You Don’t Have to Die Alone
When I was ten years old, I met a woman dying of breast cancer. She was so poor and malnourished that doctors said they could not operate on her to save her life. They sent her home to die. This lady was so poor I used to take food to her from my lunch plate, without my mother’s knowledge. She died. When I was 13, a friend of mine in school asked me to go with her to see her ill mother. She had been sent away by her husband when he married a second wife, so she was not living with her children. I was not prepared for what I saw. She was rotting from waist down due to bed sores. She was sleeping outside on a carton and maggots were oozing out of her pelvis and ants were crawling all over her body. No, she was NOT dead. She was alive. But eventually she died. Then I met Beatrice, loving mother and faithful wife. Her husband married a second wife, HIV/AIDS entered their lives, both husband and second wife die. When I met Beatrice she said to me: “Please make sure my son goes to school.” Beatrice died too.
These three women, and many more like them, led me to ask: Why do women, our MOTHERS die alone?” “Who will stand with them, indeed, who will tell their story?” I started a series of women’s groups to create support networks for poor women and women living with HIV/AIDS in my district in Meru, Kenya. I then started an education support program for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. The focus of our initiatives was poverty, disease and violence as they affect women and children. After three years of working with women on the ground, I convened the first women’s international grassroots peace congress to give grassroots women a platform to share their experiences living with HIV/AIDS, battling poverty and dealing with violence in their lives. The stories shared at the congresses (2005 and 2009: www.ipeacei.org) transformed many lives.
I see Voices of Our Future as a space that allows me to connect and share my story as I learn from other women’s stories. My vision is to see women not have to die alone; women inspired to take charge of their lives. When a woman shares her story and hears the experiences of others, she does not have to die alone. Someone will hear her cry and come to stand with her; just like I stood with Beatrice, whose son I now take care of, and all the other children we educate and the women in our programs empowered to live lives of dignity. My mission is to work with women to get information to enable them transform the circumstances of their lives. Globally, women are rising and being strengthened to take charge of the world, so no one has to die alone. ‘Voices of Our Future’ is the stage that is launching this revolution!