Tag Archives: journalists

Highlights 2014 (Celebrating Kenyan Women)

(This list is not in any particular order and neither is it exhaustive…just 10 (-ish) moments that came to mind today)

1. Lupita Nyong’o’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar win…
Lupita Nyong'o Win

…and her acceptance speech…

…and her recent speech at the Massachusetts Conference for Women…

…and the numerous times she owned the red carpet, the pavement, the airport entrance/exit and social media.

2. Okwiri Oduor’s Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story “My Father’s Head,” and her interview with Arise News.

Okwiri Oduor has also written a novella “The Dream Chasers,” that was highly commended by the Commonwealth Book Prize in 2012. She is currently working on her debut novel…I’m over here waiting for it with a cup of chai masala!

Side note: Two other Kenyans have won the Caine Prize. Binyavanga Wainaina in 2002 for “Discovering Home,” and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor in 2003 for “Weight of Whispers.” Oh, book recommendations alert -> Binyavanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write About This Place and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s Dust.

3.

my dress my choice

#MyDressMyChoice was started as a response to the stripping of women in the name of “decency.” Active and passive perpetrators of this form of violence against women claimed that stripping women teaches us not to be “indecent” and to dress “respectfully” while upholding our “African values.” Seriously!? How much stupidity does one’s brain have to be cloaked in in order to even think like this!? Please, we all know violence against women is about power, control and intimidation, among others. Enough is enough. It’s time to put an end to violence against women.  Salute to all the women who organized and participated in the protest against these heinous acts.

4. Diana Opoti celebrating 100 Days of African Fashion was amazing. She showed all of us just how fabulous African fashion is and the phenomenal level of talent designers across the continent have.
Follow her on Instagram @dianaopoti for pictures of her different outfits as well as designer details, you know, in case you decide to rock out 2015 in statement-making African fashion.

Side note: This was my favorite outfit, not that anyone asked…ha!

5. Captain Irene Koki Mutungi became the first African woman Dreamliner Captain. She was also the first female pilot at Kenya Airways. Inspiration is her, for sure.

Irene-Koki-Mutungi

6. This picture of an all-women Kenya Airways flight crew. Definitely using Kenya Airways next time. Well, if I am guaranteed that I will be on their flight…ha ha ha ha #disclaimer.

crew

7. Tegla Loroupe wins the 2014 Billie Jean King Contribution Award. Like many, I heard the name Tegla Loroupe before I fully grasped exactly what running a marathon and breaking records entails. She is not only a marathon legend but also an advocate for peace, women’s rights and education. Not to keep all her winnings to herself, she started the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation.

8. Evelyn Watta won the Sport Reporting Award in the 2014 CNN Multichoice African Journalist Awards. She won for her story “Inside Senegal’s Mythical Wrestling Heritage.” Hmmm…to think that there are people out there who are constantly coming up with ways to pigeonhole women. Meanwhile women are out here broadening your world with their words and award-winning stories.

9. The Wangari Maathai Peace Park is now under construction! Yes, it will be open to the public and according to the Green Belt Movement, they hope to have a library in it one day. I hope this is the start of many more parks with libraries throughout the country.
Also, I love the Google doodle of Wangari Maathai, below. It’s from 2013 but it’s timelessness landed it here.

wangari maathai

10. All the Kenyan warrior women who are constantly fighting/advocating for our rights. You are the reason we will have a better Kenya for women. You are an inspiration to many of us. You are everything and then some!

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What about the lion’s tale?

For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed reading. I have been fascinated by words since I learnt how to read the ones that are longer than three letters. I remember looking forward to the end of the school day so that I could read the newspaper on the way back home. Although I don’t remember a lot of the content, I do know that I was amazed at how words were being used to report stories.

It was through reading newspapers that I began to desire a career in journalism. Sure, at that age, I wasn’t particularly aware of what exactly having a career entailed, but I did know that I wanted to do what the newspaper writers were doing. Yes, this was back in the day when journalists and the media in Kenya had as much freedom as a butterfly in its larval phase. And this is where the lion comes in. It is said that until the lion learns to speak, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. With all the restrictions placed on the media back then, they were pushed into the glorify-the-hunter ( read government) corner. I remember a time when the news broadcast started with the president’s less than extraordinary activities. The newspapers on the other hand could not openly criticize the government. Any voices of “dissent” were not tolerated.

Thank heavens for new laws and undeterred activists that have ensured that we now have media freedom. We still have a long way to go but what we have now is so much better than what we had or rather what we didn’t have.

With the freedom, one would expect that the media would get better – represent the common mwananchi, amplify the voices of those who have been forced to whisper for so long, evaluate the government and call them out on their inconsistencies and tomfoolery (we all know they have a pit and then some full of that), and generally keep the public informed. Instead, the reverse is happening. The Kenyan media seems to be competing for a clandestine Mediocrity Award. Reading the newspapers is for the most part distressing. If I was a kid today, reading newspapers would discourage me from pursuing journalism. One wonders what the editors are getting paid to do and how some of the journalists were hired. Articles consist of poorly constructed sentences and improperly placed punctuation marks with a side of events that follow no logical sequence whatsoever. In addition to that, there is the typical mixing of tenses and misspelled words. Really!? In this day and age when the spell check feature is bold about underlining questionable words?!? If there is even any news value in the articles it is often lost amidst all these clatter.

We depend on the media to not only keep us informed but also tell our stories. We hope that they can now give us information and stories that could not be shared back in the day when anything but the regurgitation of government communication was a sin. We want them to share information and stories that continue to be ignored by international media (another batch of hunters) that has laser focus on reporting on the negatives of this or that African country. Prior to the elections in Kenya, earlier this year, CNN did a report on how people were in the forest preparing for election violence. I am not linking it here because it was so ridiculous and should be archived as one of CNN’s failures. There was an uproar by Kenyans particularly on social media about the video. The reporter in question stood by it and claimed that it was an accurate portrayal of events despite evidence to the contrary.

Why do I bring up this story? Well, I want to emphasize to the Kenyan media that the stories you tell and how you tell them are both very important. You are the ones with the platform to tell our stories accurately, with compassion and the dignity that they require. You can’t possibly do this if you continue down the shoddy journalism road. You have to step up. The only other option is the hunter…err…I mean international media telling our stories. We all know they look at us through stereotypical lenses so that won’t work.

All this simply to say – Kenyan media, can we please have some professionalism. Yes, that includes the individuals who are in charge of your social media platforms.

World Press Freedom Day

Today is World Press Freedom Day! Let’s all join hands and continue to advocate for press freedom. Journalists play an important role in society. They relay information that allows us to make better decisions about our lives, our leaders and the direction that we would like our societies to take among others. Celebrating the fundamental principles of press freedom and ensuring that they are upheld has multidimensional benefits. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said, “A fundamental right on its own, freedom of expression also provides the conditions for protecting and promoting all other human rights. But its exercise does not happen automatically; it requires a safe environment for dialogue, where all can speak freely and openly, without fear of reprisal.”

Reporters Without Borders have produced the map below that shows the state of press freedom globally. It is quite alarming that only a handful of countries are classified as having a “good situation” in terms of their press freedom. We still have a long way to go.

Photo courtesy of Reporters Without Borders
Photo courtesy of Reporters Without Borders

The Committee to Protect Journalists has also released its Impunity Index which shows countries where journalists are killed and their killers go free. The report can be found here.

Today we pay tribute to all the journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty. We salute all the journalists out there who report on stories while being respectful and showing compassion to the people they write about. We urge governments to support and actively ensure freedom of the press. To the shoddy journalists who give other journalists a bad name – remember there is always room to pull up your socks.

Here’s a piece on A day in the life of a Somali journalist by Hamza Mohamed.