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Information Literacy; a Tool to Control Harmful Traditional Practices among Nomadic Communities in Tana River County

by GOUDIAN KILEMBA GWADEMBA
Information Literacy; a Tool to Control Harmful Traditional Practices among Nomadic Communities in Tana River County
Contributors (1)
G
Published
Mar 20, 2018
DOI
10.21428/8c1ba94f

Abstract

For many generations, harmful traditional practices have existed all over the world, causing untold suffering mostly to women and girls and affecting the social and economic development of the society. While many strategies have been developed to address the problems, information literacy has been identified as the main tool to address the complications attributed to the harmful Traditional practices. It is now an accepted fact that an informed society is capable of finding solutions to its problems and that through information literacy programs the community can develop good understanding of their culture, beliefs, norms and values besides appreciating the highly sensitive nature of dealing with harmful traditional practices. While there are no hard and fast rules for eradicating these practices, information literacy is the only tool capable of addressing wanton HTPs in any particular context. Improving communication between men and women, girls and boys, is critical and Information literacy can be used to stimulate discussion and sharing of information and understanding, not only on HTPs themselves, but on how different people in the communities feel about them and what it takes to end them forever. Information literacy can stimulate conversations that will promote community ownership of the problems discussed and eventually find lasting solutions. This ownership is vital to ensuring that change is generated from within communities and societies and not imposed on them from outside. Ending HTPs requires major social change that can only be realized through information literacy which will bring about attitudinal and behavioral change. HTPs, like Female Genital Mutilation, child marriage, wife inheritance, arranged marriages and son preference are “social norms” – beliefs and practices, which people think are a necessary and “normal” part of social life. However giving up HTPs forever is not just about changing individual social norms. It requires a huge shift in how people think about themselves, about girls and women, about how men and women form relationships with each other, about who has power in families, communities and society, and how that power is used. This goes beyond changing particular beliefs and behaviors within communities and societies: it is about fundamental social change. Promoting and supporting this kind of rights-based social change is complex and difficult. However it is not impossible, but it requires huge efforts and ongoing support as societies work to eliminate gender inequality and inequity. The ability to access, evaluate and use information is therefore a prerequisite for lifelong learning, and a basic requirement for the information society. Information literacy skills will enable individuals to conduct independent information research, efficiently retrieve the information using modern technologies, critically evaluate their findings and effectively apply relevant information into their day-to-day situations. This way individualwill become less prone to making less informed decisions and being swayed by social currents. This paper addresses how information literacy can be used as a tool to eliminate harmful traditional practices which are prevalent among the pastoral communities in Tana River County.                                                        

New words: Harmful Traditional Practices, Information Literacy, Human Rights, Social Change

1.0 Background to the study          

The Charter of the United Nations includes among its basic principles the achievement of international cooperation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion (Art. 1, para. 3). In 1948, three years after the adoption of the Charter, the General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has served as guiding principles on human rights and fundamental freedoms in the constitutions and laws of many of the Member States of the United Nations.

The Universal Declaration prohibits all forms of discrimination based on sex and ensures the right to life, liberty and security of persons; it recognizes equality before the law and equal protection against any discrimination in violation of the Declaration. However, Traditional cultural practices which reflect values and beliefs held by members of a community spanning generations have continued to be observed. Every social grouping in the world has continued to hold specific traditional cultural practices and beliefs, some of which are beneficial to all members, while others are harmful to a specific group, such as women and girls.

As early as the 1950s, United Nations specialized agencies and human rights bodies began considering the question of harmful traditional practices affecting the health of women, in particular female genital mutilation. But these issues have not received consistent broader consideration, and action to bring about any substantial change has been slow or superficial. This can generally be attributed to the literacy levels of the practicing communities.

Tana River County is one of the forty-seven (47) counties in Kenya. The county’s total population was 240,075 based on the 2009 National Population and Housing Census (GoK, 2010)), distributed on 47,414 households. The population density is 6.2 people per Km2. Based on a growth rate of 3%, the projected 2012 population was 262,684; 131,140 male and 131,544 female and is projected to increase to 287,422 in 2015. Seventy seven percent of the populations live below the poverty line and the employment rate in the county is 42.8 percent. The county has a labour force of 45.8 % of the total population, consisting of 46.9% male and 44.7 % female. Majority of the population lives below the poverty line. Early girl child marriages are rampant which limits them to access to education and traditional cultural practices dominate the community’s way of life. The major ethnic groups are the Pokomo, many of whom are small scale farmers, and the Orma and Wardey, who are predominantly nomadic. The county is generally dry and prone to drought. Rainfall is erratic, with rainy seasons in March–May and October–December. Conflicts have occurred between farmers and nomadic peoples over access to water. Flooding is also a regular problem, caused by heavy rainfall in upstream areas of the Tana River. Literacy levels are also low registering very low transition from primary to secondary school (Kenya Inter Agency rapid Assessment 2014)

1.1 Introduction

The international community has become aware of the need to achieve equality between the sexes and of the fact that an equitable society cannot be attained if fundamental human rights of half of human society, i.e. women rights, continue to be denied and violated. Harmful Traditional Practices are a form of discrimination because they violate the human rights of affected individuals, particularly women and girls. They arise from gender inequality and discriminatory values, which lead to unequal power relations in communities and societies and to violence against women and girls. This therefore calls for creation of awareness regarding the harmful effects which can clearly be addressed through clearly designed information literacy programs that will strive to address the causes and effects to the society’s wellbeing and find appropriate solutions, this is because Information literacy can be used to teach individuals how to find information and prepare them for lifelong learning so that they can “always find information needed for any task or decision at hand” (association of collage research libraries, 1989) this is important in the context of today’s information society in which information is the most critical resource and basis for competition (Talero and Gaudette 1996). This paper offers an overview on how properly planned information literacy programs can be used as a tool to eliminate harmful traditional practices which are prevalent among the pastoral communities in Tana River County.

1.2 Methodology

The analysis is mainly based on primary and secondary data, which includes key informants and focused group discussion with community elders, secondary data was gathered from reports, Tana River county government websites and demographic information reports. In addition, the author, who is a Kenyan researcher and a PhD student, held brief interviews with two officers at the ministry of gender and social services County Government of Tana River who provided an overview of the status of adult literacy and the effects of harmful traditional practices on gender and development in the county. Data received from different sources was cross-checked in order not only to corroborate the information but also to get a good understanding of initiatives taken regarding how information literacy can be used as a tool to eradicate Harmful cultural practices.

1.3 Statement of the Problem

There is no clear and universally agreed definition of Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs). HTPs stem from value-based discrimination against particular groups of people, and they challenge the human rights of the people affected by them. The roots of HTPs are in particular cultural and social norms and beliefs, and particular interpretations of religion. These lead to unequal power relations between women and men (gender inequality), and male domination throughout society. Harmful Traditional Practices can affect men and women, girls and boys. However, because the causes of HTPs lie in deep-rooted gender inequalities, girls and women are the most affected. Because HTPs are about gender, they affect girls and women across societies, not just those who are most poor. Poverty, illiteracy and other disadvantages such as living with disabilities, may also make the effects of HTPs worse. HTPs are as varied as the cultures in which they occur, but the majority of HTPs are related to lack of awareness regarding the rights of women and girls. However, the bleak reality is that the harmful traditional practices focused on in this paper are as a result of ignorance and therefore information literacy seen as a solution to the problem through structural and attitudinal changes necessary to eliminate gender inequality.

1.4 Purpose of the Research

The main purpose of this paper is to appraise the harmful traditional practices in Tana River County and propose how information literacy can be used as a control.

1.5 Objective of the Research

1.     Appraise the effects of Harmful Traditional Practices on Women and Girls in Tana River County.

2.     Determine the role of Information Literacy in the eradication of Harmful Traditional Practices in Tana River County.

2.0 An appraisal of Harmful Traditional Practices and their effects on women and the girl child in Tana River County

Harmful Traditional Practices are a form of discrimination because they violate the human rights of affected individuals, particularly women and girls. These harmful traditional practices include female genital mutilation (FGM); forced feeding of women; early marriage; the various taboos or practices which prevent women from controlling their own fertility; nutritional taboos and traditional birth practices; son preference and its implications on the status of the girl child; female infanticide; early pregnancy; and dowry price. Despite their harmful nature and their violation of international human rights laws, such practices persist because they are not questioned and take on an aura of morality in the eyes of those practicing them. The following are some of the practices rampant in Tana River County.

2.1 Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM), or female circumcision as it is sometimes erroneously referred to, is rampant among the pastoral communities in Tana River County. It is an age-old practice which is perpetuated in many communities simply because it is customary. FGM forms an important part of the rites of passage ceremony for most nomadic communities such as the Orma Wardey and Malakote, marking the coming of age of the female child.

It is believed that, by mutilating the female's genital organs, her sexuality will be controlled; but above all it is to ensure a woman's virginity before marriage and chastity thereafter. But not unaware to the traditional communities is the fact that FGM imposes on women and the girl child a catalogue of health complications and untold psychological problems. The practice of FGM violates, among other international human rights laws, the right of the child to the "enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health", as laid down in article 24 (paras. 1 and 3) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The origin of FGM has not yet been established, but records show that the practice predates Christianity and Islam in practicing communities of today. The age at which mutilation is carried out varies from area to area. In Tana River County FGM is performed on children from 7 to 10 years old, and on adolescents. Adult women also undergo the operation at the time of marriage but since FGM is performed on childrenas well as adults, it can no longer be seen as marking the rites of passage into adulthood, or as ensuring virginity.

The diagram below shows how the harm caused by FGM/C and child marriage is inter-linked. It shows that both practices can lead to profound damage to girls and women and can result in inter-generational poverty and disadvantage.

Fig.2.1 Harmful effects of Female Genital Mutilation

Adapted from: Crawford, S., 2013, Towards Ending FGM/C in Africa and Beyond: A scoping study, DFID

As can be deducted from the above illustration, the effects of female genital mutilation have short-term and long-term implications. Hemorrhage, infection and acute pain are the immediate consequences. Keloid formation, infertility as a result of infection, obstructed labour and psychological complications are identified as later effects. In rural areas where untrained traditional birth attendants perform the operations, complications resulting from deep cuts and infected instruments can cause the death of the child. There are also reports of psychological and health problems suffered by women seeking medical assistance in Western medical, facilities due to lack of knowledge regarding genital mutilation.

Like all other harmful traditional practices, FGM is performed by women, and like in most rural settings throughout Africa, the operation is accompanied with celebrations and often takes place away from the community at a special hidden place. The operation is carried out by women who have acquired their "skills" from their mothers or other female relatives; they are often also the community's traditional birth attendants. The type of operation to be performed is decided by the girl's mother or grandmother beforehand and payment is made before, during and after the operation, to ensure the best service. This payment, partly in kind and partly in cash, is a vital source of livelihood for the practitioners. The conditions under which these operations take place are often unhygienic and the instruments used are crude and unsterilized. Kitchen knives, a razor-blade, a piece of glass or even sharp fingernails are the tools of the trade. These instruments are used repeatedly on numerous girls, thus increasing the risk of blood-transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

The wound is then treated by applying mixtures of local herbs, earth, cow-dung, ash or butter, depending on the skills of the traditional doctor. If the child dies from complications, the traditional doctor is not held responsible; rather, the death is attributed to evil spirits or fate.

In Tana River County, most women believe that, they have to undergo the operation in order to be clean and also be prepared for marriage, female circumcision is therefore a precondition for establishing identity and belongingness is another reason advanced for the perpetuation of the practice. For example among the Orma groups of girls of 12 and 13 of the indigenous population undergo an initiation rite, conducted by elderly women. This involves education on how to be a good wife or co-wife, the use of herbal medicine and the "secrets" of female society. It also involves the ritual of circumcision.

2.2 Son Preference and its Implications on the Status of the Girl Child        

One of the principal forms of discrimination prevalent in Tana River County especially among the nomadic communities is the son preference. This practice has far-reaching implications for women.The preference accorded to the boy child over the girl child denies the girl child good health, education, recreation, economic opportunity and the right to choose her partner, thus violating her rights under articles 2, 6, 12, 19, 24, 27 and 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Son preference refers to a whole range of values and attitudes which are manifested in many different practices, the common feature of which is a preference for the male child, often with concomitant daughter neglect. It may mean that a female child is disadvantaged from birth; it may determine the quality and quantity of parental care and the extent of investment in her development; and it may lead to acute discrimination, particularly in settings where resources are scarce. Although neglect is the rule, in extreme cases, son preference may lead to selective abortion or female infanticide.

Just as in many societies, the communities in Tana River County believe that the family lineage is carried on by male children. The preservation of the family name is therefore guaranteed through the son(s). The fear of losing a name therefore prompts the families to wish to have a son. Some men marry a second or a third wife to be sure of having a male child unaware that it is the man who determines the sex of the child. In some cases conflicts have arisen over the inability to have sons which has prompted divorce. Among all the communities in the county, sons are responsible for the performance of burial rites for parents and therefore parents with no male children do not expect to have appropriate burial to "secure their peace in the next world". Considering that in almost all religions, ceremonies are performed by men. Priests, pastors, sheikhs and other religious leaders are men of great status to whom society attaches great importance, and this important role for men obliges parents to wish for male children in spite of the fact that it is all based on lack of information and awareness of the equality of all children when given a chance to exploit their potential fully. Ironically religious leaders who should be relied upon to help check the discrimination have a major involvement in the perpetuation of son preference.

Son preference is a practice enshrined in the value systems of most societies. It thus dictates the value of judgements, expectations and behavior of family members, the practice is rooted in the culture and the economics of son preference, these factors play a major role in the low valuation and neglect of female children. The son is considered to be the family pillar, who ensures continuity and protection of the family property. It is believed that sons provide the workforce and have to bring in a bride-"an extra pair of hands". Sons are the source of family income and have to provide for parents in their old age. They are also the interpreters of religious teachings and the performers of rituals, especially on the death of parents, which include feeding a large number of people, sometimes several villages. As soldiers, sons protect the community and hold political power. The psychological effect of son preference on women and the girl child is the internalization of the low value accorded them by society.

Access to education by itself is not enough to eliminate values held by society, for such values are in most countries transmitted into educational curricula and textbooks. Women are thus still depicted as passive and domestically oriented, while men are depicted as dominant and as breadwinners. Education does, however, offer the female child an improved opportunity to be less dependent on men in later life. It increases her prospects of obtaining work outside the home. As laid down in articles 28 and 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, all children have the right to education, and the content of such education should be directed to the development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential. According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the expansion of educational opportunities over the past several decades has clearly affected girls, in Kenya for example the free primary education has increased enrollment for both girls and boys although this has not been a result of deliberate policy to reduce gender disparities in educational access.

In Tana River County school drop-out rates are higher among girls than among boys. The reasons for the high drop-out rate among girls are poverty, early marriage, helping parents with housework and agricultural work, the distance of schools from homes, the high costs of schooling, parents' illiteracy and indifference, and the lack of a positive educational climate. Girls begin school very late and withdraw with the onset of puberty. Parents do not see the benefits of girls' education because girls are given away in marriage to serve the husband's family; sons are therefore given priority. Enrolment rates for girls therefore declined despite attempts to increase them.

2.3 Recreation, Property Ownership and Work Opportunities

According to article 31, paragraph 1, of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, States parties "recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities". However, from an early age, girls from nomadic communities in Tana River County are burdened with domestic tasks and child care, which leaves them no time to play. Studies have shown that recreation plays a vital part in a child's emotional and mental development. When time for play is found by girls, it often takes place near the home. Young boys, however, have fewer demands made of them and are allowed to engage in activities outside the home especially when herding livestock. The status of girls is linked to that of women and their exploitation. A woman's work never ends, especially in rural areas and in poor urban households.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women calls for the elimination of discrimination against women in the field of employment, "in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, the same rights" (art. 11, para. 1). It also calls upon States to ensure that women in rural areas have access to agricultural credit and loans, marketing facilities, appropriate technology and equal treatment in land and agrarian reform (art. 14, para. 2 (g)). Evidence indicates, however, that as girls grow older they face discriminatory treatment in gaining access to economic opportunities. In Tana River County Major inequalities persist in employment, access to credit, inheritance rights, marriage laws and other socio-economic dispensations. Compared with men, women have fewer opportunities for paid employment and less access to skill training that would make such employment possible. Women are usually restricted to low-paid and casual jobs, or to informal activities. Landlessness has increased among women, as they are not allowed to own land, livestock and property and the daunting revelation is that what married women earn or own legally is considered to belong to the husband as all decisions pertaining to property ownership is solely in the hands of men because women should submit to their husbands and the community regards single women as cursed and a bad omen to the society therefore even widowed women should be inherited.

2.4 Early Marriage and Dowry

Early marriage is another serious problem which some girls, as opposed to boys, must face. The practice of giving away girls for marriage at early ages is prevalent in Tana River County. Some girls of ages as low as 14, are forced into marriage after which they must start producing children. The principal reasons for this practice are the girls' virginity and the bride-price. Young girls are less likely to have had sexual contact and thus are believed to be virgins upon marriage; this condition raises the family status as well as the dowry to be paid by the husband. In some cases, virginity is verified by female relatives before the marriage.

Child marriage robs a girl of her childhood-time necessary to develop physically, emotionally and psychologically. In fact, early marriage inflicts great emotional stress as the young woman is removed from her parents' home to that of her husband and in-laws. Her husband, who will invariably be many years her senior, will have little in common with a young teenager. It is with this strange man that she has to develop an intimate emotional and physical relationship. She is obliged to have intercourse, although physically she might not be fully developed. Unaware of the dangers girls face parents driven by greed offer their children for marriage and boast of how much dowry was paid. Early marriage deprive the girl child of her right to education, self-awareness and dignity, she cannot make her own decisions and is rendered a slave to the husband and the in-laws who in most cases consider her as a child bearing machine.

2.5 Early Pregnancy, Nutritional Taboos and Practices Related to Child Delivery

Early pregnancy can have harmful consequences for both young mothers and their babies. According to UNICEF, no girl should become pregnant before the age of 18 because she is not yet physically ready to bear children. Babies of mothers younger than 18 tend to be born premature and have low body weight; such babies are more likely to die in the first year of life. The risk to the young mother's own health is also greater. Poor health is common among poor pregnant and lactating women. In many parts of the Tana River County especially among nomadic communities, girls marry shortly after puberty and are expected to start having children immediately. Although the country has raised the legal age for marriage, this has had little impact on traditional societies where marriage and child-bearing confer "status" on a woman.

The lack of education has also fueled the practice as very few girls complete primary school. Generally, the average food intake of pregnant and lactating mothers is far below that of the average male. This is mainly due to lackof information on antenatal care and education on nutrition as most pregnant women have no access to healthcare. Cultural practices, including nutritional taboos, ensure that pregnant women are deprived of essential nutrients, and as a result they tend to suffer from iron and protein deficiencies. Poor health can be improved by a more balanced diet and nutrition literacy. The choice of food consumed is determined by a number of factors, including availability of natural resources, economics, religious beliefs, social status and traditional taboos. Because these factors place limits in one way or another on the intake of food, communities and individuals are deprived of essential nutriments and, as a result, physical and mental development is impaired.

2.6 Violence against Women and Girls    

Acts of violence against women or the girl child by the family and the community, and are often condoned by the State. In its resolution 1994/45 of 4 March 1994, the Commission on Human Rights recognized other forms of non-traditional practices, such as rape and domestic violence, as violence against women. In most cases women suffer silently because they are not aware of their rights or reporting mechanisms and in some cases those who report are intimidated by the community especially when the case is referred back to the community elders for customary arbitration. Women and girls are therefore denied justice.

3.0 The role of information literacy in the eradication of Harmful Traditional Practices in Tana River County

The importance of the concept of information literacy has been recognized by several researchers and different definitions of information literacy in various contexts have been put forward. For this paper three definition of information literacy will be adopted. The first one will be from The American Library Association (ALA): the ability to recognize when information is needed as well as the ability to locate, evaluate and effectively use it (Carpenter, 1989, as cited in Plotnick, 1999). The second one is Doyle’s (1992) definition that emphasizes diversity in the origin of information and defines information literacy as the ability to access, evaluate and use information from a variety of sources and the third is from Bruce (2003) who from an educational perspective, defines information literacy as “the ability to access, evaluate, organize and use information in order to learn, problem-solve, make decisions in formal and informal learning contexts, at work, at home and in educational settings” (p. 4). All these definitions point to one common aspect that; information literate people will undoubtedly make ‘informed decisions’ leading to the fact that Harmful traditional practices have persisted due to information illiteracy.

The level of competitiveness in modern society requires increased information literacy skills for daily decision making. Education must therefore embrace more than just alphabetic and functional literacy in order to include information literacy- critical location, evaluation and use of information, digital information literacy –blending modern technology with information, and social literacy- effective communication in cultural context (Bruce, 2003). The education system in place must therefore do more to equip pupils and students with not only reading and writing skills, but also with necessary information literacy skills.

For many generations, Harmful Traditional Practices have existed in Tana River county, causing untold suffering mostly to women and girls and affecting the social and economic development of the society. While many strategies have been developed to address the problems, it is disheartening to note that the problems still continue to be practiced and this persistence has been attributed to lack of information literacy skills to address the complications attributed to the harmful Traditional practicesfor the reason that that the society is not informedand is therefore unable to find solutions to its problems.However, according to the gender and development officer in the county it has been realized that through well designed information literacy programs such as adult education programs, gender sensitization barazas, use of the mass media, lobbying for gender emancipation in development programs, creation of awareness on the constitution; the community can develop good understanding of their culture, beliefs, norms and values besides appreciating the highly sensitive nature of dealing with harmful traditional practices. While there are no hard and fast rules for eradicating these practices, information literacy is therefore the only tool capable of addressing wanton HTPs in any particular context.

Improving communication between men and women, girls and boys, is also critical and Information literacy can be used to stimulate discussion and sharing of information and understanding, not only on HTPs themselves, but on how different people in the communities feel about them and what it takes to end them forever. Information literacy can stimulate conversations that will promote community ownership of the problems discussed and eventually find lasting solutions. This ownership is vital to ensuring that change is generated from within communities and societies and not imposed on them from outside.

Through information literacy women and girls can be made aware of avenues of reporting and thus be prepared to demanding for their rights as entrenched in the constitution. Surprisingly owing to high illiteracy levels most women and girls being not aware of their rights and some of them even believing that violence against them is a sign of love from their husbands, some girls accept harassment from men and boys as normal because they are made to believe that the social status places the male gender as being superior.

Through well-designed adult education programs, parents will be enabled to appreciate and gain insight into the harmful effects of traditional practices and therefore prepared to ensure that many girls complete primary school. Provision of information literacy on antenatal care and education on nutrition, pregnant women will have access to nutrition and healthcare information and therefore reject some cultural practices, such as nutritional taboos, ensure that pregnant women are not deprived of essential nutrients, and as a result eradicate nutritional deficiencies. Poor health can be improved by a more balanced diet and nutrition literacy. The choice of food consumed is determined by a number of factors, including availability of natural resources, economics, religious beliefs, social status and traditional taboos. Because these factors place limits in one way or another on the intake of food, communities and individuals are deprived of essential nutriments and, as a result, physical and mental development is impaired.

Ending HTPs requires major social change that can only be realized through information literacy which will bring about attitudinal and behavioral change. HTPs, like Female Genital Mutilation, child marriage, wife inheritance, arranged marriages and son preference are “social norms” – beliefs and practices, which people think are a necessary and “normal” part of social life. However giving up HTPs forever is not just about changing individual social norms. It requires a huge shift in how people think about themselves, about girls and women, about how men and women form relationships with each other, about who has power in families, communities and society, and how that power is used. This goes beyond changing particular beliefs and behaviors within communities and societies: it is about fundamental social change.

In addressing FGM issues it is important that the provision of health care should be appropriate and sensitive to the needs of the affected women and girls. Health promotion work through women's health services should be developed by providing appropriate information materials and actively contributing to outreach work and awareness through information literacy programs that sensitize the community on the implications of the practice.

Creating awareness on the need to offer equal education opportunities to both children can therefore only be achieved through creation of awareness in order for the community to appreciate the value of education to both genders. Promoting and supporting this kind of rights-based social change is complex and difficult. However it is not impossible, but it requires huge efforts and ongoing support as societies work to eliminate gender inequality and inequity. The ability to access, evaluate and use information is therefore a prerequisite for lifelong learning, and a basic requirement for the information society. Development of financial literacy and entrepreneurship skills would equip women with relevant knowledge to engage in business for poverty eradication. Information literacy skills will enable individuals to conduct independent information research, efficiently retrieve the information using modern technologies, critically evaluate their findings and effectively apply relevant information into their day-to-day situations. This way individual will become less prone to making less informed decisions and being swayed by social currents.

4.0 Conclusion and Recommendations

Most women in Tana River County are unaware of their basic human rights. It is this state of ignorance which ensures their acceptance-and, consequently, the perpetuation of harmful traditional practices affecting their well-being and that of their children. Even when women acquire education, they often feel powerless to bring about the change necessary to eliminate gender inequality. Empowering women is vital to any process of change and to the elimination of these harmful traditional practices and this can only be achieved through literacy programs that will create awareness. Information literate people are able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate and use it effectively. Education being a continuous process therefore endows the information literate persons with skills to be able to organize knowledge, find information and use the information such that others can learn from them. This therefore incorporates lifelong learning. Information literate students, professionals or citizens are therefore able to benefit from the worlds of knowledge and incorporate their experiences of others into their background, employing evidence-based practice in their daily functioning. Thereby developing abilities to use complex information from a variety of sources to develop meaning or solve problems. Since the World Conference on Human Rights, held in Vienna in 1993, it is hoped that all States will recognize and accept the universality and indivisibility of the human rights of women. It is also expected that there will be more ratifications of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. However, much remains to be done in the field of equality, taking into account the absence, in many countries, of real constitutional guarantees of fundamental human rights for all. The persistence of negative customary norms that conflict with and undermine implementation of both national legislation and international human rights standards must be addressed. Although such national legislation and international standards are vital in tackling the issue of harmful traditional practices, there is an urgent need for parallel programs that addresses the cultural environment from which these practices emerge, in order to eliminate the various justifications used to perpetuate them. It is the duty of States to modify the social and cultural attitudes of both men and women, with a view to eradicating customary practices based on the idea of the inferiority or superiority of either sex or on stereotyped roles of gender. Comprehensive and intensive programs of formal and informal education, awareness raising and training are the approaches to be followed by some all stakeholders in addressing the wanton harmful traditional practices.

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