Reflections on April 3rd 2020

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The past week in Kenya has been one with violence; to say so however is an understatement. Words really cannot capture the horror of watching policemen , armed and hungry, chasing down women, children and men unarmed, making them lie down in dirt as they gas and beat them. I say armed and hungry because it looked like the police were craving the screams of their victims, that’s what Kenya is, a fascist state.

The violence however did not stop there, the cops just continued to injure and murder, as of today 5 have been confirmed as having being killed by the policemen, all male, ranging in years from 13 to 49.  The women in their lives as usual are now left not just with the scars of having lost their loved ones, permanently. They are also left with the burden of care work at the very least, they are now forced to quicken their own mourning so they can care for their children who have been left fatherless and in the case of the Moyo family, a sibling was murdered for sport, as he was playing with his fellow children.

So much disruption has happened this week, in Malindi there was a case of a woman who sells mnazi, palm wine, being assaulted and left nursing wounds as her product was destroyed , curiously , the police were also on site to guard a truck carrying mugoka and ensure it safely offloaded it contents to its customers. It did not pass me by that there was a gender difference there. The leaves wee being sold by men, the mnazi a woman, in fact as is common in the coast province many women sell mnazi, rarely will one see women selling mugoka, and we can only expect increasing violence all in the name of fighting corona virus.

It’s also a week in which we remember domestic workers across the country who are doomed to work even longer hours, without pay, and with no protection from possible infection from their bosses and… should they fall sick, even if it isn’t from corona virus, they’re unlikely to get any medical aid from their boss, if anything they’re likely to get fired.

Yesterday, Thursday the second witnessed the sexual harassment of a lady named Brenda who had come forth as one of the recovered covid19 patients in the country. Disbelief of her story, led to her photos in a bikini being posted online as people called her a whore. It was no difference from the act of undressing a woman simply because you believe she might be lying. It’s very intimate violence. A man, who had recovered too, named Bryan, did not have his photos spread online, he didn’t get insulted, and he was not stalked. This is life in Kenya. And indeed across the world, France has already seen a great increase in domestic violence cases as people are forced into closer quarters with their abusers.

We can only hope that this raises greater awareness around the need for reforms, whether in housing or policing or the economy itself, as banks are getting cash infusions to keep them afloat while SME’s are not. I feel sad for all the women who run small businesses like saloons who have now been robbed of an income with very little hope of a government interest free loan to keep their business afloat and food on their families table. But we continue to endure, however heavy loads can and do break backs, so we hope this crisis doesn’t end with more women being crippled.

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