No Country For Women

About Kenya and all the other countries that are increasingly becoming hostile towards women.

Last week, two public incidents happened in Kenya that made me question whether I would live to see the day when women are accorded the respect and honor that comes with being human beings. The social media commentary that ensued after both incidents simultaneously infuriated and saddened me. What am I talking about? Well, read on dear fan.

Mike Sonko, the Nairobi Senator, called in to Caroline Mutoko’s morning breakfast radio show. Now, Sonko has been known to help his constituents by paying their rent, hospital bills, school fees for their children and transport costs among others. He is the regular communal PIN-free ATM if you will. There’s nothing wrong with that. He is after all helping people make ends meet. However, as good-intentioned as his actions are, dishing out money is not a comprehensive sustainable plan to get people out of poverty. When he called into the radio show, Caroline asked him what his long terms plans were. You know, plans to ensure that people are able to become financially independent as opposed to constantly seeking help from Sonko. This is a reasonable question and it’s something many people want to know. Sonko went on a non-answer spree and Caroline, not one to be deterred, repeated the question several times. Now, we all know long term plans are many a Kenyan politicians enemy. Sonko was clearly out of his comfort zone. Instead of giving the typical diplomatic BS answer that politicians have prepared for anything, he begun hurling insults at Caroline.

Why is it that the first response to be being challenged by a woman is to resort to sexually-related insults and threats to her life!? I doubt that insults would have been his first line of defense if it was a man who asked him the question. What does it say about our society when an elected leader, unable to articulate himself, instinctively eases into the verbal abuse lane!? What’s even worse is the number of people, both men and women, who supported his actions and even made numerous jokes about it. It really is not a laughing matter.

In the same week, Evans Kidero, the Nairobi Governor, showcased his true colors to those who couldn’t/ were pretending not to see the black and white before. A group of city county workers, led by Women Representative Rachel Shebesh, went to Kidero’s office to demand better pay. At one point in the video, you see Shebesh having a conversation with Kidero. What does the man do seconds after!? He slaps her and walks back into his office promptly shutting its door. Really!? On being asked about the incident, Kidero’s first instinct was to cling to temporary amnesia. Later on, he claimed that the slap was in reaction to an assault around his lower abdomen. Wait…wait…wait….first he has no recollection of slapping Shebesh and then suddenly he remembers why he slapped her!? Huh!?

Needless to say, Kidero’s behavior was unacceptable. I thought everyone would share that opinion but to my shock and horror many people, men and women, spoke out or rather typed in his support. Memes were made and jokes were told. It all honestly worries me. What kind of a society are we trying to create here!? Claims were made that Shebesh acts like a man and should be treated as such. What!? Such comments are way too dumb for me to address. Others said she deserved it because of comments she made in the past. Again, what!? There is absolutely no reason for Kidero to have done what he did. None. As a leader, one should be able to diffuse situations. All Kidero had to do was to calm people down and have a conversation with them. Or he could have simply stayed in his office if he wasn’t ready to deal with life at that point. It would be better if he just removed himself from office but I don’t see that happening. A girl can wish though!

We, men and women, need to stop condoning such behavior and speak out against it. Violence against women is not a women’s only issue. Men are part of the cycle…so step up to the plate men and do the right thing. I urge you to think twice, and possibly a third time, before you stick that “Angry Feminist” label on me. If violence against women doesn’t make you angry then you really should reevaluate your life space. I have said it before and I will say it again….women should be treated with respect and honor because we are human beings not objects for you – misogynistic men and the women that constantly cheer you on- to do with as you please.

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