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The KWITU (Kenyan Women In the US) Phenomenon | The Diaspora Life - Episode 3

21, Sep 2019

This week we bring you a heartwarming story of a group of Kenyan Women in the US alias (KWITU) which provides a soft landing for immigrants through support systems and structures that it has established in the last three years.   The group has shown how far women can go to solve the challenges facing them, and they came together and discovered how critical it is for women to feel good about themselves.   Marsha Lilly, a Kenyan journalism graduate living in Philadelphia says that Kwitu provides a shoulder to lean on for immigrants who arrive in the US yet have no relatives.   “Support your neighbour, your friend and a stranger by building trust and living together like a family. That’s all Kwitu is about,” says Lilly.   Women organising themselves to get things done is not mistifying, after all, it is women’s association such as Sindikisha, Shilingi Kwa shilingi and Maendeleo ya wanawake that helped Kenya overcome hard times in the late 80s and 90s when the government was forced to retrench thousands of civil servants following recommendations from the Bretton Wood Institution.   To be part of Kwitu, firstly, you have to be a Kenyan before sending a request to its Facebook page outlining the state you are in.   Lillian Richards Oketch, founder of Kwitu says the need for Kenyan women in the US to connect led to the formation of the group.   “Most of the time, I was lonely and it was hard to get resources, talk to people who are familiar with my background. I needed that connection, we needed a place to connect and talk about real issues affecting Kenyan women living in the US,” says Ms. Lillian.   Women in the US have found a home away from home where they can share their experiences with people from familiar backgrounds.   “Kwitu has meant that I have a group of fellow women who I can run and cry to when I am in need,” says Anne Kagwe, a Kenyan living in New Jersey.   The organization held its annual meeting in Los Angeles, California, where more than seven hundred Kenyan women attended the networking and empowering event to uplift one another on matters of business ventures, investments, self-employment, motherhood, and single-parenting.   “When these ladies come together as Kwitu, they are acting like they have known each other for a long time and they are holding no barriers,” says Tosh Gitonga, a resident in Philadelphia.   Despite the glittering success of the Kwitu organization, some Kenyan men in the diaspora term it a threat to them claiming that some women use such avenues to undermine the institutions of marriage.   Some say that they are disadvantaged because the laws in western countries favor women at the expense of men.   Anne Kagwe, however, tells the men not to feel threatened since Kwitu women are stronger with the organisation and are learning the skills to be better wives and girlfriends.   In the next episode, we will highlight how true the claims are and how men are responding to the alleged threats.