Worry no more

friends

I know it’s been a while,
Since we sat side by side,
I guess I was too caught up on living life,
Trying so hard to soar and take flight,
But worry no more dear friend, am here now.

I travelled many a place,
Saw different faces,
But none gave me your kind of stir,
The kind that gives my heart a roar,
Worry no more dear friend, am here now.

Today, let’s break bread,
Under the yellow sun, our feet spread,
My tired feet walked a thousand miles,
But my soul was all smiles,
I was coming back home,
So worry no more, dear friend, am here now.

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Love is spoken here

House

In these white-washed walls

That sometimes have sheltered pain and agony
And other times, pride and joy
Beneath this roof that some days has masked loss
And other days inexpressible bliss
Love is spoken here

In these corridors that have held the pitter-patter of tiny feet
And sometimes the shrieks of a triumphant fleet
In these hallways that have had their share of banging doors
And sometimes rooms blaring out with song
Love is spoken here

In this shelter we call home
Where there is always unending hope
Where our kinfolk abound
Where in equal measure there is want and abundance
Where our memories are forever amassed
Love will always be spoken here

 

Yes…..am still here

Am really bummed that I haven’t been posting as much. But, not to worry am still around.

What I have been up to: I am now back in the 8am to 5pm grind, yes I am! Am working for a cool social enterprise known as Sanergy that helps to tackle the sanitation challenge in the urban slums by providing low-cost, high quality sanitation units called Fresh Life Toilets. It’s amazing how much we take toilets for granted until you get to visit informal settlements and see how having access to a clean toilet means so much to the residents there. Read more about their work here…

Christmas Holiday 2013: To wind down the year, we drove all the way to Malindi, a town about 120km north-east of Mombasa Kenya. Sunshine has never been cooler 🙂 We spent four days soaking in the sun and me splashing water by the edge of the swimming pool seeing as I can’t swim 😦 ….. will hopefully work on that though. We also went snorkelling in Watamu at the Malindi Marine Park, and incase you are wondering yes, I was clinging to a rope tied to the boat and voila….I could swim! We also visited the Vasco-Da-Gama pillar, one the oldest European monuments in Africa built in 1498!

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The Vasco-Da-Gama Pillar
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Early 2014: Just like a million other people on this planet, my resolution for 2014 was to get fit. So I bought Shaun T’s T25 just because no equipment is needed! Well the truth is am not a stickler for exercise but am at the very least getting my 2 days of exercise per week and for me that’s progress!
And oh yes, how could I forget Binyavanga Wainaina finally came out.  And as expected, there was a big online buzz, The Guardian took notice too! Wishing him the very best, I can only imagine how free he must have felt after trying to hide it from the world for most of his adult life. The guy can really write, has such a way with words and that for me is all that matters. Do I see him differently? Maybe just maybe, because our culture is not one that questions the greys, it’s either black or white…topic for another day…
Thats it, I promise to keep checking in as much as I can

Love and Light

xx

We do this for ‘Liz’

Life can be cruel. The kind of cruelty that no words can describe.  Cruelty that stems from individuals who are akin to savage beasts. Imagine having to endure gang rape by six of these beasts on your way from your grandfathers funeral. Never mind that your emotions are already battling with the loss of your granddad, the beasts decide to rape you until you lose consciousness. After which they throw you into a pit latrine.

This is what happened to 16-year-old ‘Liz’ (not her real name) from Busia, Western Kenya.  She had to endure what I can imagine were the darkest hours of her life in the latrine until she was found the following morning. Never mind that when she went to report to the police station, they asked her to take a shower.  And just like that, critical evidence to put the beasts behind bars was lost. ‘Liz’ was sexually assaulted, beaten and as a result suffered spinal injuries and obstetric fistula.

wicked11Punishment for the savage beasts you ask? Well, all they did was cut grass at the police station and walked home scott free. Both local and international media has been awash with condemnationof the  atrocity that was committed against this girl. And rightly so, because this girl must have wondered how cruel this world can get.

It got me thinking how people often feel that civil society groups and like-minded advocates “are always making too much noise” about the injustices that women go through. Isn’t it enough? some will ask. And the answer lies therein in Liz’s traumatising ordeal. It clearly is not near enough. We live in a system where most of the structures and systems that are supposed to give us refuge don’t. Somewhere in Busia,  western Kenya, is a police officer who believes that cutting grass is befitting for a rape crime.  These systems are comprised of some individuals who do not have an inkling on the kind of effect these crimes have on the lives of women that have to go through them.

So we cannot make enough noise, we will blare the horn ever so loudly until beasts that perpetrate these acts are give sentences so punitive that they think twice about committing these crimes . We do this for future generations who will not need to have protests to highlight such brutality to the powers that be. We do this because even if the world shows its cruel side through such senseless beasts, we show that it has its beautiful side that offers refuge to those that need it the most. We do this for ‘Liz’.

One step at a time…..

Towards the end of August, I attended the Gender forum that is an initiative of Heinrich Boll Stiftung.  The forum provides a platform for all stakeholders involved in Gender issues to share ideas as well as debate on the gender issues of our day. The theme for this particular forum was; Representation of women in political leadership:Taking stock.

The forum took cognizance of the fact that in the 11th parliament (both in the senate and national assembly); the number of women had significantly increased. The National assembly now has a total of 67 women with 47 women representatives and 16 from the dual gender constituencies. The senate now has 18 women nominated by political parties while the county assemblies were compelled by law to enforce the gender rule during the nomination process.

The main aim of the forum was to take stock of the significance of these affirmative action positions and its implications on Kenyan women in terms of leadership. It also aimed at recognizing the emerging benefits as well as challenges accruing from this. Panelist included Prof. Amb. Maria Nzomo, Senator Martha Wangari, Hon. Dr. Phoebe Asiyo, Mr. Barasa Nyukuri and Ms. Daisy Amdany.

It was quite interesting to listen to Prof. Amb. Maria Nzomo and Hon. Dr. Phoebe Asiyo talk of how far the women movement has come. It is quite worthwhile to note that these are some of the early pioneers of the women movement who fought for the recognition of the rights of women and have trodden the difficult path to challenge the patriarchal systems that is Kenyan politics.

Here are some of the key highlights that I picked up during the discussions:

1.     We must continue to lobby for the 2/3 gender rule to be enforced as we do not have the desired number of women yet at the helm. This was shelved after a court ruling that stated that this would be progressively attained in 2015. We cannot settle until this is enforced because if we do, we are likely to slowly regress to the old order.

2.     Elected women who are already in the 11th parliament are our best bet in pushing the issues that affect women at the national front. They need, and deliberately so,  to be visible in the advocacy of the women agenda and advance certain critical issues that affect women like quality maternal care, gender discrimination, Gender Based Violence etc

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3.      Affirmative action is even now more than ever, very critical so that women (recognized in the constitution as a vulnerable group) are able to compete at par with the men. We still solely equate affirmative action with women perhaps because of the injustices they have had to endure in many spheres of life. The forum however pointed out that in a different context and time, another vulnerable group will require affirmative action. Even men! This is because affirmative action is aimed at bridging the gaps in society so that all citizenry feel equally represented.

4.     Mentorship for aspiring young parliamentarians is very crucial to ensuring that they are able to enter into the political foray and withstand the many challenges that come with it. The women who have already made it, need to encourage as well as steward those who are interested. This equips them better to anticipate the myriad of challenges as well as how to circumvent them. Issues like finances are such a huge obstacle faced by young women entering into the political arena. Networking is one sure way of building their capacity and showing them the various avenues they can explore as they set out to campaign and garner community support.

5.     Perhaps the greatest lesson of the day was the talk by Mr. Baraza Nyukuri who is a Gender and Governance consultant. He emphasized that the quest for gender equality in all spheres of society will only be achieved when we begin changing our mindset about how we feel about the roles of men and women. That we should begin to realize it is not about women taking over power at the expense of men, because that is where we miss the point. The idea is about men and women working together, sharing power and resources in a fair manner that befits all. It’s about letting our boys and girls know from an early age that despite their biological set up, they can venture into any fields or career they want to because the society should not dictate what they can or cannot do based on what it deems as ‘appropriate’ for them.

I am not my skirt

After the general elections of 2013, the number of women in the Kenyan parliament has increased significantly. This was due to concerted efforts by various stakeholders as well as affirmative action on gender as enshrined in the constitution. This was also due to the realization that as a country wholesome and meaningful development could not be achieved without getting women involved in political leadership.

Though we still have not met the desired target, it has been refreshing to see these numbers rise in the 11th parliament. The idea is that with a stake in running the affairs of this country,  women will bring to the fore critical issues that affect them as well as the citizenry of this country. It was therefore a bit of a disappointment for me when watching news the other day , I heard of the efforts of Kisumu North ward representative, Caroline Owen,  to have a motion passed in her county banishing women from sitting astride while in skirts when being carried by motorcycles. Apparently, the Luo culture does not permit women to sit with their legs apart as it portrays a ‘bad image’.  See the featured story here. She also adds that the sitting position is uncultured and deprives women of respect because they ‘expose their bodies to men’.

Granted, she has a right to voice her opinion as any other leader, but I strongly disagree with her viewpoint.  She argues that the position distracts the male riders. We cannot continue to confine our women and how they should live their lives in the confines of  negative culture. Am not one to belittle culture, but it should be positive culture at that.  Practices such as FGM (Female Genital Multilation), wife inheritance and early marriages have been strongly lobbied against because they work to the detriment of the rights of women. Negative culture also invokes matters of sexuality to yoke women and suppresses their right to choice and having a say in their very own lives.

A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta to do!
A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta to do!

The Kisumu North Ward representative in trying to push this motion assumes that we do not have women who own motorcycles and bicycles and use them to undertake activities in their everyday life. These women have to sit astride to operate these modes of transport which are not the preserve of men! As a leader she should be encouraging women to rise up and take up any viable economic activity that will help them lead a more decent life.  Am sure that there are more pressing issues that women grapple with in her county that need attention.  Issues like access to quality reproductive health services especially for pregnant mothers and sex workers, access to quality education, access to opportunities that create employment and a source of income for the women etc.

Telling women to dress and act a certain way in my opinion is irrelevant and should not be given the time of day. It is this same kind of retrogressive thinking that misinformed individuals use to justify rape. That when a woman dresses and acts a certain way she is prone to assault.  It might seem trivial as it is, but am afraid as a leader who is an inspiration to many girls in her area, she is taking us back to defining women through the eyes of negative culture. That women have to behave and act in a certain way to appease the men, that before undertaking any activity, she has to think of how society will judge her. I’d also like to think that there are many men in Kisumu County who have never been bothered by this issue.

Let women carry on with their lives the way they feel best. You cannot dictate the mannerisms and dressing of either women or men for that matter, they have a right to simply choose what form of transport to use from point A to B and how to go about it. Let us focus on more important agenda, we have come too far in the right to choice for women to be taken aback.

Be still

be-still-and-know

Through the darkest of moments
When pain seems to come in torrents
When my soul is on its knees
And peace is elusive, deaf to my pleas
I will be still, for I know he is God

When the storm rages on
And my heart at best is forlorn
When the furious wind rocks my ship
Into the sea, I shall not leap
I will be still, for I know he is God

I will smile through my pain
In recognition that my troubles are not in vain
His gentle reminder, that this too shall pass
“My dear daughter…” he says, “…do not make a fuss”
Be still and you will know that I am God

We loved her even before we met…

This July 19th 2013, our baby girl turned one. You should have seen us, all excited and marveling at how fast the months had gone by. Funny, because when she was days old, one hour with her felt like an eternity. She would wail until her poor lungs couldn’t take it anymore, while we, with the hope of getting a quick one hour nap, would hopelessly try to rock her to calm down to no avail. Everybody told us that this was just a phase and that they grow up pretty fast, I couldn’t fathom that then. Now we do. Yes, they do grow up pretty fast. We still have our rough days, when she simply won’t relent, but we couldn’t care less because this tiny thing changed our lives from the day she landed here.

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Any mother will tell you how those nine grueling months can be. The constant fatigue, the myriad of emotions, the awkward sleeping positions, the weight gain. You go around carrying this little human who wrecks havoc on your body and the only thing that keeps you going is the immense love you have for them. And God in his perfect and divine order ensures that this love abounds during these months and sometimes it is all that keeps you going. It is this same love that gives single mothers whose boyfriends have deserted them at their most vulnerable the strength to carry on. The same love takes some mothers through pregnancy related complications that would otherwise have bogged them down. This love takes both mom and dad through the rough patches once the baby is born. Such is the power of this love.

And so through it all, you learn how strong parents can be, and more so the new ones like us who navigate through the first year without an instruction manual. You also realize that this is just the beginning of the journey and that you will wear your heart on your sleeve for the rest of your life and you can’t help it either.

So I baked a cake, never mind the fact that I hadn’t pretty much baked anything my entire life. We put balloons all around; we fussed over what we’d eat and how we were going to serve the cake, the colour of the forks. We had to because we loved her even before we met her…

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Happy birthday doll!

Wouldn’t it be nice…..

 urlEverybody loves a helping hand….

I was online the other day and came across some interesting concept by the WFP (World Food Programme) in which they were training dads to get involved in the nutrition and well-being of their children. The idea seems quite simple right? But think about it,  if we had more dads being hands on in the raising of children,  I think we would really make strides in ensuring gender equality. And here is the thing, I think we can safely assume that a dad who is actively involved in raising his kids is much more likely to also lend a helping hand at home from time to time. He is also more likely to be one who is gender sensitive 🙂

Most mums will attest to the fact that when it comes to the nitty-gritty of raising kids such as what they eat, their vaccination schedules etc and housework as well, some dads are usually hands off. This is  because of the Gender roles that are given to either men or women and as well as the socialization that takes place over time. What this unique approach by WFP does is that it helps the men appreciate the role that women play in the day-to-day raising of children.

This is especially crucial  in today’s world where both men and women are actively involved in providing income towards the well being of the family.  If responsibilities within the home context are also equally shared, trust me, we would have happier women and men too! This is because the women will not be so boggled down by household demands.

And as well an applause to the dads who are already hands-on 🙂. Wouldn’t it be nice to have more dads do the same?

Gender buzz words

As a student studying Gender and Development, more often than not, I come across people who are of the assumption that gender studies are concerned with the study of women. This could not be farther from the truth! For quite some time now, a lot of people have the misconception that gender simply refers to women. Perhaps this stems from the fact that as you delve into matters gender, there is a lot of preference and limelight  given to women because of their subordinate role in many spheres of life. This is one area we will explore further in forthcoming articles.

First things first…I thought it would be useful to share with you some of the terms that are used in relation to gender. Don’t be deceived by some of the terminologies that look so complicated, they are in fact very easy to understand because they touch on our everyday experiences. While I cannot exhaust all the terms, I will only highlight the ones that are most commonly used. It is also important to note that the terms might keep adding up over the years as people seek to address any issues that arise in this particular area.

At the very basic, GENDER refers to socially ascribed roles and relationships between men and women. Key word here is ‘socially’ because it is the society that dictates roles and expectations of the behavior of men and women. It is important to note that gender is very different from sex. Sex is biological as one is either born male or female. Gender on the other hand simply refers to the society’s expectations as regards to ones sex.

gender-in-video-games-mario-luigi-bros-gender-peachBoys can wear pink and girls can wear blue!

Out of these expectations by society, we then have GENDER ROLES, these refers to tasks and responsibilities that a society considers appropriate for men, women, boys and girls. One quick example here, in African society, women are seen as home makers due to their reproductive role as mothers.  Men on the other hand are believed to be strong and are seen as providers and the onus is usually on them to go out and fend for the family.

The expected roles are then entrenched by the society through GENDER SOCIALIZATION. It is the tendency for boys and girls to be socialized differently. Boys are raised to conform to the male gender role, and girls are raised to conform to the female gender or role. Socializing agents are the various institutions we have such as schools, churches, the media and most importantly our various cultures practiced in our communities. Over a period of time, this institutions shape our world view and what is expected of us as either men or women.

GENDER EQUALITY This basically means  that  all human beings are free to develop their abilities and make choices without any limitations set by gender roles; that different  aspirations and needs of women and men are considered, valued and favored equally.

GENDER EQUITY on the other hand  calls for fairness in women’s and men’s access to socio-economic resources. It seeks to have women and men participate as equals. Though seemingly the same, there is an albeit small difference, Equality refers to identical treatment in dealings, quantities or values. Equity refers to fairness, or the equality of outcomes, and involves changing aspects of the system that have disadvantaged particular groups.

So equality would be like the entire family each having equal servings of food no matter how big or small that person is, everyone gets the same treatment, they are treated equally. And equity would be like the dad getting the biggest serving because he has the biggest appetite, and the small child gets a smaller serving because they have a smaller appetite, everyone gets served according to their appetite, according to their personal needs, fairness.

0f0649c146d553cb4acab5cef10c86d7Both men and women all want a piece of the national cake!

GENDER MAINSTREAMING involves assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in any area and at all levels. It is a strategy for ensuring that women and men benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal of mainstreaming is to achieve gender equality.

GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE (GBV) is an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will based on socially-ascribed (gender) differences between men and women. it is crucial to note that while women are usually the victims, men too are subjected to this kind of violence.

GENDER BALANCE is then degree to which men and women hold the full range of positions in a society or organization. The long-term ideal objective, as defined by the UN General Assembly, is to achieve a 50/50 gender balance.

There you go, the basic gender buzz words at your finger tips 🙂

PS: Next time we look at the relationship between Gender and Development and why it is so vital to have this linkage.