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

Joshine Achieng. Photo by Mercy Mumo/Vivian Kiarie

Spreading hope and Global Solidarity in times of the COVID-19 Pandemic; Joshine Achieng

My name is Joshine Achieng popularly known as Dani.

I am a 24 year old young woman living with HIV. I was born and raised in Mathare informal settlement, currently I am the chairperson of Mathare Roots Initiative. I am very passionate about working with young girls and women in matters related to menstrual health hygiene, mental well Being and especially fighting for the rights of women and young girls living with HIV and AIDs. I want to be a mirror for them to be able to see that being HIV positive is not the end of the world. I study at Kisii University, during COVID-19. l had to come back home as the campus was shut down. This was the period when I had just found out about my HIV status. Finding out about my status was an eye opener to me, I knew I wanted to put more focus into being a source of hope and inspiration to girls and women in similar situation especially during COVID-19 Pandemic.

During this period of COVID-19, Mathare Roots Initiative was fortunate to get grants to support about 47 women. This was a project that we collaborated with Coalition For Grassroots Human Rights Defenders Kenya (CGHRDs Kenya) and One Vibe Africa, they each got Kshs10,000 as a booster to support those women who had businesses that had been affected by the pandemic. This was quite a booster for their businesses.

Our Organization has several projects, local Football team, tree planting, menstrual education, Sauti TV, Human Rights work and We also do artivism by putting murals that speak against domestic violence, issues like stopping COVID-19 and police brutality especially when it comes to extrajudicial killings.

The biggest challenge during COVID-19 has been that women approach you for financial support and yet you do not have any funds to offer them. This can be discouraging. Emotionally, l can support them but financially, it is too tasking since the work we do it on voluntary bases.

The government needs to provide opportunities for both women and girls in this area. They must be economically empowered. At least COVID-19 showed us that there is a huge gap in social economic Rights. The government support never reached us here. The little we got is what we shared with the women and girls. In my opinion, the government should surely do better!

During this period, there were many cases that were shocking but those that really touched me were the ones on domestic violence. This vice increased in this area. Lack of livelihoods that families were experiencing resulted to partners becoming more abusive as a means of venting out their frustrations. When women who have been abused come to us, we try to help them but it also sometimes puts us in danger. To some of the men, we are misunderstood as being the ones “inciting” their women against them. Luckily we are in partnership with CGHRDs Kenya who are our reference point. Anyone who comes to our offices with such cases to our offices we refer them to Rachael Mwikali and her team. Her team has capacity to deal with them and the kind of challenges that arise from such cases. What kept me going to keep on the fight was my personal struggle based on my health and I felt that I have the responsibility to fight for more women and girls living with HIV/AIDs to have dignity and Respect.

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