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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”

      

Kenyan widows fight wife inheritance
PlanetWire, 19/NOV/03
*********************

A group of 29 Kenyan women - all of them HIV positive - have formed a club
to fight the culture of wife inheritance, which they blame for the spread
of AIDS in the area.

The Obwanda Distress Relief Club was formed by the women - all of them
widows - in the small sleepy village of Obwanda in the western Kenyan
district of Homa Bay.

Among the Luo community - who inhabit the district - young widows are
inherited by a brother in-law or any other suitor chosen by the village
elders. In the past the practice ensured that a young widow's sexual needs
were provided for and her children were taken care of.

The majority of Luo still believe that a curse known as "chira" will
strike those who break with tradition, resulting in the death of loved
ones.

 



Members of the Obwanda Distress Relief Club meet every week to campaign
against wife inheritance and the need for voluntary AIDS testing.

The chairperson of the club, Anne Ogwel, says the biggest challenge facing
them is ignorance.

"Many people think we are pretending we have AIDS," Anne explains.

"They say we want to encourage young women to become big-headed and that
it is fashionable not to be inherited".

Health organizations also encouraging widows in Homa Bay district to say
no to wife inheritance - but it has not been easy.

Gideon Oswago, who works for the African Medical Research Foundation in
Homa Bay, says that although now many people are much more aware of AIDS,
it is still difficult to convince people to discard deep-rooted practices.

 



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A posting from GENDER-AIDS (gender-aids@healthdev.net)