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International Women's Day: A woman's work is never done

08 Mar 2012

Mama Brigita, who we interveiwed, cares for eight of her grandchildren.International Women's Day is observed annually today, 8 March to celebrate the achievements of women throughout history and across nations. HelpAge is contributing to this global celebration by raising awareness of the struggles faced by many older women across Africa: Poverty, poor health and living conditions and a lack of information on their rights and entitlements. 

HIV and AIDS also has a huge impact on older women in Africa. They are often widowed by the illness or are stigmatised because of their status. They may have lost many of their children to HIV and AIDS related illnesses, resulting in them becoming the sole carer and provider for their orphaned grandchildren.

Daily struggles of older women

Kate Bush sang "a woman's work is never done" and my experience this week certainly reinforced just how true a statement that is. I was privileged enough to visit Siaya District, Kisumu (Western Kenya) to meet HelpAge Affiliate KESPA (Kenya Society for People with AIDS)

I was there to do marketing training and collect stories of four older women who had been part of the programmes delivered by the KESPA team. The interviews looked at the daily struggles the older women faced as they cared for orphaned grandchildren and how KESPA's work had helped them. 

The four women we came to know over the next two days shared with us stories of incredible tragedy; sadness and misery but also strength, resilience and dignity even in the most dire situations. 

All four women had lost children. One woman told of being "inherited" by her brother in law after becoming widowed. One told us of the struggle to educate her grandchildren due to the costs involved. And another spoke of the fear she felt as her last surviving son who suffers from mental illness put her out of her own home.

Invisible older women

It was a challenging couple of days and I personally struggled with the realisation that there are still so many women in similar situations who remain unknown to their government and to organisations like KESPA. These older women "disappear" from those who should be protecting them. 

This week was probably the most difficult part of my placement so far. However, it was an incredible learning experience. The opportunity to see firsthand the challenges faced by older women in rural communities was great, as was the positive impact that HelpAge and KESPA are having in the community. However, there is also much more work needed to raise awareness of these issues.

Access to information about basic rights and entitlements; food security and social protection would empower and enable these women to continue to not only survive but provide good stable lives for their grandchildren.

International Women's Day photogallery

Read our news story about International Women's Day

Your comments

Kim Wright

I absolutely loved this blog about "International Women's Day" celebrating womens achievements inspite of the struggles and hardships faced on a daily basis we in the western world could never imagine. It's good to raise awareness about these issues because these women and the world they live in is so different and alien to our worlds even though we all occupy the same planet. It also highlights the differences in gender when it comes to war how the men can be inclined to cause destruction and the women are inclined to raise the children to form a better world. The main thing is these women don't complain because who would they complain to and they don't have the time - their work is never done. Thank you so much for showing their lives and honouring these women otherwise their solid work on earth would never come to light. Great and worthy stuff. I read all the blogs and all an interesting read.

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Hazel Austin
Country: U.K

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.