University of Minnesota Human Rights Center Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellowship Program, 2006

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University of Minnesota Human Rights Center

Upper Midwest Human Rights

Fellowship Program, 2006

Follow-up Report Guidelines
Name of Fellow: Elizabeth Powers

Host Organization: FIDA- Kenya

Location of Host Organization: Nairobi, Kenya
Brief History of Organization:
FIDA – Kenya was established following the 1985 UN Conference on Women held in Nairobi. Originally FIDA – Kenya focused on its legal aid section. FIDA – Kenya subsequently added a Rights Team to train community based monitors, monitor the Government of Kenya’s implementation of treaty obligations regarding women’s rights and advocate for women’s rights through such activities as drafting legislation and media campaigns.

Responsibilities of Fellow:

To be honest my responsibilities varied quite a bit. I analyzed monitors reports and combined them into a report for publication. I prepared for and attended monitors training sessions. I researched and created contracts and understandings for two documentaries, one on CEDAW and Kenya and the other on Gender Based Violence. I edited baseline surveys and shadow reports both regarding CEDAW. Finally I completed a study and report on Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Your Accomplishments:

I think my greatest accomplishment would be the study on Gender Based Violence which was completed from interviews and surveys in Thika and Kisumu.
Your Challenges:

Dealing with the intermittent electricity and as my coworkers termed it “colonial mentality” regarding office hours. Regardless of whether there is electricity employees are required to be in the office. This means that people will sit around reading the paper for 6 hours instead of relocating to an internet café to complete work.

Other projects/works started or completed:

In addition to my work at FIDA I also taught English at a school in an informal settlement and helped a VSO friend of mine run a medical aid clinic.
Personal Essay Section:

How has this fellowship changed the ideas and expectations you had before leaving?

I think that it actually surpassed my expectations. When I was preparing to leave all the memories of my first experience in East Africa came flooding back to me. The corruption and inefficiency were serious concerns I had about returning to complete my fellowship. FIDA, however, was transparent, efficient and motivated. I think that working with FIDA and seeing how effective NGO’s can be in East Africa, with realized changes in government (for example the Sexual Offenses legislation) altered my ideas about the potential for substantive change in Kenya and East Africa.
Has your motivation for human rights work changed/altered or remained the same? Why?
While I was in Kenya and in the month subsequent to my return, I have been searching for employment in the Human Rights field for when I graduate. Furthermore, I am taking International Human Rights Law with Professor Weissbrodt, a civil and human rights externship at Mitchell and am a refugee mentor. I feel like this is “my path” so to speak. Although I was motivated before, my motivation has only increased.

Who had the greatest effect on you during your fellowship experience and why?

Salome, an interviewee from Kisumu, Kenya. I interviewed her five days before I left the country. She is 22 years old with two children. She lives in a corrugated metal shack in an informal settlement. Her husband beats her daily. The day before we interviewed her he had beaten her with a metal bar.

I felt guilty that I was in her house, hearing her story and there was nothing that I could do to help her, other than to say “Come to FIDA.” She was unresponsive to my suggestion. I later realized her unresponsiveness was because she had no money and no expectation that she should be treated any better. Alarmingly, there are so many other women like her in Kenya, Africa, other developing nations and in Western societies. While situations like Salome’s exist in the U.S. people here have resources (although they may be through government services) and an education.

How did your perspectives on the world change from interning at a local/national/ international human rights organization?

I realized how dependant developing world NGO/CSOs are on NGOs and Governments of the “developed” world. This is not really a change in perspective for me, but an ironic realization.
I think my perspective on the world primarily changed regarding society’s views of women. Although the United States has a long way to go, it was a rude awakening to be confronted with patriarchical Kenyan society. The view that a woman can never earn more than a man, that she has less of an inheritance right, that she must tolerate her husbands polygamy, that sexual harassment is legal and that husbands have a duty to beat their wives, were all shocking. Furthermore, I discovered that this is not a result of underlying cultural norms. On my GBV study, I interviewed several older women (appx. 62 – 87 years) who related the cultural traditions before extensive contact with Europeans. I was surprised that the rights women had in the traditional cultures were, to a large extent, greater than those of today. Accordingly, I have a new perspective on the way Western culture may in fact regress a culture’s concept of women’s rights.

What quote would captivate “a moment” that you had during your fellowship?

“Pole pole”: little by little. This is not just a moment- but a daily saying.
How do you anticipate bringing your fellowship experience back home to your local community?
I hope to organize a clothing drive at William Mitchell for a woman’s center in Thika. I am also a refugee mentor. I am keeping my eyes open for other opportunities as they arise.

Organizational Profile

Full Name of Organization:

Abbreviation and initials commonly used:

FIDA- Kenya

Organizational Address:

Amboseli Road off Gitanga Road

P.O. Box 46324, Nairobi Kenya

Telephone number:

(254) 20 387 3511

(254) 20 387 444
Fax number:

(254) 20 387 6372

Email address:


Website Information:

Names of Executive Director and Senior Staff:

Jane Onyango

Alice Maranga

Lillian Ohuma
Number of Employed Staff (full-time _23__; part-time _None__):
Number of Volunteers:

I really do not know the exact number. We have approximately 40 monitors in Kisumu, Nairobi and Mombasa for a total of around 120.

Objectives of the Organization:
FIDA’s mission/objective per the website is: committed to the creation of a society that is free of all forms of discrimination against women through provision of legal aid, women’s rights monitoring, advocacy, education and referral.
I would say that FIDA – Kenya’s objectives are to provide legal assistance and educate women to assist themselves. FIDA also has the objective of creating awareness on women’s and children’s rights.
Domestic/International Programs:
FIDA-Kenya’s programs are all domestic. They consist of: legal aid services, women’s rights monitoring and advocacy and gender and legal rights awareness.
Date of Information:
September 28, 2006
Information Supplied by:

Manga and me. If you have follow up questions I suggest shooting Manga an email. However do not expect an immediate reply as Kenyan time is substantially different than the U.S.

Maga’s email is:

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