African Press International (API)

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Ann Njogu: Born to fight – Helping the needy in society

Posted by African Press International on May 3, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.standard.ke

Reading about Ann Njogu and the sacrifice she made by leaving a huge salaried job in preference to having one that will guide and help the needy, is amazing and one thing that those who love aiding others do not miss noticing and getting enticed to be partnered with one way or another. We congratulate her for the work she is doing for the Kenyans and hope many emulate her way of doing things that contribute in developing the people of Kenya. API

By Evelyne Ogutu
Human rights lawyer Ann Wairimu Njogu does not shy away from controversy. Her fighting spirit keeps her fighting until she achieves results.
On July 31, last year, Njogu was arrested together with other activists after a peaceful demonstration over Parliament�s proposal to introduce gratuity (golden handshake) to legislators.
Her arrest turned dramatic when the then Health Minister, Charity Ngilu, got her out of custody and took her to hospital for treatment. The Minister was summoned to CID headquarters for interrogation but was later released by a court order. “The minister rescued me from officers after they hurt me. They had kicked me on the head and I sustained injuries on my back as well. She came in when she heard me screaming,” Njogu explains.

After early education in Nakuru, Njogu joined Mugoiri Girls High School in Muranga and later the University of Nairobi. She graduated with a Bachelor in Law in 1989.

The following year, she graduated as an advocate from the Kenya School of Law and joined Akhaabi and Company Advocates as an associate.

The holder of a Certified Public Secretary (K) certificate joined Madison Insurance Company as legal officer in 1992 and rose through the ranks to become the chief legal officer.

She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, London, and has attended human rights and management seminars in Raul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden.

Brought up in a close-knit family of seven, the Executive Director of Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) was brought up in Nairobi�s Bahati estate, Eastleigh and Nyandarua. She says she began human rights activism as a small girl of only five when she demanded to know why her parents did not take her photographs while a toddler and yet everyone else in the family had photos.

Njogu, a mother of two, a daughter, Stephanie aged 15, and a 12-year-old son, Ted, says few people, especially women, know their basic human rights. Hence in 2000, she quit a high paying job as the chief legal officer at Madison Insurance Company, to devote herself to running the NGO.

Creaw, a non-profit making organisation was established for the purpose of transforming society by empowering women through helping them know their rights.

 

Ann Njogu: CREAW Director��� 

“I needed new challenges. I had risen to the highest level in the company. Being young and energetic, I needed an occupation that could bring smiles to disadvantaged members of society.”

With her two colleagues, she had quietly founded Creaw in 1998, to give legal advice to women. They agreed they needed to give back to society part of their time and legal skills as appreciation “for nurturing and educating us.”

But the organisation founded to occupy her spare time was increasingly becoming her favourite. This led to her decision to quit her job.

However, her family was against the move and could not understand why she had to quit a well paying job for an organisation whose future could not be guaranteed.

Njogu, however, had made up her mind, and not even her husband could convince her otherwise.

Now eight years down the line, she is happy she followed her instincts.

The founders, who are members of the Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida), decided to form Creaw to supplement Fida�s efforts and to go “that extra legal assistance mile” she says.

Creaw is proud of many achievements. One of it is the campaign for creation of gender desks manned by women police officers where aggrieved women can report violence. This is intended to check the charade of insensitivity women are taken through by male officers who demand victims demonstrate their ordeal to the officers� mirth.

The organisation has opened an office in Nakuru and also runs domestic violence sensitisation programmes in Ngong, Karatina, Garissa and Mwingi.

Her efforts in championing women�s cause have received the Community Awareness Award from the Rainbow House movement in Chicago, USA, where she had an opportunity to meet famous TV talk hostess Oprah Winfrey.

Despite initial challenges, Njogu has propelled Creaw to international recognition. The NGO now boasts of a lean workforce of 12 professionals and eight volunteers.

She cites cases of rape, which have in the past few years dramatically increased, despite the passing of the Sexual Offences Bill (2005), as some of the worst cases of human rights abuses.

Her move to alert city residents on Rape Red Spots saw her pick awards at home and abroad.

This strong woman was the force behind the controversial “Beware of Human Dogs and Beasts at this place” billboards, which were spread all over Nairobi and Kiambu district. The billboards, placed in places where cases of rape and defilement had been reported, elicited a lot of discussions, eventually making the law enforcers to take relevant action.

“Whenever one saw the alert message then the red colour signalling danger, they knew they were not on safe ground and thus we managed to reduce cases of rape in the danger spots,” Njogu says.

This led to the lighting of the Uhuru Park recreational facility, which had been ignored by the City Council.

She says that although rape is one of the second leading crimes in the country after assault, nobody takes it seriously. As a matter of fact, it was only after this campaign that an anti-rape squad and children�s desk in various police stations ware established. She says many sexual related crimes like rape, defilement and sodomy are never reported hence the need to sensitize people on their rights.

The lawyer notes that re-claiming the vulnerable Rape Red Spots through mobilisation of various stakeholders to provide essential services like the Nairobi city Council setting up lighting in the red spots whilst the police increasing surveillance is one of the achievements that she is proud of.

Her ceaseless search for justice on behalf of poor Kenyans by providing pro-bono services through the court process has resulted in real and actual gains for poor and marginalised women and has enhanced their access to justice.

“My organisation under the legal aid programme seeks to reclaim through the court, and/or alternative dispute resolution, women�s human rights in the areas of property rights violations including succession and inheritance, custody, maintenance, division of property and divorce,” she says.

Creaw has assisted women who cannot afford legal fees in their criminal cases including domestic violence, rape and defilement.

Under the Gender and Governance programme Creaw, recently drafted the Constitutional Amendment Bill, which shall seek to push for affirmative action within the Constitution whilst awaiting for the new Constitution.

“Creaw has been a key stakeholder and partner in the drafting and also lobbying for the Sexual Offences Bill that is now a law, as well as in stepping it down and we are happy that the offenders now are facing stiffer punishments.”

In partnership with groups from UK, South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania, Creaw is working towards abolishment or regulation of the practice of bride price. Recent surveys conducted have linked human rights violations to bride price.

This impressive lady could go on and on for years about Creaw and her passion for women rights issues. She is determined it seems to spend her last breath on this course. As a woman taking leave of her office, I cannot help feeling proud and secure in the knowledge that one day, the Kenyan woman will tread the country without fear of oppression, assault or marginalisation.

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African Press International – api

 

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