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Growing Old In Kenya

March 20th, 2010

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An AgeEsteem interview* with Pauline Mawaka, 65, Kenyan, Executive Director Of Senior Women Citizens for Change

The following text is in the words of Pauline Mawaka.

“It’s difficult to be 65 in Kenya. If you’ve been working you migh get a small pension.   Because I’m a teacher by profession I get a pension which isn’t enough.  But if an old woman never worked she has nothing.  The older persons in our communities rely on the younger people, but the young people these days are not employed.  Many are without jobs.  When our young people are not employed the elderly people and the entire family suffer.

We believe that when we educate our children they must move on with their life. – And even if our children are working we should not rely on them for support.  Even though you are retired and get a little money which will not cover your usual needs to maintain your life.  Sometimes you must go to the hospital because you are ailing. It is very difficult even for these educated children to support the older people.  What we do is encourage older people to begin income generating activities, but we don’t have funds for that.

By necessity you become independent.

I have lived in the city for a long time and the work I do now with senior women is because I am in the city, but I also do a lot of work in the rural area.  I have gone to the grass roots and met many women who are retired.  Often they are idle; they have no activity because they fear they are lost.  I am a teacher and I try to help these women.

Most of us women are violated in our lives.  It is especially the husband who violates and there are issues of rape and incest.  It effects the older women, some of whom have been raped by their own sons.  Women have been raped while going to the market.  Women my age.  They say nothing.  Most of them who have this violence are afraid to speak.  At their age people think they are mad.  Its important to create awareness and to break the silence, so they are talking.  They are telling somebody.

When we retire we are considered old.   I retired at 55, that is the law of Kenya.

The average person lives to 55.  Few live to 80.  When people retire they become idle and die before their time.  They don’t even have enough money to take care of themselves, but this improves with time.  We encourage them to do something after retirement.  Like me I am 65 and I am thinking of living longer.”

This personal interview took place in Nairobi, Kenya. The interview with Pauline Mawaka continues tomorrow.

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