, saw her as a burden — as a baggage from past relationships.

After they discovered her status, her family was the last place she was going to look for support. Desperate, bitter, and in denial, Simaloi told herself that she wouldn’t die alone.

“I used to have multiple sexual partners,” she told the radio station QFM. It became more than promiscuity for Simaloi.

She turned to commercial sex work to support herself, and try to soothe the bitterness that she felt for having contracted HIV.

For three years, Simaloi partied, drank, and had sex with many men. “I used to look for womanisers — men who like women. I was young and attractive.

“When men would see me on the dance floor, they would come running. I would always propose a condom, but some would refuse and I would say ‘fine, have it.’” But all that changed one night in 2002.

“I was coming from a chang’aa den at like 3 am. A man who had wanted me followed me, and raped me. I conceived,” she says.

Simaloi decided to turn her life around after discovering that her rape ordeal had left her pregnant. She became a Christian, stopped drinking, and reconnected with some members of her family.

Nine months later, Emmanuel was born; spinning her rape ordeal into what she says is the biggest blessing she has ever received.

But even Emmanuel, or Manu as she likes to call him, wouldn’t escape her past. “My son is a blessing. He has the virus, and that is one thing I regret. I gave him the disease through breast-feeding.

“He gets really sick two or three times a year and I panic, but whenever we celebrate his birthday, I thank God because I never thought we would go this far,” says Simaloi.

Manu had a positive impact on her as she eventually came to terms with her status. More than that, in her work as a freelance journalist and a peer educator, she found her purpose.

She would tell people that HIV is a virus like any other and encourage HIV-positive people to get on anti-retroviral treatment as soon as possible.

But in telling people this, Simaloi was secretly fighting her own battle with the disease — that of getting onto ARVS herself.

“For me personally, I don’t want to get onto ARVS. Yes they prolong life but I don’t want them,” she says. In truth, Simaloi didn’t know that HIV was eating away at her.

Says Dr Nicholas Muraguri of Nascop: “The period between the time one gets infected and the time the disease manifests itself can be between 8 and 15 to 20 years.

“There are three stages of HIV; in the first phase, after two months of infection you develop flu, or you have flu like symptoms.

“The next phase is asymptomatic HIV where you don’t have any symptoms. Then there is stage three where opportunistic diseases begin to develop and stage four when you develop full blown Aids.”

A month before we first met her, Simaloi was admitted in hospital for one month with a severe case of cryptococal meningitis.

Her son Emmanuel took pictures of her while she was ill. She was advised to start anti-retroviral treatment immediately, before she slipped into stage four of HIV — full blown Aids. But Simaloi resisted.

“I eat well, I’m OK even after getting ill,” she says. Simaloi admits that she didn’t want to get onto anti-retroviral treatment, because, apart from the side effects she had seen, it is a life-long treatment, and not an absolute guarantee of recovery from illness, especially for people like her who have already progressed into stage three of HIV.

ARVS are recommended once HIV-positive people’s CD4 count, that is, the number of white blood cells in the body, goes below 500.

When Simaloi was discharged from hospital after recovering from meningitis, her CD4 count was just 107.

Her attempts to boost the count with vitamin pills were working in fits and starts, but she nursed the hope of finding one set of medication that would leave her healthy for life, without committing to taking it every day.

Then one day, she heard about medication that promised that. And more. The medicine was made by a man in Molo, in the southern Rift Valley region of Kenya.

And it wasn’t just medication for HIV/Aids management, its maker said that it had the potential to cure her of HIV.

So on November 11, 2010, Simaloi, still weak and shaken from her last battle against HIV, set out with her son.

Ironically unshaken by the looming consequences of her decision — she walked with the support of a crutch, the lingering effect of the meningitis, which at times causes partial paralysis — but she was also leaning on her faith.

Faith in a man she had never met, medicine she knew little about, and faith in time, which she knew she may have little of.

For most of the drive to Molo, Simaloi sat in silence, reading a brochure that told her about the herbal medicine she was on her way to take.

It was a big decision; and having lived with HIV for 11 years, she knew that there were many herbalists who had claimed to have the answer to HIV — many of which she has tried before. This time around though, she was confident.

“I don’t know why, but this one is different,” she says. In pursuit of her story, we all arrive in Molo town, a small outpost of the large breadbasket that is the Rift Valley.

A beautiful landscape from which, like in many other places in Kenya, the cries of people who have lost loved ones to HIV, have echoed.

But there too have been whispers of a man trying to turn this tide of tears back. A son of the soil with a remedy that people say has worked wonders for the health of many who were staring death in the face.

Sixty-year-old-David Mwangi is that man. And as he comes out to meet Simaloi and Manu, he looks like a man who, if all the rumours about him were to go by, cloaked this mystique well under his unassuming appearance.

But once inside, his faith, and his convictions are very clear. After Simaloi tells David how she and Manu contracted HIV, David begins what he calls a counselling session, heavy laden with biblical references.

“I believe anybody has the capacity for everything. Nebuchadnezzar was used to destroy the Middle East. To believe you must cleanse yourself of all of these other beliefs,” he says.

“You have to believe that this works.” A lot of what David tells Simaloi on this day is about her own belief that his medicine can work.

Because he doesn’t profess to have any specialised knowledge as a doctor or as a traditional healer, we ask David on a different occasion how he came about this medicine.

The one area he says he does have experience in, belief, and faith, gives us the answer. “There is something inside called a guiding spirit,” he says.

David then goes on to explain to Simaloi what his medicine is. “What we are going to do is that we are going to kill the virus. One thing is that you will start to feel changes in 10 days.

“In 15 days’ time people will start to notice. My medicine will do its work. You will have to attend to other things like eating right.”

But having heard advise like this before, an attentive Simaloi has some questions. “Are you saying that this will kill the virus completely?” she asks whereupon David explains:

“When you see people who have lived for six years without using ARVS coming back to help, what do you say? We are coming from old wineskins to new wineskins.” He explains.

After what has been 30 minutes of a back and forth between David and Simaloi, he goes to get his medicine.

His medicine, which he calls poochmed, is extracted mostly from plants and natural products but he won’t tell us what it’s made of.

Simaloi though seems happy with the discussion. “I’m still very positive. Usually I walk into a place but today I have got no nagging feeling about this,” she says.

Minutes later, poochmed, David’s medicine is brought out. Simaloi and Manu have their first taste. David insists on their taking more water than usual to help the medicine in its effectiveness.

This first dose will last Simaloi and Manu two weeks, after which they will need to come back and get a second dose.

David also wants them to return so that he can monitor their progress, and chat with Simaloi, who he feels still has misgivings about the medicine; especially whether it will or won’t cure her of HIV.

A week later Simaloi and Manu are on their way to their regular clinic near their home and Simaloi says she’s feeling a big change in her since she began taking poochmed.

Manu, however, reacted to the medication badly and had diarhorrea for three days. “Now I have to take half dose”.

At the clinic, Simaloi decided to take a HIV test. Even though she knew her status, she thought it was a good opportunity to get the message out there that knowing your status is half the battle won.

She was also feeling very optimistic about poochmed. “I am positive, definitely positive,” she says.

In most hospitals that run HIV clinics, once a person tests positive for HIV, the next step is to get their CD4 count taken. Because she’s been feeling better, Simaloi decides to check her count.

“It’s not good,” she says. The doctors here shepherd her to the drugs counter to ensure that she takes her dose of ARVS.

But as we go back to her home, Simaloi begins to regain her confidence in poochmed. “I have seen drastic changes,” she says.

The effects of her bout of meningitis seem to have worn off, but this is where most doctors claim that herbal medicine can be at best confusing, and at worst, disastrous for someone’s health.

Prof Omu Anzala is the director of the Kenya Aids Vaccine Initiative. He’s been at the forefront of the search for a Kenyan developed aids vaccine.

“With proper science we diagnose and give treatment for HIV as well as for opportunistic diseases. With herbs you don’t know what is being treated,” says the professor.

“I don’t think that there is any herbal concoction that has proved efficacious against the disease,” says Dr Muraguri.

Even David himself knows that his chances at being taken seriously as a researcher that may have stumbled onto what could be the biggest medical triumph of this generation are slim.

“The biggest drawback with Africans is that if something does not come from the West we consider it primitive, backward. It has to come from over there so we can take it,” he protests.

In our company, Simaloi and Manu are back in Molo to see David for their second dose of poochmed. Mother and son claim that their health has vastly improved.

The molluscum — the black pimples on her face, seem to have faded since the last time we saw her, and so outwardly at least, something seems to be happening.

But Simaloi still has questions about the efficacy of David’s drug. “I’ve always feared to ask this: Will I turn negative, what am I expecting?” she asks.

There seems to be confusion about whether David’s medicine cures or manages HIV, so I jump in to ask what exactly David believes the medicine does. He obliges.

“There has been no medicine that can isolate the virus within the CD4 and kill it,” he says. When we ask him if that is what the medicine does he replies in the affirmative.

“After the medicine does its work, you will test negative but if you go for another test you will test positive.

For instance there is a lawyer; a lady who says she tests negative but when she goes for, I don’t know what, virology, she tests positive,” says David.

David also claims to have given his medicine to nearly one hundred people like the lawyer he has just described. We ask to contact them, but he is hesitant.

He claims that none of his former patients ever wants to be associated with the disease — or with him after they’ve been healed.

It takes us months to convince him to let us interview one of his “patients”. On our third visit to Molo, he introduces us to a friend and a neighbour of his whom he says took poochmed. He is the 30-year-old John Hamisi Hanga.

John Hamisi looks frail, the effects of what he says was his brush with death, after contracting tuberculosis late in 2010.

Tuberculosis is one of the more common and deadly opportunistic diseases that affect HIV positive people who have progressed to stage three of the virus.

Hanga though, claims that he’s doing much better than he was in January 2011, when he was given anti-retrovirals after his diagnosis.

“The drugs reacted badly on me so I took them back to the doctor who said I had no alternative but to use them. But then I happened to meet this man David.”

Source: http://www.nation.co.ke/Features/DN2/-/957860/1318584/-/awrpek/-/index.html

Posted in Features | 12 Comments »

Why do women stay with abusive men?

Posted by Administrator on January 31, 2012

By ljrc1961-Hub
Before I begin this hub, I want to let it be known that I have been in verbally and mentally abusive relationships, but not the kind of relationship where I have been used as a punching bag.  However, I have friends that remain in these types of relationships and have met women throughout my life that have been the targets of their boyfriends or spouses and I have always wondered why they chose to stay?  In speaking with some of them recently and looking at my own decisions to stay with men that were abusive in one form or another, I am hoping that this hub will somehow encourage you, if you are a woman in this type of situation, to look at your life and begin to put yourself first.

It begins, I believe, with the modeling that we witness as we grow up.  It, being the preconceived thought pattern young girls allow to penetrate their identity, of what type of man they find attractive.  This is not something that is easily avoided.  If a young girl lives day in and day out with a father or male figure that is authoritative, demanding and unfair to the women in his life, then that young woman may seek out men with similar personalities in their mates as they reach sexual maturity.  Boys that witness their fathers or male figures verbally or physically lashing out against the women in their proximity may begin to feel that the mode of communication or allowed format of “being” with a woman constitutes an abusive type of demeanor from them.  Not to say that drugs and alcohol in some people cannot play a part in personality changes, but for the most part, we seek out people that provide a comfort level to us.  Unfortunately, the comforting feeling may stem from abusive attention.

People, women in general, don’t enter into relationships hoping to be degraded, yelled at or physically abused.  Many times, the symptoms are present from the beginning.  It may present itself in the form of constant insults or the continuous questioning of their decisions from their partner.  A way to demean them or question their abilities. Then, it may slowly progress to pushing or shoving.  Lastly, and most seriously, hitting or punching, choking and kicking.

I knew quite a few battered women as a teen.  I was afraid of their husbands.  These men would walk into the room and snap their fingers and the woman would jump up, no life in her eyes and shoo me out the door.  I would walk down their  stairs and hear slaps and cries and often, I could hear furniture being toppled over.  I never told anyone.  I was afraid to.  The next day, I would visit my neighbor and see her sporting a new black eye and listen to her excuses as to why her boyfriend or husband got mad the night before.  I begged these women to leave these men.  They stated they couldn’t.  Eventually, they moved away, to another neighborhood where the neighbors hadn’t yet begun to alert the police about the screams of terror coming from their home.  The most shocking of endings during that time in my life was the loss of a 17 year old babysitter in the neighborhood.  She was always fighting with her boyfriend and coming to work with bruises around her neck and arms and bloody lips.  I told my parents about her and I’m sure out of fear, they told me to mind my own business.  One weekend, she told me she was going out of town to meet her boyfriend and she was going to tell him that she had had enough.  They found her body in a ditch the following Monday.  I ran outside and cried after my mom had broken the news.  I felt responsible for her death.  I knew she was going to meet this monster but I didn’t know who he was or what his name was.  I felt helpless and petrified that I one day would meet up with someone like that myself.

In college, I had a friend that would get into fist fights with her boyfriend.  Then, afterward, they would make passionate love.  I couldn’t understand that kind of foreplay.  They eventually ended it with each other; thank God, after they put each other in the hospital.  She threw a full sized antique mirror down the stairs on top of him, breaking his leg.  He grabbed her by the arm and twisted so hard that he popped her shoulder out of socket and broke her arm.  I still wonder today if both of them married abusers.

As an adult, I have made friends with people from all walks of life.  Some of them are being abused as I write at this moment.  These women are smart, educated women.  They are athletic and work to support the family.  They wear clothing to hide their body marks.  Or, they tell their “war” stories of how they staved off the most recent attack as if they are bragging.  Some of these women are hollow shells, with sunken eyes and smile less faces.  They go through their daily routines of raising their children, catering to their husbands and pretending that others have it worse than they do so they shouldn’t complain.

The fact is, NO ONE should be subjected to constant or intermittent battering.  Yes, we all yell, argue and possibly get into heated arguments with our loved ones.  The difference is simple.  Beyond a hurt feeling and some tears, no one truly gets hurt to the point where they are immobilized in their life.  Constant mental abuse knocks the self esteem right out of you.  Fear keeps a person from speaking out.  Fear of more abuse keeps them quiet.  Relationships should not have this as the building block or the foundation.  Home should be a place where one feels safe.  If you don’t feel safe in your own home, or have never known the feeling of safety, then please call your local abuse hot line.

I have suported local abuse shelters for women and their children for years but giving clothing, toiletries, toys and food.  I cannot imagine how difficult it is for these families to leave all that they have and begin a new life; in hiding for some.  I left a mentally abusive relationship but I had the financial means to begin again.  I realize that many women fear what will happen to their children or anticipate more abuse if they attempt to leave.

The children however are forming images of what they believe a relationship should look like.  If your relationship is abusive, then that will be the comfort zone for your child unless they are lucky, as I was, to have other influences in their lives that can help steer them toward good choices in life.  I saw a lot of abuse.  I saw many adults throughout my life tell me that my business was to stay out of other’s.  I have been told by my friends that they can’t imagine giving what they have up to begin again.  I hope that someday, they can realize that they don’t have anything if all they hang on to is the dream that he won’t come home and beat her that night.  Abuse is death.  Even if you feel like you are alive…you are allowing someone to slowly kill you from the inside out.  It is a slow and painful death.  For the abused, the children and difficult for those who love you to watch you remain in a situation that could mean the end of your life one day.

My wish for you, if you are in this type of situation is that you will empower yourself with faith in humanity and the kindnesses of your friends and family.  Seek out people that can help you realize your potential.  Read books.  Scour the Internet.  Erase your history if you fear that your abuser will discover your resolve to change yourself.  You have as much right to be happy as any of us.  He will not change.  He will always give you excuses.  Put your children and their future first if you cannot imagine yourself as being important enough at this moment.  Do something.  Pray to God.  Make a friend.  Think of a time in your life when you felt confident in yourself and slowly work yourself toward that moment again.  Build up your bravery and know that it is NOT your fault.  Live without fear.  LIVE.

Posted in Features | 1 Comment »

Why (and How) Sex is Important to Men

Posted by Administrator on January 30, 2012

By Everyday Miracles Hub

I have a surprise for you, gentlemen: Your wife probably doesn’t know how important sex is to you.

Now sure, she knows that it’s important. She knows that you (very likely) want more of it than she does. She knows that you sometimes take an attitude when she is less than forthcoming. She also knows that she can use sex as a weapon, denying what she feels is a physical desire of yours.

But she probably doesn’t know that it is an emotional need.

Most of my marriage articles here on hubpages are for men. Why? Because I run a forum for women about the subject of marriage. I prefer not to cross-post content and Google likes it that way, too. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

In this case, however, I understand that this topic is so crucial to men that I wanted to give this article the most exposure possible. Guys, women just don’t understand!

Now I know, I know… Women are so mysterious. There are so many things about us that you just don’t “get” that it might be shocking to you that women don’t understand you much better than you understand them! But it is very, very true that each gender sees the world very differently, and if we’re going to be able to truly communicate, we’re going to need to “get on the same page.”

It isn’t Physical, Ladies!

Sure, men like sex. Most men I know love sex, even. It is a physical pleasure that is incomparable, really. But the physical element of sex is a desire, not a need to be met. Men can live their entire lives without the physical pleasure of sex.

What is more important to your husband or significant other is the emotional need that sex meets.

I understand you, ladies! You don’t necessarily think that men are emotional creatures! They don’t (usually) cry like we do, and they don’t talk it out. They don’t discuss their emotions and they don’t bawl into a tub of ice cream like us. But that doesn’t mean that they are not equally emotional creatures.

Like women, men want affection from their mate. Affection is equally important to members of both genders. But your husband or significant other might not be a cuddler. If he doesn’t seem interested in snuggling up on the sofa to watch tearjerker films with you, it is because his need for affection simply isn’t met in the same way that yours is: His need for affection is met through… You guessed it! Sex.


What He Hears when You Say You Have a Headache

“I have a headache” has become a common joke. Women are exhausted at the end of a day of taking care of household chores and children and don’t feel that they can fit sex into their night. They might be angry with something that their significant other did during the day (or week, or month) and feel that denying him sex is appropriate revenge for his insensitivity to their needs. Or they might genuinely have a headache.

But when you tell your husband that you don’t want to have sex… Or if you make up an excuse not to have sex with him, he hears your rejection, and he might become resentful. He hears you say that you don’t want him, that he isn’t good enough, not big enough, not fit enough.

Men are insecure creatures.

It’s not a Weapon, Girls!

Sex is a genuine, emotional need for your husband or significant other. Please, please do not use this gift as a way to manipulate him or to punish him for some perceived flaw. The key is to forgive him and to give him the respect that he needs as a man. Claiming to have a headache or to be too exhausted to meet his needs is humiliating to him and makes him feel like less of a man. It undermines his self-esteem and can make him feel incredibly unappreciated. Appreciation is very important to a man!

Your husband probably feels that sex is invigorating and energizing. After a long day at work, he probably wants to relax with you: and this is his way of relaxing.

I know, I know. The modern woman is asking herself (and me) “what does it do for me?” I get you, and I get your point. We tend to be a very self-motivated society. Let’s address that issue!

What does “Giving in” Get Me, the Woman?

First things first, you shouldn’t be thinking about sex as “giving in” to his desires. When you married your husband, you promised to love him until death. We are meant to sacrifice for our spouse and for our children. Sometimes sex might be a sacrifice. Some nights you might just feel too tired to engage in sexual activity. And it’s okay to say no. Once in a very great while.

But meeting your husband’s emotional need for sex can reap great rewards for you, as well! When you give of yourself to your man, you open a part of him that you might not have seen previously. You help him to feel refreshed and appreciated. You make him feel desired and desirable. You fulfill him in a way that we as women cannot begin to imagine.

Things start to happen. He becomes more apt to ask you how your day has been, or to offer to cook dinner. He becomes more inclined to romance you a bit more (in your way, rather than his, which is unsurprisingly probably sexual). You might stop having to ask four or five times for him to take out the trash (he might do it on the first request now!).

Great things happen when you begin to meet your husband’s needs. Bearing in mind that your husband has an emotional need for sex, this area of your relationship should not be neglected!

Posted in Features | 13 Comments »

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