NAIROBI, Kenya, May 29 – First Lady Margaret Kenyatta swapped her heels for shoes commonly known as ‘ngomas’ in her first solo public appearance in an official capacity within Kenya’s borders.
The first lady donned the black rubber shoes before flagging off a contingent of similar shoes that will be distributed to millions of children countrywide in the fight against jiggers.
“I’m nervous as you can tell,” the First Lady said before embarking on her maiden speech to Kenyans, “This particular issue, the fight against jiggers, is one that is very dear to my heart as I have had the opportunity to meet many people affected by this condition.”
Ahadi Trust Executive Director Stanley Kamau confirmed to Capital FM News that the eradication of jiggers is a cause which is indeed close to the First Lady’s heart. “She has been one of our volunteers and so has her daughter.”
Ahadi Trust is behind the shoe distribution project which will protect children from jiggers by providing protective cover for the feet.
“We will first give the shoes to children who have suffered from jigger infestation. Then, we’ll shift focus our focus to those vulnerable to jigger infestation and finally if there are shoes left over, we’ll target poor households.”
The shoes Ahadi Trust is distributing are donations from TOMS, an American shoe company that gives a pair of shoes to a poor child for every pair sold.
“The jigger menace poses a serious challenge to Kenyans and has serious effects including incapacitation which renders children incapable of attending school. Besides physical effects, the jiggers have adverse psychological effects, including low self-esteem, shame and stigma which impact negatively on learning,” the First Lady said.
On that note, Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia who was also present at the ceremony said the eradication of jiggers is on his ministry’s to do list. “I’m personally touched by the fact that the First Lady decided to come and join us today. I think this, Your Excellency, is a very special commitment.”
Former beauty queen Cecilia Mwangi called on Macharia to institute a national policy that will chart the way forward in the fight against jiggers and raise awareness amongst those in the rural communities.
“Usually I wash the feet of children whose feet have been infested by jiggers, today I had the honour to help the First Lady wear Toms Shoes that will hopefully relegate jiggers to the history books,” Mwangi said.
At least 1.5 million Kenyans suffer from jigger infestation, 80 percent of them are children between the ages of five and 12.