Turquoise elegance: Inaugural ‘Sigand Nyinam’ marked with glamour, grave concerns

Women leaders from Nyanza, led by Oda Odinga and Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga, during the inaugural Sigand Nyinam Convention at Raila Odinga Stadium in Homa Bay town on December 4, 2023. The leaders discussed how they can combat Triple Threat (HIV infection, gender-based violence and teenage pregnancies).

Photo credit: George Odiwuor I Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Sigand Nyinam is a Luo phrase that means (the story of the daughters of the lake) - the story of where they have come from, where they are, and what their future looks like.
  • Beneath the display of fun, fashion and grandeur were serious issues for the region: the status of women and girls and the Triple Threat.

In a clear display of nyadhi (style in Luo), the women dressed in the theme colour of the event, turquoise, streamed into the luxuriously decorated Governor’s Park, in Homa Bay County, for an evening gala.

This was day one of the inaugural annual Sigand Nyinam Convention. Sigand Nyinam is a Luo phrase that means (the story of the daughters of the lake) - the story of where they have come from, where they are, and what their future looks like.

The two-day event hosted by Governor Gladys Wanga saw Luo Nyanza women from its four counties converge to celebrate their culture and achievements.

The chief guest was Ms Ida Odinga. Besides the sumptuous meal, the women were also served with powerful stories, inspiring speeches and thrilling music from the region, including ohangla, benga, rumba, gospel and Afro-fusion.

The theme of the evening event, which saw a number of women recognised for their contribution to society, was the ‘Triple Threat to Nyanam’. It resonated with the ongoing 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

Among the notable awardees, some posthumous, were Phoebe Asiyo, Justice Effie Owuor, Justice Joyce Aluoch, Grace Ogot, Jael Mbogo, Grace Onyango, Asenath Bole Odaga, Akinyi Odongo, Mary Atieno, Elizabeth Omollo (formerly of KBC), Dr Mary Okelo (Makini School), Congestina Achieng’, Lupita Nyong’o, Ms Odinga and Ms Wanga.

A notable awardee was a 10-year-old girl, Joy Whitney, a pupil at Shauri Yako Primary School in Homa Bay town. She was recognised for her efforts in environmental conservation.


Beneath this display of fun, fashion and elegance were serious issues of concern for the region – the status of women and girls. A visit to some maternity wards in Homa Bay hospitals reveals just how grave cases of triple threat (teenage pregnancies, GBV and new HIV infection) are in the county.

Adolescents account for the majority of people who deliver in the hospitals, every day. Some undergo caesarean section because their pelvic bones are not fully developed to endure normal delivery.

The Homa Bay Health Department says children as young as 12 years give birth in hospitals across the county. Health Executive Roselyne Omollo describes the situation as depressing.

“Some health facilities have more teenagers delivering than adults,” she says.

This mirrors the situation across the four counties in the lake region. The two-day meeting saw attendees commit to protecting teenage girls from the vices affecting them.

Speaking at the event, National Syndemic Disease Control Council (NSDCC) boss Ruth Masha said nearly half of deliveries in Nyanza hospitals are of adolescents (ages10 to 19). “Five in every 10 people who deliver in hospitals are children,” she said.

Dr Masha noted that 29,725 adolescents sought maternal service in hospitals in the region last year. They include 6,297 in Kisumu, 9,067 in Migori and 6,017 in Siaya. “It is not okay for children to be mothers. They should be in school,” she added.

Kenya has set a target of ending new HIV infection by 2027. However, the increased number of teens seeking prenatal care and other maternity services shows the target may not be achieved soon. During hospital visits, some girls discover they have HIV, possibly transmitted by perpetrators who defiled them.

Speaking on day two of the convention held at Raila Odinga Stadium, Ms Odinga said teenagers have a right to say no to sexual advances, asking women leaders to put more effort in stopping the problem.

“If you are forced into sexual activities, you can raise the alarm to alert people around you. If possible, shout the name of the perpetrator so that he can be known,” she said.

Parents on the spot

She accused some parents of neglecting their duties, which led some teenagers to these traps. She reiterated the importance of supporting the boy child too, noting that they needed mentorship to avoid situations where they impregnated their age mates.

Ms Wanga said most teenagers have access to the Internet where they can get any information.

“Some parents think they have innocent children, yet their children know more than them. All the information they have is obtained on the mobile phone,” she said, calling on women leaders to unite to end sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and HIV, especially among teenagers.

“We should deal decisively with this matter. Let us speak out about girls’ rights because our voice in this will save a generation,” the county boss said.

United Nation (UN) women gender and governance analyst Hellen Muchuna said county governments should invest in protecting girls.

Homa Bay has a GBV policy that outlines gaps and actions that should be taken to end the vice. Ms Muchuna, however, wants the county to do more to protect teenagers and women.

“GBV is the most pervasive breach of human rights in the world. We still have a lot of work to do, so let us bring an end to GBV,” the UN women official said, acknowledging that Homa Bay had made strides in advocating gender rights.

She added that county governments should invest in ending GBV by advocating the rights of women and girls, saying UN women is committed to raising awareness.

“We want to achieve a Kenya where GBV is no more, so consider your role in being part of the change that we need to bring an end to violence against women and girls. I urge you to pass this conversation in your communities and there is no excuse for inaction but every reason to act,” Ms Muchuna said.

Rangwe MP Lilian Gogo blamed parents and guardians for being behind some cases of defilement, accusing them of not knowing the whereabouts of their children despite some going for days without a trace.

“Girls must also protect themselves from predators, especially during school holidays. They are most likely to be preyed upon by people known to them,” she said.

Her counterpart from Kabondo Kasipul, Eve Obara, described women as the pillars of every family, yet some suffered in silence and cannot report any violence committed against them.

Kisumu Woman Rep Ruth Odinga blamed policymakers for failing to address SGBV in Kisumu, explaining that the county has a SGBV policy that requires enactment.

“Gender matters should be led by women because they understand the challenges they go through,” the woman rep says.

Migori Woman Rep Fatuma Mohamed asked parents not to introduce teenage girls to contraceptives, saying it would encourage them to engage in early sex.

“Some girls have ended up contracting sexually transmitted infections when their real intention was to prevent pregnancy. We want to see more women rising to leadership, so parents should protect their girls from sex pests,” Ms Mohamed says.

Nominated Senator Catherine Muma and Suba North Millie Odhiambo called on MCAs to develop policies that protect teenagers.

Ms Masha said the region has made strides in the war on HIV but cautioned that the teenage pregnancy trend may roll back the gains made.

The Nyanza region has one of the highest HIV prevalence. In 2013, Kisumu, Siaya, Migori and Homa Bay recorded 40,304 new cases. But it also has some of the most successful stories in the fight against the virus.

For example, Siaya County led in the elimination of mother-to-child transmission. Despite being third in prevalence at 13.2 per cent, it recorded a decline in mother-to-child transmission to less than five per cent last year.

Migori came second in reducing infection among children to 5.2 per cent.

Though new infections in the counties have reduced to 5,512, it is shifting towards young people.

According to NSDCC, 18,700 died from HIV in Kenya last year. In the same year, 4,474 children were born with HIV.

Meanwhile, 12,558 people aged between 15 and 34 were infected with HIV, mostly women, according to Dr Masha.

New HIV infection is mostly transmitted through sex and it explains why a lot of teenagers are suffering from the disease.

Dr Masha says last year, nearly 24,000 women went to hospital after being subjected to SGBV. Among them were 14,048 who were defiled.

But less than 6,000 went to hospital within 72 hours as recommended by health experts to prevent HIV transmission. She says 50 per cent of the cases were from the lake region.

The second edition of Sigand Nyinam will be held in Migori County next year, with Kisumu and Siaya lined up for subsequent editions.


In the convention’s resolutions read by Lambwe MCA Sophie Salim, the Nyanza women committed to promoting access to reproductive health services and advocating sex education for young people.

They also promised to work towards creating safe spaces for open conversations about gender equality and challenge gender norms and stereotypes that perpetuate violence among women and girls.

The women also committed to supporting and empowering survivors of GBV and holding perpetrators accountable for their action while advocating equal opportunities for women to take on leadership roles in all sectors of society.

In the resolutions, the leaders said they will work towards breaking down barriers and biases that hinder women from reaching their full potential as leaders.