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AgeEsteemer Pauline Mawaka

March 21st, 2010

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Pauline Mawaka   Executive Dir. Of Senior Women Citizens for Change

When Pauline Mawaka retired as a school teacher she decided to help change the lives of aging women in Kenya.  I had the privilege to meet Pauline in Nairobi and to learn first hand how she is going about this.  The following words are hers.

“After retirement I began creating awareness of violence against women and in other communities in Kenya.  I have been in most areas of Kenya to say that you must identify yourself as a woman in the community.  Speak out if you are violated.  No one else will speak for you.  Don’t be oppressed.

When women are beaten by their husband they feel that they let him down or failed.  They say they fell down the stairs.  Women are afraid to tell the truth.  We have now started to speak to schools and have women come out and say that they are beaten.  But the problem is that the Police laugh saying the problem is domestic.  This is changing as we get many women to come out.  At the grass roots they are still very oppressed.  I work in the slums of Nairobi.  Women who came from the country did so because their husbands violated them.  Then they come and stay with men in the slums and they are again violated.  They have a red eye or swollen cheek.  With time I think they will understand.  They’ve been oppressed for years.  It takes time.

I got married to a man who believed that a woman is a woman and her place is in the kitchen, but because I was involved in issues of women’s rights I decided I would say no to violence.  He still violates me, but I stand by my rights.  I have declared my rights.  My daughters too.  When a man came to marry my daughter, she said to me, “No, Mommy.  This man is like my dad.  I don’t want to marry him.”  She had seen her father shouting at me and telling me I’m stupid.  And that man is jobless.  I am the one who brings food on the table.  I am the one who has been caring for my children up to now.   He did very little to support.  But regardless of what he did I said that I wanted my children to go to school.  I wanted my children  to be educated.  All my 6 children have finished O levels.  One is working at the UN in NY as an accountant.  So it was like whatever this man was doing to me I didn’t care.  He couldn’t get me down.  I said I would stand firm and be sure that my children would have a good life.  They refuse to be violated.  To be married does not mean that I am a lesser person.

I sing.  When there are meetings like this, (World Council of the YWCA) I come.  Sometimes men don’t let us attend this type of meeting, but I do.  I control my own life.  I speak up.  My husband can call me a mushy brain, say that I am crazy.  Regardless of what I have been told I have walked and gotten on with my life.   Nobody lives my life except myself.  I control my thoughts and my body.  If I didn’t do that, I would not be here.  I would already be dead.  Although my husband never beat me, he abused me with insults.  When he says this I say Thank you.  All you say goes back to you.  I bounce them to you.

I still am here.  At the end of the day he lost his job.  I struggled as a teacher to provide and raise our children.  The man cannot say ‘Mama thank you, you are trying’.  Instead he says I am stupid.  I tell him stupid does not come into my mind but if you call me stupid I bounce it back to you.  One thing he has never done is to touch me.

I know I have a right in my home and in my country and I address it to other women.  I can help other women to say no.

I have a passion for women, and a purpose.  Sometimes when I listen to the women with their issues I just have water running from my eyes, but I know we can work together.  I must shake the world.  I can help women live happily.  It is because of violence that women cannot put food on the table.

When you are told from June to May that you are stupid, you believe you are stupid, you believe you are stupid.  Women encourage me so I keep my energy.  I think, God you love me and I will continue.”

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