Women of Faith response to COVID-19 in Kenya: Mombasa County

Women have been the most affected during this pandemic. Women across the country have found ways of strengthening COVID 19 preventive and mitigation measures. Shamsa Fadhili who is a member of Mombasa Women of Faith Network shared her story.

What is your name? Shamsa Abubakar Fadhili

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you?

I am a social worker, I am about giving hope, and mentoring my fellow women; something that I cannot be able to do right now. There is the issue of social distancing; I am not comfortable meeting a group of women during this time, which greatly affects what I do. I am strained financially as I used to get a bit of funds for the facilitation of activities, something that is not forthcoming right now. Women look up to me, thus they request support but I am also in the same position if not worse and can’t help them much. 

How has COVID-19 pandemic affected women in your country/area?

COVID-19 has affected us women and by the extension the society in general.

As women, we are dependent on our small businesses to survive. These businesses involve meeting, exchanging of money, laughing, and talking; which are key no-no things in curbing COVID-19; the curfews, and women are also afraid of each other because one might never know who is infected.

It has also put a strain on families and marriages. Most families have no source of income thus conflicts in the households. This also might have contributed to the rise of gender-based violence (GBV).

Also, women rely on small women groups ‘Chamas’ to get finances on the side. With these Chamas women were able to meet every other weekend, contribute small amounts of money that kept them afloat. With the strained financial situations, coupled with the banning of meetings and keeping of social distancing this is no longer possible.

COVID has also put a strain on families and marriages. Most families have no source of income thus conflicts in the households. This also might have contributed to the rise of Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

Women are afraid to go to the hospitals for fear of being found with the virus which would result in isolation from their families. This and lack of funds has affected reproductive health aspects in women, as they can no longer be able to get checked.

The pandemic has not been all bad. With the closing of churches, temples, and mosques families have been forced to worship from home. Also with the closing of schools, restriction of movement, and curfews families have been forced to stay indoors, this has created bonds, relationships renewed, and parents have had a chance to know their children better.

What do you think should be done to counter the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on women?

Women should be empowered economically. Most of these women are breadwinners in their families and the financial strain is putting a toll on them and their families.

Women should also be taught in home-based care. Families need to be made aware of how home-based care works and how it is done.”

There is a need to create awareness and sensitization of COVID-19. There is still a lot of myths and misconceptions about the virus. Myths ranging from black skin is immune to it, it is a man-made virus, it is witchcraft, to it is government-engineered. Others only protect themselves by wearing masks because it is a directive, thus only doing so to avoid being arrested. Therefore sensitization is still important. There should be more door to door sensitization. Community health workers should get more training to be involved in sensitization.

Women should also be taught in home-based care. Families need to be made aware of how home-based care works and how it is done.

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