Category Archives: Mama’s Words


The past two weeks have really been dark in Kenya. A woman was stripped naked by a gang of matatu touts because they claim she was dressed “indecently.” She was wearing a skirt and a tank top. Someone recorded it and put it online. Another video circulated after that of yet another lady who was stripped naked by another gang of men. They also claimed she was dressed “indecently.” She was wearing pants and a tank top. Just this past Monday, another lady was stripped naked. The gang of men who did it claimed she was dressed “indecently.” One of them used social media to brag about his active participation in violating the woman. This is what our country has come to. This is the kind of hostile society that women have to live in.

Kenyan women have been using #MyDressMyChoice to not only decry these acts but also express their outrage, share their personal experiences, demand better treatment and advocate for the upholding of women’s rights. From this hashtag, women organized a protest that was held this past Monday.

Of course, as with anything that involves women, you know the foot soldiers of patriarchy where ready to march in and blame these violent acts on women.  Because obviously the sole reason that women are violated is women themselves. It has absolutely nothing to do with men and the entitlement they feel towards women. Nothing. Yes, that is the chewed up grass that such people are trying to sell us, and expecting us not to recognize it for the bullshit that it is.

A media personality wrote a blog stating that “…”My Dress, My Choice” Movement, though with it’s heart in the right place, will only be an excuse for some girls to dress skimpily…” Ha…because the only thing that women want is to “dress skimpily.” Never mind that #MyDressMyChoice is about more than just dressing. It’s about fighting for our rights. It’s about demanding the respect that should be accorded to us regardless of our outward appearance. It’s about upholding our presence in this world as human beings and not objects. It’s about putting an end to violence against women. But these are all minor details to this particular media personality.  Plus they don’t quite fit well into her “be a good girl, show self-value by covering up and you won’t be attacked” narrative.

She then claimed that protesting is the wrong approach. She added, “Don’t fix a wrong with a “wrong” & by that I mean taking to the streets will not change much, just today these street hooligans are at it again! the strike could just make these foolish men fight even more.” Fighting for our rights to JUST BE and walk around without fear is apparently wrong. Protesting is an important step in the change that we all want to see. But hey, why should we protest when we can just stay silent and hope that our silence will shield us from assault? That has clearly worked out well for us in the past.

Another personality tweeted, “…scan your environment and dress accordingly.” Basically, you are to blame if anything happens to you and the perpetrators use the way you are dressed as an excuse. Why didn’t you scan your environment? Why didn’t you dress according to it? Ha…you better get familiar with the handbook on dress as per your environment, woman! Better yet, consult the men in your environment about what you should wear.  The truth is, a woman might scan her environment, and decide to wear jeans and a t shirt to be safe, and still get stripped because they will say “her jeans were too tight,” or “she was enticing us with her walk.”

A gospel artiste wrote, “However, am also against women walking around half naked. Let’s not argue with facts well known to us… we are Africans, where nakedness is shameful.” What is half naked? Is it when our legs can be seen? Or our knees? Or our arms? Maybe our shoulders? She doesn’t clearly define what it is. That second statement is funny in the ignorance-is-real type of way. “…we are Africans, where nakedness is shameful,” is a fact!? How so, when there is numerous evidence, pictorial and otherwise, showing that our African ancestors did in fact walk around in various states of nakedness!? They really must have been steeped in shame then, huh!? Good thing the missionaries and colonialists threw some clothes on them and reminded them that as Africans, nakedness is shameful.

She then adds, ” No matter how much we may argue about this, exposing your body is not right,” and “If all of us women dress in a respectful manner, chances of being stripped are very very low.” Exposing your body is wrong!? According to who? What counts as exposing? Showing your toes? Or maybe palms? What is a “respectful manner” of dress? Who determines this? So our chances of being stripped are diminished based on how we “dress in a respectful manner”? Oh wow…how come we didn’t think of this before? Obviously all that women need to do is “dress in a respectful manner” and all the violence we face will magically disappear.  Of course she had to end her comments with #YourDressYourCharacter. You hear that all you dress-in-a-disrespectful-manner types!? Your character is defined by nothing else but your choice of dress. Ah ah…please spare us.

It really is a problem when your opinion puts others in danger. The above personalities say they are against the stripping of women. However, they proceed, in the same breath, to make statements that uphold the very same systems that have for years harassed, assaulted, violated, trampled upon and silenced women. To say that women should dress “decently,” “in a respectful manner,” “according to their environment” is to say that we, women, call the violence upon ourselves. It is to tell women that we have no right to personal choice. It is telling us that our choices must be tweaked and reworked until men find them acceptable. It is to say that our bodies do not belong to us and therefore we have no agency over them. It is to shift the blame from men, where it belongs, and place it squarely on  women. It is to shame and blame the victims.  It is to explain away the assault. It is to preserve rape culture. It is to deny what the stripping really is about – power, control and patriarchy.

The media also seems to be invested in this blame game.  K24,  hosted Robert Alai, a person who tweeted that he would strip or sponsor the stripping of anyone dressed “indecently,” on a panel to discuss dress code. Really!? Because there is a discussion to be had about this? Because his tweets about endorsing violence against women weren’t harmful enough? Because his views and those of people like him need to be amplified on a national stage? K24, to host such a person and air his views is basically you saying that you in one way or the other support them.

Not to be left behind, Nation FM had a discussion on one of their shows. The question, “Is it right to undress a person in public for dressing “indecently”?” They had a number for people to call and chime in. Seriously, that this is even a question is a problem. Is there really a debate to be had over this? I know media houses are all for the “two sides to every story” but when it comes to violence against women there are no two sides about it. It’s not debatable. You can’t rationalize violence against women. The choice of pictures that Nation FM chose to use in reporting the protest on Monday was also quite telling of their stance on the matter.

The media houses are clearly more interested in ratings than using their platforms to advocate for an end to violence against women. What do they care though? As long as they get their paycheck at the end of the day.




My maternal grandmother is one blessed with wits that well match her cheer and constant laughter. Stories she has told us by candlelight, by the fireplace, and outside her house as we enjoyed the warm sunny afternoons, still linger in my mind and will probably stay in my heart for as long as I’ll be able to remember.

Grandma had a beautifully furnished bedroom. It was nothing fancy. Just a small room, but very neat(I carry those perfectionism genes 🙂 ), clean and decorated with beautiful crocheted cloths and simple antiques. She referred to it as her ‘sanctuary’. The first time I walked into it, I knew then why she spent so much of her morning time locked up in there, singing hymns and praying. I certainly would choose to stay in there and write, listen to music, read or just sleep.

One rainy evening, we followed our doting grandmother, and huddled in her sanctuary where she offered us a snack of fried dry maize (It’s a Luhya delicacy). We loved listening to her, loved her cheery voice and definitely her stories. Occasionally, the loud clap of thunder would make us all jump. She laughed – really laughed.

“That shouldn’t scare you at all. You know why? That’s just the angels in heaven, rearranging God’s furniture.”

I was surprised. In all the few years I had lived, I had never heard such an explanation for thunder before. I had read stories in the story books at school about gods getting angry at humans; none of them fascinated me as much as her explanation.

I couldn’t help smiling as I pictured white-robed angels with feathery wings, shoving sofas and chairs and TV sets across the bare wooden floors of heaven. Without doubt, this heightened my awe and respect for angels as I’d imagined them in my mind.

I loved and still love the way this beautiful woman talks. “Angels moving furniture…”



As a kid my mother always told me, “Just continue playing with me and the next thing you know you’ll be feeding on tripe and ground maize meal for breakfast in Migori”. I always thought this was her way of keeping me in check (it did work) because I had truant tendencies. She taught me to always evaluate my answers before responding. Looking back now, I look at the threats and they seem to have rubbed off on me to date.

In my mid-early twenties (it exists), my friends find it awkward that I can’t swim and have no interest whatsoever in learning how to defy God and move in matter that wasn’t designed for me. Don’t get me wrong. Swimming is cool and if I could flap my feet in water my mother would probably be grandma by now. So two weeks ago I had an experience that made me re-evaluate my stand on large and semi-large water bodies (tubs included). Up until last week the reason I gave for not being able to swim was seeing my friend almost drown while in primary school. Well, it is a partial reason but I couldn’t swim even then.

The last straw before I was shipped off to boarding school at the tender age of 9 involved swimming. I lived in an area where friends weren’t a common scene, so when I found friends, I was going to ride or die with my homies. My new friend, Moses, was a light skin boy with a face you’d think was stung by bees. He was light for days and had a really chubby face. He cried a lot in every confrontation and would turn pink thus the bee analogy.

The biggest thing at the time was rabbit rearing and if I kept on going right now I’d be a millionaire or a plenty- thousandnaire. We’d sell our rabbits for double the price we bought them and my mum thought this was the best way to keep me out of drugs (truancy) and teach me about the value of money. For the better part of our trade, I got to understand that money earned must be spent.

During one of our rabbit sales, we had to deliver the furry beasts to an individual that lived near a man-made dam. As juvenile delinquents (I was the Tupac of kids), we decided to dip our feet in the water just to get a feel. In no time, things escalated and we were in the water splashing around like rabid dogs. For the first time in my life I felt one with water. That evening I got home, ashy as macadamia nuts and eyes bloodshot. My mum, thought this was all part of my running around and dust allergy so she didn’t pay much attention to it.

Every time I took a dip in that murky water I felt at one with nature as much as I could feel the weeds frolicking my bottom. I was the king of the self-generated waves and I loved it. I’d always find a reason for being late and my mum probably knew I was fooling around but she couldn’t put her finger around it. These escapades went on for around two months before ego took it all to the wretched ground it came from.

My neighbour’s kid (The loudest hungry kid you’ll ever meet) one day asked if he could accompany us to our liquid state. He was probably four years younger than us so that was out of the question. A taboo of sorts. What did he know about diving in water with nothing but your skin to cushion your splash? Apparently plenty since his school had an actual pool. In my denying him, I didn’t put into account of how he knew we were non-youtube trained swimmers.

So on this day I get home jovial as ever. My neighbour said hi, something she only did when she’d snitched on me. I knew I was in trouble when I could smell fries but I couldn’t see them. My mum didn’t even smile when she saw me (What happened to unconditional love?). I made my way to the bathroom and all through the shower I could feel the belt land on my back. I cried myself to the point of coiling my body at one end of the bathroom.

True to my instinct, she knew about my Olympic training classes. I played it cool and this time, the belt was nowhere in sight. “I can smell chips mum, have you brought me one?” Before I could be directed, I had a conversation in my head on how this was going to play out. I was brought back to earth with these words, “If I ever find you in that water, you won’t be coming back to Nairobi! I’ve packed your things. You’re going to Migori tomorrow.” I thought I’d beat her by crying in the shower but my nasal passage had other ideas. I dry cried myself to the kitchen and sobbed through my fries and sausage.

After spending the week with my grandma, which was surprisingly better than I thought, I made my return to the city. I was sent to boarding school immediately after. For all I can remember, that was the last time I voluntarily immersed over one-third of my body in anything other than a shower. From that one week, I learnt two things. Never respond without thinking of the consequences and swimming isn’t cool.

So on my behalf of my mother I’d like to apologize to every girl that invited me for swimming and the most I did was stare. I’m sorry to any girl that thought sharing a bath tub was romantic and I turned down that chance, I’m reforming. I can do half a tub now. And to my future kids, I’m sorry but you aren’t swimming under my watch and if you go tell your grandma, you won’t even play in the rain. To my mother, thank you for preparing me on Tsunami avoiding tactics.


I found out recently that one of my relatives should have written a handbook on dating. If you were, are or have tried dating in this so-called modern times, then you know there are moments when you wish you had such a book to throw at some people.

When Aunty J (Yes, another Aunty J story!) was growing up, they lived near a valley. She had an uncle who owned an eshiriri, a stringed instrument with a drum-like base from the Luhya community. If you know anything about the Luhyas, it is that we love our music. He also had a girlfriend who lived on the other side of the valley. Every evening he would sit outside and play the eshiriri while singing. Now, I wasn’t there, obviously, but I have this mental image of him seating on a three-legged stool, wearing bell bottom trousers and with a healthy budding afro. He wasn’t doing it for money or communal entertainment. It was how he communicated with his girlfriend and requested her to come visit. Yes, people did communicate with their significant others pre – the text message. I can imagine he inwardly willed the air to carry his  music over the valley and direct it straight into his girlfriend’s ears. He would play and sing until the girlfriend heard him, and wouldn’t stop until she came over. She always did.

It’s a far cry from what happens these days. Nowadays people simply text “Wanna come over?” and that’s on generous days. When they are feeling stingy with their words then it becomes “Cme ova?” Seriously people, no effort left to put in this dating game huh!? Is this the downside of technology,are we just becoming lazier as a people or is it that changing times have altered the dating game?

When I was in high school, people communicated with their girl/boyfriends through letters. Yes, good ol’ snail mail. The highlight of these letters was the song dedication that your girl/boyfriend/object of your affection/apple of your eye/current crush wrote either at the end of letter or on the margin or both. People carefully picked songs with lyrics that conveyed a message they couldn’t write outright due to nosy concerned teachers who occasionally opened the letters and read them, before passing them on to the intended recipient. Ah, the boarding school struggle. Extra creative people wrote poems that waxed lyrical about all the recipient’s attributes and the sustenance the sender drew from these. Of course there are those who sprayed cologne or perfume on the letter so that the recipient could get a whiff of them. During the holidays, it was face to face meetings and long telephone conversations. I thought our dating game was up there until I heard the eshiriri story.

That was all before everyone had access to a cellphone/ smartphone. Dating in these smartphone era is something else. People will try and fail miserably  to woo you through WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, Vine and such. Then they get shocked when you give them an ample serving of side eye and keep it moving. What does a person expect when they contact you on WhatsApp and paint a picture of the rosy future they hope the two of you will have even after years of not hearing from said person? Seriously? Where is the effort people? Where is the e.f.f.o.r.t? No one is asking or even expecting you to play the eshiriri and sing or string together a sappy poem, but dang…try a little…just t.r.y. Heaven knows many of us would pick the strumming of that eshiriri  over “Cme ova?” any day.


We were having late breakfast when my Aunty J came to visit. When she saw me the first thing she said was, “Why are you so skinny? Are you losing weight deliberately? Or are you in love?” Now, anyone who knows Aunty J knows that i) she is a woman bursting with life and ii) she asks questions (however uncomfortable they are) in rapid succession. She is the type of person whose presence can simultaneously comfort you and make you stutter.

“I have always been skinny,” I replied, after deep laughter that failed at changing the topic. “You know being in love can also make you skinny,” she said. “It’s true,” she added and proceeded to tell us her “oh, that youthful love!” story.

When Aunty J was a young gal she dated a fellow who I will call John (because I can’t remember his name to protect his identity). Things between John and Aunty J were going great. Their relationship was like the perfect African sunset, complete with the acacia tree. Then one day John decided to break it off. He offered no explanation, well, none that was worthy of being committed to memory. Of course Aunty J was heartbroken because she thought of John as the love of her life. She told her mother (my grandmother) about her unrequited love. Aunty J walked around John-free and in love, hoping that the two of them would get back together. All the emotions associated with that resulted in weight loss. She eventually moved on and lived to love another day.

And the moral of the story according to Aunty J, “If you are going to lose weight do it deliberately,” and “Never lose weight for a man…he either loves you as you are or he doesn’t.” My personal take away, “Love can do and make you do the unexpected.”