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op-ed attempt

Hey classmates....Please indulge. I need your help with my draft....

its a a bit controversial, so let me know what you think. Also, I need to chop it off by about 300 on......

My aunt Nancy Wanjiru has suffered violence in her marriage, in silence. One moment she cries on the shoulder of friend, pouring out what she’s been through, her latest ordeal. She gets all forms of advice, and finally decides on one. She will leave her partner, carrying the kids along. But it is only a matter of time. Of course, she will soon return.

I can tell when a woman is suffering in silence. I can easily see it in her face. One is distant, or slowly detaching from friends and family. This is when trouble crops in. She is scared of periodic telling about her marital problems, because she knows deep within, that she will crawl back.

There are times she feels alone, afraid. Depression sets in. She cannot talk about it anymore. It’s now learned helplessness. She blames herself for the outcome.

Often, there is no food for her young. She is a housewife. Yet, her husband comes home drunk, demanding for food. Should she have stolen or borrowed from the neighbours, again, or send her young begging.
As we speak, my country Kenya has no law that criminalises domestic violence, despite having ratified relevant international instruments which guarantee equality, respect for human dignity, and capacity to make responsible choices.

Gender based violence remains deeply entrenched in Kenyan culture through rites and traditions that are not only physically and psychologically harmful, but also instil the perceptions that women are objects to be used, abused, or bartered.

Bride price and wife inheritance are two such traditions, which also contribute to increase in marital rape, and the overall poor economic status of women.

Bride price is paid in exchange for a wife. Most Kenyan cultures embrace it, but it is increasingly becoming commercialised. Parents are selling out their daughters at exorbitant rates. In turn, the husband will view the bride as commodity, with a right to mistreat her. The girls cannot return to her home when all hell breaks lose! Her family will have already used up the money or cattle that was paid.

Wife inheritance or widow inheritance: the widow, being a community’s property, has to be taken in by a brother of her late husband. This is irrespective of her feelings, or the HIV- AIDS status of either of them.

Sadly, due to social stigma, fear of reprisal, ignorance of the law and one’s rights, insensitive medical procedures, and mismanagement of court cases very few are officially reported and even fewer are successfully tried in court. Feeling trapped and often helpless, women have nowhere to turn and continue to suffer in silence.

Now, in this side of a man’s-world, women cannot also turn to communal institutions to address their marital problems. Wife beating is acceptable. It’s a ‘sign of love’- a fools Love. Religion and tradition urges me to ‘respect’ and ‘submit to’ even abusive husbands- and die in the process. The police or local administrations dismiss it as a ‘private affair’.

This is just a sneak-peak of the world I have grown up in. Seeing women in my family denied a fulfilling marriage-life. Time and time again, I told myself that I would never enter into this institution.

It was not long until I joined CREAW, a world where women come in, when all hope is gone. For them, it is refuge and a place to find a listening ear, someone who will understand and lift them out of misery. But, in the real sense, the women come to find themselves. They are empowered to make informed choices. Most just need counselling, together with their partners. Some need out.

But as a human service deliverer, burnout is inevitable. Unconsciously, I began started to hate men. I began to see them as the source of all of women’s problems.

But I now realise that there is hope for the woman of Africa.

Our men, even those so educated, expect total submission. A woman is expected to obey, without protest. I believe that every woman today has a voice and valuable ideas. With intuition, women are able to see a problem, way before it occurs.

So I guess, watching as things fall apart as the husband makes mistake after mistake can drive you crazy. Conflict erupts. Any couple seems driven further and further away from each other.

Miscommunication causes even a loving man or woman to utter stinging words-unforgivable words! The parties eventually avoid each other, and may lose their first love, which they once had for each other. So, a man may in some instances batter the wife or emotionally abuse her, or try to control her. They blame it on the woman. She caused it.

So how do we prevent escalation of violence? Yes, I believe that a polite answer quietens anger. But should women be the ones to take this first step?

But I now realise that there is hope for the woman of Africa.

Every woman has so much power that is divinely given. We are able to change a relationship with our innate charm - unless of course you are dealing with a psychopath of a spouse.

There are loving men, willing to listen. Deep inside, they have a soft spot; even the most chauvinist can change. Find it and negotiate your way. Accept nothing less than a partnership!
Counselling helps. Even better, pre-marital counselling! By knowing your partner’s personality, conflict is minimised.

But if all is done and violence remains, its time to get out! I hate to see another marriage break, but life is too beautiful to live in bondage.


It's interesting because, to me, what seems controversial is the seemingly simple solution you are proposing to domestic violence, which does not necessarily mean "easy." Would you say this is true? If so, then I would share more about your experience as a human services provider. Have you seen your solution in action? Even if not, what does it look like? For me, this is a missing piece. Without it, I think your argument might come across as naive.

Does this make sense? What did JLove say?


Jennifer Ruwart
Chief Collaborator
JR Collaborations

stella Ndugire- Mbugua's picture

Hey Jenniffer, J- Love said

Hey Jenniffer,

J- Love said something similar yesterday. I am working on that part..

Thank you for the input.


Stella Ndugire- Mbugua
ICS- Africa

stella Ndugire- Mbugua's picture

It has worked for some....


It has worked for a few. I am not advocating for women to stay in abusive relationships. Counseling has in fact helped couples...

I have also studied Men are from Mars, Women from Venus: cannot remember the author, but our work does not necessarily involve breaking marriages.

I guess my ideas seem confusing. I will try to un-naive my piece...


Stella Ndugire- Mbugua
ICS- Africa

Nusrat Ara's picture

I agree with Jennifer. Is

I agree with Jennifer. Is there someone who has tried this or have u met someone u have tried even the paler versions of ur solution. If u can add any such experience that will be beautiful. Also I would like to hear more about ur experiences at work. Also, chop off the excess words it will tighten it a bit. Of course ur midwives would already have given thier suggestions.



thanks Nusrat...agreed... I'm on it.


Stella Ndugire- Mbugua
ICS- Africa

Maria de Chirikof's picture


I just got back to the group and am trying to catch up and just finished reading your article. I think it is an important part of the solution for woman.

If the man is willing to work with the woman then things can change and not so hard since the woman has been strong through all the bad times so imagine what she can accomplish creating the good times to come!

That is very inspiring and I hope it can become incorporated into society to seek marriage counseling before marriage occurs if possible and for those already in a marriage to seek to work things out together.

It is sad that there are men like my ex who would only choose to move on to another woman who will let him use her instead of working to fix things. This is the reality for many woman but for those who are not in such a bad one then Hope for a better marriage would give her the courage and incentive to stay and work hard to get things back on the right track.

I love that idea of a place where the woman can go and talk to someone who can understand what she is dealing with! Too often when trying to talk of it the woman is made to feel worse about herself then was intended and that only adds her to troubles and low self-esteem.

I do believe that woman sharing their stories to get the ball rolling is only the beginning step but a vital one since too many do suffer in silence. Or like me pretend to the outside world that everything is ok while dying inside and praying for someone to notice and care!

I forget who but awhile ago there was a group of men who were interested in working together and this might be an ideal topic to brig to them and see what ideas they can come up with from the male perspective. Does anyone remember that group that was mentioned?


stella Ndugire- Mbugua's picture

THANK YOU MARIA... thanks for


thanks for taking your time off to read my draft.... A refined piece, after editing can also be found on this link

I admire that you are so open about the violence you have faced! very few men can actually listen or change. At CREAW, we try to give couples some counseling before annulling a marriage. For some, it has worked. But many women are never that fortunate. SO, WHEN ALL IS DONE, it's inevitable to annul the marriage...

Let me know of the organisation for men. I know one in Kenya, under FEMNET umbrella. They call themselves Men for Gender Equality (MENGEN).Men are actually being battered by their partners(this is not funny, but its a reality), and so this org. fights for their rights.



Stella Ndugire- Mbugua
ICS- Africa

ikirimat's picture

No one solution for all problems.

This is such an interesting view Stella, i know of women who have really tried to keep the marriage going but their partners have got obsessed with the ego, especially in our African culture where a man feels that a woman should be treated as he feels.

For me I think as mothers we have a BIG role to play in bringing up our kids especially boys. Its our role to dimistify the idea that women should be treated as the culture deems. I am more concerned about the future generation because even today young adolescents and youth in relationships are involved in gender-based violence. such cases are on the rise.

In this way as we seek solutions for the people already in relationships, we should work towards having a violence free generation in future.

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."

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