By Lénah Bosibori
In the heart of Homa Bay County, the African Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), a dedicated non-governmental organization (NGO), works tirelessly to bring transformative change in the lives of Muslim women and men in the region.
With a focus on eradicating sexual and reproductive discrimination, Abdulrahman Ayoma, representative of the Muslim community in Homa Bay County, says that since the establishment of FEMNET in 2014, discrimination against Muslim girls has decreased and girls continue their studies successfully.
“In Muslim doctrine, a girl between the ages of 12 and 14 can marry. When we partnered with FEMNET, we learned that it was unfair to disrupt the education of a little girl and launched programs to educate all 150 mosques in the county. to empower the girl child,” Ayoma said in an interview.
“I urged the deputy registrar of Kadhi to allow these girls not to marry at this stage. The narrative has now changed, they are enjoying their rights,” Ayoma said.
Speaking in Nairobi during a three-day regional men’s workshop organized by FEMNET, Ayoma added that since they started joining FEMNET programs, the sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) of women and girls were respected.
“Muslims are a bit unique, their doctrine is different from other religions, we have found that if we adhere to these programs we can bring about changes in terms of sexual and reproductive health rights,” Ayoma added .
The workshop brought together regional organizers from six countries to provide a hub for learning and information sharing that will be essential to achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.
According to Ayoma, thanks to FEMNET, Homa Bay County has taken steps to end discrimination and protect the rights of women and girls.
“We have made progress in terms of the rights of girls and women. Women were forced to remarry and inherit against their choice when their husband died. Currently, they have time to learn and know the partner responsible for their inheritance before committing to remarry,” Ayoma said.
On the contrary, we encountered difficulties when implementing these programs in the community. “We have faced difficulties because many Muslims are opposed to it, saying it would ruin their religion and go against their teachings, but currently many are adapting to the changes,” Ayoma added.
He said some men have embraced the changes and welcomed them. We have about 150 mosques in Homa Bay County and we have passed all information on SRHR issues to these mosques, they now know everything.
“We have also collaborated with the county government to develop bills that can promote gender equality between men and women. “Whenever we call young men and boys to disseminate information, they always come and we have achieved a lot of changes,” Ayoma added.
Ayoma, who represents people with disabilities in FEMNET programs, says he faced difficulties when he wanted to register as a person with disabilities in Kenya.
“I became disabled at just seven days old. I was told I was misdiagnosed, when I went to apply for my disability card I was told I was not eligible since my disability was not severe,” he said. he adds.
“I was only listed as an elderly person because I am now over 70 years old. Even the registration of my deaf brother was very difficult due to a doctor’s assessment,” Ayoma added.
According to Ayoma, girls with disabilities face double challenges when they become pregnant compared to men. “When women with disabilities become pregnant, they experience a double handicap as some have difficulty walking and end up needing additional care,” adds Ayoma.