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Showing posts from 2009

Thankful…Lebohang

It has been quite a while since I posted, yet I have been inspired by different occurrences, one in particular comes to mind.

We set out for a long trip to Brazil via South Africa on 26th November and much as we were looking forward to the conference on Youth and adult and learning ( confintea vi) we were also dreading the many hours of travel. The conference was to be held in Belem Brazil and it meant waiting for 15 hours before the next connecting flight to Sao Paolo from South Africa. As we checked out at the South African immigration my colleague from Kenya we had no idea how we would get accommodation as we were not familiar with the hotels nearer the airport so we decided to ask for help from the help desk. We were met by a smiling young woman, Lebohang! I learnt her name is Tswana and means ‘be thankful’ and for sure am thankful for having met her. The few minutes that she interacted with her were so powerful that I will not forget this young woman in a long while. She started c…

It should not be her...

"I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." Ellie Wiesel As I sat across her on Friday last week (13th November 09), I wondered if there is anything I could say that would make it right. I wondered if there is anything, I could say that would make her know that I understand that I cannot empathize enough, but I wish I could. I cannot even claim to feel with her, to understand her, however much I try. Aisha had been in Kenya for some time, and I knew she had gone through a lot. I had wanted to see her, but I knew that I needed to fit her at the most appropriate time, not after work but a time that she would be comfortable traversing Nairobi. We had planned to meet for some time, but I seemed too busy to get the time. As I sat outside the one building that she had said she could trace in Nairob…

I have a story to tell...

“Can’t the whole world hear this?”
That is a question that I often ponder on in the process of my work among different communities. There is so much happening, yet the world doest seem to know what is happening as it never gets into the main world news.

The past two days have been an ‘aha’ moment for me. I have been attending the WWP (Women Peace Makers Program) writers’ forum. I first came across WWP in December 2007 during the first training on gender and active non violence for African women leaders. I have been involved in the program in different activities and training since then and I was excited to get invitation for the writer’s forum for the WPP alumni. As the sixty women and one man from about 21 African Countries gathered in the hall at Silver springs Hotel in Nairobi one could only see woman, but by the end of the two days, one could not help but see great women, with great stories to tell.
As the session started, it was clear that the main of the session was just one, to …

Too busy to live? Take time for your health

During this month of October I have thought about this topic and kept putting it off, yes it is breast cancer month, but why talk about it? It is scary enough and I writing about it doesn’t sit very well! After all it is said that we attract what we think…and write? I have only seen those affected by cancer talking about it, sharing their experiences. Like every woman, I just hope that I never get to do talk about it. But so does every woman, but the statistics are rising by day. My only close encounter with cancer is a friend, a young lady who died of cancer about 7 years ago when she was very young, 22 yrs. Prisca started having pains in her stomach and she was (wrongly) diagnosed with appendicitis and had had appendices removed. The pain continued and in the long run it was realise she had colon cancer. In her last days she was a great encouragement (yes she was the encourager!) to friends and family. She was so optimistic and despite the fears that her family went through trying t…

Until all women are free

"The day will come when men will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race. " Susan B. Anthony

Last week, I was in a very animated discussing with one of my close friends that took a very interesting turn. He was of the opinion that the fight for women’s rights has neglected the boys and in fact boys and men are more in need of these interventions. The issue was on some violence that had happened, and there was no back up statistics to show that indeed more boys and not girls were experiencing violence; that more men are victims of gender based violence. The discussion was interrupted hence we didn’t come to some conclusion but not before I mentioned that I believe women all over the world have so much in common and hence ‘we will never be free until all women are free’. The advo…

I dream

I have a great role, and the world will be world be better when I do my part, that’s my belief.
While growing up, I was taught all human beings deserve a good life, but as I grew up I realised how far from truth this is. I remember one time I was requesting that woman who looked very needy be allowed to eat for free in a hotel! In my innocence I felt this was the way life needs to be after all the dressing showed that she couldn’t afford a meal; yet she was hungry! This was my sister’s hotel & I knew my sister would not mind. However, the person in charge told me “Sophie, the world is fair, one day you will understand” and with this life went on ‘as usual’ she went away hungry.
Have I understood? May be not, but I have ‘known’, and that’s why I still have dreams and I dream of a better world; where everyone in the community has equal access, opportunities and capacity to make decisions. This is a dream that I believe can partly be fulfilled in my world, in my community. I strongly …

Born a feminist?

My friends and acquaintances all know that when there is a mention of women, gender, girls….my heart palpitate even more. Some have asked ask, why are you interested so much on women’s rights? Sometimes I just don’t have an answer, I just know, it can not be otherwise in anyway!! So why is my heart so there? Was I born a feminist or I just grew up to be one? And who is a feminist anyway? This is one term that women have really shied away from due to the negative connotation despite the fact that they are feminists to the core!

According to the Wikipedia encyclopaedia, “Feminism is a political discourse aimed at equal rights and legal protection for women. It involves various movements, theories, and philosophies, all concerned with issues of gender difference; that advocate equality for women; and that campaign for women's rights and interests”. With this definition, then feminist is the person committed to have this happen. To dismantle patriarchy and there is nothing apolitical …

Once again, who am I?

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great." Mark Twain
The other day, as I reflected on this quote, I couldn’t help but wonder if sometimes the other way round is also true? Do people sometimes think much more of us that we really are? Or rather do people think more highly of me than I am? Or is it that I don’t take as much time in discovering myself?
Much as I might pride myself in self awareness, I still get shockers when people compliment me more than my expectations. What of last week when I friend who I had apparently mentored more than I actually thought wrote a one page thank you that moved me to tears? I had been encouraging this friend like for some time in different life issues but I didn’t know how much impact this had on him.
Other tiems I get shockers when I wonder if people are talking about me or someone else! Unfortunately this doesn’t come often as …

A girl mother student

What a contradiction! Mothers are not girls, and mothers are not students! But alas that’s the reality, in Kenya and other developing countries. I couldn’t help thinking about the contradictions in life where a child is supposed to be bringing up a child as I interacted with some teenage mothers mostly from Mukuru slums in Nairobi today. I got a call on Thursday this week (2nd July 09) from a Lucy a mother of over 100 girls, or is grandmother to as many children?

I met Lucy earlier this year in the course of my work. Eventually we organized for a motivation talk and my friend Catherine accompanied me.
While we interacted with these young women, or rather girls, many thoughts went through my head which I kept pondering about and posing some questions to the others as we did our best to have a few words of advice to these girls. Looking at the 50 girls, there was nothing peculiar or unique about them. They were looking smart, happy and they were no different from other 12 year olds tha…

Breaking the rules....proud of the women

Some article in the East African Standard caught my attention last week (Thursday 24th June 2009) ‘women Women team breaks myth to win boat race.’ This really caught my attention as I had not visualized a boat ride by a woman, let alone a competition! May be it is because I have not heard this associated with women.
The paper went on to describe the joyful event that graced the community near Lake Victoria. Children, women and men cheered wildly as the teams rowed their boats in stiff competition.
There was rhythmic drumming as the women paddled swiftly and vigorously.
At the end of the one-kilometre boat race, Kasua Women Group from Gumbe, Samia District emerged the winners, defeating four other teams…needless to point out, male teams. I was impressed by the message that was sent out by these nine agile women aged between 20 and 45 yrs of age, the young and not so young I would say. They had not only broken the myth to participate in a sport considered to be a masculine sport, but h…

Gender Festival: Beyond lamentations we celebrate

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“Sometimes the smallest victories in life are more rewarding than the greatest milestones.”  Katie Kacvinsky

“Beyond lamentation”...those were the first words as title to Betty Murungi’s presentation in the context of healing, peace building and unity on the first day of the Gender Festival, the first ever for Kenya. Those words stayed with me as I recalled some of the discussions around the gender festival planning back in early 2008 when the idea of the gender festival was presented as borrowing a leaf from our Tanzania sisters. That was a time when the post elections violence (PEV) was still very raw spot for Kenya and hence there was the question of, do we have the energy for a festival? What is there to celebrate? However, in the long run we were all in agreement, things may look grim but there is still a lot to celebrate. In fact, it was felt that after the PEV, all the reason for a festival, for a celebration. Throughout the 3 days event, these words kept lingering in my mind.
Th…