It’s a chilly Friday morning, precisely 20 days after we buried our grandma (May she rest in peace). I am grumpily headed to work alone because my partner in crime, Nyangi is on her seventy second dream. Today is her off day and so I have to partake this forlorn trip solo. I hate journeys to work not because I don’t love my job, but these journeys are too monotonous: I get into a mat, the conda charges me 20 bob for a distance that clearly should be 10 bob, I alight at KNH, smile nicely at the security guard or wear my glasses (people say that they make me look like a doctor) so that he can allow my footsubishi through the hospital, walk to Arwings Kodhek road were I get a mat to Chaka, alight then walk to our office along Lenana road. This is my every week day morning.
Due to the boring nature of this journey, I have my earphones on. I normally listen to Mpasho on Kiss FM on Fridays (the allure of udaku) but today I am listening to ‘Atio Matek’ by Oksyde Ft Khaligraph on repeat. I love this jam (Papa Jones groupie alert!) It’s the soundtrack of my hustle. A few meters before the Hurlingham Total petrol Station, a certain dude stops right in front me. I unplug my earphones to hear what he wants to say, “Hi you look familiar!” He blurts. I give him a blank stare and he has me thinking, “Dude it’s a freaking chilly Friday morning, am headed to work and all you can offer me is a lousy pick up line that contains a cliché like familiar? The hell! Do you think that this is the favorite part of my life? Huh? Why are you so cruel? You are worse off than people who say make ups!” I get so pissed that the only response I can afford is, “Tsk!” “Madam kwani mtu hawezi kukuuliza directions?” He asks. I want to respond, “And what do I look like to you, your bloody compass? Just google damn it!” but I realize it would be best to keep that wisdom to myself for the nourishment of my brain cells.
At the bus stop, my phone rings. Surely why the many interruptions when am listening to my jam? I reluctantly check my phone and it is Aunty Atis (Dad’s sister). Of course I pick the call hoping that she has spotted me and wants to save me from my footsubishi woes by offering me a lift to work. However, she is calling to ask if there will be a part 3 for the ‘Burying Grandma’ story. I am really flattered that she enjoyed it and is asking for more. I tell her that there’s no part three. “Aaaaaiiii Mbona?” she asks like a child who is wondering why she can’t have more candy. I promise to call her as soon as I get to the office.
Once in the office, I call back and she tells that she loves my articles especially the ‘Burying Grandma’ series. She also adds that some of her colleagues are ardent readers of this blog (Walahi! These are her words) and they are demanding for a part 3. “Just do a part three for world peace sake! They are baying for blood Agie.” She concludes. So I ask her what to write then she tells me really interesting stuff – a Self Help group that was formed in memory of my late grandma Prisca Oteko Opondo.
Here is one thing about my grandma, she was a generous soul who helped those she could and there were women mostly widows who she used to help. After her burial these women stayed behind and you could tell from their faces that they were closer to despair than ever. So one evening, Aunty Atis jokingly asked them “Mum is gone, so what next?” and this question prompted the conceptualization of a self-help group – The Oteko Widows. The women present agreed that they clearly needed to fend for themselves.
Let me tell you something about being a widow in the remote areas of my community, you may have to face a monster called ‘wife inheritance.’ As sad as it may be, this archaic practice is still rampant in some part of Luo Nyanza. Unfortunately, even in this women empowerment era, women are still enslaved by misogynistic ideals and practices. Widows suffer a great deal, sometimes they are segregated or treated as second rate citizens. Some are even cast out as witches who killed their husbands. Upon losing their husbands, the struggle to provide for themselves and their children gets real and on top that they have to play both mother and father to their children. So these women saw it necessary to form a society that would not only enable them provide for their families but it would also enable them to give each other emotional and moral support.
Oteko Widows Self-Help Group is their name and they are determined to achieve their agenda. Oteko is derived from the word ‘teko’ a dholuo word that means strength. It was launched it on the 22nd of this month. The membership currently consist of 35 widows from Ugunja, Magoya, Kinda and Ambira areas. During the launch they were able to receive donations from the Rona Foundation, an NGO that supports orphans and widows check out their site www.ronafoundation.co.ke .There were also other well-wishers who came to offer financial and moral support. They also got an interactive session with Ramogi FM presenter Charles Odhiambo who advised them to put effort in the group and its activities like they would put in their farms so as to have it flourish and enrich their lives.
The members of this group engage in various economic activities such as farming, basket weaving, trading etc. To join, you have to: be a widow (although like minded women who are not necessarily widows are welcome,) submit an identity card copy and pay a membership fee of Ksh 50. The membership is exclusively for women and the members are highly encouraged to participate in income generating activities. Apart from financial freedom, they also hope to be able to collectively support and defend widows from harmful cultural practices such as wife inheritance through sourcing for legal assistance for their members.
The founder, Aunty Atis also pointed out that they already have the necessary structures to commence working towards their goals. For instance, they have officials, Chairlady – Roseline Okuto, Secretary – Christine Onganyo, Treasurer Rosemary Odhiambo and patrons – daughters and daughters-in-law of Senior Chief Opondo. The group is also registered and has a bank account. No doubt that Aunty Atis is all in and she has promised to do her best to use this group to enrich the lives of these widows.
Am sure grandma is happy wherever she is. She must be proud not only because this self-help group was formed to honor her memory but also because it will enrich the lives of widows, something she was super passionate about. I am proud of you ladies. All the best in your endeavors Oteko Widows.
Feature Image: Courtesy