By DAVID OHITO
Mandera, Kenya: For a woman in Mandera County, it has been a lifelong tale of suffering in the harsh dusty, hot and windy weather conditions worsened by insecurity.
From trekking dozens of kilometres in search of rare water for domestic consumption, for their precious animals, it is a tall order to have enough water and food on the table.
Mandera’s first elected woman leader Fathia Mohammed (pictured) recounts how disadvantaged the ladies from the Northern Frontier District have been suffering.
“I went to Parliament courtesy of affirmative action. It was impossible to see a woman vying for elective positions due to cultural biases,” Fathia says.
She says things are changing – the county’s chief of staff and nearly all nominated MCAs are women.
“We hold the notorious record of highest mortality rates among expectant mothers according to statistics from the Ministry of Planning and Devolution in a report titled Kenya Population Situation Analysis 2013, released alongside The State of World Population 2013 of the UN,” she says.
“Due to insecurity witnessed over time, the rough road networks and with only jalopies of lorries available for transportation, why would a woman travel in rough roads for 100 kilometers in labour? The easier option is to deliver in manyattas without even an injection or water supply and hence many succumbed.”
“Health dispensaries and hospitals collapsed because of insecurity and I am glad the county regime has revived over 50 health facilities within one year. It is new dawn for us but roads are still in wanting shape,” Fathia decries.
The girls are outrightly denied learning opportunities because they have to stay behind at home to tend to young ones and carry out domestic chores the include searching for water to quench the thirst of the children and animals.
“You cannot compare the woman here to those of many counties in Kenya. Cultural biases are still common here and girls are married off at very tender ages even before they reach the right stage of bearing children,” she says.
“I am lucky to be the first ever elected woman in Mandera as Women’s representative. I have a tough task ahead to try and change perceptions and offer opportunities for ladies from this area and be a role model,” she adds.