Feared comedy critic, outspoken journalist and former on-screen sidekick of the Chuckle Brothers, Kate Copstick has been in Kenya for the last two-and-a-half weeks. It is where her Mama Biashara charity works.
She keeps a diary while she is there. Here are a few recent, brief, very, very highly edited excerpts which give a slight hint at some of what she has to face on a daily basis.
Sunday 27th January
I sleep in. I took my methotrexate injection yesterday evening and am beset by mild nausea and dizzy headachiness.
Tuesday 29th January
It promises to be a packed day. I have to go back to Kenyatta Hospital, this time to help the Mary Faith Home get a girl – Faith – who is being detained there (ILLEGALLY) because her bill has not been paid. She is 14 years old.
She was raped by her father. She gave birth two weeks ago, since when she has been held there – in a ward where expectant or postpartum mothers sleep two to a single bed (or on the floor) with their newborns. A victim of incestuous rape, she is now sharing a bed with a stranger.
I meet the matron of the maternity ward.
The matron (if, indeed, this stone-faced, acrylic-haired person IS the matron) is completely disinterested in the fact that what they are doing is illegal. The girl, she intones, should have got medical insurance.
The first thought, of course, of any 14 year old raped by her father, would be: Note To Self, get medical insurance just in case I am pregnant by my rapist father.
I can feel an unhelpful outburst bubbling and I stomp out.
We go and see another lady who is Kenyatta’s One Good Person. She is not happy. She phones around. She speaks to the right people. And NHIF (Kenya’s fairly new National Insurance scheme) will pay the bill. And she will ‘have a word’ with the supposed matron of the maternity ward.
“I am very much like you,” she says to me. “Perhaps we are sisters.”
I am very flattered.
We go and deliver a pair of crutches (thank you Age UK (Hammersmith & Fulham)) to Kibe, who is delighted to be home from Kenyatta.
We hear more horror stories from inside Kenyatta. The number of people who go there and simply rot away is terrifying. And, once they have you in your 1,500 Kenyan Shillings per day bed, they will put every obstacle in the way of a transfer out.
“It is hell,” says Kibe. “Hell”.
I get back to Corner and get a call. The girl Faith is still in “hell”.
I did not get the details but, when push came to shove, the hospital refused to let her go.
Thursday 31 January
We had another bomb in Nairobi earlier in the week. But it was hardly in the news at all. I think a couple of people were killed and about twenty injured.
However, it was in quite a skanky part of town: Odeon Roundabout. The people around there are mainly hawkers and other people who are:
- not rich
- not involved in international politics
- not white.
And so the rather big explosion was not reported.
It worries me much more than the big internationally covered bomb at Westlands.
I spend quite a bit of time near the Odeon Roundabout and loads of people I know/have funded have workshops there. No idea what might be in it for Al-Shabaab to attack.
I have been feeling a bit odd – utterly exhausted (for no reason) to the point of not being able to get up stairs and bad headaches – and this morning is not a great morning.
We make for Jamibora. It is the weirdest of places. A sort of gated community of stone houses which was apparently funded by a white bloke so people from the slums could get a better life and a new home.
People started saving with Jamibora Bank, very little by very little, to buy their new home. And then the houses were sold over their heads to people with ready cash.
It took, says my friend Mwangi, years for them to get any money back. Oddly, most of the houses are empty but one is owned by another Mama Biashara lady who made the most of her grant and is yet another of our network of ‘safe houses’.
Today’s groups looking for funding from Mama Biashara have come from Loitoktok and elsewhere in Kajiado County. Far away, basically. They did not feel safe meeting in Kitenhela or Sultan Hamud (our original plan) so we are out here in a safe house.
The people’s problems are the same. These are all groups of other tribes living in Maasai communities. Now the Maasai want them out. They are physically and sexually assaulted. I get a list of attacks with spears, knives, rungus (big heavy stick with a knuckle on the end) and pangas (machetes).
It is very hard for them to use the word rape. They will say “They hold the children” or “They take the children” or describe it as “bad behaviour” or “unsuitable behaviour” and I have to push and push to find out what any of this means. It means rape.
I apologise to them and explain that it is important to know. And to use the words that tell the truth. I tell them (last resort) that Jesus said, “The truth will set you free”. They are very impressed and mutter “Amen”. I feel slightly dirty. However we do get some more details.
In one group the main problem is that the Maasai men want to marry the daughters of the group. And this means enforcing female genital mutilation. They are becoming quite insistent and the mothers are terrified.
A call to the Mary Faith Home confirms that Faith is still being illegally detained by Kenyatta Hospital. With her newborn child. Mary herself was so stressed today that she had a bit of a moment and fainted. Her blood pressure is, she says, worryingly high. Mine is generally low but if anything could turn me hypertensive, the goings on in Kenyatta Hospital can.
Friday 1st February
I go to Milimani Law Courts. This is where Lady Justice Wilfreda Okwany sits. She is the judge who made the game changing ruling in October last year. That ruling states that it is illegal for a Kenyan hospital to detain a patient for non-payment of fees. Illegal. But the law of Kenya “does not apply here” according to the staff at Kenyatta.
I am thinking the good Lady Justice might be able to help me help them see the error of their ways. A tailored jacket and an authoritative manner go a long way. As does a document file under the arm and a grasp of legalese. But people are very helpful and very quickly I get to meet her clerk. The Lady Justice is on holiday (confirmed by a couple of people and a quick look at the register) but I have her clerk’s email and I am putting together a document which I hope she might read. Fingers crossed, anyway.
On the way back, Facebook tells me the British comedian Jeremy Hardy is dead. This is just another example of the world being too unfair to be the project of any kind of thinking deity. Jeremy was a wholly, honestly, hilariously brilliant political comedian. And a totally decent human being.
Just in case he is listening from The Place Where The Good Guys Go, he might be amused by the conversation I had with David as we reach Corner.
“You are very silent,” says David.
“I am sad,” I say. “A very good man has died.”
There is a pause.
“Cancer,” I say.
“Which cancer was it ?” he asks. “Was it the prostitute cancer?”
I smile all the way the Mary Faith home to drop off the beads for more Happy Bags.
Faith is still not out of Kenyatta Hospital. Still illegally detained. But now she has locked herself in a toilet because the court (The hearing was today but she could not go to identify her father as the man who raped her because Kenyatta will not release her) told her father she was in Kenyatta Hospital and he sent one of his goons (who have already tried to get rid of her once) round to the hospital. Luckily, Faith saw him before he saw her and locked herself in the loo. A 14 year old rape victim.
I am going to try and find someone in the media who will help. And talk (if I can get a contact) to the BBC who have a MASSIVE place here.
The monsters are among us.
I think it is time we got among the monsters.
I can feel my old documentary making roots tingling.
… CONTINUED HERE …
Mama Biashara exists totally on donations and from sales of goods in its shop at Shepherds Bush, London. The website is HERE.