Despite legislative measures, Kenya is still facing great challenges in curbing illicit alcohol consumption more so, in rural communities where alcohol and substance abuse is easily accessible some of the most visible effects is the productivity of men and young people ,increase of gender based violence and crime in the community.
It is a tale that Faith Kagwiria knows too well; with her motherly instincts and a heart for community peace and growth; she identified alcohol abuse and unemployment as a contributing factor to gender based violence and deaths of male figures in the community.
“In 2017 alone, seven youths died from my Ward after consuming an illicit traditional brew. It was an awakening call for me; my resolve was to find solution to what was ailing the community put under my care. I was concerned of the young life that were wasted away yet they are the pillar of household and community development,” says Kagwiria, Chief Kithirune West Location, Meru County.
Kagwiria understands the struggles and the burden of raising families that women undergo when their husbands die from illicit liquor consumptions. As a chief, she handles matters that appertain to domestic feuds reported to her on daily basis.
She says it is oppressive, how her community deals with widowhood, in most cases it viewed as a curse of the tangling oppressive community customs that disregards widow’s property rights. Consequently, women are often neglected, mistreated and at times even evicted from their own matrimonial homes.
It is for this that she made a resolve to deal with the scourge of alcohol consumption as a root cause to family disharmony and gender based violence. Her starting point was to petition the Deputy County Commissioner, Meru Central Sub-County and the Alcohol and Drinks Control Board to have the bars and pubs that have clouded the village shut down.
In her petition, she observed, “excessive consumption of alcohol has led to many social evils resulting from irresponsible and unrespectable behaviour, theft and inadequate provision of family needs leading to broken marriages, squabbles in families and deaths.”
To succeed, she galvanized support from the community through the routine monthly “Barazas” where she voiced out the ills of alcoholism and why it was important that the countless alcohol dens in the village be clamped down.
“I am happy that the community bought into the idea and we formed a community advocacy group that has since taken the anti-alcoholism and GBV advocacies a notch higher,” she says.
As a result, she portends that less homes will have squabbles and youth will be more proactive in community development.