The Uuuhs and Aaarghs of my life

Posts tagged ‘Society’

RAPE; The Unspoken

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It is unfortunate that in today’s world, a woman is often forced to interact with rape indirectly or directly on a daily basis.

The silent monologue always happens at the back of her mind but she can never just talk about it openly. She will be seen as a coward! After all, in Africa, most rape victims are always blamed for “seducing” the attackers.

As she prepares for a meeting with her boss, she has to look at the door and ensure that it is not locked or with enough space to let sound travel fast. Just in case…

She has to dress just a little less sexy as she goes for her date with a guy she likes. She has to insist that they go to a place where there are people. For security, just in case.

She has to ensure that her children know how to drive at an early age just in case her husband continues to come home late and intoxicated.

She has to ensure that she downloads the most effective Rape App so as to know what to do the next time the male teacher gives her that look during tuition.

She has to avoid family reunions just in case her uncle kisses her on the lip and spanks her bottom in the name of being funny.

She has to leave work a little earlier than the rest because of the male colleague who recently stood too close to her in the elevator as she worriedly counted down from the 20th to the ground floor. If it wasn’t for the janitor popping-in at 15th floor…

She has to use a different path as she walks home. The shopkeeper started closing shop a little later than usual and he stares at her a lot in a way that makes her really uncomfortable.

She has to learn how to pray all by herself because the last time she made a confession, the priest talked to her the way her boyfriend does.

This is just how real rape is to most women. Even worse, studies show that women in Africa are often raped by people they already know.

How great it would be to have a world free from the fear of rape.

For now, it only remains as a stupendous take on optimism.

Still, I choose to hope because giving up is never an option!

Unlabelling the African Woman

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In celebration of today’s International Women’s Day 2014, I went to the French cultural center in Nairobi to watch a play written by a good friend. This wasn’t just any other play, it was ‘Sauti za Mabinti’ which is Kiswahili for ‘Voices of Women’.

The play started with an education of the International Women’s day and this year’s theme which is ‘Inspiring Change’. This formed the backbone of the play in inspiring change of perceptions about African women starting with Kenya.

THE PLAY:
One woman followed by another walked into the room knowing that it is a social experiment and then make a confession. It was as if there was an imaginary glass through which the audience actively watched the women and listening to their confessions.

1. The Bitch Boss Lady:
A lady walked into the room speaking with her daughter over the phone. She had missed yet another play in school and was trying to apologize. She promised to make it up to the daughter by buying her the toy that she had asked for.

Confession: She knew that people called her a bitch boss lady. She knew that people get shocked to know that she is actually married and a mother. It is a well-known office gossip that she got her top position by laying on her back. She knows that other women judge her harshly for letting a nanny take care of her children. She knows that men at work see her as an excuse for diversity and not that she worked hard to rise up to her position by working twice as hard. But she admitted that she is not perfect and that she tries her best everyday to make it all better.

Audience reaction: People thought she was a bitch and clicks of annoyance shot at the stage as she walked away.

2. THE MOTHER/ HOUSEWIFE:
A lady walked into the room and tried to start a conversation with the boss lady, but got dismissed because she was too busy answering an email on her tab. She sneared and pulled out a copy of a women’s health magazine.

Confession: She knew that people thought her life is nothing but dull. She knew that people saw her go for PTA meetings, running her home and keeping her successful husband happy. But she uncovered the truth about being an African housewife. How no one knew the number of black eyes she gets from her husband. How she has to convince her children that their father is a good man. How all her advice that led to her husband’s success has never acknowledged even by him. Sad and almost defeated, she only celebrates her children and their successes to keep her going.

Audience reaction: People thought that had a sad life but some cheered her on her son’s success for being called to Harvard University.

3. THE VICTIM:
A lady with a scruffy look walks into the room and goes straight for the nearest chair. She is shy and a bit nervous given her fidgeting fingers. The mother/housewife tries to ask her if she is OK but scared, she withdraws and says that she is fine.

Confession: She knows that everyone calls her a victim. She knows that her aggressor lives freely and probably doesn’t think that what he did is wrong. She knows that people look her as part of the statistics aired in the news. But she has had enough of being referred to as a number, a poor soul or a defenseless human being. Her aggressor ensured that she was deeply hooked by him enough to allow him to be alone with her. But a simple hug turned into an attack which left her feeling guilty and broken. She tries to rise above the pain but being labeled as a victim keeps pulling her down.

Audience reaction: Some people shouted that she was high on weed while some ladies commended her on her bravery to speak up.

4. GOLD DIGGER:
A smartly dressed lady walks into the room happily engaging with her beloved over the phone. They round up the conversation and she hangs up. She receives another phone call, says hello to ‘daddy’ and then tells him that she has been stressing about her mortgage. The ‘daddy’ tells her that he took care of it all which set her into a jump for joy.

Confession: She knows that everyone calls her a gold digger. She knows that she could work but it won’t be able to meet her needs. She knows that she can only survive with a thick skin because money is what she needs. She laughs at the fact that men never get criticized for sleeping around with other women – it is seen as a normal thing men do. But a woman has sex with other men and it is seen as a crime, a sin and moral suicide. But she could care less because she knows that men use women for sex and so she uses men for money. She knows that all women eventually spread their knees for sex either for love, money or fun. She chooses to do it for money.

Audience reaction: Most ladies are not impressed and the men are rather shocked, some amused and and some silenced.

5. SLUT
A lady walks into the room in shorts, glossy legs for days, a thick bouncy blind afro and some chewing gum thoroughly harassed in her mouth. She walks in long sassy strides towards the ‘gold digger’ and tells her to remove her bag from the chair. They get into a little cat fight of words till she finally gets a chair to seat on. She stares at the ‘gold digger’, touches her legs and says that she looks good. The other ladies get shocked and shear at her ‘gay advances’.

Confession: She knows that she is called a slut because of her wild sexual drive. She loves all types of sex from the passionate to the rough. She loves how she looks and is not ashamed of how she dresses. She likes that she can have sex whenever she wants to without having to pay for anything. She believes that if men have the freedom to get all the sex they want from women then she too enjoys the freedom to get all the sex she wants from men. She cares less about what society calls her. She enjoys the freedom of having sex just like men do.

Audience reaction: Only men applauded her.

CONCLUSION
To be honest, I was annoyed at the end of he play, not because of the acting but because of the audience reactions. The fact that majority of the men in the audience were the noise makers and that they were the loudest as they cheered-on the ‘slut’ for her explicit confession about her sex life.
The absurdity of cheering on the ‘slut’ for being sexually charged more than cheering on a rape victim for speaking up.
I sank down the seat in shame because most of the Kenyan men and boys cheered on as the expatriate men remained silent in thought.

I was mortified and pissed as hell!

This is because I have interacted with real women who fall under the mentioned categories. They all do have their strengths and weaknesses but the most important thing they expressed screamed, “I have been labelled only because I am a woman”.

Also, having worked as a humanitarian communications focal point within the East and Central Africa region, there has been a great strategy to engage men in women empowerment initiatives. This is because in the African context, it is clear that women cannot do it alone, they need support from men for a lasting impact in attitude change towards women.

The play was a live display of the fact that we’ve got a long way to go in educating African men about the need for an attitude change about women. To look at feminism not as a movement of sex-deficient bitter women who want to ‘take power’ from men. But instead, to look at feminism as a movement of men and women who believe that women and girls have got equal opportunities in life. To see women as equals and partners in making this world a better place.

It was clear that most of the expatriate men amongst the audience had been educated about this matter hence their silence and process of deep thought given the look on their faces. But I do know the process to get them to react in such a manner did not happen overnight.

It took years to plant feminism into their social canvas. It took difficult conversations taking place and produce solutions. It took society to reflect and rethink some things. It took families to restructure the treatment of sons an daughters and balance it because all children are equal. It basically took a long time but it had to start somewhere.

So perhaps my anger and grief today was valid but it somewhat mirrors the screaming in the hearts of African women who have just had enough of being labelled this or that.

Enough with labelling women ‘bitch bosses’ , ‘boring or sad mothers/housewives’ , ‘victims’ , ‘gold diggers’ and ‘sluts’ yet the male counterparts walk free with no labels.

It is time to unlabel African women and it starts NOW.
Start the conversation wherever you are and hopefully one day, we’ll be celebrating our efforts after challenging ourselves to become better people.

We can do this!

Join the conversation on Twitter and share your thoughts though the hashtag #UnLabelHer

International Women’s Day is a global celebration of women and their efforts to inspire, support and pave way for other women in the vision of having a world where women and girls have got equal opportunities.
It has been celebrated on every eighth day of the month since 1911. For more about this, please go here.

Kenyan Boys need Mentoring on how to Handle Girls

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Today, I seriously scolded a boy after he slapped a girl just because she did not do what he asked.

I was furious and deeply disappointed! More so because I know that children borrow habits from adults around them. He had seen a grown man do the same and thought it was the best way to make his point to a girl.

In primary school, I saw young boys run after girls whose breasts and hips had started developing.
The girls were in serious pain after the boys carelessly squeezed and pinched their breasts.

Yes guys, boobs really really hurt when developing or during menstruation!

Clearly, neither did the teachers nor the parents teach the boys that a girl’s body is sensitive and should be treated with care and with respect.

At a young age, I saw the real face of rape as dozens of boys in school raced after a girl in my class so that they can all ‘play’ with her developing breasts, hips, vagina and bottom. At one time, one of the targeted girls fainted after she sought refuge in a school bus but forgot to lock the door.

I was disgusted and often faced threats by boys when the girls asked me to help them with reports since my curves had not developed hence not pausing a danger to myself. I was scared of all the threats from the boys. The teachers did little to stop the madness and I was forced to be silent.

But today, I had a voice and I could not remain quiet. I told the boy that he acted like a coward by hitting a girl, not once but twice. I taught him how he ought to treat a girl. I told him that violence has never solved anything. I told him that he needs to grow up and learn to use his brain to communicate and not his hand. I requested him to shut up and not try to give me any excuse for what he did and take responsibility.

The girl was so scared and I tried to comfort her.

When the guardian of the boy came, I was shocked to see just how oblivious he was of the seriousness of the situation.

Disgusted, I scolded the boy, suggested a punishment and frankly told the guardian to man-up and discipline the boy.

I walked away disappointed to see just how much boys are not being mentored to act like real men.

Please, teach a boy how to handle a girl!

Someone out there might do the same to your sister, mother or daughter.

#StopGenderViolence

REAL BROTHERHOOD, BEYOND RUGBY

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During my freshman year at Daystar University, I thought that it was one big community of people whose friendships lasted only as long as your quest for a degree. But my thoughts slowly changed once I met Tim*, a fourth year student who was an active member of the university’s rugby team.

I had always feared him since his team members were so huge, loud, and all over the place. He was the last person I expected to befriend as a freshman. One day, I asked Tim why he and his team mates eat too much; their plates were always full, at times, too full. The answer he gave me was not what I had expected.

Tim told me that his rugby team mates are like his family and they all go through so much. Since the Post-Election Violence (PEV) in 2007 to 2008 there were some student’s whose lives totally flipped over. There were students living in school and no one really knew. Some went without food and could not even afford a basic meal; this included some of his comrades. This is why some filled their plates with excess food so that they could share it all.

This, to me, was a selfless act of courage. Tim and his friends chose to share in the embarrassment of looking gluttonous to protect and help feed their team members.

From that day, Tim continued being like the village idiot to other students who knew not his intentions. To me, he remains my hero. I still remember to stuff my bag with snacks every now and then so that when I walk in the streets of Nairobi and meet with a hungry person, I reach into my bag and offer them my little gift of food.

I cannot save the world, but I sure can leave a mark in someone’s life even if it’s with the blessed taste of food. With what you’ve got, please reach out and be a blessing to someone.

Love and Sunshine,
Ayuma.

The Pain that Heals

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Ever heard someone share a personal story that you totally identified with and learned from?

Today, I asked myself about the confidence it must take for such people to open their hearts in public about a painful moment in their lives – for the sake of empowering others.

Furthermore, I asked myself what would happen to me if these people suddenly stopped reaching out to me though their personal stories. How then would I get practical lessons on how to face life?

A friend recently enlightened me when she said that to be a true mentor and touch lives I must be prepared to be vulnerable. This type of vulnerability is not about being emotional or mushy. It deals with deliberately sharing your life stories – truths, hurts, victories, challenging lessons – with people so that they may identify with you as a real human being and learn from what you did wrong or what you did right.

Many of us have gone through hills and valleys in the journey of life. But why is it always easier to share about the good things? Is it because they paint us better, is it easier, is it less damaging to our reputations?

Why is it that we cannot share about the very same things we need help with?

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Her Heart to Yours

Emma* who is a mother of three went through a bad marriage for 10years. After a lovely Sunday afternoon spent with her kids in church and at the pizza place, she would go home to a mouthful of mockery from her drunken husband. He would call her a whore and that going to church would not help her cover up her filthy acts. He had been unfaithful to her and had slowly started shifting the guilt towards her which triggered obsession. But this only became worse with time when her husband beat up their children suspecting that they might have not been his. The little one who was only 7-years-old was hit so hard that he lost consciousness. Emma spent the night in hospital waiting for her son to recover. This is when she picked us her phone and made the call she had always avoided for years. She called up her mother who had always had her suspicion about James from the day she met him. Her mother had always tried calling her even after her rushed wedding but she never answered. She was filled with guilt having realised that her mother had been right about James after all. Her mother promised to be at the hospital by morning. Emma prayed all night until her mother arrived. Emma was able to rescue her children from an abusive father and from the dangers of an abusive and broken marriage. Now, a happily married mother of four Emma realises that if she did not take that bold step to leave her husband, she would be in double jeopardy since her ex-husband was found dead in his house after refusing to resolve an outstanding bill at a local pub. During her trying times, she remembered feeling helpless even at church because everyone else seemed so perfect. No ladies talked about their challenging times; just how happy they are and how their children are doing well. Emma now purposes to talk to young ladies who are thinking about marriage and those who are newly wedded. She opens her home to them so that they can share their challenges and successes. She has learnt that the best way to touch people’s lives is by sharing the hurts and challenges and the lessons she learned from it all. Because of this, many ladies who had faced and overcome marital wars started opening up about the challenges faced in marriages even with young ladies who had often been misled by media and other women about the real face of marriage.

*Emma is not a real name.

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This may seem like just another story about a woman who faced a tough time and is now living a better life. But just think about it, how many people don’t get to see the other side and heal? How many have that one person they can call up and help them though a rough patch in life?

One thing I have come to learn from my interactions with relatives, friends, neighbours and total strangers is that there are so many hurt people in this world. There is so much of it that people prefer to think that they are facing their own unique type of hurt. The truth of the matter is that hurt is hurt – it steals, it kills and it destroys when we don’t learn from it and get stuck in it.

But finding that one ray of hope to see and even pursue the life beyond hurt is what makes us a unique creation as the human race. It all starts with a step, and it begins with you.

How can you make yourself more available to receive help or to help another person?

How willing are you to learn from other people’s experiences?

How willing are you to share, teach and train people having achieved a handy experience?

What are you waiting for? Go right ahead and do it!

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The human race does not break because of what we give (or don’t give) materially but because of what we say (or not say), what we show (or not show) or what we learn and not share.

Open your heart and share a pain that heals and empowers lives. It was and has never been in vain!

 

Yours Truly,

Ayuma.

 

The Lonely War in Kenya

Poaching for Ivory in Kenya

Poaching for Ivory in Kenya

My opinion is that poaching in Kenya is a great result of corruption in our government. I totally support the fact that Hands off our Elephants is a great campaign to address this matter but my worry is that this time it’s our elephants; next time, it might be our lions, then perhaps our flamingos which are already facing a population crisis. Or perhaps our forest covers which continue to be echoed by the late Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement.

I say “I will not cry over elephants”, not because I don’t care about our elephants but because crying and worrying are emotional reactions to a situation that I feel is caused by our very own leaders. Yes! There is no way that all that ivory keeps escaping our borders without even one of our leaders knowing about it, leave alone blowing a whistle.

Our rangers can’t be out there risking their lives to fight poachers yet our leaders are part of the problem! This is the main reason behind my loud rant and I am glad that I have stepped on a few toes to make people speak up even in the social networks. The problem isn’t just the fact that our elephants are being killed by “foreign” poachers often pinned to the Chinese, China Wu Yi… The numbers of suspects are endless. But the problem is that while we are having sleepless nights about the poaching menace and how our economy is failing us, our very own leaders are part of the problem. This is why I strongly support the fight against corruption. This is the root cause of the problem!

I just wish, truly wish that all the vigour used in the anti-poaching campaign – the determination, the research and filming efforts (which I strongly feel Kenyan filmmakers should take lead on and not foreign filmmakers), the heavy emotion towards the loss of our country’s treasure (elephants) through the poaching crackdown – was put into fighting corruption which is the mother of this poaching menace.

How can we as Kenyan citizens best fight this poaching menace? How can I help to fight in the anti-poaching war in my daily life? Honestly, there aren’t too many options for us that will produce quick results that we need given the current state of the situation. My guess is that it might somehow boil down to raising funds just as we did with protecting the Mau forest, bringing Zack back home, Kenyans for Kenya and many other public appeals to take care of our own people and natural resources. But this shouldn’t be the case in my view. Instead, the country should be appealed to participate in a massive cleaning up of our house in our quest to fight impunity in our country. Yes, it might seem farfetched but I truly believe that if we as a nation put more effort in collectively fighting the big fire and not the sparks, then we would start seeing the change that we need.

Corruption is the mother of all evil

Corruption is the mother of all evil

Guess what? We don’t have to raise funds to fight corruption in our country! In fact, we’ll save loads of money by ensuring that resources go where they ought to go. You and I can simply start the war on corruption in our very own homes; the change begins with us! We could speak up and support the very few leaders in our country with a passion for a corruption-free Kenya.

I believe that all’s not lost and that we do have the opportunity to be a better Kenya and stop hitting global headlines as one of the world’s top 10 corrupt countries. This shouldn’t be, not with all the beauty I still see in my country. If Nigeria was able to fight this monster and be in a better place after the war on corruption…We can do it, we can make it. Not by getting together to raise funds but by collectively deciding, “WE AS KENYANS DO NOT TOLERATE CORRUPTION!”

We need to support true leaders who are managers, not crusaders who we often see in the evening news. It shouldn’t always be about them so let’s give them the silence that they deserve. We need to support our leaders who are true managers and focus on making do with what we have, not demand for more. Those who make strict policies to protect the dignity of Kenyan citizens. Those who don’t complain to every camera that points at them, but those who work and give results.
Then our elephants will forget the scent of poachers and roting blood of their own. Then Kenya will no longer be one of the highest taxed counties in the world. Then our children will grow up to taste the sweet fruit of integrity within our country.

The fight against corruption is big, insanely big, but we do need to start it soon before it’s too late.

Storymoja Hay Festival September 19th -22nd 2013

Storymoja Hay Festival September 19th -22nd 2013

The Storymoja Hay Festival is on September 19 – 22, 2013. Mark the Date. You will definitely leave the festival thinking in a whole new way! Imagine the World.
Follow Storymoja Hay Festival on Facebook and on @SMHayFest on Twitter for updates on tickets, travel & accomodation, guest authors, pre-fest events and event programming. see also our official website.

Yours Truly,

Ayuma.

City in the Sin!

The October 2012 Special Post: City in the Sin! By Michelle Ayuma

The city lights of Nairobi brighten by the day as the souls of Hes and Shes darken by the shade,

Pubs and strip clubs now host people as many as homes used to during the almost ancient tradition of family get-togethers,

The only time that seems reasonable to meet with kinsmen – Funerals! As dust is cast into a deep pit of a soul soon to be forgotten the moment hustles hit Monday morning. [Work]

Forgotten dreams and life passions lead to industries full of zombies programmed to produce something in exchange of money. “Who cares about passion any more? Just work like a donkey and live like a king!” [They say]

And as dusk awakens, city lights take over the sun of day as sex, money and drugs rule the streets of the “City in the Sun.”

Wives forced to restrain passion for their husbands as they bury themselves with house chores and nursing their children,

As their husbands chase their secret fantasies to be with a pretty little thing the age of their own offspring,

Other females – broken and seeking revenge – prey on lonely men by the bar thirsting for affection,

They’re wrapped in hot chains of lust and seek temporary soothing in some soft skin, sweet nothings whispered into their vulnerable ears and inviting some entrapping lingerie.

Such a priced commodity sex has become that it has claimed space by the supermarket tills, right above some tasty saccharine,

This sex candy [condoms & sex toys] satisfy all kinds of wild sexual needs! [They suggest]

And so little Lucy asks her mother at the supermarket what sex means after picking a packet of condoms,

“It’s something you share with a man when it feels right,” says mother and the topic is never to be repeated not unless in school – leave all that work to the teachers! [Teachers left to unlock facts about sex?]

Little Lucy finally “understands” why her teacher back at school treated her differently. He even touched her differently and mummy never gave her a chance to explain what she was feeling inside.

“Perhaps he thinks I’m special!” [She thinks]

Mummy’s words kept echoing in her mind, “It’s something you share with a man when it feels right.”

And so she gives in to her senseless and inexplicable emotions and she lets him in,

But she bleeds to her heel as her green body wasn’t “woman” enough to handle the impact of an adult male on heat.

And as she rests in her hospital bed, numb and confused, mummy’s words slowly fade away as the late nurse exists her dark room into the bright corridors.

This is the painting of life within the Sin City:

Dark smoked clouds and a dusted dome with a little ecstasy. Twinkling shots from a gun and a naked moon that lights the path of every thug-infested street corner. Lonely streets carpeted with dirty money and a spell of golden liquor-ish showers in the night.

The city lights of Nairobi brighten by the day as the souls of Hes and Shes darken by the shade.

May the Good Lord save this city!

 

Yours Truly,

Ayuma.

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