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MADRE Mothers: Elizabeth, Kenya

Yifat holding newborn baby Rose Mulenkei
Yifat holding newborn baby Rose Mulenkei

One day, in 2011, women from seven different Indigenous communities in Kenya participated in a MADRE human rights training. One of the attendees was Elizabeth, a pre-school teacher and local human rights activist. Wanting to learn how women like her could exercise their rights at home and in their villages, Elizabeth insisted on staying – even as the early stages of her labor progressed.

Later that afternoon, she gave birth to her daughter at a clinic across the path from the place where the training was held.

During a visit with the new mother and the baby, Yifat Susskind, MADRE’s Executive Director, was told the most touching news: Elizabeth decided to name her daughter Rose Mulenkei.

Her first name comes from Rose Cunningham Kain, our partner from Nicaragua who led the training. Her middle name was inspired by Lucy Mulenkei, the director of our Kenyan sister organization, the Indigenous Information Network (IIN).

Lucy Mulenkei and Rose Cunningham Kain
[L to R] Lucy Mulenkei and Rose Cunningham Kain

On the ride back to the village, Elizabeth expressed gratitude and relief that there would be clean water for her daughter to drink when she stopped nursing. She recounted the many people who became sick due to drinking water from a nearby spring, which was also shared by livestock.

Now, through the efforts of IIN and MADRE, there is a community-managed water purification system that has contributed to the decrease of waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid.

Elizabeth also shared that what she most wanted was for Rose to go to school. She told Yifat that many girls in her village were unable to receive an education. Instead, they were kept at home to work and then to get married, often before the age of 15.

Learning about the obstacles girls from Elizabeth’s community faced, Yifat wondered how she was able to receive early childhood training and become a teacher. Elizabeth responded by putting her arms around her mother, who was also in the car, and said, “Yes, because my mother also wanted a better life for me.”

There is nothing like a mother’s will.