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.

Evelyne Ados. Photo by Mercy Mumo/Vivian Kiarie

Keeping communal sharing alive in the time of the COVID-19 Pandemic; Evelyne Ados

My name is Evelyne Ados

I live in Mathare, Mabatini. I am a human rights defender, a feminist and a member of Coalition for Grassroots Human Rights Defenders Kenya. This to me is a calling. I found myself defending my neighbors especially women who were constantly facing domestic violence.

I have a passion to make sure women and girls are safe. It hurts me whenever l hear of a woman being violated. I have been doing this for about eight years now. The biggest challenge has been especially with cases we take to the Huruma Police Station in Mathare. The perpetrator sometimes goes and lies about the case. In a lot of these cases the witnesses do not want to testify because they fear reprisals. It makes our work very complicated. We had so many problems when COVID-19 hit and there were lockdowns.

Most of the women that live in this area of Mathare wash clothes for a living. They usually wash for the Somali community in Eastleigh which is our neighboring estate. The women here lost their laundry washing jobs. There is a place where they usually sit so that clients are able to call them but even that was a place they were barred from. They ended up with no money in their pockets and consequently, no food for their families.

As human rights defenders, we decided to fundraise for both food and money to help these families. Once we got the food we would go and distribute to every household we could. But for me the saddest case that stood out for me was one where we were giving one loaf of bread to each household. In this particular house, l knocked a child who was about ten years opened the door. I gave the loaf of bread and l moved on with my friends to the next house to give to more families. On our way back l thought to myself, let me just confirm that l actually gave to each house. So l knocked the door and again the child opened.

Only this time a scene that brought tears to my eyes met me at the door. It seems immediately l gave the child the loaf of bread, she called her two other siblings who are six and two years of age. They had literally sat down and eaten the loaf of bread with water. They had nothing else. I called a fellow human rights defender and told her of the case. A neighbor who was watching us then jumped in and said that the children had lost their mum. Their father, the only surviving parent always left at 4am to go look for menial jobs at construction sites. He always left them with either very little food or no food at all. My team and l were so moved that the remaining loaves of bread were taken to that house. The very next day when we supplied food to the area, that family was top on our list. We left a message for their father not to beat up the children thinking they went to borrow food from outsiders.

COVID-19 pandemic had a good side to it. We as Mathare residents became like one big family. Before COVID-19, neighbors never cared for each other. When COVID-19 hit us, we started worrying about each other. If for example l cook food l share it with my neighbor. Mathare became a team and we spoke in one voice. We also thank our partners

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