Say Her Name: Sharon Otieno

If you haven't heard of #SayHerName, we've got you covered: Say Her Name is a social movement and hashtag founded by Kimberlé Crenshaw, one of the founders of The African American Policy Forum. Say Her Name focuses on gaining attention, awareness, and support for black women who have been murdered or are victims of violence of police brutality and anti-black violence. Over time, the movement has been a way for those to spread awareness of black women who have been murdered but did not receive any media attention. This movement is important because it raises crucial attention to cases of black women which get little to no coverage in comparison to male murder victims. 

The importance of this social movement was highlighted recently with the tragic case of Sharon Otieno. Otieno was a 26-year-old student at Rongo University in Kenya. As reported by the Daily Nation, a news outlet in Kenya, Otieno was founder murdered on Monday, Sept. 3 after suffering multiple stab wounds. At the time, Otieno was seven months pregnant. Her stab wounds were so severe that her unborn child had suffered as well.

Throughout her murder investigation, it was discovered that Otieno had been a part of “sugar daddy” relationship, allegedly with a man who many believed to be the Governor of Migori County, Okoth Obado. Beforehand, Otieno had told her mother that the father of her unborn child was Governor Obado. “He [Obado] had promised to buy her a house and take care of her pregnancy, and later the baby," recalled Melida Auma, Otieno’s mother.

Before her death, Otieno was reportedly worried that the Governor would not keep his promises to care for their child. In desperation, she decided to expose their relationship to the press. According to Daily Nation’s journalist Barrack Oduor, Obado’s assistant agreed to meet them to talk about a potential news story. Both Otieno and Oduor were kidnapped and shoved into a car. Shortly after, Otieno’s body was found “in a thicket” on the side of the road.

Writing this article was extremely difficult as there were barely any reports outside of Kenya about her death. Why? Because Sharon’s case is not uncommon or unusual. In fact, according to the Violence Policy Center (VPC): “when men murder women, 93% are killed by someone they know.” To put this into perspective, NBC News says that approximately “three women are murdered every day in the U.S. by current or former romantic partners.”

Because of this, I want to stress the important role #SayHerName plays in these cases. Almost no American news sources have covered Otieno’s case. Even though African American women are 35% more likely to experience partner violence than their white counterparts, we barely see stories circulated about their deaths. #SayHerName helps circulate these stories so that we expose and speak about the stories of these women who have been wrongfully victimized and murdered, in order to seek justice for these cases.

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