The day I turned 21 was filled with congratulatory messages on how I was finally a woman. I did say thank you to all these messages but I believe one becomes a woman the minute they are born female. Every single woman is the same but we are all very different in our similarities, thus discussing life as a Kenyan woman isnâ€™t something I can just narrate exclusively from the life I have lived so I talked with a few of my friends on the same.
I was educated almost entirely through the Kenyan public schools system. Never at any point did I face discrimination because of my gender. That does not blind me to the fate of thousands of other Kenyan girls who did not have it as easy. But I find that the best thing about being a Kenyan woman is that Kenyan women stand for each other. Take for instance the #MyDressMyChoice campaign. Or the numerous drives that are there to buy sanitary towels for girls in rural Kenya. Or the fights against FGM. All these initiatives are almost exclusively ran by women and it goes to show how strong the Kenyan womanâ€™s spirit is.
Kenyan women are generous people. There are numerous opportunities for the Kenyan woman and one outstanding thing about these opportunities is that they are tailored by women for women. For instance the AMKA Literature forum that provides mentor ship for female writers in Kenya. Thereâ€™s FIDA that offers legal consult to women at minimal cost. And then there is the little matter that most would not consider; compliments.
When someone says something nice about you, it feels nice, good even. This has been happening a lot lately, when you meet up with a stranger and they say something, maybe compliment your outfit or something in those lines. I feel that while the compliment is nice, it actually says more about the woman giving it and their character; on the positive of course.
Recently, one of my friends started a book club. While her book club is not open to females exclusively it does point out to the Kenyan womanâ€™s hunger for knowledge. Reading does make one open up to other peopleâ€™s ideas, gives one information on things in the world and that way she contributes to the world from a better position.
Itâ€™s a bit difficult though to rank what Kenyan experiences are bad and which ones are downright ugly. Itâ€™s a case of pointing out evils and lesser evils while in the real sense evil is evil. Having said that, I think early or/and unplanned pregnancies is a bad experience for the Kenyan woman.
We have all seen college girls attend lectures with visible pregnant bellies, and heard of others who have been disowned by their families for the same. But what pains me most is the girls that are left by the fathers of their children who wonâ€™t take responsibility. I think it is a very bad experience for the girls to have to pause or completely terminate their education in order to raise these babies because, letâ€™s face it, their options are often limited.
But do you know what makes me happy about watching young girls/women not of marrying age walk with pregnant bellies? Itâ€™s the thought of how difficult that choice must have been and the amount of effort and responsibility that it took for them to decide to keep the baby. There is nothing wrong or bad about that and these women and they should be applauded.
Another bad experience for the Kenyan woman is that people expect you to act your tribe or wherever you come from. One of my friends who is from the coast argues that people expect her (and other coastal) women to be a super chef and a worshipper of her man. If you are liberal in your thought, manner or even dressing; you are compared to white people- and not in the best of lights.
There is this constant talk by the Kenyan man; something about how the Kenyan woman should speak out because they are not mind readers. So when a woman speaks out, she is celebrated, well, except when it doesnâ€™t suit men (or society) then her being outspoken is considered to be too much.
There is always talk about violence; sexual, physical, emotionalâ€¦ whatever tag you want to place on it. The reality is that this talk is not enough. Because at the end of the day, talk demands action and how many people are ready to take that action?
The #MyDressMyChoice protests last year were as a result of violence against the Kenyan woman and that was just a small segment of what really happens. There are cases of Bukusu girls who are sexually violated by their relatives then excommunicated from their societies for having children out of incest. Do you see how insane that is? And how traumatizing it must be that the men (who are traditionally safety keepers) are actually the ones breaching that security?
And we all know of women in abusive marriages. We have friends who are against marriage because they saw their mothers get beaten night after night after night. And what most ugly about these experiences is that society has come to accept wife battery as a norm. There is nothing normal about getting beaten. And getting every Kenyan woman to understand this would be a great mile stone towards our societyâ€™s development.
Lastly, I want to talk about rape. Yes, weâ€™ve heard a lot on the subject but that does not make it any less ugly.
When a teenage girl is raped by a friendâ€™s brother and cannot say a thing to anyone about it for risk of being branded â€˜looseâ€™ or promiscuous or dirty; it is far from a beautiful experience. When a married cannot speak out about sexual violence in her home because her husband is the culprit then this mars any and all the good experiences she might have had a Kenyan woman.
And rebuking the people that come out to speak for human right in regards to women is just downright ugly. Just so we are clear; feminists are not the scum of the earth. They are people fighting for a cause, one they believe, one that happens to be noble.
Being a woman is never going to be an easy job but there is no reason why it cannot be a beautiful journey.