Widows find new hope in foundation

In Summary

• Rejection from the people they once called family and the stigma from the community because of myths.

• Nancy Odwaro, a pastor’s wife barely made it through after the loss of her husband.

Widows taken through training
Widows taken through training
Image: CAROLYNE KUBWA

The pain women go through after losing their husbands is traumatising. More often than not, they are left to take care of their children with barely any source of income. The little that is left behind by the deceased is carried away by the relatives, sometimes sold to raise money to pay for hospital bills or fund the funeral.

Rejection from the people they once called family and the stigma from the community because of myths that depict widows as a curse or outcasts, makes it difficult for the widows to move on with life. The physical, emotional and sexual abuse leaves a wound that only love can heal. Many give up and get into depression, sinking further into poverty.

“It was heart breaking to watch my mother lose herself after the death of my father. There was a court order in regards to the land we called home even before we could bury my father, this brought tension. She could not mourn because of the pressure and fear of the future, it looked bleak. Life changed and it was never to become the same,” Dr Faith Magoha Odwaro told the star

It is from the deepest and darkest places, that beautiful things are made: the precious pearls, diamonds and gold. Dr. Faith Narrated how she dropped out of school at some point and had to sell farm products to assist her mother with bills, but she is grateful for a scholarship that changed her life completely, she is now a surgeon.

This is the plight of a widow, a narrative that needs to be changed not only by legislation but by the change in the mindset of the community. Says Dr. Faith.

Nancy Odwaro, a pastor’s wife barely made it through after the loss of her husband, her experience during her time of loss reminded her of the many widows, who unlike her have completely no support system. She has been working with the widows in Vihiga and Kakamega County, but hopes to be a model other organization can learn from.

“I was rejected by friends and family, I was seen as a burden and unfortunately my village home was made inhabitable, so I stayed away for my own sanity and the safety of my family. I count it all joy because I have risen above my affliction and embraced other widows, many lives have been touched by the simple act of love”, she told the Star.

This was the beginning of The Solid Rock Widows Ministry, now a programme of The Mazira Foundation. Having started in 2000 with only 50 widows, it has been rapidly growing in numbers. Currently there are over 400 widows, each having received one or more trainings to empower them to be financially independent.

Ledes Chadiva, a widow aged 75 years told the Star the programme has helped her a lot after losing her husband. She said whenever they meet; they always share experiences, encourage and support each other.

“ I got married young in 1935 and my late husband used to work with Kenya Power in Nairobi. Our marriage was not the best, he was unfaithful and also abused me physically and emotionally. I decided to move back to the village since divorce was not an option. He came back home to me when he was sick, and before long he died. We had separated for 12 years without, but I took him in and cared for him to his death,” Chadiva said.

The programme has helped her know how to bake scones which she now sells and gets some money for her upkeep. She has also received training in business skills and is using the knowledge gained to build her business.

Also talking to Mary Ligale, 62, who said that after her husband’s death, her in-laws chased her away from the home together with her five children and took over her land, house and just about everything.

She added that it was difficult for her to raise her kids. It took the intervention of some well wishers and the area chief who helped her get Sh137,000 compensation following her husband’s death in a road accident.

“I had to stay and struggle to raise my kids alone in Kisumu since where I was married no one wanted to see me, I only returned back a few years ago when most of them had died”, she said.

The Mazira Foundation was founded by Dr. Faith in 2006 in honor of the late Rev Hosea Mazira Odwaro, who was a pastor in a local church with a passion to make a difference in the community.As a medical doctor and social entrepreneur, Dr. Faith has over the years worked a long side her mother, Mrs. Nancy Adisa Odwaro who is the founder of The Solid Rock Widows Ministry.

The Mazira Foundation has been working with the widows to improve their health in totality through activities that first develops their capacity to be self sustainable, then empowering them to know their rights as well as appreciating health.

“The Medical outreaches emphasize on preventive medicine with a key focus on Mental health; Health education (nutrition, hygiene, first aid in home emergency, oral health etc.)and improving the health seeking behavior for screening services, diagnostic services and early intervention.” Says Dr. Faith

Though the focus is on the widow, health is a social issue.The practices and culture subjects the widow to chronic stress which develops into metabolic syndrome characterized by high blood pressure, high blood sugar, obesity and abnormal cholesterol .

“A lot has been done, but more needs to be done. We are not able to do this on our own, we wish to appeal to the Vihiga county Leadership, Women Leaders in particular, the business community and all well wishers to partner with us. We are grateful for the women representative Beatrice Adagala for her support when approached, together we can do a lot.”