A helpless woman calls out for help atop the peak of Ulonzo Hills in Kitui County. Gladys Mwathi Willie is one among hundreds of Mui and Ngaaie residents who turned up to traverse the toughest terrain of the highest hill in Kitui county to declare her demands to the county government on land rights.
Gladys and her children are on the verge of being rendered homeless after her land, owned by her husband was surveyed and cheaply sold to a resident mining company without her knowledge.
Her story is shared by a thousand of other women in the areas earmarked as rich in the natural resources, they are crying foul after years of suffering and alienation from the mining narrative.
Their story clearly paints the ugly picture of how the expansive mineral deposits discovered in Kitui County have brought so much tears, pain and suffering to its people more than ever before.
The fate that has befell Gladys reads all over her face, although it’s painful for a 40 year old to ascend on a stiff rugged terrain on the hills, every strenuous step up the mountain rejuvenates her spirit and strength to fight.
On July 22 the women of Ngaaie and Mui basin took upon themselves to declare their demands to the county duty bearers and gave an ultimatum to the county government.
In a charter of demands read out by their representative at the top of Ulonzo Hills, the women highlighted their plight in the mining miasma, and called upon the county government to attend to their collective demands well broken-down in the charter document.
The women have called upon the government to enforce the law that gives them the right to own and inherit property as stipulated the constitution, insisting that their voice in decision making must be sought in matters that touch on land.
They argued that women bear a disproportionate burden of the costs of mining thus effective mechanisms before, during and after mining must be renegotiated.
The women called for a restitution to correct historical wrongs that affect their environmental, social and cultural rights on land, people and nature.
The women have joined a bigger Africa movement fighting for women rights on land who will join a grand ascend on Mt. Kilimanjaro later in the year to declare yet another charter on African woman rights to land.
The event was sponsored by ActionAid, Center for Human Rights and Civic Education and Women Association of Kitui to lobby the county and national government to address the fate of the women in natural resource rich areas.
Ideally minerals are meant to bring wealth and sustainable livelihoods for the habitants but discovery of minerals in regions of Ngaaie, Mui and Kanziko have surprisingly continued to pronounce doom on the people and the most affected are women and children.