Stories of courage and resilience from Grassroots Women Human Rights Defenders and Feminists in the face of the COVID-19 Pandemic

This is a production of the Coalition for Grassroots Human Rights defenders Kenya (CGHRDs Kenya). This publication was supported and funded by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.

Surviving COVID one initiative at a time

My name is Annette Kendi.

I am a member of Kenya Peasants League, Kangemi cluster. I am a student at Kangemi Vocational Training Centre. This COVID period had been really tough, especially for young women like myself who depend on a single parent for support.

As a student, my first thought when COVID hit was how to support school going children. With the introduction of online classes, it was a challenge for most slum children to access these classes. I mobilized a group of older students who would work as volunteer teachers to the younger children. We contributed money and bought reading materials and exam papers that we distributed to the children for free.

This initiative kept the children busy, since most of them were always unattended to as their parents went out to look for work. We also came together as a group of youth and started a car wash that would at least be an income-generating project for us. Unfortunately this did not materialize, as we did not have the financial capacity to sustain it.

My biggest challenge was getting support to sustain the free lessons to children in the community. Some of the volunteer teachers I worked with dropped off because they wanted compensation for their time, something we could not afford. It is hard to work pro bono when you have mouths to feed. We at some point started charging the children twenty shillings ($2) for the learning materials.

This was also a big issue, as most of the children could not afford the amount. Some children were also not able to attend the lessons as they were left in charge of their younger siblings as their parents went out in search for work. We experienced a lot of conflict between children and their parents especially single mothers. Most of these women conducted small businesses that were adversely affected by the COVID pandemic. It is hard to feed a family during a pandemic and without any definite source of income.

Children easily get into crime or illicit sex trade. I witnessed first-hand the struggles my mother went through trying to provide for me during this COVID period. I had to sit her down and discuss saving ideas for the future from the little income she was getting. We also mobilized resources as a community and started a shoe selling business that is at least putting food on the table for a few youth.

Even though our voluntary classes did not flourish as we wanted, there are number of children who picked the learning momentum and always reached out to us for guidance and help. We were also able to act as mediators between parents and children who were in conflict. We offered counseling to children by either reaching out to them directly or through their parents. It has been a busy and transforming experience for me

Oxfam is a world-wide development organization that mobilizes the power of people against poverty.