Friday, June 22, 2007
Incredible Women by Angela
Listening to the hail drum rhythmically on the roof, I think to myself “I cannot believe that this is Njoro, Kenya…and that it is hailing!” Nothing can properly articulate the wonderful surprises Kenya has offered us so far in our stay here. The Kenyan people are infamous for the warm, embracing manner they welcome new friends. Professor Rose Odhiambo, the admirable woman who graciously welcomed us into her home, has become a second mother to us and made Njoro a home away from home for us. Rose is the director of the Institute for Women, Gender Development and Studies at Egerton University. Rose earned a full scholarship to Kenyatta University where she earned her doctorate on malaria research. She is now married to a respected pastor in Nairobi, and has four sons named Franklin, Dennis, Sam, and Tunu. As director of the Gender Institute and a lecturer at Egerton, Rose is truly an exceptional leader and role model for female students everywhere who face adversity on the basis of their gender. Living with Rose has been amazing! Not only are Addie and I incredibly lucky to work with Rose on the gender policy at Egerton, we also have the pleasure of being a part of her family. We have learned how to make several traditional Kenyan dishes like ugali (which is a thicker version of polenta), a savory cabbage dish, and mandazies which are fried pieces of sweet dough.
We have also been going to a lot of student group meetings and events. Our friend, Mary, a student mother on campus, is in charge of PRISM which stands for Professional Role Integrated Student Mothers. This organization was for future and current mothers who meet weekly to raise money to help struggling student mothers. Because student mothers are not given university housing (unlike student fathers) and often discontinue their studies to care for the baby, they must find alternative housing that is often in an unsafe area without basic necessities like clean water or electricity. Paying for utilities which was included in university housing is a huge financial burden for student mothers who are often abandoned by the father of the child. The students raise money for their basic needs and for medical fees. A financially desperate student mother had gone to the local Nakuru hospital where sanitation conditions and negligent hospital care amounts to torture. The poor mother was given an unnecessary C-section in which the doctors pierced her too far and cut the baby. Because of poor medical care, the child swallowed the amniotic fluid and drowned prior to birth. The mother was not stitched up properly and was sent back to Egerton’s sanitarium with her “entrails nearly hanging out.” It is debatable for locals who cannot afford a better hospital as to which risk is higher—suffering from disease or injury, or infection and death from outrageously negligent medical care. The student mothers in PRISM are amazing. Having faced such adversity and stigma, many of these women also make up the minority of female students who graduate with a BA in Science. Truly, all the Kenyan women I have met illustrate the strength of the human spirit in triumphing over any obstacle presented by society.
Posted by Kenya - Egerton University at 6/22/2007 07:59:00 AM