WITH LIPGLOSS AND NAIL VARNISH……..KENYA NEEDS ITS WOMEN.

Yesterday  9pm prime time news,I was greatly embarrassed by my fellow women  who were caught on camera ,rolling on the ground and screaming like crazy.

I never saw any men in that protest!

The reason for the protests was because some two male politicians were being summoned by the Narc Kenya disciplinary committee for un-party like behaviour.

Read story here

Now picture this fellow women heckling a fellow woman because she had the balls to put the men in their place and ask them to behave.Strange things happen in Kenya I tell you.

For any keen observer of Kenyan politics ,women gyrating to adulations they are singing for a politician and a man at that is not new.It happens all,the time.

 I am yet to see an  all male singing choir belting platitudes for a female politician.

It is disheartening that women more than 4 decades after independence are still playing second fiddle to the men,especially on the political front.

If it is not a female Minister saying she is going to strip ,it is women rolling on the ground when men have been behaving badly.

It needs to stop.

That is why we need someone who wears lipstick and nail varnish at state house,that way women can see that “IT IS POSSIBLE” to “kick ass” as the Americans would say  in lipstick and nail varnish.

That they do not have to be hired for a few hundred shillings to go and be an embarrassment to fellow women when they roll on the ground and scream themselves hoarse  like deranged beings.

For far too long Kenyan politics has been a preserve of the men and only a few brave women like Martha Karua have had the guts to stand up against the “boys”.

And now even with a new constitution in place that has ensured men no longer get all the elective posts,women are behaving like the constitution never saw the light of day.

Instead of swinging our hips as we entertain the men seated under canopies while we are out in the sweltering sun during political rallies,we should be thinking of ways by which we can have more women in the next parliament and senate.

Instead of waiting for revolving funds to be set up by government so that we can access loans we should be using our chama’s to empower ourselves economically.

Instead of keeping quiet when some men pilfer away funds meant to educate our children ,we should be the first to speak out when funds are being embezzled in our places of work.

Instead of attacking fellow women who stand up for what is right,we should be scolding the men for lying as low as envelopes when things go wrong.

Instead of mucking around in the muddy waters of Kenyan politics and playing it like the men do,we should be bringing class and finesse to Kenyan politics with our nail polish and lip gloss.

Who said politics is dirty,who said politics is a preserve of the men?

Great women throughout history have lived up to their ideals without getting rid of their femininity,why should we not do it like they did.

Kenyan women…..stand up in all your glory and be counted,your children need you to save this country from mediocrity.

HOW I REMEMBER WAMBUI OTIENO-MBUGUA

1987,I was just eight years old in class 3 and i was fascinated by Wambui Otieno.

Her face was all over the newspapers,as she fought the Umira Kager clan who didnt want her burying her husband at their Ngong  home.The clan wanted him buried in Nyamila village,Nyalgunga in Siaya District.

I pored over the blow by blow accounts of the court proceedings that were printed out in the Daily Nation every day.

I could read pretty well for my age by then and I could not wait for my dad to bring home the paper so that I could see what would happen next.

Two things stuck out during that time,that Wambui was a woman fighting men who didn’t want her to bury her husband the way she wanted.

I will never forget picking out the words Umira Kager clan ,this  band of men that were hounding the poor widow because of traditions.

Feisty woman that she was Wambui fought the clan but the clan won and her husband was buried in his ancestral home.

Years later when Kenya had almost forgotten this woman who apart from being well educated ,came from a wealthy family and was reputed to have been a Mau Mau fighter,she hit the headlines again in 2003.

She was marrying a man 39 years younger than her.

Picture from mwakilishi.com

Kenyan society was scandalized but Wambui never faltered ,she was in love with Sam Mbugua.
I was enthralled with this feisty woman.

Now sad to say she has gone to rest after being unwell for sometime.

Let us not forget the courage with which she faced all her battles her gender not withstanding.

Let us remember Wambui the woman who was willing to confront tradition that said a woman should never challenge men in African society.

Let us remember Wambui the warrior who fought in the trenches with the men in the Mau Mau war.

Let us not forget that the rights we enjoy today as women were partly as a result of the battles and wars women like Wambui and others fought.

Let us remember and not forget that we owe Wambui and other fallen heroines of this country to fight for our daughters,grand daughters that they may enjoy freedom,rights and opportunities to live in a free and democratic country regardless of what tradition says.

Women like Wambui lit candle of women rights  when it was unfashionable to be so outspoken .

And now that she is gone,she has passed on the baton to the women left behind,let us keep the flame burning…….

Fare thee well Wambui Otieno- Mbugua.

Read about her court battle here and her marriage to Sammy Mbugua here.

GENDER ISSUES,ELECTIVE POSTS AND THE NEED FOR THE CONSTITUTION TO STAY AS IT IS

I am watching the unfolding debate on women representation with a lot of fore boding because i think the  Cabinet  resolution to amend the constitution clause  hat representation in any one office by any gender should not exceed 2/3 will pass through.And it is going to pass through because men are a majority in parliament.
Despite having the highest ever number of women representation since independence in 1964,we have just 8% of parliamentarians being women,we still rank among the countries in the world with the lowest female representation in parliament

Rwanda which has held just two elections since 1994,they have managed to have 56.25 of their lawmakers being women.Their speaker is also female!

How did they do it?
Rwanda it seems under the keen eye of Paul Kagame made a deliberate effort to make more women representation a reality,and this in a country where women are 55% of the 11 million total population.A UNIFEM report on how this was achieved is available here.And much of it lays the success of this on the implementation of the quota system which in our haste we do not want to give a chance.
Our politicians need not chalk up air miles or split hairs on the issue,Rwanda is an example of how this is easily achieved and it starts with the President.

Paul Kagame whatever you may think of him has led the way in making sure the voice of women is heard and that it is heard loud and clear.Women representation in Rwanda is the highest in any legislature anywhere in the world.

Instead of chalking up air miles going to far off countries to see how successful parliaments are run, an overnight bus to Rwanda for our MP’s would do.Let us go learn something about empowering our women politically from our neighbours in the land of a thousand hills

We need to hear the partners ,the President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga leading the cause for more female representation.It is not an impossibility , we have seen the shattering of the glass ceiling in the corporate sector,where  successful corporates are being headed by women.We can have the same in the political arena if only there is good will to honour what the constitution protects.

The battle though may sometimes seem to be a societal one  e rather than a political .Kenyan women despite the fact that we form half the voting bloc rarely if ever vote for a woman no matter how qualified she may be.They would rather rally behind a man.

We need to confront the prejudices,stereotypes and myths we may have about being led by women and this i guess needs to start from our homes.In a country that is still fighting female genital mutilation,rape and domestic violence the task ahead is huge but it should not daunt us.

If Rwanda could achieve this task that to us seems  insurmountable ,aren’t we taking the easy way out?

Such a bold move as was envisaged in the constitution   rattled Kenya’s patriarchal  society ,but this should in no way cow the Kenyan women into giving up.The writers of the constitution which has been hailed as one of the most progressive meant to right a historical wrong.

By amending the clause it will take us back to the dark ages.

We as a society should be bold enough to stand up with our grandmothers, mothers,sisters and daughters and fight for the ideals Constitution envisages.

We need change,change in the way we view governance,politics,our core values as a country and women representation was the first step into laying the groundwork for more participatory politics by Kenyans from all walks of life.

Let us not give up dear Kenyan women , men we are asking for your support too.More women representation can bring nothing but good to the country.And  i am asking women activists,civil society bodies not to alienate  the men as they seek for more support to ensure that the right that was granted in the constitution which we overwhelmingly voted for is not taken away.

We all remember what happened in 2008 after our disputed elelections and the lives that were lost,the blood that was shed,electing more women can be nothing but good news for a society like ours which hides its ethnic disguises under a thin veil of complaceny till the next election.
Lets keep talking,let us not give up.

JANE EYRE ON WOMEN: 19th Century lesson for Kenyan women

“Women are supposed to be very calm generally:but women feel just as men feel;they need to exercise for their faculties,and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do;they suffer from too rigid a constraint ,too absolute a stagnation,precisely as men would suffer;and it is narrow minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings,to play the piano and embroider bags.It is thoughtless to condemn them ,or laugh at them ,if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex”-Autobiography of Jane Eyre  (pg 106)Bronte .C

Charlotte Bronte’s famous book Jane Eyre was published in 1847 when just at 31 she published this great literary work that sought to emancipate women in the 19th century and show them there was life beyond the confines of a kitchen and the hum drum of home life.More than 160 years later much of Africa is now waking up to the fact that a woman can be more than a  A woman’s contribution to society can go further than the kitchen and this need to be relevant and lead a meaningful human existence is a basic human being that goes beyond gender description.More than one and a half century later she could be talking to the 40 million Kenyans who next year elect more women to parliament and the newly created senate than we have ever seen in the 50 years we have been an independent country.

When the new constitution was enacted it was said women would be guaranteed 1/3 of all elective posts,a lot of argument for and against this clause in the constitution has ensued.Fida Kenya even took the government to court over the constitution of the Supreme Court and we are yet to hear the last of the matter.

A lot of argument has been put forward by women over why they are entitled to these posts but we need to ask ourselves how many women especially outside the urban centres of Kenya even have the means to launch a respectable campaign for elective posts.Women in the country who for the longest time have always taken a back seat in leadership matters now have a chance to shine by electing fellow women to elective posts yet the biggest hindrance to these posts lies in the women themselves..

Kenyan women shine when it comes to  entrepreneurship and things like chamas( financial merry go rounds) have been so successful that women have been able to garner enough financial clout as to gain recognition by banks such that there have been accounts especially tailored to suit chamas and women.The government also noticed this and launched the women’s fund that was meant to support women groups and make them more financially independent.

Now as we settle into a new constitutional dispensation women have to come to the fore front and show their mettle as leaders.Already the men are crying foul that the women folk are being handed posts on a silver platter whereas they (men) have had to work hard to get elected.It is germane to point out the fact that we are just getting out of a very patriarchal society and probably the drafters of the constitution wanted to correct the skewed representation in parliament that was always in favor of the men.Maybe the transition to a more gender balanced parliament and senate would have been achieved more gradually by first tackling the impediments that block women from getting elected and by encouraging them to join political parties but it is what it is and we have to work with what the law laid out.

Kenyan women need to prove themselves worthy of the posts they have been guaranteed by the law,they need to join political parties that support causes or ideals that are close to their hearts.It is a fact that most Kenyans (not only women) do not belong to any political parties.We cannot expect to be elected  when we have  taken no initiative to popularize our ideals to the electorate whom we hope to elect us.If people do not know what you stand for what chance do you have of being elected?Women need to show they want the posts so bad the men will stop ,listen and vote for them.

Kenyan women have shown themselves to be among the smartest people we have around and you just have to take a look at the annual pull out of  Business daily’s Top 40 under 40 to understand that we are not short of some real gems in our women folk.Why then are most of them shying away from elective posts and seeking to go the route of formal employment or business and more are not choosing public service/Maybe it is because for too long the political waters have been muddied by the men and these posts have been left to the women of steel like Martha Karua with enough back bone to stand up to the men.Yet there are many more Martha Karua’s and Jane Eyre’s who everyday fight of societal prejudices and male chauvinism to rise above these constraints,it is time we joined these foot soldiers who have paved the way for us and further this great cause for the sake of the next generation of women.

Last year i had written a post asking Kenyan women to stand up and be counted here.My clarion call that was directed towards my sisters was  because the  next generation of Kenyan women who are still in school or in diapers are looking up to us,we owe it to them to be able to fight off the prejudices our mothers and grand mothers carried with them,that women cannot lead, that their place is in the kitchen and that they should be seen and not heard.It is time we proved the drafters of the constitution right,that in granting the privileges they did by reserving special seats for women it was not because of poor judgement but because they had seen and recognized the vital role women have played in the country so far and the immense potential they hold.

Over to you women…it is time you stood up for yourselves,be brave and face the crowds of naysayers who say women cannot rule.

WOMEN AND SUCCESSION:Kenyans still battling with gender parity.

A local channel today aired a law discussion on w omen’s rights to succession with lawyer Judy Thongori.Listening to most of the callers who were male,most of them had a problem with women (who i would assume are their siblings) getting part of their father’s estates.It was shocking to me that in 21st century Kenya a man would go to the courts to fight his sisters right to get part of their fathers wealth just because they are a woman.

Why is it that women still have to prove that they are as equal to property rights as men?Maybe it all goes back to the masculinity view of women best exemplified by the payment of dowry done by prospective husbands for their wives.Let me explain….

In most Kenyan communities we practice bride price payment,where the husband to be has to show his ability to take care of his wife by giving some amount of money which is reached upon by elders as dowry.In my grandfathers time it was paid off in terms of living breathing animals be it goats,cows,sheep and a hive of live bees together with any other requirement the tribal elders deemed fit.Nowadays with migrations to urban areas and with dwindling amounts of livestock and reduced land size,people do not keep the same number of animals as yester years.Also changing lifestyles means people are leaving their traditional ways of earning livelihoods and opting for office jobs.That is why dowry payments have changed to and nowadays you will find it is either paid off in terms of cash or checks.

While all this is happening we still find that in some instances we have not shed off the tag a woman carried years back of being second to a man.When a woman in traditional African society marries a woman,she leaves her father and mother and becomes answerable to her husband.It seems when this happens then one is also supposed to discard all relations with her immediate family and cleave to that of her husbands.This is probably the reason why some men contest wills where property has been left to their female siblings,they no longer view them as being part of the family.

Being a mother of two,Miss Sunshine and Energizer Bunny ,i would not think of leaving my worldly possessions to my son only.His sister being my child is entitled to her parents property too.The argument that she would already have been married and part of some other family is all hogwash because i do not think parents relinquish the rights to their child even when they are married.It is also preposterous to claim that my brother claims more rights to my parents than me and my five sisters.

It is time we saw less wrangling by families over their parents property especially when their parents pass on without a will.The constant battles for family wealth is saddening especially among siblings who share the same blood and an almost equal set of chromosomes from each of their parents.

KENYAN WOMEN’S MOVEMENT DIDN’T DIE,THEY HAVE JOINED THE MEN.

Rasna Warah had a very interesting piece on what she thinks has been the apparent death of the w omen’s movement in Kenya in yesterdays Daily Nation.After reading her article i have decided to do a rejoinder on what i think has ailed the movement on Kenya.

Sometime last week Citizen TV had some two guests on their breakfast morning show who were being interviewed by Jimmi Gathu.The interview session was on the politics of the day and it was interesting to hear their view on Martha Karua’s presidential bid.One of the guests whose name i didn’t quite catch gave Martha some advice,don’t market yourself as a woman,sell yourself as a leader.In his opinion it is already apparent Martha is female all she needs to do is show Kenyans what she can do and not harp on her gender as a selling factor in her campaign.

Maybe he is right but it got me thinking that the reason for apparent death of female leadership in the country has been because women have learned that to win you need to play like a man.Just take a look at the way the Kenyan woman has evolved over the years and you will see that the Kenyan lady has wisely adopted masculine tendencies to make her way up whatever ladder she aspires to be at the top of.She is drinking and partying as hard as her male colleague,not that there is anything wrong with that but we seem to have mistaken equality with similarity.

To succeed as a woman there is no need of adopting male habits and thrown away everything that makes us feminine.Half the time if not all the time it seems Kenyan women are apologizing for their femininity.From the board rooms to the August house Kenyan women have to work five times as hard to prove they are as good as men.We cannot even stand behind most of our women who stand up for election because the women voters would rather a male candidate than a female,yet over the years they have been very many worthy female candidates standing up for various elective posts.

Since the year began,Kenya has featured on the international news channel CNN twice,the first time it was on World’s untold stories where they ran a feature on the deplorable state of Mathari Hospital,the only public mental health institution in the country.The situation was so awful David Mackenzie and crew were locked up by the hospital’s administrator together with the patients for more than two hours.It took more than 2 hours of frantic call to the Prime Ministers office for them to be released,yet they had a permit to shoot.Since then i never even heard a word from the Minister of Public Health Honorable Beth Mugo on the ways conditions at the hospital could be improved.And this was all happening on the same channel that was running the magical Kenya adverts.

The Ministry of Health is not the only one that has performed poorly but we sure do expect a lot more especially if it is being run by a woman,after all women are more empathetic than men.The least the Minister could have done is pay a visit to the hospital,confirm if the conditions were as bad as highlighted and if so see ways in which it could be improved.

The second time Kenya has been on the international news was over this weekend when it ran a story on Kenya’s forgotten people,the Nubians in Kibera.They have been with us since we can remember yet it seems they have to prove their identity even when they have to apply for an identity card.They cannot get employment ,bury their dead at a little plot of land in Kibera and generally function like a stateless community.

Recently there has been a spate in the rise cases of rape especially of minors and murders of women by their spouses.Since Njoki Ndungu’s bill on sexual offenses was passed it seems no one has taken up the baton for championing the rights of women and minors.

They all seem to embroiled in the political intrigues of the day,yet they could do so much by bringing to light issues that affect women. From the rising cases of maternal deaths in hospitals,to the woman fighting off crocodiles while they fetch water on the shores of Masinga dam to the rising cases of child rape and wife battering our parliamentarians could do so much more than they are doing right now.
As it is it seems their voices have been overshadowed by that of the men seeing that after the Njoki bill there hasn’t been any brought up by a female that has been made into law.

When the Kibunja report on ethnicity was released it should also have highlighted gender parity or disparity especially in the upper echelons of civil service.I can say without a shadow of a doubt that most of the people at the top are men and though we have equally educated women they do not seem to be getting appointed.

So why have women joined the men and playing by the rule book that has been preset?it is because they have realized that to win especially in the corridors of political or corporate world you need to toughen up and play hard ball.If they want to heard,they need to have more representation in all levels of government,they need to get involved in their communities,get involved in political parties,get involved in elections and shout to the high heavens to be heard among all the din and ruckus the men are causing.

Roseann Barr an American actress and writer was once quoted as saying”the thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.”As much as we are assured of equality we also need to take up the opportunities already available in our midst.Let more women show up for the coming elections next year,let us see more female heads in financial institutions and as vice chancellors of universities.If we do not take up the opportunities that are up for grabs definitely they will go the next man waiting in the wings.Let more women stop hiding their lamps under bushels by acting like men,let them show the world what being a woman is all about virtue,honesty,empathy,diligence and hard work.