Kenya: Hope for women after the Lamu attack

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The attack on the town of Mpeketoni in Lamu had a devastating effect on Teresia Wangechi.

Invaders killed 85 people – all men, except for one woman, Wangechi's daughter. The assault's aftermath left her in charge of six children, orphans that she now must feed and clothe.

Mpeketoni is approximately 100 kilometers south of the Somalia border, a region that has suffered from an increase in violent attacks. On the evening of 15 June 2014, Wangechi's daughter N'gendo went to the market in Mpeketoni to buy food. As darkness covered Kenya's coastal region, the rest of Wangechi's household went to sleep assuming that N'gendo would return later in the night.

The following morning the family awoke to news of the attack in the town center a good distance away. Wangechi frantically began looking for her daughter. One of her sons soon returned with the news that his sister had been shot in the stomach and was admitted at a small hospital in Lamu. She died shortly thereafter from her wounds, leaving behind an infant daughter.

Old and frail, Wangechi's life suddenly became very demanding. Now the mother figure to six orphans – all of them her own grandchildren, most from other daughters that died previously – life turned very difficult. A woman who looks to be in her mid-60s, Wangechi no longer had the energy to farm or look for manual jobs that could feed her family.

Good news soon arrived. She heard the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was working with Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) in supporting widows who were victims of the massacre. Although her husband is still alive, Wangechi qualified because her daughter was the sole breadwinner and also happened to be the only female killed.

''After the attack, widows were flooding the KRCS Mpeketoni office seeking assistance, and this prompted the ICRC to start this programme,'' recalls Anne Wanjiku, the project officer.

Through the ICRC program, Wangechi received 70,000 Kenya shillings, about 685 dollars in two installments. The grant allowed her to set up a goat and chicken rearing business. She now can feed her family with the milk, eggs and meat from the project, and she also sells eggs to buy other goods.

The ICRC's Economic Security Programme Manager for Kenya, Awais Naser Khan, said the programme is important because so many women were turned into widows, leaving them vulnerable without a traditional breadwinner in the household.

"The cash transfer programme has helped the widows increase their income to meet basic needs," Khan said. "It has really been appreciated by beneficiaries, community and key stakeholders."

Wangechi's extended family continues to live in uncertainty as Mpeketoni has been turned into an epicenter of security operations by the Kenyan government. Despite that, Wangechi remains optimistic. Her wish: that her grandchildren have a good life.

"I am old and no longer have the physical ability to do manual work," Wangechi said. "Therefore I plan to continue working on this project until my last breath."