The Uuuhs and Aaarghs of my life

Enough. 

For the last 4 days, a stranger has been calling and texting me using multiple numbers. He knows my name and it’s scary! 

It all began with a, “Please help me, I’m homeless” message. It soon graduated to a, “May God forgive you for ignoring me” message. Today I woke up to “Why??? I love you, I’m not giving up” message. Truecaller confirms that it’s been 35 calls and 23 text messages.

After calling the police hotline to report, the officer advised me to visit a police station and make a report and get an OB number. 

Yesterday, I visited a police station and as soon as I stated my case, the male officer didn’t even look at me and pointed me to a chair using a pen. I sat down and waited. 
When a female officer walked in, she asked me to state my case and immediately referred me to another male officer to help me make a report. It seemed she was the only one making things happen at the police station. 

But as soon as she left to handle another matter, the male officer laughed and said he didn’t know what to report about my case. He read through my messages and abandoned my phone at the reception, as soon as another male officer came though with a request for a spare tire. 
Luckily, another female officer walked in and immediately attended to my case. 

As she recorded my statement and handed over my phone… her male colleagues distracted her with kicks in her shin, spanking her bottom, and another even forced a hug on her. I could see that she was uncomfortable but afraid to tell them to stop.

Walking out of the police station reception, I saw a group of policemen in civilian clothing silently staring at me in a way that made me feel like bolting away. 

All I felt was a deep sense of shame and betrayal as a Kenyan woman. 
Because it seems that our women are seen as objects, and not whole worthy human beings who deserve respect. 

#RespectOurWomen

Dancing in the Rain

a last dance in the rain

 

It’s raining outside,
And the sound of gentle drops on my window is beautiful and calming.

So I push back the curtain,
Peek out the window with nostalgic wonder.

And I’m met with a blue-grey blanket of rain,
One that paints a sweet memory of us, silent, listening to our hearts beat.

It’s hard to believe,
All I can sense of you now is hidden in pockets of nature.

Yet still,
Feel robbed of a chance to encounter our nature.

Days go by,
These memories, I fear, will start to fade.

As I dream of a time when you were the rain,
And I ran outside,
And we gently danced our last in nature’s embrace.

Finding Your Own Tribe

Finding your own tribe

Finding a Tribe Through Shared Values

During a wonderful conversation with my taxi driver recently, we talked business and discussed the tariff rivalry between Uber and that of Safaricom’s new Little Cab taxi service.

I was really concerned about the climate of his business but he confidently reassured me, “Don’t worry, it’s business as usual for me.” “Uber and Little Cab customers are actually not my customers,” he added.

He explained that his customers are people who’ve known him over the years and now trust him. Also, that it’s ok if Uber & Little cab users don’t opt for his services, he’s got his own pack hooked onto the value of friendship, loyalty and trust.

Now I know why I’ve been his customer for all these years despite Uber & Little Cab cheap tariffs.

I’ve been investing in a relationship, not money.

Truly, a great business lesson from my dear taxi driver, Victor (aka Baba Daniel).

#BeInspired

Courage.jpg

Courage is an Attitude

I had just come from Nairobi Garage where I had hosted an early-morning speed networking event for young Nairobi entrepreneurs. It was the very last event. I could not afford to produce another one. So I had a little cupcake and coffee party to thank my guests, and to encourage them to keep on with their good work. I went home.
 
With my handbag still on my shoulder, I sat on the couch, silent.
With a box of stationery still on my lap, I stared at the feedback forms inside.
Warm tears slowly slithered down my cheeks into the box.
Suddenly, a loud cry burst out of my mouth and echoed into the box.
 
I felt like such a big failure!
A failure to my company. A failure to myself. A failure to my parents who’d invested in my business. A failure to my supporters. A failure to my country.
 
After weeping, I sat on the couch for a while, trying to figure out my next steps. Normally, I would write an evaluation of the event and plan for the next one. Then send a message of thanks to guests, along with a networking tip.
 
But this time round, I had no idea what would be my next step.
I could not afford to pay back the loans from my parents because the banks I had visited didn’t offer loans to young unmarried ladies with small enterprises. I got to understand why there are so many microfinance banks for women in Kenya. Despite modernisation, most banks still see women as high-risk customers.
 
I could not reach out to my mentor because our relationship had been tarnished by his sexual advances. He had been in the process of supporting my application for a grant at an embassy, the accounting firm already set to receive the funds. But when he realised that I stand firm on my principles, he blocked the process and sent me this message: “I can’t be a mentor to a person like you. The people I mentor understand how we work. No wonder your startup is not working!”
 
So I put down the box of stationery, slipped off the couch onto the floor and removed my shoes.
I prayed. I wept. I prayed some more.
 
Exposed and vulnerable is what I felt as a human being. But I did not care at that point. If I were to be broken and all vulnerable, I would rather be so before my God who is also my friend. I asked Jesus to show me that all my effort had not been in vain. I asked for His guidance.
 
A wave of calmness came over me and I found the strength to smile. Suddenly, I noticed the chocolate cupcake that had remained from the party I had with my guests. I grabbed it, took a bite, and told myself: “Happy Birthday Michelle! All will be well.”
 
One birthday later, I am so grateful to have my prayers answered.
My parents chose to look over the loans I owed them, and invested in furthering my education in Social Innovation Management at the Amani Institute. So happy that I’ll be graduating this month. Yay!
 
I found the courage to take a few steps back on the idea I had had to focus on the core, which is positive conversations that inspire positive change. Now, I serve change leaders as a coach through a project that celebrates storytelling for leadership.
 
Despite not having surplus funds at the moment, I have never lacked. Opportunities are showing up along my journey. Not to mention the amazing people I’ve had the pleasure to meet and learn from.
 
I’ve got a strong roof over my head, food to put on my table and clothes to keep me warm. Every day, I wake up to new opportunities to serve people by doing what I love.
 
The greatest lesson I have learnt is that…
Failure is a great teacher with an ugly face.
It takes courage to look past the ugly face and see a resource to learn from.
 
Courage is a key word this new year of my life.
 
My hope is that this little story of mine encourages you never to give up on you. And remember…
 
Courage, Prayer & Chocolate cake!
 
Happy Birthday to me

Totally Femme and Able!

A woman is enough.

She can protect herself and her loved ones. 

She can be confident to step out of her doorstep and be safe.

She can be in the company of a man and know that she too can defend.

She can discipline her mind to think heroine and not victim when in danger.

Femme is enough.

 

Action Time!

I believe that women and girls in Nairobi need to be proactive with their personal security. I’ve had close-shave incidents at work, school, in the streets of Nairobi, and in the company of friends, where to be honest I wasn’t equipped enough to defend.

So this is how we can always be prepared heroines …

 

Krav Maga Women's Self-Defence Class Poster

 

Shadow Krav-Maga Female Self-defence Classes

Yuly G, an International Krav-Maga and Karate instructor invited me to join him in signing-up groups of 20 women and girls in Nairobi for self-defence classes. We both believe in proactive over reactive personal security measures. The classes will begin from Sunday, 27th March 2016 and sign-ups are ongoing via the email provided on the poster above.

Ladies will be trained using the Shadow Krav-Maga technique which was initially developed as an unarmed combat system for the Israeli Defense Forces. Its goal is to stop violence without violence. The Karen, Parklands and Jaffery Centre (Lavington) Sports clubs will be the locations for the classes which will be happening on Sunday and Saturday afternoons and Wednesday evenings at 6pm. Ladies can sign-up for the One-day or the 2-month classes as shown below:

+ One-day class for 3 to 4 hours at Ksh. 2,500 or USD $25. Acquired Skills include basic self-defence skills against grabbing, choking, pushing and theft.

+ Two-month class for 16 hours at Ksh. 8,500 or USD $85. One hour per class twice a week, or more hours per class if the group is happy with that. Acquired Skills include basic and advanced self-defence skills from attacks with sharp objects, punching, kicking and ground attacks (like sexual attacks). Psychology self-defence and manipulation of mind and body of attacker. Self-defence by using surrounding objects. In addition, there will be Fitness, Cardio, weight management training.

 

Yuly Profiler

 

How to Prepare for Class

First, ensure that you’re signed-up in a group of 20 ladies for either one of the classes on offer. This is done through sending a request via email on poster above and making an advance payment of 50% (non-refundable) of the total class fee to the Mpesa number that’ll be provided via email. The other 50% can be paid right before class.

Second, once your group of 20 ladies is all set, a date will be confirmed for your class. Yay! All you need for class is proper training gear (long trouser and strong T-shirt), a bottle of water and a towel. Training equipment and shower rooms will be available at the locations. NB: Girls between ages 13-18 should come with a guardian or parent.

Third or even immediately, do share this information with other women and girls so that just like you, they can proactively equip themselves for self-defence. Imagine the news stories changing to: “Nairobi woman defends herself against armed attacker.”

Woman_power_symbol

I choose to be a heroine.

I choose to be prepared.

I choose to be totally femme & able.

 

Let’s do this ladies!

🙂

 

Where is Boni?

image

Boni* is a street boy whom I met a year ago.
I enjoyed a chat with him as we walked towards a nearby grocery market to buy some bananas for him and friends.
I remember him sharing that despite being a street boy, he will, “Never give up!”
The boys used to stay and nap under some trees along Ngong Road. The trees were their homes.
After an early meeting today at iHub Nairobi, I walked past the same trees that are now chopped, burnt to ashes, abandoned.
No longer tall and green.
No longer a home.
“Where is Boni?” I thought.
But the lonely air responded with heartbreaking silence.

 

Berta Caceres 2015 Goldman Environmental Award Recipient

Berta Caceres stands at the Gualcarque River in the Rio Blanco region of western Honduras where she, COPINH (the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) and the people of Rio Blanco have maintained a two year struggle to halt construction on the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric project, that poses grave threats to local environment, river and indigenous Lenca people from the region. Source: goldmanprize.org

 

As we chase after modern knowledge, skills & lifestyles, are we loosing ourselves?

We are all indigenous to somewhere on this earth.

We all came from somewhere!

Our human identity isn’t in fashion brands, fast cars, academic achievements, air mileage and fancy houses.

Our identity depends on real connections with humanity, not things.

Berta Cáceres has taught us an expensive lesson – to protect our identity or allow our footprints to vanish from existence.

This International Women’s Day 2016, I celebrate Berta’s courage as a female warrior who fought for equality, environmental conservation, protection of her indigenous culture and peace!

Visit goldmanprize.org for more about Berta Cáceres!

#IWD2016

 

 

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