Protect & Sustain
We transform structures by collective advocacy at community, county and national level by creating awareness around harmful gender norms, perceptions and attitudes towards widows that deny them their rights, dignity and body autonomy. We also advance inclusion into leadership and decision making spaces, as well as climate change by empowering and expanding the networks for improved public service provision.
Advocacy and Research
Changing Attitudes and Behavior
Rona champions for inclusion of marginalised widows in gender and human rights spheres, we emphasise the need for rights-holders to use innovative approaches to set their own agenda while promoting the human centred approach. Our dynamic framework allows projects such as ‘Mjane Kwanza’ that boldly attempts to address forgotten human rights and gender based concerns of this forgotten category of women. Our programs use artivism – tools of culture like songs and dance to inform and increase knowledge on widow rights. We break the silence on harmful traditional (widowhood) practices like forced ritual sex like widow sexual cleansing and other forms of widowhood instigated forms of gender violence as a forgotten component of the struggle for gender equality.
Rona also advocates for legislation that are widow-informed and widow-sensitive. With an estimated eight million widows in Kenya, which makes up about 15% of the country’s population, we champion for inclusion for representation that intimately understands widow experiences in leadership and decision-making roles.
Rona advocates for outlawing of harmful cultural practices meted on women when they lose their husbands. Our vision is to ensure that widows’ voices are heard by the duty bearers in every county in Kenya, so that every widow feels protected by law from discrimination, violence and abuse, and can enjoy her full human rights as an equal and valuable member of society.
‘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 Forumciv 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 programme, 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 and respond to cases of SGBV by deterrence in Partnership with Haki Mashinani, a grassroot non-profit.
Girls Lead Program mentors 20 high potential rural girls in class 7 and 8 with tools and skills that will enable them compete with their urban counterparts, and open their world view. The selection criteria are academic performance and discipline. The program specifically targets the top performing, high potential disciplined girls in class 7 and 8, in Orengo and Uhendo primary school.
Share Her Story (SHE)
The project targets rural teen mums and young women. It’s aimed to give them better health and quality of life, including reduction in anger, depression and more knowledgeable with a structured support system. Since rural girls and young women remain marginalized, drop out of school, become teen mothers and/or turn to prostitution, their plight remain unseen, unspoken and often become victims of rape that go unreported and in many cases compromise their health and those of their children, in an endless circle of abuse, neglect, infections, HIV spread and eventually more deaths.
Adolescence is a critical period for building personal autonomy and responsibility for individual health and establishing life-long behaviors. Peer pressure, gender norms, sexuality and the resulting inclusion in, or exclusion from, society dramatically shape vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, life skills development and education status. Share Her story (SHE) is a safe space where the young women come together to share their stories, challenges and formulate transformative ways of coping with life as young mothers.
Research & Policy Advocacy
Rona undertakes participatory research projects that explore, document and improve knowledge on harmful traditional (widowhood) practices and their impact on women, children, community and grass root development. This is aimed to increase the body of evidence on cultural borns (widowhood) that unlike FGM remain unchallenged.
In the time of Covid-19 we collaborated with Oxfam UK to gather and analyse case studies and experiences of rural widows and their collective agency, looking for patterns and opportunities. The collaborative research project aimed to understand the important and potentially positive side effects of the pandemic and the response it triggered among widows in Siaya.
Rona uses active participation research to a body of evidence by gathering, analyzing and documenting case studies and experiences of rural widows and their collective agency with patterns and opportunities.