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Showing posts from 2013

Our loss! Musings of a Kenyan woman

Due to some technical problems I have not been able to watch Kenya news for a while now. Sometimes this is a good thing, some detox from news. But, I want to know what is happening in my homeland Kenya. I saw a friend post on facebook about matrimonial property, the 50/50 sharing of matrimonial property etc. I was not sure I wanted to find out what was happening but when a non-Kenyan colleague forwarded a BBC News update I knew ignoring is not making it go away. So here I am reading online comments from some of the members of parliament and wondering if it was worth it waking up early and traversing different counties talking about ‘Gains of the proposed constitution’ back in 2010. I recall why I was very keen on the constitution, because I had seen some gains for women and girls in Kenya and wanted to protect that. One of the clauses I liked is 45(3) “Parties to a marriage are entitled to equal rights at the time of the marriage, during the marriage and at the dissolution of the marri…

Rejoicing in the global Sisterhood

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
Last Sunday I had one of those moments that many questions linger and bother. In the process of trying to separate issues I felt down and I was not ready to share with anyone. ‘Unfortunately’ (and very fortunately) a sister of mine started chatting me and I found myself sharing a lot with her. There is something amazing about sisterhood, you know that there is this lady or these ladies whether you share blood relation to or not that you can easily share with and count on their support no matter what. That person who tells you “I am not tired of listening” I feel I am among the lucky women since I have several such sisters! My first experience of sisterhood is in my family, as I grew up. I recall my eldest sister, (RIP dear Jane) and how she ensured I was socialised as a young girl in work and play. While she was a disci…

Keep your cool and tame your daughter, she deserved it

Dear Sir and madam, This is to let you know that your daughter Stacy was slapped by a boy in class. Now before you start getting annoyed please listen to these facts. First the boy is also 7 years old, they are kind of the same age. In this case really we cannot say there is bullying or anything. If he had slapped a three year old we would have taken action but now that they are kind of age mates or rather they are in the same class then you see it is not bullying. Secondly, your daughter asked for it. Relax I explain, she has not been behaving like a good girl. First let me define for you what a good girl does. A good girl doesn’t go into the boy’s turf, you see your girl is a ‘kiherehere’. The other day we had an argument in class and instead of her shutting up she was there making her point, in front of the boys imagine! A good girl keeps her cool and just smiles! Yes just smile and be a good girl that’s all. However you Stacy has been doing the opposite. When we ask for a class m…

‘Life skills for life’ as small acts count for life

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Last week I had an interesting experience together with my colleagues as we visited some groups that are undergoing trainings in Mugwo Payam of Yei River County of South Sudan. Women for Women International (WfWI) works with socially excluded women affected by conflict and civil strife. The program empowers women through trainings and provision of resources in order to enable them sustain an income as well as get knowledge on key life issues around health, decision making and social networks. On this particular day we were accompanied by the WfWI Vice President Programs – Julianna - who had visited the South Sudan program, the Country Director - Lizy - among others. On the way we decided to enter the local market to buy a few fresh products as well as experience the local market. That is where an interesting incidence happened. We knew what we wanted to purchase and top on the list were pineapples, avocadoes, greens – items we know very well. As it is the case in many African countr…

Reflections on sisterhood and mentorship

“When a young person, even a gifted one, grows up without proximate living examples of what she may aspire to become her goal remains abstract. Such models as appear in books or on the news, however inspiring or revered, are ultimately too remote to be real, let alone influential. But a role model in the flesh provides more than inspiration; his or her very existence is confirmation of possibilities one may have every reason to doubt, saying, 'Yes, someone like me can do this.” ― Sonia Sotomayor Just what is mentorship? I once saw a quote that charity is one beggar telling another where s/he found bread”. In the women’s movement we have thrived on mentorship, on women who have carried us on their shoulders so that we don’t stumble on the same spot they tripped. It is my belief that we will have lived our worth if our younger sisters do not have to go through the same mistakes we made. This is not about older and younger women really; everyone has younger women and girls lookin…

A sister’s keeper is one mouthful from the sea

“I can’t do this anymore!” Those were the words of my colleague and I looked up at her wondering “what now”? She repeated “I cannot do this work anymore”. And that was when it dawned on me what she was talking about. I was trying to block it out of my mind and I even made to her a gesture of ‘block it” but I knew I was lying to myself. We had just had a brief meeting with a lady who visited our office. I will call her Hope, since that’s all that can help her live on. Hope had made a decision earlier in her life as to how she want to live, but when I was called and met her she was not living that dream. She was holding her 2 month’s old second born baby boy who seemed more interested in watching the lights, shades, and other colors than breastfeed. He is happy, and ignorant of circumstances around him. Hope wanted to consecrate her life to God by living as a nun. People chose different vocations in life, and hope to find God in those vocations. It could be marriage, single life or r…

Strong woman’s right to be ‘weak’

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Strong woman’s right to be ‘weak’ This weekend my friend *Cate (not her real name) shared what she was going through and what struck me was her words “I don’t want anybody to tell me I am strong and can handle this”. That resonated with me so well. *Cate has been going through some very difficult moments in the last three or so months. This has seen her go undergo surgical procedure that has altered her life. Sometimes she shares her thoughts and lonely challenging moments, other times her high moments. I think she has been very powerful in the way she has been handling the issue, she has walked high in the experience and even in denial moments, moments that she has wondered if many things in her life will matter anymore. When she shared with me her thoughts that she could only put on paper and I read those words, all I could think of was “gal I know that only too well”. I am not sure how many times people have told me that since it is countless. However I know there are times when t…

Going back to the roots to inspire girls to dream

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Memories take me back to some very good friends in primary school who I wish to talk about. While I was in primary class 8, my best friend was Claris Wanjiru*. She was a determined girl coming from a family where the father was irresponsible leaving all responsibilities to the mother. When we did the primary school exams she passed well enough to get admission to a secondary school, but that was not to be. She never stepped into a secondary school. 20 years later, I have no idea where she is but recently I met her mother. She informed me that Claris is living in very poor conditions, having married twice and separated barely able to make ends meet. I asked for her telephone number so I could seek her out, she had none. My friend Benadine Wambui* was among the older girls in class having repeated classes. I liked that she was mature and humble. However, she had low esteem issues, having to school with much younger girls. It did not help that teachers made fun of her & humiliate…

Our voices in a powerful dance- By Sophie Ngugi

I seek not the voice of the president, I seek not the voice of the queen, I seek not the voice of the prince, For them, we hear, Whether we seek them or not, I seek not the voice of the high and mighty, But I seek your voice mama. I seek your voice mama, For your nurtured the presidents and the mighty, Every day you toil, with resilience on your back, And determination in your stomach, On your left you carry courage, And on your right hope, On your laps is love, Enough love to tenderly cover all humanity. I seek your voice sister, For you rule the world, If only you knew! If only you knew how, Your voice and mine will make a mighty thunder, No longer shall be silent For in silence we ache, And deny the world the great and gracious, You are the pulse of the world. Awake and rise, Rise up to meet yourself, For you have the right to sway, and swing, To dance and dance, For it is a powerful dance, Where we all join, With the trees swaying to the rhythm, And the birds whisper a melody,…

Sexy, decent, smart- When is it my choice?

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Today I write about dresses, dressing. I cannot talk of dressing without remembering some of the great girls in my life that inspire me, my nieces. My nieces are an interesting lot and each of them has her own special way but for now let me focus on three. My niece Valerie has her own unique taste of clothes. I remember the day that with my younger sister we decided to have the ‘auntie of the year award’ by taking her shopping for clothes; not buy for her but take her to choose. She was very excited to be treated in such ‘adult way’ (she was about 5 yrs). We had in mind what we could have shopped for her, that Cinderella kind of dressing. Don’t girls look pretty in them, especially something red or pink? But no way, she wanted some jeans trouser! That was no easy task considering her tiny body. Eventually we got one that fitted her ‘hips’ and all and the girl was happy; her choice. She has made it clear she doesn't like long dresses, be it uniform or Sunday best. I recall an inc…

The language of Easter

Tomorrow will mark two weeks since I landed in Yei South Sudan, and I must say I have been doing well in trying to get my way round. However I had been missing out on Church and being Easter weekend it was pertinent for me to find a way of communing with other Catholics. Since my younger days, and then reinforced more in my college days, Lent period and Easter have been my most favorite seasons in the calendar of the Church. In the Catholic Church this is the period where you experience more of the interesting rituals that define our faith. The period between Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday are the great Easter Trindium. On Holy Thursday we commemorate the Passover linking the old and the New Testament and more so the sacrament of Eucharist when Jesus had his last meal and hence the priests/ ordination. Most churches will have a mass in the evening, several activities on Good Friday (the crucifixion of Jesus); then Easter vigil mass on Saturday and on Sunday when we commemorate the ‘m…

Outliers, luck or fate?

A few minutes ago, in the process of reading a certain document, I came across a picture of a school and pupils learning. I stared at it for a long while, not because I have not come across these kind of schools over and over, but I was wondering “how will this boy and this girl compete in this global world?” The school am speaking of is a shed with poles at the side and a bit of grass for a roof. If it rains, there cannot be school. The children are sitting on the floor, some on stones and some of some make-shift benches. Needless to say there is no blackboard and I am yet to figure out what the teacher is writing on. Luckily I can see some if not all of the pupils holding pens and paper! This is not a unique sight, it is seen over and over in many rural and informal settlement urban areas many countries in Africa. However, in another place, within the same country, or in neighboring countries, there is another child whose main worry is where is a new computer game! This got me refle…

Nostalgically…I am back!

“I deserve to just break down and cry now”! Those were my thoughts on Friday morning, 16th March 2013 as anxiety finally crept on me as I prepared to go to the airport. My friend Rahma actually validated this “I would have been worried if you are not a bit anxious” She knows how to say the right thing always. Why I have been so calm about this? I wondered. Somehow only one tear fell! I was okay and happy, as I prepared to go back to South Sudan. I recalled the last time I had been in this country in 2007. I could recall with nostalgia the time I flew out of Juba and looking from the sky thought “I am not coming back here”. My experience in Juba had been an interesting one that I still remember with a smile. I had been ignorant of what to expect but somehow got over the culture shock quite fast. The language barrier did not help matters especially when there was a public announcement and we could not comprehend. The scariest had been a curfew, where Justa my colleague and I had no id…

If only we meant 'it'

When you mean what you say- By Sophie Ngugi, January 2013 In the last few days I have been reflecting on the issue of integrity and authenticity. This was sparked by a minor incidence that ‘should have passed unnoticed’ but to me provided some insights and challenges. In a group where a friend had posted about death of certain former teacher, I watched as people give condolences on the same. It took a while before I could do the same for personal reasons. Eventually I felt the urge to comment on the same, so I posted my condolences to the family and wished them peace but also added a comment that indicated that there was no love lost between me and that teacher (RIP). I mentioned that he is the only teacher from my former primary school who I had bad experience with but “had forgiven him and moved on eventually”. This does not mean I would have hugged him if we had met before he died, forgiveness for me means letting go of the bitterness associated with the act of the person. Someho…