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Giving hope to women living in the street(kenyan and other countries) vera nyarige, Arizona State University

GIVING HOPE TO WOMEN LIVING IN THE STREETS (KENYA AND OTHER COUNTRIES) As we sit every day to have our dinner in our homes, a needy helpless woman is praying for any Good Samaritan to talk to and even understand that she is human as we, only that she is homeless. The number of Street women is increasing in Kenya each single day, especially in Nairobi. Some of the people call them chokora meaning homeless people. These are great people in the society whose life is indefinite because as much as we have a constitution, their rights cannot be identified and be honored. We decided to go to the streets, talk to some of them, get why they are living in the streets, challenges they face and from that information, think of ways to make their lives better. Why are they in the streets? Here are some of the reasons we found out. The 2007 Kenyan post-election violence left many people homeless and as a result some opted being chokora. Abuse from their husbands and negligence from their family made them feel less worthy and ended up in the street. Some of them actually were born in the street and ended up being street children too. Others have homes but too much child labor made them run from home to a place they didn't know, and they ended up m in the street. A story of one young lady shocked us, she ran from home to escape from female genital Mutilation, no one came to her rescue and she ended up in the street, though she really wanted to go to school. Apparently, no one wants to be associated with them, no one cares about them, they are living in their own world. Most of them end up using drugs, mostly sniffing glue. They live in the streets. Sometimes while sleeping at night, they get attacked, and Raped. As a result, most of them end up being HIV positive, pregnant and sexually abused. Aside from being raped by strangers, some of this girls and women go through a lot more that they preferred to be kept private. You see, they live as groups on the streets, and as a form of protection, they live with men who are also homeless. As we spoke to them, the things we learnt were too sad to bear that we cannot even share in public. Although these men they live with may share with them either in terms of food or clothing, at the end of the day, they only bring more harm than good. The poor girls are forced into having sexual intercourse in exchange. Worse still is that they are not protected in any way either against unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. Njeri for example, is one whose story brought me to tears. Currently, she is infected with the HIV virus and pregnant. She had been living with this group for a year and a half. Time and again, she has been forced to have sex by different men in the group she lives with. In cases where she tried to refuse, she got beaten up, abused and raped. What hurts me most is that she is just a young girl my age, robbed of all the little hope she had left for the future. And the innocent child she carries may too be born into the hardships of the life that Njeri lives. Another problem they face is that they don’t have sanitary pads. During one’s menstrual cycle, one has to hide herself from the others due to the embarrassment. In addition to that, they don’t have clean water to bath. When they have to take a bath, they are forced to bath at the Nairobi River (this is the most polluted river in Kenya, as all the sewerage is released into it). The river itself has been contaminated and is full of filth. However, these women have no other option and even through bathing in the river, they face so many other risks in terms of their health. They eat from the garbage and when they get sick, they have to find a way to take care of their bills. You could be surprised at how many women who live on the streets actually have some form of education. We spoke to a number who had a course in tailoring, hair dressing and art &craft. But since they don’t have any form of identification, the have been unable to get jobs. During the interview, we could see their desire to have a better life. We spoke of possible solutions to such situations. One great solution that would work is getting involved in Micro-finances that fund people. Yes for sure Kenya has a lot of micro-finance projects going on, but none of this can benefit the street women, as they do not own anything or have any form of Identification. If we can have a special micro-finance organization that will take care of them and them alone, then at least we will be one step to making their lives better. Having a center for them is another possible solution. Here they could have dorms where they sleep and during the day, a place to work in their various fields of interest. The products they make then would be a source of income for them to help them fund for their children. Through the income, they can also pay for the rent and other bills that they may need to. For the younger girls, they would receive an education at the center. That way, we can restore their hope for a bright future for each of them. We would also have counseling for them to help them deal with the trauma they have gone through. In addition to that, have inspirational talks to help them realize the potential in them. These are people who can end up being future leaders. they can also help in contribution to the economy of Kenya, rather than staying in the streets and begging for everything. They need you and me, If an organization that can take care of this can be formed, then a lot of lives will be saved from dawning. This is a great call to give hope, empower and prevent future kids from ending up in the street. It’s a call of love for life. Thank you.