‘Mjane Kwanza’ loosely translated to mean ‘widows first’, boldly attempts to address forgotten human rights and gender based concerns of rural widows in 2 selected counties in Kenya. Funded by Forumsyd and based on the desire to promote inclusion of marginalized minorities in gender and human rights spheres, it emphasizes the need for rights-holders to use innovative approaches to set their own agenda while promoting the human centred approach. This dynamic framework allows projects such as ‘Mjane Kwanza’ to boldly attempt to address forgotten human rights and gender based concerns of this forgotten category of women. The one year program, implemented in Siaya and Kisauni addressed and profiled the dire situation of widows and the rampant cases of widow cleansing and abuse which emerged as a forgotten component of the struggle for gender equality.
The project achieved increased awareness and knowledge of widow rights in target locations. Its capacity building approach aimed to raise the skills and capacity of widows to champion their legal rights. There were trainings on life skills and a life re-entry program me, a course modeled by Rona Foundation to train widows on life after the death of their husbands. The second set of law-based trainings produced paralegals out the selected widows who participated. The paralegals are responsible for gathering cases of widow abuse and discrimination and reporting them for mediation and/or legal action. The paralegals also managed the ‘Haki’ centres of justice for widows in the target locations established to enhance access to justice for disinherited widows and help reduce cases of SGBV by deterrence in Partnership with Haki Mashinani, a grassroot non-profit.