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Accountability in Practice: Bernadette's Advocacy for the People's Rights.

Bernie

My name is Benadetta Kavoo. I am a leader and a member of the Disaster Management Committee in Marafa.

Nice to meet you, Bernadette. Have women always been this vibrant in activities in your community?

"Life in this community was hard especially for women because when our rights were violated, we did not know what to do or where to go get justice.

There were various rights violations like child marriages, girls being denied access education and teenage pregnancies.  A woman had no rights at all & was denied leadership roles in the community. Women and girls were completely sidelined even on matters that directly affected them.

How then did women in your community start engaging actively?

When we started working with ActionAid a few years ago, women began to unite and started to look at how to stop these injustices and gender inequalities in our community. Before, we did not know much. We did not know that the government was actually responsible for availing services like water for the communities and education for our children. Now, through the training we received from ActionAid on various ways of getting services from government and other organizations, life is changing.

What change has involvement of women brought about?

"Let's say when we are affected by a disaster, we know how to do assessments and ask for help from the government. We have learnt to be assertive – we follow up & push those responsible to do deliver services that they had promised.

An example is the irrigation pumps that the government promised us but they kept on postponing dates of delivery. They kept on saying the machines will be brought but nothing happened. However, we kept on pushing until they delivered. Now farmers are using the equipment in their farms."

That is amazing work you are doing! Out of curiosity, was access to water always a challenge in your village?

"In the past we also had serious water shortage. Women were walking 5kms to fetch water and this affected school children since their mothers were always away looking for water thus not able to be with them to prepare them for school. We went to the County Governent and made our request and after a while, they actually piped clean water our community.

Apart from lack of access to water, what other challenges have you been able to find solutions for, in your community?

Recently, we had a serious drought & may community members faced hunger. Some hungry children from our village ate expired cassava and became sick and had to be hospitalized. It was very sad.

I called a women meeting and we decided to go to the Governor's office in Kilifi to demand that the government distribute relief food to the familes that were affected by hunger. We used our own resources to travel to the Governor’s office.

On arrival, the Governor did not want to see us so he asked his deputy to lie to us that he is away from the office. We told the Deputy Governor that there was no way we were going home without meeting the Governor and we would wait, even if that meant sleeping at the office for three days until the government addresses our concerns. We refused to leave.

Soon after, the Governor who allegedly was away from the office came out & we presented our demands. After three days, a lot of food was brought to the community. There was enough food for all in the village.

I felt encouraged and motivated, that as a woman, I can fight for the rights of my community by demanding for accountability.

Watch Bernadette's video below.

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