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November 20, 2018

Guest column: The hidden talent behind the walls of Shimo la Tewa

Officer in Charge at the Shimo la Tewa women's prison Fairbain Ombeva (in black) orients the Mombasa woman representative Aisha Mohamed (in a head scarf) and other county staff during a visit to celebrate Mother's Day at the prison
Officer in Charge at the Shimo la Tewa women's prison Fairbain Ombeva (in black) orients the Mombasa woman representative Aisha Mohamed (in a head scarf) and other county staff during a visit to celebrate Mother's Day at the prison

Behind the big walls and bars of Shimo la Tewa prison in Mombasa county lie great talents. In the women’s section, inmates hone their skills in a range of activities, from artwork to entertainment.

These talents give them something to look forward to that can change their lives once freed.

“The prisoners are doing sewing through crocheting, others sew by using a sewing machine, others involve themselves in beadwork,” officer in charge Fairbain Ombeva said.

She said the prisoners need to be given capital upon discharge so they can start businesses with the skills they learn.

“If they are not supported, they will do more crime so they can return to prison,” she said.

 

DIFFICULTIES FACED

Lack of raw materials and a workshop in the prison premises are the main problems inmates face.

For all the vocational training, Ombeva said they usually use the dining hall, which also acts as a workshop.

She appealed to any donor willing to help to come forward. She also called for more cash from the government.

The county government, led by woman representative Asha Mohamed, visited the women prisoners on May 13 as a way of celebrating Mother’s Day.

They donated sanitary towels, panties, pampers for the prisoners’ children, toilet paper, soap and flour. A cake was cut and drinks shared.

Mohamed said the county is willing to look for a market for the prisoners’ products.

“What we can do is to ensure we look for a market for them out there, so they don’t just wait for visitors who visit them to buy those products,” she said.

The products are displayed at the Agricultural Society of Kenya show, which in Mombasa runs in August.

Mohamed said through the Affirmative Action Fund, the county will purchase tents for the prison so they can welcome visitors without worrying about the rain or the heat from the sun.

The prisoners entertained gests through reciting of poems, singing and traditional dances.

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