Monday, October 19, 2009

Kenyan women: Stand up and lead us

Why Kenyan women must come out and lead
There other day I went this political forum, where the going was all smooth until we got to the plenary. The plenary discussion itself didn’t have any problems. The problem (at least with me), began when the Man who was facilitating it, decided to deny me a chance so that he could give a chance to a woman. Again, giving a chance to a woman was not the problem, no. the problem was that, there was no woman who had lifted her hand up, and the fellow have to plead with the women for about one and a half minutes, and finally, one of them decided to break the silence, and went ahead to give a short presentation which had nothing to do with what the forum was all about (though I can’t blame her, she probably was desperate to end this deadlock brought about by this facilitator!). The fellow was purporting to be doing this for the sake of gender parity. I would not like to look like some gender chauvinist, especially given that in some regions in Kenya, women have been taught not to speak amongst men. But this forum was being hosted at one of the major colleges in Nairobi, and other than the students, young professional were among us.
Being the open minded person that I am, who speaks his mind out, I showed my displeasure with the incident when I was given my chance to speak (of course, after first presenting what was relevant to the forum). After my speaking of my mind out, very many women lifted their hands to speak, rather, to protest against my statement, demanding that I withdraw it.

I have always admired strong women who have been remarkable and leaders of leaders in their own right, from the iron ladies of Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher (though would not agree with them on principle), the likes of indira Gandhi and Serleaf Johnson, to Winnie Mandela and Wangari Mathaai.
There is actually this painting of the French liberty woman by Eugene Delacroize which I admire a lot (not her half-nakedness, but the way she leads the revolution with a flag on one hand and a bayonet on the other).

As a kid, I used to be owed by the legend of wangu wa Makeri who used to rule over the Kikuyu men, and as a high school student, the stories of women who participated in Maumau, both in the trenches and as non-combat  soldiers would take me off my feet.
These are women who had to rise above many difficulties, from religious setbacks, to unfair cultural settings………. And this brings me to our women today.

Why is it that Kenyan women take (or are taken to) the back seat, when it comes to leadership whereas it is a well known fact that women are more resilient than men, women are physically, yes, physically stronger than men, women have better communication skills than men, women can easily multi task, women can attract sympathy and even empathy in almost all situations (including where they are wrong) among many other advantages over men?
Taking an example of our mothers, even when times are so hard, they maintain their cool, calm and are collected. They do not run from responsibility. They stand for what is right. They are prudent and careful, and they are extremely hard working.
In my opinion, the strong women, the women of substance, most of the women out there are not aware of their potential. Then there are those who are aware of their potential, but are waiting for others to make the moves.
Women need to stand up and push for non partisan non sexist change in this country. Women should stand up and give leadership for this country. Women must stand up and finish the revolution that was started by the Maumau, and stabilized by the liberators of the 80s.
But in order for women to lead, in order for them to finish the revolution, they need to collectively rise above kitchen pettiness, maedeleo ya wanawake (and other reactionary, pacification groups), self-doubt, jealousy and blind loyalty to other women(some women will support one of their own, even when they are wrong, for the mere fact that they are women! This in turn leads to general dismissal of women, based on the mis-performance of these individual women)
The woman just needs to have a clean history, be courageous, be confident, should appear as a leader for everyone (non-tribal, non-regional, and above all, non-sexist), and above all, she should be just a woman, not a male wanna be.
She should also be ready for chauvinistic abuses, threats and all that goes on in Kenyan politics.

Otherwise, for the time being, we are waiting!!!!!

Benedict Wachira Mamluki

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