Tag Archives: Activism

Shedding Culture

How do we go about doing away with aspects of culture that have and will never be beneficial to us, individually as well as in our different communities? This is especially difficult amongst African communities since “culture” is the invisible cloth that we are reluctant to take off. We cling to culture and constantly use it as justification for carrying out violations, especially against women.

One of Uganda’s daily newspapers, New Vision, published this interview with an upcoming female musician who was also the runner’s up in a Coca Cola sponsored singing competition in 2013.  It is evident from the initial questions that the young lady is a go-getter and has accomplished a lot as a result.  However, the interview took a turn for the sad when questions about relationships were asked. The lady’s responses were disturbing and heartbreaking. It is scary to know that there are many more African women who share  her sentiments.

When asked  whether she would leave if her man hit her: “If he hit me for the right reason, I would stay, but if he hit me over something flimsy, I would leave. I admit sometimes we do things that make our better halves angry. They are human too. When people get angry, they do things they can regret. I would still forgive him. My parents hit me since I was young, but do I hate them? No.” And what would this right reason be: “Maybe if I went out all night and didn’t pick his calls and then I was rude to him (which I am never), I would take the beating.”

Eh! Is there ever a (right) reason to hit a woman? The correct answer is NO, NEVER.  The fact that someone has somehow found a “right reason” is baffling to me. Equating being disciplined by one’s parents to being hit by a man is startling and an indicator of some of the negative aspects of culture that we need to rid ourselves of.

People are still steeped in the women should be “disciplined” belief. This is something that has been accepted and even considered part of many African cultures for years. It is considered normal, you know, just like breathing. Men have historically been taught that, as the authority in the home , it is up to them to ensure that people in the house toe the line, especially their wives/girlfriends/partner. A woman is considered a minor who has no business pursuing any of her interests without her husband’s/ man’s consent.

Despite all the progress that women’s rights movements across Africa have made over the years, this particular aspect of our collective culture stays the same. The opinion of the Ugandan lady in the interview above is just one example. How many of you have, or know a young African woman who has, been told that attaining higher education will make her intimidating to men? Will result in her not finding a husband? Because African men are not interested in women who are more educated than them or earn more than they do. “You can’t be too independent, no African man will want you,” is a statement that I have heard.

African women today are still expected/taught to bend over backwards and work overtime to appease the men in their lives. If the relationship fails then it’s your fault young African woman. You should dress to impress your man, keep him interested…pull out all the stops so that he doesn’t stray. You can aspire to be anything you want as long as your ambitions leave room for the man to be the head/leader. You should always cook…it’s a woman’s job…the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach after all. You can’t go out all night with your friends and not pick up his calls…how else do you expect him to show he cares if he can’t keep tabs on you? Oh, he hit you? Well, he was just “disciplining” you…your ways need to be corrected from time to time…you know how we women can get. He hits you because he loves you and wants you to be the best version of yourself…yeah, sure, as long as that best version stays under his thumb and learns to respond to his every whim. So what if he is unfaithful?…you know how men are…they get tempted easily…forgive and move on. You can’t leave because he is cheating or hits you every now and then…good men are hard to find my dear.

It’s all very disturbing especially when you hear/read about a young lady buying into these notions. It’s sad to know that such beliefs are being, and by the looks of it will continue to be, passed on from generation to generation. How then will we enact societal change? How will we, once and for all, do away with this cultural bondage?


Touch Me Not

This is not about the plant…although it could be…in some alternative universe.

A few weeks ago, while leaving the club (had to be right!?), a man grabbed a lady’s hand while trying to talk to her. She pulled her hand away and simply said, “Don’t touch me,” as she walked away.The man appeared puzzled and shouted that he just wanted to wish her a good night. “Don’t touch me though. I don’t like people touching me,” she said while glancing back.

The scene was all too familiar to me, as I have seen it many times before, unfortunately. I have also had the displeasure of going through such experiences. Why do some men feel the need to grab a woman’s hand so that they can talk to her? Is it really necessary? Do you think that grabbing my hand will make me suddenly want to stand there and have a conversation with you? I really have tried and failed to understand this move. Personally, when someone grabs my hand, I immediately get alarmed. That feeling heightens when the face attached to the hand is that of a stranger, which is typically the case. I always pull my hand away, yes in a this-hand-belongs-to-me type of way, and then walk off. On days when I am in a generous mood I typically say, “Don’t touch me,” accompanied with an eye-roll. Yes, eye-roll, because it is very annoying to be minding your own business and then someone decides to grab your hand all in the name of wanting to talk to you.

Seriously, if you want to talk to someone do just that. If they respond, good for you. If they don’t, then good for you too…it’s not the end of the world. Grabbing someone’s hand shows that you think they should/have to respond to you, and if they don’t realize that, then holding them hostage will make them respond. Really, men…you have the right to speak but you do not have the right to my response and I have the right to not speak/respond.

I have never seen a man doing this to another man though. “Hey sir”…grabs hand…”Can I talk to you for a minute?” Yurp, I am yet to see this happen. Why? Probably because you might get knocked in the eye for grabbing a stranger’s hand. So why do it to women? Just STOP! If you think we owe you a conversation (or anything really), you have another think coming. While we are at it, you might as well wipe that shocked/ surprised/ did-you-just-brush-off-my-advances?/ how-dare-you-reject-me-in-all-my-glory? look off your face.

Kenya’s Red Line Train Ride

Hmmm…after the events of this week, I am now convinced the Kenyan government is taking us on a tumultuous train ride to Nowhere Land. They are playing us like the ukulele while at it too. We currently have a digital government whose key security (and everything else really) strategies are speculation and the blame game. I am not sure how they figure they can propel a country forward based on such. How are we expected to continue entrusting them with our lives when they have repeatedly shown they cannot be asked to ensure the safety of Kenyans?

This past Sunday, al Shabaab linked militants attacked Mpeketoni, a Kenyan coastal town, killing at least 49  people and injuring several others. They also set buildings and other property on fire. That attack lasted for hours. On Monday, al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack. According to Mail & Guardian, in a statement sent to Reuters, al Shabaab said, “Commandos last night carried out a successful raid on the town of Mpeketoni.” They added, “Kenya is now officially a war zone and as such any tourists visiting the country do so at their own peril.” The reasons they gave for the attack are the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia and the extrajudicial killings of Muslim leaders.

Joseph Ole Lenku, the cabinet secretary in charge of interior security, came out with the full force of a circus act, describing the attack as “heinous”, calling the attackers “bandits” and stating that they had crossed a “red line.” Which red line, you ask? Well, guess we might never know since Ole Lenku didn’t display any of Netanyahu’s illustration skills, but I digress. He then claimed that security had been beefed up across the country after the attack, and the attackers had been chased northwards by security forces. Basically, rest easy Kenyans, the government has your back NOT.

The militants called bullshit on this security facade by returning a day later. They must have known what we now know…the government stayed asleep. This time they attacked Poromoko, a village close to Mpeketoni. They killed at least 15 people and set houses on fire. Residents told the BBC that at least 12 women were abducted in the latest attack. They also said that the government did not send in enough forces to protect them after the first attack. Evidence that Ole Lenku was putting on a show. Only he knows who it was for.  Al Shabaab also claimed responsibility for this attack.

This is where the circus plot gets lost.

In an address to the nation, President Uhuru decided that this was an opportunity to gain political mileage. He went in on “reckless” and “divisive” leaders hell-bent on creating hate and intolerance. He also said that such leaders make it easy for terrorists to operate in our country. He then stated, “The attack in Lamu was well planned, orchestrated, and politically motivated ethnic violence against a Kenyan community, with the intention of profiling and evicting them for political reasons. This therefore, was not an Al Shabaab terrorist attack.”  Eh…say what!? Wait just one minute Mr. President. Didn’t al Shabaab claim responsibility for both attacks!? Or are they lying to us? If so, to what end? We have had several unclaimed attacks, why would they pick this one out of all of them to claim!? Something does not add up here. Who is fooling who, sir? And while we are on the subject of profiling and evicting people for political reasons…isn’t that the same thing your government is doing to ethnic Somalis?

President Uhuru further added, “Evidence indicates that local political networks were involved in the planning and execution of the heinous attacks.” Ok…you have evidence but yet no arrests have been made? What is being done to ensure that those involved in the planning and execution will face justice? What about the abducted women? Do the local political networks have them? Are security forces looking for them?

Perhaps one of the most disturbing statements that President Uhuru made is. “It is now clear that intelligence on this attack was availed to the security officers in Mpeketoni.” What!? In short, the attacks could have been prevented but they weren’t. Why, Mr. President, why? Why was there no action taken? What were security officers doing? Sitting on the intelligence and hoping nothing would happen? Or do they lack the resources required to act on such intelligence? Just what exactly is going on Mr. President? Or intelligence isn’t acted upon until the “red line” has been crossed? I would assume that the possibility of Kenyans losing their lives would result in action but apparently the government would rather cling to inaction.

Of course the President had to throw in this usual statement, “I am satisfied that for the most part, our security agencies have performed well and thwarted innumerable terrorist and other criminal conspiracies and attempts.” Every time there is an attack, the President makes a similar statement. He makes it seem like the security agencies are on top of their game. So how come they missed all the attacks that have happened!? Why weren’t they able to thwart those particular attacks? If security agencies are performing well, why aren’t some of them acting on the intelligence they are provided with!?

At the end of the day, President Uhuru and the rest of the government, all we want is to be safe. We want to be able to move around the country without fear. Security in our country has gone to the dogs…that is undeniable. Whether the attacks are orchestrated by local political networks or terrorist groups, the bottom line is insecurity is on the rise. It is your responsibility to protect the inhabitants of the country that you lead. We can be each other’s keepers, as you suggested in your address Mr. President, all day every day. But if we have security forces that fail to act on intelligence and a government that couldn’t care less about its citizenry, then how is that useful to us?

When a handful of countries in the West issued travel advisories, our government was up in arms. “We will find tourists elsewhere,” they said. When it became obvious that more countries were unwilling to remain silent as their citizens travelled to our attack-prone nation, the rhetoric changed to “Tembea Kenya.” Domestic tourism is great and should in fact always be encouraged and promoted.  However, it does to not deter attacks.

Now that you have realized that Kenyans are after all not bulletproof, what are you going to do about these attacks, dear government? How many lives have to be lost before you cut the BS and actually come up with an effective plan to put an end to these attacks!?


Greatness from Kenya

I have been thinking about the positive in Kenya of late. There seems to be a lot going wrong (or not going anywhere at all) in our beloved country. For the past few days I have been telling myself that at least once a week I should highlight some of Kenya’s positive happenings. The universe heard me and decided to hold me to my word. In the past few hours a friend linked me up with two news articles of what I call greatness from Kenya.

The first one is Pumzi – a short SciFi  film written and directed by award-winning Wanuri Kahiu that was screened at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Yes, I know, it’s 2014 and I just heard about the film…better late than never! Pumzi imagines a post-WWIII (The Water War) Africa where there is no water and people live locked away in contained communities.  Watch Pumzi below.

Here is an interview that Wanuri Kahiu gave on “Africa and Science Fiction.” Listen carefully for it is full of gems.

CNN also did a feature on Wanuri Kahiu where she talks about her filmmaking journey. Read it here. She has worked on other projects including From a Whisper, Ger: To Be Seperate, Just A Band and State House, among others. 

The second one is news of Captain Irene Koki Mutungi becoming the first black female Boeing 787 captain in the world. Here’s to attaining her sky dreams in a Dreamliner! Captain Mutungi was also the first female pilot at Kenya Airways. Talk about showing all Kenyan girls who desire to be pilots that their dreams are valid.  She has truly opened many a doors not only for them but also for those of us who aspire to work in fields that have traditionally been male-dominated.

Below is an image of Captain Mutungi and here is a feature on her.


Today we celebrate Wanuri Kahiu and Irene Koki Mutungi, two phenomenal women who are lighting the path for the rest of us. They have and continue to show that it can be done. We are the authors of our own stories and the captains of our own lives.


Kenyan Politicians = Masters of Distraction

I have become convinced that Kenyan politicians are masters of distraction. There must be a special school that they go to in the middle of the night to hone their distraction skills. Seriously, how else can we explain how they intently focus on anything and everything other than the important issues?

Take for example, Aden Duale, the majority leader in the National Assembly. He recently said that homosexuality is a “Western Agenda.” He further stated that it is a problem in Kenya on the same scale as terrorism and should be handled the same way. Where do we begin with this politician’s “logic”!? How is homosexuality a Western Agenda? Mr. Duale, please tell us, what would the West be hoping to achieve/gain from promoting homosexuality? You are after all suggesting that they are promoting it or coercing people into it. To what end though!? Equating homosexuality to terrorism is simply compound foolishness. What consenting adults do really bothers you that much!? Why!?

Instead of tackling insecurity and other developmental issues in the country our politicians are busy discussing ways in which they can police the citizenry’s sexuality. The Westgate Attack, the Likoni Church Attack, the spate of carjackings and violent theft have all been happening under their noses. They are too busy sticking their noses in people’s sexual spaces to take action about such pressing issues though. We see your shady tactics, politicians. Get people talking about homosexuality so they won’t notice your incompetence and reluctant leadership huh!?

As a country, we are well-versed in the accept and move on school of thought. Now, can we accept that homosexuality is not a Western agenda, it is not terrorism and it is not a social evil? Ok…yes? Great! That’s how people are born. You cannot force or will or pray a certain sexual orientation onto a person. People are who they are. Just as you live your truth daily then let others do the same. Please, let’s move on from this fixation with outlawing homosexuality.

Speaking of terrorism. The government clearly does not have a handle on the matter. Dear Politicians…can you address that particular issue? Or will that interfere with all the effort you have been putting into marking time until the next election? What about the increase in insecurity? What about violence against women and rape? Road accidents? Ill-equipped health care facilities? Inadequate education resources? Increase in the cost of living? Youth unemployment? Poor water and electricity supply? Corruption? Any plans on tackling any of these issues or are your agendas too packed with bedroom affairs that you shouldn’t be concerning yourselves with!?