When a man and woman fall in love, they protect their relationships to prevent anything and anyone from interfering with it and separating them.
Courtship starts, and they enjoy the ups and downs of a relationship. If fruitful, they settle down to a married life, through a come-we-stay arrangement, church wedding or ceremonial marriage in court or at the deputy county commissioner’s offices.
According to Sauti ya Wanaume na Watoto, one partner bears the brunt, taking care of the children. SWW chairman Bishop James Njenga said a lot of family breakups are caused by poor parenting and inadequate counseling before marriage.
Njenga said he had gone through such experiences with his wife, who used to abuse him.
He said he would plead with her not to scold him when visitors came and in fear of neighbours knowing what used to happen.
“I lived a bad life, I don’t even want to remember. I was beaten by hired goons, my car was destroyed, my cows, sheep and chicken were sold and I wouldn’t say anything. I feared that woman, but when I realized I was being abused, we separated, even though it was through a legal process. It was so long,” Njenga said.
Being a cleric, he would not confront her since he would be seen as if he was preaching water and drinking wine.
However, the experience he underwent forced him to come up with an organization that would help men suffering silently speak out and get help. He formed the SWW in May and registered it as a community-based organization.
Njenga then started holding forums with married men of all ages in Limuru town, Kiambu county, educating and counseling them on marital issues.
He said that a lot of men are now requesting him to hold seminars, with some secretly sharing their problems with him and asking for assistance. Some issues are hard to tackle, and the organisation is now forced to hire counsellors to guide victims.
The bishop said when they listen to a case, they invite both the husband and his wife. They are counselled together and some reconcile, while others don’t.
“As of now, we have not employed counselors, but we hire them to counsel couples who are willing, and those willing normally come to terms with the situation of their lives, children and property, and they unite again,” he said.
Njenga said they have handled cases of all kinds.
“One man used to be abused by his wife. She later tied him with ropes inside the house, locked it and left, with the help of their daughters. It was in Ndiuni village, Ndeiya ward,” he said.
“There are others who are denied conjugal rights by their wives, who spend the night at their children’s bedrooms because they don’t want any contact with their husbands. We have helped them and they are now living together.”
The SWW chairman said some men who are sued for child neglect, but when an investigation is done, the findings exonerate them.
Njenga said a research carried out by SWW indicates that in one month, about seven men are abused by their wives, with one or two of them being physically beaten.
The chairman said their aim at SWW is to help married couples enjoy the joys and fruits brought about by marriage so as to fulfill God’s creation.
“Marriage is holy. It was created by God to increase His creation. He didn’t want to see separation and divorces, except when there is infidelity. Our duty is to ensure couples live together and each member loves, cares for and respects the other,” he said.
Despite focussing on men, Njenga said even when a woman reports abuses from her husband, they take action to establish where the problem is and help the couple enjoy their marriage before each person goes their way.
The bishop said children suffer psychologically when they see their parents fighting.
“Parents’ violence affects the children. They cannot perform well at school, they hate them, they cry all the time in fear they will start fighting again,” he said.
“That is why we hire counselors to deal with the psychology of the victims, who are parents and children.”
Njenga said he is lobbying NGOs, good Samaritans and organizations that deal with marriage counseling and donors to assist them with funds so they can hire bigger offices with enough counselors and counseling rooms.
“The vision I have is to see couples living peacefully. The family is unit of a society and we need to have a strong society. We cannot have it if we do not have families who value their lives and what they have,” he said.
Njenga said disputes among married couples should not be a recipe for separation. And whenever couples are determined to divorce, they should not be forced to do so by what they have gone through in the hands of each other.
“If it is possible, couples should live together, but whenever they cannot be reunited by counselors, extended families or any other institution like ours, it is better they separate. They normally became hard to each other because of what they experienced from each other,” he said.
The chairman said if a man is accused of being a drunkard and a womanizer, and his wife protests that they risk contracting HIV-Aids, it’s better they separate for the sake of their children.
“There are men who are injured with knives, battered by hired goons or cut in the private parts. It’s better they separate since the wives can end up killing their partners,” he said.
Njenga said children suffer when couples separate or divorce, but legal advice is followed to ensure the parent who takes custody of them feeds, educates and clothes them properly.
George Mugo/The Star