By Benard Adera

First, it was a thought born by one woman. That thought was then shared by another woman, then another one, and another one; shortly after, the thought was in the heart and minds of 15 women. That woman of thought was Rebecca Awiti.

After going through the taxing path strewed with cruel realities because of giving birth to quadruplets, Rebecca decided to reach out to other women who had had multiple births and those on their to multiple deliveries. Of course to Rebecca, “birds of a feather flock together.” But for her and her friends, it was not just a case of flocking together, but flying together as well because they were connected by a common thread running through their lives.  That was in the year 2006.

Today their number has grown to 108 women and 290 children; and they have also acquired an identity, they have formed a group called Mochiwela, the acronym of Mother to Child Welfare Association. The women are drawn from Kayole, Kiambio, Pipeline, Mukuru and Soweto slums.

Among other things, Mochiwela aims to fight stigma, myths and negative perceptions and practices surrounding multiple pregnancies and deliveries in order to improve the quality of motherhood and child upbringing.

According to Rebecca, the founder and currently the coordinator chairlady of Mochiwela’s, life in the slum is never kind to women of multiple pregnancies and multiple deliveries. In the case of a woman expecting twins or triplets or quadruplets of even more, there are the challenges of nutrition and access to proper antenatal health care. In such a case, Rebecca explains, the woman is required to take a body scan to show exactly how many babies she is expecting, and taking a scan costs something in the region of Sh. 5,000 which is far beyond the reach of women already living under in the slums. Due to this challenge, Rebecca explains that such women choose to stay at home, with possibility of even delivering at home. And such home deliveries come with very bad news. “In such cases, the life of the mother and her babies emerge with several complications which would eventually live to haunt the mother or the babies forever,” says Rebecca. Mothers of multiple pregnancies also run the risk of premature delivery which results into several complications for the newborns.

In the case of multiple deliveries, the mothers are met with a myriad challenges ranging from psychological strain to stigma and rejection resulting from strange cultural believes. Yes, cultural believes; and Rebecca’s own challenges after giving birth to quadruplets – one of whom die a week after birth – is anchored on the same cultural believes.

Among many ethnic tribes in Kenya, if not all,   multiple births, especially in the first delivery is considered to be a curse in the family which would result into unprecedented calamity to the family. In such cases, the suggestions put forward to avert the calamity may include ending the lives of the babies or taking the whole family through cleansing rituals. Rebecca tells of how her family was thrown into unease when she rejected the idea of ritual cleansing, citing her strong Christian faith. 

Due to myths and negative perceptions, Rebecca says that some men refuse to pick up their wives from the hospital when they learn that they have given birth to multiple babies, while others choose to separate from their wives forever. And in the event that a woman gives birth to multiple babies consecutively, “some men decide to run away because of the eminent burden,” she says.

However, under Mochiwela, these women have built a company of hope and a source of psychological support. The women also help themselves through material support one another to enable them support their families. And in a step aimed at addressing the mother’s access to health care, Rebecca says they have registered with the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF).

However, without any funding reliable these women are still faced with a host of challenges, particularly in the case of widows and the singer mothers when it comes to putting food on the table.

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