Ruth Mumbi – of Bunge la Mwananchi and Kiamaiko Young Women in Kenya – writes of Lillian, who died while giving birth. She was, Mumbi holds, ‘a young, promising sister who could have had a brighter future if she had an opportunity to pursue her education’. Mumbi asks why her government can find 40 million shillings of taxpayers’ money to send ‘Al Faisal, who was disowned by other countries, back to Jamaica instead of providing for citizens, especially women who badly need reproductive health services.’ She asserts that many deaths as a result of childbirth in Kenya ‘are preventable if correct measures are taken and services brought closer to the people’.
Lillian Musomi, 17 years of age, was a victim of early pregnancy. She was impregnated by a young teenage guy of the same age. As the boy could not support her he was forced to drop Lillian and deny the pregnancy.
Lillian was raised by a sick, single mother who suffers from hypertension and is always bedridden. Born in a family of six Lillian were the first born and a primary school class eight dropout.
Lillian was unable to pursue her secondary education even though she had performed well in her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) she had managed to score 289 points out of 500. Due to poverty, Lillian’s mother could not raise money to enroll her in form one.
Lillian’s mother’s health worsened, which forced Lillian to work as a house maid so that she could assist her younger siblings and also get money to pay rent of the small shack they lived in, in Kiamaiko village.
Lillian was also a founder member of Kiamaiko Young Women, an organization based in Kiamaiko working with young girls and women in sensitizing young women on their reproductive health rights. During the time Lillian was in the group, she remained active and devoted herself to the group work and helped the group in translating Martin Luther King Jnr’s speech ‘I have a dream’ into Abaluhya. After Barrack Obama became the first back American president the script was played in a local FM station that airs in Abaluhya language. But she ceased from attending group meetings when she started working in order to support her sick mother.
As Lillian’s mother has told the story: Lillian decided to be attended by a mid wife when she was in labour. When we asked why, her mum told us that she had not enough money to go to a maternity clinic. A midwife in Kiamaiko village charges seven hundred shillings, while a hospital like Pumwani, which is a government institution, charges 3500 shillings for a normal delivery.
After struggling so much in labour nothing positive was realised. Lillian lost energy and could not breathe which made it difficult for her to push the baby out, she had been asthmatic. The midwife advised her mother to rush her to the hospital so she could get proper medical attention.
Lillian was rushed to one of the many local private hospitals that have mushroomed in response to the crisis in public sector. Most of them are owned by doctors and other medical staff working in the public sector and they have created a game of chances because many of these private clinics in Kiamaiko do not have necessary facilities in cases of emergences like Lillian’s.
Lillian and her unborn baby died in Sister Lucy Nursing Home in Huruma. The hospital had no capacity to attend to her as they had no theatre services.
Kiamaiko Young Women and Bunge la Mwananchi women’s movement and Mathare Mums live in memory of Lillian, a young promising sister who could have had a brighter future if she had an opportunity to pursue her education. We feel it’s not morally right, neither is it acceptable that mothers should die while giving life. For how long will a grassroots woman continue to be penalised for doing what is natural to womanhood. We feel it is offensive that our government can find 40 million of taxpayers’ money to take somebody like Al Faisal, who was disowned by other countries, back to Jamaica instead of providing for citizens, especially women who badly need reproductive health services. We fail to believe that it’s due to lack of resources, but it’s because of lack of people friendly priorities that women continue to die and continue to be detained in governments hospitals. Lillian’s case is one of the alarming cases in Mathare and Kiamaiko of women who continue to die while giving birth or as a result of pregnancy complications. Many of these deaths are preventable if correct measures are taken and services brought closer to the people.
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* This report is written by Ruth Mumbi of Kiamaiko Young Women and of Bunge la Mwananchi. It was approved by Victoria Atieno from Mathare Mums.
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