RELEASE THE BREAKS WITH TECHNOLOGY – WOMEN EMPOWERMENT
1.1 The condition of women in and out of prison- what technology can do!!!
Women in prison continue to suffer double tragedy. Most of the problems they experience or they have been convicted of, mostly originate from retrogressive culture and denial to justice as well as poverty. Regrettable from the ex-convicts like one in this picture Chungu (not her real name) narrated the situation of women from the time they are arrested before being taken to court and eventually to prison. The women while in police cells get raped by either the male culprits or even the Police. It is regrettable that in some police stations they do not have a separate room for women. Women are locked in the same room with men. The situation is aggravated in instances in which men are many in a particular police station and so the women are removed from the cell to sit outside mostly in the corridors with nothing to cover themselves, which exposes them not only to disease but also to other dangers like being raped by male police at night, of which is just adding insult to injury and they can do nothing about it and they may become infected with HIV and eventually die of AIDS.
It is sad that some women after serving their term in prison do not have a proper place to settle or call home due to various reasons. Most of them suffer stigma and discrimination that they would rather squat somewhere so that their background is not known. Others have no place to go to at all or even a place to lay their head; and therefore join prostitution, risky jobs that could make them land back to prisons easily, just for them to continue having a place to live. It is for this background that I wish to make the following suggestions.
a) Conduct situation analysis in each county and highlight recommendations. FIDIPA, a national NGO in collaboration with partners to conduct research/baseline survey on the plight of women convicts and determine the root cause of their arrest.
b) Institutional development/capacity building for gender mainstreaming – understanding the commitment; clarity about the goal of equality among the stakeholders and commitment to pursuing this goal at both institutional and individual level. Have analytic and planning skills so as to respond to issues of equality to the relevant agency mandate, structure and mechanism to enable inter-sectoral linkages and still hold staff accountable, catalytic presence of government to give clear mandate to which line ministry to implement the project ensuring participatory mechanism- consultations and decision making, influencing policy and program formulation and evaluation without conflict of interest.
c) At policy level: - determine legal structure and framework on gender at national and international levels, affirmative action. Lobby and advocacy through participatory processes of all stakeholders and policy makers – gender analysis in organizations and projects. Gender mainstreaming- technical domain, political domain and cultural domain.
d) Programming/planning level: - there is inadequate arrangement for sustainability of projects benefits; if at all there any including resource allocations; geared to benefit women, including the inbuilt specific indicators for monitoring. Gender analysis using gender equality and empowerment framework, participatory planning/budgeting as well as setting targets and motivations for mobilization e.g. (have separate rooms for women in all police stations in Kenya and beyond, have all CCTV cameral in all police stations, have computers in all police stations for recording and statistics, have female police officers handling women in all police stations really digitalise the police stations, at formulation stage identify qualitative and quantitative indicators)
e) Implementation stage: design and conduct need based training for all project implementers and beneficiaries e.g. train officers in gender mainstreaming and law enforcement agents- high lights key issues affecting women in custody and way forward, sensitize communities. Use trained paralegals mostly female to use study circles, development drama and role plays – lobby and advocacy through workshops, seminars and meetings, develop dissemination of issue based information through local radios, television, print media, community leaders/members sensitization using local languages;
f) Monitoring and Evaluation(M&E) level:- participatory/community M&E training for both genders thus gender mainstreaming in program management e.g accountability, budgets internal controls, including gender responsive indicators in projects among others.
1.2 Women out of prison and internet
On June 23rd 2014, I visited one prison and met a lady of 18years old who had been convicted for loitering and went in for eight months. She was living with her granny who is a widow. She dropped out of school due to fees and poor performance in school. She therefore opted to go and work as house help. Some friends directed her to a place and she got a job. In this house the woman suspected her to be having an affair with the husband and sent her away. She went out but did not know where to go and the police caught up with her and arrested her for loitering since she could not even explain her case very well. As we left I sympathise with a young girl whose self esteem has been eroded completely and wondering where to start again.
Her granny does not even know she was arrested, she does not even have transport to go back to the village, she does not even know the town well. My heart is with people like this girl called Chungu. She has good skills on dressmaking, hair dressing among others, which she learnt while in prison. I wish to get start up awards to assist people like Chungu who leave prison with skills and lack the ability to initiate a project. She requested if she can be bought a tailoring machine so that she can get a place to start her new life. Others would need salon equipment, beads material, baskets etc. Having internet/website to place some of the items they have sold is highly welcomed by many. Having phones with internet where they can share the ideas with others in different locations is highly appreciated.
1.3 The power of networking after prison.
In subsequent consultative meetings with different stakeholders, some of the ex-convicts would like to form a club/group/network as women paralegals. Considering what they have gone through, they wish to be trained as paralegals to form link between the community and the legal system that will ensure justice for women is done in all police stations, prisons and community. Their role will expand from giving basic legal services to empowerment of the women at grassroots to take initiative for sustainable development. Human Rights perspective, it is believed that poverty is caused by widespread ignorance on legal and human rights and is seen as the absence of certain basic freedom or the non-fulfilment of rights to those freedoms. The argument is that due to this ignorance people do not have (sufficient) access to power, material resources and basic services. This leads to exclusion, exploitation, hunger, lack of opportunities and inequality; thus poverty, which in some cases contributes their being arrested.
1.4 Women economic empowerment and Technology
In partnership with telephone/service providers and both radio and television stations, it would be essential for all women to have cell phones. At the moment it is difficult to find a home/village without a cell phone in the neighbourhood. If the campaign would be that each woman to have access to at least a cell phone and know how to operate it will boost access to internet and even be able to sell some of their products through the internet even as a group e.g OLX. Communication would also be easy and it would reduce transport cost, venue and time. For those who may be illiterate that would form another platform to conduct adult education targeting women at grassroots.
I believe going digital is the way; it is all in one roof. In the early 1980s many people did not have phones. Sending money to family and friends even locally was a big challenge, now we have M-PESA/Airtel money among others and very easy to operate. A thousand mile starts with one step but to the right direction. Tenders and applications done online are more reliable and preferred than files being exchanged or getting lost. Internet and technology plays a big role as far as fighting corruption at all levels is concern. Records are kept and cannot be easily manipulated. I believe we are in the right direction to go digital as far as women empowerment is concern and we shall get there with determination. It is important to tackle the challenges affecting digitization priority areas in terms of participation and sustainability of the project. For instance the need to have basic needs first in order to facilitate the move to have other important equipment.