Becoming a mother during a pandemic
Jeronime Obwar (Kenya, Norway) is founder of a community-based organisation working within the informal settlements of Kisumu, Kenya, focused on empowering young people with information on sexual-reproductive health and advocating for socio-economic policy change.
It felt like the lights dimmed. I have known nothing like COVID-19, so when I saw the news of its discovery, I did not think about the fact that it would slowly make its way to Kenya, or how directly it would impact me. But as I watched the news unfold, I was bringing to life a new being that was speedily growing inside me, amidst the darkening situation. This baby insisted on coming out exactly during the curfew hours instated by the Government. I am from the slums of Kisumu and here, in the unusual context of COVID-19, our freedom of movement was being heavily infringed upon and the police were using force to disperse people and to enforce the curfew. It was in this situation, at exactly 7:30 at night and just after the start of curfew hours, that I felt contractions and my water broke. I had to be rushed to the hospital on a motorbike that sped through groups of people confronting the police. Stones were being thrown, answered with teargas flying through the air. As I inhaled, I was unsure if I would make it – this was a journey between my God and I. Labour pain, loss of breath, suffocation, fatigue and sweat, all interspersed with abuse from the police. We were stopped by police officers that began questioning us: “Who are you? Where are you going? Why are you disobeying the curfew?” Eventually, we were let go and when we got to the hospital, by the grace of God, I found the strength in me to push. Now home, with the baby…nothing much has changed. Teargas still fills Kisumu. The questions that I am left with are as blinding and choking as the teargas itself: What if I had lost my life, or the baby? How many women have lost their lives because of the COVID-19 rules and the way they are being enforced? We musn’t lose sight of these real challenges in a pandemic that seems to be adding fuel to an already raging fire of sexual and gender based violence against women.