Dear (here insert your name/title)
Today, tomorrow and beyond, I celebrate us.
I celebrate how far we have come to be liberated, respected and the responsibilities we have taken in our stride.
I fear for us too.
While our emancipation may be said to be somewhat in existence today, it is not tamper proof. Its foundations have been shaken and threatened to come tumbling down. Here is why.
In the past couple of years, women leaders have come trampling down grace-to-grass in a matter of days. And the media was there, hungry and ready to hang them to dry from the waters of a miscalculated move, being at the wrong place in the wrong/right time and worse still while doing their job.
Kethi Kilonzo, Caroline Mutoko, Nancy Baraza, Rachel Shebesh and Gladys Shollei have made headlines, sadly, for not so good reasons. We have heard and seen them tried, judged, and sentenced by the public for their deeds and words.
Not that these women are not capable of crimes or that they are above the law; but what I am saying is that the treatment meted out to women is very different from that meted out to men. This truth, we have learnt the ugly way.
This month, social media was abuzz with the voice recording of Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko insulting radio presenter Caroline Mutoko. Then by the end of that week, a video of Nairobi County Governor Evans Kidero slapping Nairobi Women’s Representative Rachel Shebesh outside his office went viral. The uproar that Rachel got was loud, louder even…a woman representative slapped right in front of our eyes. The tables turned swiftly on her as one my Governor said he could not remember hitting Shebesh and when he did, he said it was because, she-Shebesh, had touched his private parts.
Welcome to Kenya, which is 50 this year, and misogyny it seems it is deep rooted and way older.
How did we get here? I mean, haven’t we fought for gender equality, for the third gender rule that our constitution protects? Does it mean that all those efforts to ensure violence against women by civil societies, individuals, and the government have been in vain?
I think the moment, we saw it okay and normal for us (some of us) to be silent at most times and speak loudest when ‘certain’ women are disgraced; this is when the rain started beating us. My sisters, our selective once-in-a-while support will be our end.
This stratified ‘class’ support, sisters, is our Achilles heel.
Phyllis Nyaguthie, now deceased, was allegedly raped by a male nurse at the Kenyatta National Hospital. Though late, she reported the matter, the media picked it up but it fizzled out as fast as it came out. Maria Mutheo, a Nakuru traffic police woman was assaulted by her area MP, well, a few heads turned. When Caroline Mutoko, was insulted on air, a few feathers were flustered with some saying it was comeuppance- that she deserved it. We have heard of women thrown out of moving matatus because they did not have the extra 10 shillings for their fare, or of those stripped for being ‘poorly’ dressed. What of the many young girls, defiled by her uncles or fathers- impregnated or even infested with sexually Transmitted Infections or even HIV/AIDS. Or better yet, of the mother who delivered on the cold floor in Bungoma amidst abuses and slaps for ‘messing the floor’.
These stories are in the list of the many other nameless, faceless girls and women whose cases will be heard in closed courtrooms, wished away by embarrassed parents/spouses, talked of in hushed tones and time, the ‘healer of sorts’, will make them disappear.
Violence against women has been a tool of war, a sharp tool to cut off women’s tongues. Such that we are too quiet, too afraid to speak out for our kind. It seems, we are confirming that “Silence is (indeed) a Woman” as argued by Dr Wambui Mwangi. Is silence or our selective once-in-a-while support maintained in order to save face, to avoid public stigma and the “that woman deserved it” discussion? I quote a lady who shared in a network “Do I need to be ‘someone’ to know that the women’s movement will have my back?”
What happened to the strengths of Wangari Maathai? Didn’t she live among us? Didn’t she face up authorities; spoke for women in her little ways: the humming bird style? What of Syokimau, Sara Serem, Micere Mugo, Martha Karua’s confidence? Did they speak for a selected few? Didn’t they speak for you, for me, for us?
And when other people stand up to speak for us, in my view, they sometimes get it wrong. For instance, Shebesh’s husband feels it is he who deserves the apology from Kidero and not his wife, Rachel. Because, if we as women don’t stand up for Phyllis Nyaguthie, Maria Mutheo, for you and for me, Eunice Kilonzo…our story will be told, wrongly.
Until the lions have their historians, tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter.
Otherwise, we may have come a long way to realize women’s potential only to throw the spanner in the works. We will have sold short all the efforts our mothers before us put in to secure the opportunities we have today. Don’t get me wrong, I am not here to spit at organizations, personalities that have tirelessly stood up for women. Neither am I saying that we shouldn’t have spoken when we did.
I am concerned about our selective judgment, justice, focus and being good Samaritans on certain occasions. I stand for all. I speak for all. I write for all. If my sister is struck, undressed, abused, victimized or even killed, I will not be quiet. I will speak about it, I will write about it…objectively, with facts and truthfully.
Perhaps, as Beatrice Nzovu-Ouma notes, “we need to reflect inwards and try to ensure that our fight on violence against women is not tainted by power, by lopsided politics, by unwarranted justification that we believe in a cause only when it involves important people. May it be a fight for every single woman abused either physically, verbally or emotionally and may we do it with the best of intentions and the clearest of consciences.”
We are at 50, and I am curious, should we, women of this great nation celebrate this Golden Jubilee like the rest; the selective once-in-a-while support notwithstanding?
First Published at http://www.ywli.org/