TASK: EXAMINE THE CHALLENGES OF FAMILY IN KENYA TODAY
According to Edwards and Graham (2009), a family is a psychosocial group constituted by at least one adult member and one or more others who work as a group towards mutual need fulfilment, nurturance and development. Therefore a family is a social institution that consists of two or more people who are related by blood, marriage or adoption and who live under the same roof. The family is the basic unit of society based on marriage. In Kenya the types of families include; nuclear families, single-parent families, extended families among others. There are myriad challenges facing Kenyan families today and they include; drugs and substance abuse, discriminations, separation and divorce, sexual harassment, poverty, household violence, health issues among others.
Domestic violence has been a long standing challenge facing families in Kenya. It is described as the act of violence against a person living in one’s household especially from an immediate member of the family. This is deeply engrained with beliefs about gender roles and marriage which have encouraged the practice. In this patriarchal society (Kenya), domestic violence is actually recognized as one way of disciplining one’s wife. For example, the Maasai community socializes women to anticipate this discipline where the man is the head of the family and controls the family property. This is a challenge that affects most families both in rural areas and urban areas in Kenya (Chebogut and Ngeno, 2010). Domestic violence is majorly caused by misunderstandings at homes between the family members among other causes. It however causes great impacts to the family which includes divorce among other things.
Diseases and health complications
A disease can basically be described as a scientifically identified ill-health caused by a bacteria, virus, parasite, fungus or any other pathogen. HIV/AIDS as an example is one of the diseases that has both affected and infected many families in Kenya. Diseases are challenges to the family in that families lost some of their family members who played a major role to the family. For example AIDS has left many children as orphans with nobody taking care of them thus leading to issues of school drop-outs and street children. Also funds that would have catered for other needs of the family have been directed to buying medicines and facilitating treatment of the sick family members. This leads to poor living standards in families thus contributing to the challenges facing families in Kenya (MOH, 2014a).
Poor child-parent relationships
Poor child-parent relationship is an evident challenge facing many Kenyan families in this era. Owing to difficult economic situations most parents spend their time working hence spend little time with their kids. The kids are brought up by nannies and other people who are after money so they do not give much attention to the kids. Most likely, this will affect the upbringing and socialization of the children. According to Martinez (2017), poor parent-child relationship results in future poor parenting, incidences of depression and deviant behaviour.
The changing concept of the family
Traditional African family patterns are slowly but progressively being altered as result of the process of modernization which is exhibited through trend like urbanization. Many families are increasingly faced with the challenge and pressure emanating from the competition prevailing between traditional and modern family values. The major characteristics of the family such as; they are mostly rural, patriarchal and hierarchical, polygamous and open to kinship networks and most of all the continuation of lineage. However, this characteristics are slowly being replaced to be urban, feminists have popped up to empower women and marriage is slowly being shunned by most people in the current society. There are other practices also taking place such as non-marital child bearing and single parenthood. Some individuals prefer being independent of the marriage clause and thus take upon being a single parent by choice. Women especially in this contemporary society are capable of placing on the table, paying their bills and even provide security thus they see no need for a male figure as they can fulfil these tasks. Non-marital unions are also among these practices that are as a result of the change in the concept of family due to modernization (Kalu, 1981).
Sex can lead to pleasure and a love bond within a relationship. However, it can also lead to pain and suffering. Sexual harassment is any a sexual act or an attempt to obtain a sexual act using threats of harm or physical force regardless of the relationship at any setting (MOH, 2014b). Sexual harassment is a challenge facing families in Kenya where the women are major victims. For example, the man may have a sexual urge but at the moment might be tired or out of moods to have sex. The husband may insist on having sex with his wife because he feels he owns the wife. The belief in the Kenyan society that women should be subordinate to men plays a major role in this case. Some women suffer sexual harassment in cases where they are dependent on their husbands where they are forced to have sex under fierce threats of being denied some privileges or money or divorce. Economically disadvantaged women are more vulnerable to sexual harassment. Mbote (2000), argues that both political and economic powerlessness makes women vulnerable to sexual harassment.
Some family members especially the older and stronger ones may take advantage of children and teenagers and abuse them sexually. Cases of child rape and molestation are very common in Kenya. This is because many people have wrong mentality they believe that if you have sex with a virgin cures HIV/AIDS (Mbote, 2000).
Poverty is the inability of families and households to afford basic necessities such as food, clothing, housing, health and education. At the national level 53.2% of Kenyans live below poverty line (Kenya, 2000). Poverty causes hunger which afflicts most of the Kenyan families. Poor people lack adequate nutrition and without adequate nutrition humans lose their ability to resist diseases. Without access to adequate and quality health care, many of the poverty-stricken sick have little chance to survive. For the poor especially in refugee camps, slums and other places with miserable living conditions, suffering is a normal condition of life and death looms everywhere (Haviland et al., 2008).
Separation and divorce
Separation and divorce is among the main challenges facing many families in Kenya today. Divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court or other competent body. Like marriage, divorce in most societies is a matter of great concern to the couple’s families. Since marriage is less often a religious matter than it is an economic one, divorce arrangements can be made for a variety of reasons and with varying degrees of difficulty. Among the Gusii farmers of Western Kenya for instance, sterility and impotence are grounds for a divorce. Other reasons for divorce in our families here in Kenya involves; unfaithfulness in marriage, financial issues and many other reasons. Children are the ones who are most affected when a divorce happens, they grow up in great difficulty and they grow up without one figure either the father or mother (Haviland et al., 2008).
Discriminations in the family
One of the major challenges many families in Kenya is discriminations in the family. Discrimination is the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people especially on the grounds of race, age or sex. Kenya is a patriarchal society so men have more power than women. Women are always the victims of discriminations in Kenya. Most parents especially from the pastoral communities tend to prefer male children over the female ones. In these communities it is the boys who are taken to school to get education while the girls are left at home to perform the household chores. People in these communities believe that it is the boys who will be left at home and they are the ones who will take care of their families in future and girls will just get married and move to some other place. In these families girls do not inherit property from their parents it is the boys who are allowed to inherit property. Discriminations in the family causes other challenges and problems such as poverty because women are denied access and control of resources (Kottack, 1994).
Natural calamities such as floods, outbreak of diseases, earthquakes and many more also play a fundamental role in challenging the family as an institution. Whenever a natural disaster occurs many lives are lost, crops are destroyed, people are injured, livestock are killed and thus the operations of our day to day life is disrupted. Those people who are affected by these natural disasters become vulnerable because they cannot provide for themselves and thus they have to rely on help. Last month when the walls of Patel dam in Solai, Nakuru County burst many people lost their lives, many were injured and property worth millions of shillings was destroyed. Those families which were affected had to rely for help from local government, national government and from well-wishers so as to survive because it was almost impossible for them to survive without being helped (Kottak, 1994).
Drug and Substance Abuse
Every single person in an addict’s family is affected in some way. For example, in a family where the father is an alcoholic, he might be spending most of his income on drinking alcohol thus neglecting his responsibilities as a family man, that is; providing for the basic needs of the family. In Kenya, illicit brews have affected many people where the family as a basic unit suffers a lot. In the recent cases of Nyeri County, men have abused these brews to the extent that they have failed to perform their conjugal responsibilities thus making their wives to react by chopping off their private parts. This has had massive effects such as loss of life. In cases where the father in a family is the breadwinner and is an alcoholic the family might suffer from poverty and other problems such as violence where the father comes home drunk and beats up the wife and maybe the kids. Women who abuse drugs also affect their families various ways. In cases where the women is supposed to socialize the children, the socialization is not effective. Also children who are drug addicts for example bang smokers who are mostly adolescents, they affect their families in that the influence of drugs leads them to perform insane acts such as dropping out of school and stealing to sustain their need for drugs since most of them do not have jobs. Drug abuse among students results into general indiscipline in institutions of learning (Koech, J. 2006 cited by Chebukaka, 2014). Addiction of drugs and substance impacts the family’s finances, physical health and psychological wellbeing.
This paper has shown that the family as an institution is facing a myriad of challenges. Drugs and substance abuse, discriminations in the families, separation and divorce, sexual harassment, poverty and health complications are some of the challenges that many families face in Kenya. Adequate measures such as pre-marital counselling for people who want to be married, gender balance, forming poverty eradication strategies and implementing them and punishing offenders who discriminate or harass others sexually will help to counter these challenges that many Kenyan families are facing. All stakeholders in the society have a role to play to ensure that these challenges facing the family are solved so as to achieve our goals as a society. The family is the basic unit of the society, the society is integrated this means that when one part of the society is affected, all the other parts will not function properly. When the family fails to perform its functions such as socialization of children we will end up with a weak society socially, politically and economically.