Breast Ironing And The Fear Of Sexually Active Pubescents

Just when I had been tempted to think that FGM was the only remaining barbaric practice targeting the female sexuality, I was recently awakened to the retrogressive practice of Breast Ironing. Apparently, some African cultures such as the one in Cameroon find it okay for grown women, to heat grinding stones, spatulas, hammers and what nots, then proceed to press them on the chests of young girls, who are just starting to grow breasts.

The common belief behind this archaic and oppressive practice being that breasts are attractive to males. And so to prevent this pubescent girl from getting noticed by the opposite sex and possibly get pregnant if she gives in to their advances, these African mothers have taken it upon themselves to subject their young daughters to the unimaginable pain, of having their breasts pounded or massaged with these hot objects. The result; traumatized girls, shame in adulthood, malformed breasts, damaged breast tissue and sadly, in some cases, difficulty in breastfeeding their young ones later on in life.

Speaking up against breast ironing practice. Image courtesy of

The disheartening part about this practice is that it is carried out by mothers, believing that they are preventing their daughters from early marriages, unplanned pregnancies, unwanted sexual attention and incidents of rape. In reality, the only thing that this retrogressive practice succeeds in achieving, is promoting the lowest self esteem in women and furthering the stereotype that a female’s sexuality, is to blame for sexual violence or societal ills. These women have sadly been conditioned by their environment to think that by doing so to their own daughters, they are in fact helping them. Perhaps in the hope that they will thank them later in life for it.

I doubt whether these Cameroonian women, who have been subjected to breast ironing and are now forced to live with the negative consequences of the practice, actually thank their mothers for trying to cub the growth of what makes them beautifully female. It should be noted that most of these barbaric cultures sugarcoated as “tradition” and “helping the woman” do little or nothing to that effect. All of these cultures are characterized by one thing in common. And that thing is often to deny the sexuality of a woman by tampering with what was designed for a woman’s own good in that aspect. In the process, empowering the male’s sexuality.

In this breast ironing case, denying the sexuality of a woman and hampering the nurturing role of a mother to her infant. If this woman who has had her breasts ironed by heated crude tools in puberty, cannot be able to breastfeed her young ones and therefore nurture them, then she has been denied one of the crucial roles in motherhood. In addition to being repulsed by the image of her own breasts, flattened and ugly, from what transpired when she had just started to blossom as a woman.

Just recently, I was shocked and saddened by the fact that some young men actually thought that FGM was beneficial for a woman. We often say nowadays that the boy child has been neglected at the expense of empowering the girl child. However, that recent discovery I made on social media when I read a post from a young man encouraging FGM, makes me think that the girl child has hardly been empowered and that the boy child, is currently enjoying the benefits of being male and in a position to further oppress the female.

Breast Ironing and the tools used. Image Courtesy of Daily Express

The female’s anatomy and what makes her beautiful has constantly been considered a threat and something that needs to be kept in check, if these breast ironing and FGM practices are anything to go by. Society has since led women to believe that they are to blame if a man cannot control himself sexually. We have been conditioned to accept some horrific cultures as things intended to help the woman, even though the only thing they contribute to a woman, is causing her emotional and physical scars that are often times hard to heal.

Women have since been made to feel ashamed of identifying themselves as feminists, in the event of trying to speak up against some of these retrogressive practices that interfere with womanhood. A feminist who is trying to help the girl child escape some of these practices that do her more harm than good is often branded a bitter, wayward, male basher. But perhaps it is time that we decided to actually pay attention to what these feminists are trying to preach, in efforts of allowing a girl child to blossom as the woman she was intended by God to blossom into. In certain cases, only a female is better placed to understand the underlying consequences of some of these harrowing practices.

I tend to feel that the boy child is still very much empowered than the girl child. The boy child still gets to experience his puberty without much interference that will cause him permanent scars in future. Of course I’m not blind to the fact that some boy children, are denied the right to being children and going to school in the event where they have to herd the family’s livestock, get forced into being child soldiers and the likes.

However, society still gets to treat the boy children gently in terms of tampering with their anatomies as men. Circumcision for males is a rite of passage from childhood into adulthood. A badge of honor. Circumcision for females signals the onset of early marriages and is actually aimed at preventing the female from being sexually active or promiscuous to put it that way. In the case of breast ironing, subjecting the female to an unnecessary practice, so that the male can not be attracted to a blossoming female as if the male cannot interpret by himself, that he shouldn’t be messing with this young girl who is just but a child.

I’m in no way trying to bash the male with my sentiments as you can see both FGM and Breast Ironing practices are carried out by women on fellow women. However, what I would like to bring to the fore is the motivation behind some of these practices. Often motivations that come about in relation to the privilege that most males are accorded in patriarchal societies that do not value female contribution. Perhaps a father’s intervention could have stopped a mother somewhere in Cameroon, who had picked up a hot grinding stone ready to massage her hapless daughter’s chest with.

But males you will learn, do not hang around environments where the females outnumber the males in such societies. There are in fact oblivious to the going ons and may not really see the need to speak up against some of these practices, only choosing to openly agree with them if it so happened that someone sought their opinion. And so only a feminist’s voice can come in handy in such a situation, of condemning a practice that should have long been done away with. My heart bleeds for the Cameroonian or African female somewhere who was forced to undergo breast ironing.


Who Said Small Town Girl Can’t Make It Big?

First and foremost, I would like to announce to my readers that I’m officially back in the blogging scene therefore, expect to see more of my posts from now henceforth.

So let’s jump right into today’s topic!

Quite recently I remembered a conversation I once had with someone I intended to date. I’m a small town born and raised girl. Well, not necessarily small town per se. I have grown up in locations considered major towns in Kenya but if you compare those major towns to Nairobi, where I currently reside, they are no match to the city. And Kenya, for my foreign readers is not a very large country. It’s big alright but not to the magnitude of Sudan, Brazil and the likes and not as small as The Central African Republic. Somewhere in the middle of very large and small. Anyways…

I have always considered our current Cabinet Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Dr. Amina Mohammed as a role model. Secretly, I have also harbored the desire to one day venture into Diplomacy.

kenyan Foreign Affairs CS, Amb. Dr. Amina Mohammed

Kenyan Foreign Affairs CS, Amb. Dr. Amina Mohammed. Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia.

So we were on a first date and somewhere along the way, my conversation with this guy veered toward school and career ambitions and for some reason, I mentioned that I would like someday to go the Diplomacy way in my career. This guy looked at me with a somewhat sympathetic smile and said, “Wewe msichana wa Nakuru uko na hizo mafikira?” For my foreign readers, he simply wondered how I thought I could make it to be a Diplomat, being a chic from Nakuru (my current hometown). Well, I was somewhat offended but being a first date, you kind of don’t show it. However, that particular subject ended at that point and we talked of other things instead.

Well, to cut a long story short, we barely dated. It didn’t work out very early on which was just as well, seeing that this guy wasn’t quite the ambitious type despite his surprisingly, good education.

Anyways, let me state to all and sundry that Amb. Amina Mohammed is actually a small town girl. A “very small” town girl who was brought up in Amalemba, Kakamega and attended schools in the then Western Province of Kenya before proceeding overseas for her university education. We talk of counties nowadays. Plus, she is of Somali descent where for a long time, educating the girl child in the community, was not considered that important. So anyone who thinks that small town girls from marginalized communities can’t make it big are thoroughly mistaken.

I tend to think that society has over time drafted this image considered “ideal” for a woman to make it big. She has to be the sophisticated type, from this exposed family, born and raised in a big city, beautiful, well traveled, of a certain skin tone…blah, blah, blah. The same happens in other parts of the world not necessarily in Africa. Just last month, a West Virginia Official in the US lost her job after referring to Outgoing First Lady of the US, Michelle Obama as an “Ape in heels”. With yet another woman of high standing, agreeing with her in the comment section of the offensive post on Facebook which read;

“It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels,”

From the above incident, it is pretty obvious that society has over time set standards considered ideal, for a woman to make something of herself. And we tend to not quite believe that hard work, ambition and determination is often times all it takes, for a woman to be where she wants to be in life. I consider Michelle Obama one of those self driven women, who were ambitious enough to achieve what they wanted.

She did not come from a well to do family, but that fact did not stop her from making it to top universities to pursue her career of choice. It’s not a matter of what color her skin is or whether someone, somewhere, considers her a cousin to a primate, it’s all about what she has achieved as an individual and the possibility of a Black woman, to carry herself with such grace and end up as a First Lady of a superpower.

Many girls have been made to believe that they cannot achieve anything just from that mere fact of where they come from. Almost like their destiny has been mapped out for them by people who hardly know better. So she’s from a small town or community, then she only needs a basic education, a man to marry her and children to raise that will keep her busy.

Society does not realize that we are killing the dreams of many girls who could have otherwise made something great out of themselves. Who is society? Society is you and me who decide to give a free pass to girls from certain backgrounds just because we assume their social standing equates to success. Society is you and me who look at a woman’s skin tone and decide whether she can make it to an advertising billboard or not. Society is you and me who stereotype girls who come from remote, dusty locations as uncultured, unexposed and unworthy of any forms of success.

It might surprise you that most women who go on to become such great people came from places that can hardly be located on a map. They were not necessarily beautiful, vain or monied. They worked their way up. Got scholarships to study in prestigious universities, maximized on their special giftings and displayed a certain level of intellect that amazed all those who interacted with them.

I can’t really blame that guy I was on a date with for being stereotypical. I actually attribute his reasoning to what he has grown accustomed to seeing. Women not believing in themselves enough to come out of their areas of locality and actually achieve something tangible. It may have sounded really foreign to him that a woman somewhere thought that she could become something, he hasn’t seen other women becoming in that particular locality.

Women should stop believing in these baseless stereotypes. Women need to believe in themselves to the point where anything is possible for them to achieve. I still consider Amb. Amina Mohammed a role model. I still hope that someday, I end up in diplomacy. If it so happens, you my readers will be the first to know that I made it 😉


Why Are We So Casual About Sexual Assault?

Google Images

Google Images

A couple of weeks back someone, somewhere, decided to share the gruesome video of a man being sodomised by several men in turns. I don’t know who recorded the graphic video and who thought it was worth posting online, but it was posted all the same and widely shared before the video was pulled down. The man’s crime to warrant such vile treatment, according to the story accompanying the video, was that he had been caught red handed sleeping with another man’s wife. And so these other men, “tasked with maintaining law and order in the community” (personally I think they are rapists and  should spend the rest of their lives behind bars)  were simply teaching him a lesson.

What kind of lesson?! And for someone to actually record it and post it online as if it was the most noble thing to do. These are not people maintaining law and order, according to me. These are heartless criminals hiding behind the veil of gangs, that met out punishment to supposed wrongdoers and in the vilest of ways. My heart went out to that man who despite his indiscretions, had been forced to go through such an ordeal under the glare of phone cameras, for a crime which could have easily been sorted out by the area chief.

Fast forward to a few days back. I think at the start of the KCSE (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examination)  and this candidate sitting her exams was attacked by 4 men, who proceeded to rape her, on her way to school in the morning. So the story made it to the prime time news. And how her ordeal had been handled shocked me. In a wise move, she had been rushed to a medical facility for immediate treatment and counseling but for some reason, the people handling her case decided that she was okay enough, to still sit for her paper as she was taken back to school to continue with her exams. I couldn’t believe if what I had heard from the reporter was actually true.

This is a young girl, 17 or 18 years old, still a teenager, who had just been raped and adults somewhere, actually assumed that she could sit for her papers just hours after being raped?! That the little counseling she had received deemed her fit mentally to concentrate on her final exams for her secondary school education. Who reasons like that?! Since when did examinations become more important than a person’s psychological state?

These two horrifying incidents are what have led me to firmly believe that quite a number of people still display some level of casualness regarding sexual assault. There are things that a section of people, continue to consider harmless regardless of all the awareness on sexual assault, that they have been exposed to in the past. Sexual assault, according to a definition by Wikipedia, is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.

It is refreshing to note though, that the aforementioned video was greatly condemned by many who got to view it. That shows that there is still hope in this war against violence of a sexual nature. We need to take stern action against perpetrators of this heinous crime. One of the issues of the Nairobian newspaper, spoke of parents in Western Kenya protecting relatives who had molested minors in the family. According to me, when such a thing happens, the parent should step up as the child’s guardian, put all blood relation considerations aside and have the perpetrator arrested.

Why are we allowing our children to continue living with inflicted scars that they dare not speak about? Do we want those poor children, unfortunate enough to have been molested by a relative, whom the family later protected from facing any criminal charges, to equally grow up thinking it is okay to molest children as adults? Do we want them to take their own lives because they cannot bare the shame and torment that the incident caused them?

It is time that we collectively spoke up against sexual assault. Whether it is sodomy or rape or any of the other forms of sexual assault, it is still sexual assault. No man or woman asks to be raped or sodomised. No child asks to be molested. We need to be responsible adults. We need to ensure that victims of sexual assault receive adequate counseling and medical help. Parents need to clearly state to their children from an early age what is appropriate touching and what is not. The more we treat sexual assault casually, the more the rot seeps deep into our society and that is not a society worth being a part of. This is more like a wake up call for all of us to give sexual assault, the seriousness it deserves and in the process, protect our society from sex offenders.


The Day We Decided Black Lives Don’t Matter

There was a point in time when nearly every Kenyan desperately wanted an opportunity to settle in the US.

We had seen the movies.

They all did a good job in portraying the very green pastures that awaited us when we finally relocated. Perhaps we had living testimonies of relatives, who had gotten the opportunity to relocate and we could clearly see, how much their lives had transformed since the move. We yearned to be like them.

To go to a place where tribalism did not exist. Where many diseases had long been put in check. Bye, bye malaria! Where an employee’s efforts were duly rewarded with money that actually seemed to cater fully for one’s needs. Where there was gender equality and a man respected a woman’s opinions and allowed her to spread her wings and fly as far as she wanted.

Where civilization had happened eons ago therefore, the environment was way ahead of time as compared to ours. Where education was termed to be of better quality. Where there stood magnificent skyscrapers and spotlessly clean streets lined with well manicured lawns. We wanted to be the envy of our relatives and have them say “so and so is now an American citizen” in our absence.

My parents’ friends, a couple with two young children then, relocated to the US sometime in 1994. I was only 4 years old then but I can clearly remember the wife telling my mum the good news on a visitors’ bench at the Barclays bank, Eldoret branch.

She was even wearing a red dress that has stubbornly remained etched in my mind since. I surprised my mum quite recently, when I reminded her of the dress color her friend was wearing, the day she revealed that she was moving to the US. The land of opportunities. The family settled in Florida and have been there since.

But looking at my mum’s reaction back then I could already tell how much she would have equally wanted our family to be like theirs. I mean, anyone relocating overseas back then seemed successful. Blessed even. Unfortunately, social media hardly existed then and soon after, as much as my parents would have yearned to keep contact with their friends, they went out of contact. Occasionally, my mum mentions them and tries to imagine how they are as of date.

About a year or so later, one of my sister’s primary school teachers, a Mr. Were, relocated to the US with his family. And the reaction at the good news was pretty much the same. How we wished we equally had the same opportunity as them to have our lives transformed. To experience that exposure. We all viewed the US as a land where all our dreams had a sure possibility of coming true.

However, with the recent happenings, I guess we have been forced to rethink our views.

I’m not trying to imply that the US is nowadays uninhabitable. It is still a wonderful place, judging from the stories we hear from people of Kenyan origin, who have lived and worked there. I mean, they eventually got a Black president! One who surprisingly has Kenyan roots! So to some extent, Kenyans feel a deeper connection to this land of opportunities. I’m sure many of us would still want to relocate.

But the sad reality is that, Black people in the US still feel oppressed to some extent. Black men are increasingly dying senselessly at the hands of the police, who are tasked with protecting the citizen whether Black or White. If there wasn’t a problem in the US, then we wouldn’t be having movements such as the #BLACKLIVESMATTER.

From Trayvon Martin to Alton Sterling to Abdi Mohammed of Kenyan origin to Philando Castille to some who never got to be mentioned on the media, with Trayvon, a then 17 year old, being shot dead by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012. For the Black people in the US, they are starting to feel as if their kind is being targeted with violence of some sort. And they are increasingly getting pressured to speak up about it hence the Black Lives Matter movement. Just when did the world decide that dealing with a Black person has to be violent?

My intention in posting this is not to spread any form of propaganda. As a matter of fact, I have lived in Kenya all my life therefore, I cannot confidently state that I have valid reasons as to why there are such occurrences in the US recently. However, the world has since become a global village thanks to the internet and we in Africa, are getting to know about the happenings overseas.

We are starting to question whether we will be safe as people of African heritage if we got an opportunity to relocate to say, the United States, for example. Are we going to be appreciated for our heritage or are we going to be lumped together in the racial stereotyping, that a section of backward minded individuals have chosen to allude to?

The United States of America has come a long way in ensuring equality for all. I remember reading a feature on one of those Readers Digest magazines a few years back, where a story from a Black descendant of a Biracial woman in the United States is told.

This Biracial woman was unusually light skinned and could easily pass for White back then. However, due to her Black roots, she was still considered Black and therefore, could not ride in the first class carriage on the train.

The third class carriage reserved for her kind, was uncomfortable and her mother, in a bid to ease her daughter’s torment and have her travel in comfort in the first class carriage, cleverly dusted her face with face powder to try and trick the White train ticketing staff, into thinking she was White.

Her plan almost worked as the employees’ thinking she was White, allowed her into the first class carriage where she traveled peacefully for a while until sleep overcame her. While dozing off, her hat fell off and one of the staff, could clearly notice a line where the face powder began from the rest of her face.

Sadly, she was immediately relegated back to her kind in the third class carriage. Not without castigation and a tongue lashing. The story of humiliation because of skin color, had been passed down to generations and here was her great great grandson, still recounting it to a magazine writer.

I believe the United States of America has since gone past that period where it was an abomination for the races to mix. Black, White and Asian people share transport systems and amenities as equals with no discrimination of any kind. And since this is and has been happening for decades, I believe that whatever is currently happening can equally be put to a permanent halt.

As Africans, we equally have our own political and tribalism issues to take care of and counter. However, we are not blind to what is happening in other nations in the world. We would like to be assured that if we send our children to the United States for higher learning, they are not going to be targeted by some rogue, racist police at a store somewhere and therefore, shot dead at point blank because of seeming suspicious.

It would indeed tear our hearts to pieces just as it has torn the hearts of the families, who have lost their loved ones in recent times and have been left with the sick feeling, that their loved ones’ skin color might have contributed to their deaths. It would make us feel helpless that in our efforts to give our children a better life, we instead unknowingly led them to their deaths.

We still believe that the United States is a land of opportunities, where the likes of Barack Obama Snr were airlifted in the 50s, to get a higher learning education. We therefore hope that a permanent solution shall be arrived at, for us to live peacefully in the world irrespective of our racial backgrounds.


Why The Constant Need To Identify As African/Black?

Before you accuse me of being ashamed of my roots, I shall first and foremost state that, I’m every inch proud to be from the African continent. However, I’m getting a little irritated every time I read or get to hear an introduction by someone of the same roots as me, which goes in the lines of…

Hey, I’m so and so, a Medical Researcher and Black…


Hey, I’m so and so, a Linguist and African


I’m a wife, mother, culinary expert, with an environmental degree and Black/African…

I know you are probably wondering by now what my beef is with this. Take a seat, I will tell you.

You see, over time, Africans or anyone with an African origin have grown so defensive of their roots, to the extent where we are constantly trying to prove our legibility to other races. I have a huge problem with such introductions because, whether the initial intention behind them was to communicate a certain pride in one’s heritage or culture, they always seem to emit a kind of justification for being African/Black vibe to them.

But why do we, as Africans, feel the need to keep on justifying the fact that we are of Chocolate skin and of kinky hair? Why do we always feel the need to state our occupations and achievements then add the fact that we are Black/African? Why isn’t it as common as it is with us, for other people from different races to identify themselves as

An Engineer and White/Asian/Arab


A wife, mother, culinary expert with an environmental degree and White/Asian/Arab?

I know many will argue that Africans are the ones who have been through a lot in terms of oppression and the harsh vagaries of life. I mean, there was slavery, colonialism, racial discrimination, poverty, disease…you name it. So ultimately, an African or someone with African roots who is an achiever irregardless of these factors, will automatically want to add the term I am Black/African in their introduction of themselves.

This just goes on to prove that despite efforts in the past by other races to try and put down the African or Black man or woman, an African can still rise up and become a successful medical doctor or mother or wife or environmentalist or linguist. We just have to keep on reminding these people that Black/African people can indeed be something in society.

However, I tend to disagree and with all due respect to all movements which have been formed in the past, in regards to fighting for the Black/African man/woman’s rights. I applaud such movements as a matter of fact, because they have gone a long way in addressing the plight of races that are stubbornly being still considered inferior by a section of close minded individuals.

But as much as we want to drive a point home that we can still be achievers, I think constantly alluding to our races exhibits a form of desperation of sorts. And so what if I’m Black or African? It doesn’t matter my heritage because all human beings are equipped with similar bodily functions irregardless of race. Along the way, we forgot about this and started looking at our skin colors as a basis for judgment of other people’s abilities.

If we are to successfully do away with racial profiling, then we better stop emphasizing on the point that we are something, yet from the African heritage. We need to focus on where we are headed as individuals other than on constantly devising ways, of justifying why we have been able to achieve this or that, irregardless of whatever stereotypes have been put in place in the past, concerning us.

Unidentified African woman.

An unidentified African woman.

In countries from the African continent which have successfully to some large extent, tried killing ethnic profiling, doing away with descriptions of self as from this tribe or that has been adopted as a tough stance. This has worked in Rwanda which experienced the harrowing genocide in 1994. Nobody constantly introduces themselves as from this tribe or that tribe in the said country.

In our bid to try to show the rest of the world that we are making it irrespective of what has been said of us in the past, we are constantly reminding the world that we are indeed different. Yes, our skin colors may be different. Our experiences may be very different indeed. Our cultures all the more different but we all eat, sleep, talk and breath.

It would be refreshing to see a Black or African man or woman who perhaps is a blogger/writer but who chose to only identify with the country of origin. Say British or American or Australian and did not allude to the African/Black part only to have his/her readers get pleasantly surprised when they finally discover he/she is Black or African.

And yes, I’m every inch African but if I were to relocate to a country where my skin color stood out from the rest of the population, I would constantly allude to the fact that I’m from Kenya. I may experience the culture shock, I may take a hellova long time to adjust to my new environment, hell, I may even be lumped in the category of the “Black Community”and start being referred to as a Black woman, but I would continually identify myself as Kenyan.

It might surprise some of my readers that while biracial individuals are considered Black in the West, here in Africa, they are considered the most prettiest/handsome looking individuals. We of darker shades marvel at their latte and caramel shades and silkier, softer hair and may not really call them African. My latter statement not intended to ridicule the fact that as a result of not being considered purely White or Black, quite a number of Biracial individuals suffer identity issues. What I’m driving at is the fact that what might be considered a minority elsewhere, may actually be a source of marvel and beauty elsewhere.

Plus constantly trying to prove people wrong only ends up in some form of deep frustration. Remember, we all sleep, eat, breath and talk. We are humans.

Any thoughts on this?


An Annalysis Of The Kenyan Campus Situation

I dropped out of campus 2 years ago due to financial constraints. Before dropping out, it had been a 7 year struggle for me trying to get a degree to no avail. I had attained the cluster points necessary for me to gain admission into campus in my country in the KCSE examinations. However, I was more than sure that the Course I would be considered for, if I did join Public University as a Regular student, wouldn’t be something I had a passion of pursuing.

And so like many other Kenyan students in a similar predicament, I opted for the Parallel Course. By opting for that, I knew that I would be a self-sponsored student unlike the government sponsored Regular Course students. I knew that I would have to pay way higher for my tuition fee than the latter category. However, I found comfort in the fact that I would still be eligible for the HELB loan. Thanks to the government considering the fact that there were indeed needy students in the Parallel programme.

But there was an advantage for parallel students in Public Universities. Unlike their counterparts in the Regular Programme who took longer to finish their courses in campus. The parallel students are usually in a crash form of programme. Within 3 years, a student is done with their undergraduate studies. Considering this in mind and seeing that I had always excelled in Languages and Humanities, I chose a Course I had a passion for. Little did I know that this would prove to be a grueling process which ended in me having to drop out.

I was a HELB loan beneficiary four times. However, with the exorbitant tuition fees, my annual loan of 55,000 Kshs only catered for 4 of my units in a Semester. It did help a long way seeing that I was in dire financial constraints with a strong zeal to attain a degree but at the same time, it wasn’t enough. Now my narration is not an attempt to draw a pity party kind of scenario to myself. Neither is it a ploy to point fingers at the Government sponsored student loan. As a matter of fact, I will still go back to campus to finish my degree but this time round, in a Private University.

Why have I opted for a Private University?

Private Universities have in the past been associated with students from well off families. Parents who could afford to pay campus fee totaling around 100,000kshs per semester without factoring in accommodation and pocket money. I personally plan to educate myself in a Private University from my own pocket. I’m psychologically prepared for the tuition fee I would be required to pay. But I’m certain that the quality of education I would attain from an established Private University would be higher than the one I attained in a Public University.

I’m not trying to insinuate that Public Universities are for the poor and of bare minimum quality of education. Indeed, some of our Public Universities in Kenya have been in existence from the colonial times and have since created a name for themselves, in some of the courses where they are known to churn out the best professionals. The one I was enrolled in was no different. However, it is no secret that many of our Kenyan Institutions of Higher Learning have in recent times, leaned more on the money making side of things than of giving quality education.

I was paying close to 100.000kshs per semester in a degree course offered by a Public University under the Parallel Programme. Not much difference from a student purported to be from a well off family in an established renowned Private University. Indeed many of us struggled a lot with school fee to the extent of dropping out. We were advised to get funding in the form of student loans but that did only a little to ease our tuition fee financial burdens. At some point, we started feeling as if we were being punished heavily, for failing to join campus via the government sponsored regular programme, if the frustrating high tuition fee was anything to go by.

Young Kenyans are hungry for education. However, being an average performer further hampers this dream in the youth of Kenya. For this post, I chose not to refer to any of the statistics given, but rather to relay the situation on the ground just as I have equally experienced it. When Garissa University happened, it was evident the high number of needy students in Kenyan Campuses. Many of the Garissa University victims were students from poor families, who had ended up in campus through the government sponsorship admission. They simply wanted to learn and eventually improve their livelihoods.

These are the things the government needs to look at. I’m 100% sure that a majority of the Garissa University students were HELB beneficiaries. HELB really helps the needy Regular students and especially, if you manage to get the maximum amount of around 50,000Kshs, according to an article on the Business Daily website dated January 27 2015 which is a reduction from the previous maximum amount of 60,000kshs. The regular course tuition fee is way reasonable as compared to the parallel course. However, you will be highly surprised that many Kenyan students still miss out on this. Reason being, that they fail to gain admission into Public Universities perhaps, due to the marks they attained in their KCSE in high school and therefore, their parents cannot afford to enroll them into parallel programmes as an alternative.

The student leaders in our Public Universities do little to help with the plight of struggling students in the Parallel Programme. It is almost like over time, the student leaders have developed an insensitivity toward their counterparts who are not in the Regular programme like them. They appear to assume that since they are paying much higher than them, then they can definitely afford it and therefore, need no representation whatsoever. I will confidently state that while in campus, I paid annually for the student leadership as part of my tuition fee. An amount of 1,000kshs. Higher than what the Regular Student pays. And never once, did I hear our student leader address the plight of the parallel programme students, except hollering over cheap, unnecessary politics that hardly concerned education.

My intention in stating the above is not to create a rift but rather to address the deep rooted issues that are ailing our higher education as a country. We need more enlightened Kenyans. We need more degrees in our nation. It doesn’t matter whether this person with a degree will go the formal employment way or not. Education empowers you as an individual. Once literate, you cannot reason like someone who has never been to school and this is way important in the development of a nation. As much as there are concrete reasons as to why there are Parallel as well as Regular courses, it is time we asked ourselves critically if everyone who had initially been targeted by these crucial decisions, is in essence benefiting from them.

There are quite a number of our Kenyan students in foreign universities abroad. We need to ask ourselves why this is so other than dismissing this fact to their parents having money to send them abroad. Why aren’t the Western countries sending their students to Africa to study? Not unless they are on exchange programmes or in universities with an affiliation with some of the best universities in the West? What can we do as a nation to improve the quality of our education in higher learning institutions and in the process, ensure that a larger percentage of our Kenyan youth are in campus to the end? What do our student leaders in campus need to really fight for?

These are questions that are posed to all of us and not just individuals.

Has Africa Done Enough To Cub FGM?

Should these girls face FGM? Photo courtesy of

Should these girls face FGM? Photo courtesy of

In 2011, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was outlawed in Kenya. A law was equally passed clearly outlining the illegality of practicing FGM or taking someone out of the country, to have the procedure done. However, despite a law banning FGM existing in my country, some communities still actively engage in the heinous practice till date.

According to a definition by WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA in 1997, FGM is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. World Health Organisation (WHO) goes further to expound that an estimated 91.5 million girls and women above the age of 9 in Africa are currently living with the consequences of FGM. A further 3 million girls in reference to the report by WHO, are at a risk of undergoing the cut every year.

Indeed as I was going through the FGM related images on the Internet for this post, I couldn’t help but find a huge chunk of them to be too graphic for myself and I believe, my readers too. I chose to settle on a milder form of the images. But is there really a milder form of FGM for those women who have undergone the worst form of it and have to further undergo reconstructive surgery in order to consummate their marriages? Worst case scenario, die in the process or develop complications during delivery because of being victims of the cut?

I sought to understand what lies in the mindset of female circumcisers and ended up stumbling on an article dated July 3rd 2015, by Felicity Thistlethwaite on the website Two female circumcisers had been interviewed by MailOnline in their village in Kenya (Names have been omitted for this post to avoid ethnic profiling).

Woman 1 had this to say about the deeply entrenched practice in her community;

Girls are cut to ensure they remain faithful because the sexual organ is not there anymore. When you are cut you will not be like a slut looking for men here and there like a prostitute. You are docile waiting for your husband because after you are cut, sex is for having children not for anything else.

Woman 2 further added;

When you are cut, that is when you grow healthily into a woman because the bad blood is not there anymore. In the body, there is good blood and bad blood. After a girl is cut, the bad blood is gone.

Just by looking at these women’s reasoning, it was quite evident to me that a female’s sexuality has always proven to be a bone of contention. In most societies in Africa and across the world practicing FGM, the main intention is usually to tame the girl child from being sexually active before marriage. We can also capture a patriarchal kind of brainwashing in women toward what marital sex constitutes.

If sex in marriage is only for making babies and nothing else, then happens a situation whereby the husband craves sex but with no intention of getting his wife pregnant, then will sex in marriage have lost its meaning? And is it in order to conclude that women do not desire to engage in intercourse with their husbands except in situations where they have a plan to conceive? How then can we explain troubled marriages whose main cause is them being devoid of sex?

Indeed, there lies quite deep connotations of patriarchy in this whole business of FGM in societies which actively pursue the practice. It may come out as cheap feminism banter if we decided to question the liberal nature that has been accorded men when it comes to their sexuality, in comparison to the subdued nature accorded to the women’s sexuality?

And while FGM has always been painted to seem like it advocates for morality in matters sex, truly, its main intention is to further oppress the weaker sex in society, and that is the woman. To deny her a voice and a right to own her sexuality. To equally deny her a right to exercise her own self control while giving the stronger sex, the upper hand to decide what to do with regards to what should actually be a female responsibility.

Some of you may argue that no man participates in the cutting of women and that women, in most cases are actually willing to undergo it. I attribute this fact to the patriarchal brainwashing I previously mentioned. When you live in a society where the major decisions are being undertaken by one gender, then it becomes acceptable over time and a way of life. Unless enlightened, sadly, the situation remains the same and you will find women echoing what has been put in place for generations. They will not even think of questioning its validity in their lives.

You may agree with me that most of the societies engaging in active FGM are societies that lie on the deeply entrenched patriarchal spectrum. And that after the girls are circumcised then they are considered ready for marriage. Why not ready for other aspects pertaining to their lives as women? I leave that for you to judge. Yet FGM is considered a must for women in these societies and a woman who has failed to undergo it is subject to malicious gossip, shunning and taunts.

Apart from the sexual aspect of FGM, the girls are equally exposed to a horde of other risks. There is the risk of contracting the virus due to the poor sterilization standards of the crude razor blades used, bleeding to death, experiencing difficulty in delivery as well as the whole experience being traumatic for the girl.

I once watched a docu series where a circumcised girl in one of the communities in my country, had to walk kilometers after the practice under the hot sun in pain and bleeding. And all the while villagers awarded her with notes of cash. How that is supposed to prepare someone for womanhood beats my logic as the only interpretation I’m getting from it is that, this girl will probably conclude that womanhood is often traumatic. I fear that she may never view her womanhood as a cause for celebration and equally fulfilling.

An expose at the turn of the year by NTV’s Enock Sikolia on FGM among one of the communities in Kenya where the practice is heavily rampant, revealed that some trained nurses also perform the cut on unsuspecting, uncircumcised, pregnant women as soon as they go into labor. I found this unsettling in so many different angles.

First, a nurse is someone who has been to medical school and is therefore literate as well as enlightened on the dangers of FGM. Second, a nurse is someone a patient trusts to handle them professionally. Third, circumcising a vulnerable woman in the throes of labor pain is akin to maliciously abusing this woman physically and emotionally, while overlooking her right to stay uncircumcised. It would therefore be in order for parliament to pass a law that will ensure such rogue nurses, are liable for prosecution if it is ascertained that they indeed did circumcise a pregnant woman in labor.

The expose further shed light on the circumcisers change of tact. Instead of performing the practice during the expected periods by authorities, keen on pouncing on such offenders, they opted to circumcise girls at a much younger age or in hospitals. Here is where the role of some of the nurses came in. However, as a result of pressure from the community, many married women had voluntarily decided to get circumcised in a bid to save face. A sad state of affairs.

WHO states that the prevalence of FGM varies significantly between regions with ethnicity as the most decisive factor. The specific FGM procedure performed also varies by ethnicity. As of 2008/9 the prevalence of FGM in Kenyan women and girls between the ages of 15-49 years was 27.1% (

An article by Silas Irungu, a Compassion Kenya, Field Communications Specialist titled Fleeing the Knife on the website mentioned above narrates;

Young (insert tribe name) women undergo female circumcision as part of an elaborate rite of passage that initiates young girls into adulthood and ultimately early marriage.

The practice is deeply ingrained in the culture such that women who have not gone through it are not considered for marriage or if married, the bride price is heavily discounted much to the disappointment of the bride’s family.

Silas Irungu goes on to state;

The law in Kenya prohibits female circumcision and other cultural practices considered to be violence against women. It is difficult to prosecute the perpetrators of FGM because of cultural allegiance. Usually the practice is done in private under the cover of darkness.

To sum it all up, FGM is a thorn in the flesh and it is quite refreshing to witness many anti-FGM women crusaders up in arms against the practice in Kenya. Educational centres have been set up in communities where the practice is rampant, with an aim to shield young girls keen on pursuing their education, from undergoing the cut and being married off. Former Marakwet East MP, Linah Jebii Kilimo is one of the many high profile women against the heinous practice of FGM. She rose up to become a female leader in her community, despite being uncut.

Which firmly proves that if the African girl child is to truly prosper, then the practice of FGM needs to transform into a thing of the past. A retrogressive aspect of culture to be shunned and forgotten. Despite the many loopholes that we face in completely eradicating this practice, with one voice as Africa, it can be achieved.

What has your African country done to cub FGM?


Is Oversexualization Of Women Another Form Of Feminism?

I’ve quite recently developed a heightened interest in the oversexualization of women. I have gone ahead and done some considerable amount of reading on the subject, just to find out what other people think of it in relation to feminism and I must admit that, the opinions are varied. Some think that a woman who is in control of her sexuality is the epitome of feminism. The name Nicki Minaj floats about in the above reasoning. Others think it’s just downright raunchy to use your body to sell your music or to capture the attention of the opposite sex.

I was mortified to discover that young children of the female gender are also being oversexualized. Reminds me of a certain blog I was reading, where a mother of a little girl was debating with herself on whether to get her child a two piece swimming costume or just the usual one piece. She thought that the two piece type was inappropriately mature for her little one, considering the fact that she was quite tall for her age and ended up settling for the one piece type. Good choice mum! Now that I know that little girls are equally being oversexualized, I salute mothers who want to protect their children from it.

Well, I’m a fan of the likes of Nicki Minaj and Rihanna. I think that they are highly talented women. There’s not one single song of Rihanna’s that I don’t like. However, some of their music videos literally get me blushing. These women are not at all ashamed of their bodies which is a wonderful thing really. Many women struggle with body issues. Some won’t even dream of getting intimate with their spouses with the lights on, as a result of the insecurities with their bodies which plague them.

In this era where sex supposedly sells, do not expect a secular music video having a woman who is covered up. It’s more like “Show ’em what you got!” and these gorgeous and equally, enterprising women seem not to mind if they come across as oversexualized in their line of work. I used to wonder what an advertisement spread of a watchmaking company in a magazine, had to do with a naked woman. We see a lot of that. A perfume advert with a naked woman to go with it.

Couldn’t they have thought of something else creative as part of the advert? Why mostly a bare back of a female going all the way down to her bum area or sensual lips? Well, sex, as it has come to be drummed into us, sells. So whether there is any relation to a watch advert and a naked woman or a car advert and a skimpily dressed woman in the poster, we just have to take it in as the target market, no questions asked.

A woman who seems to be comfortable and courageous with her sexuality according to some, is a highly strong woman. She does not conform to what society thinks is the right way to conduct things. She is capable of using her body in whatever way she likes without feeling any shame for it. The argument goes further to state that women have for years been made to feel shame for their sexuality. But a woman who dresses provocatively or acts in a sexually provocative manner for herself or to feel good about herself, while not factoring the male in mind, is considered a feminist of sorts.

Sorry, but I beg to differ.

It is indeed true that for years, women have been made to feel shame about their sexuality. I once tackled this subject lengthily in one of my posts Men have in the past been painted to look like people who have no control whatsoever, of their carnal desires and it is therefore a woman’s fault for provoking it. We were required to cover up so that we wouldn’t entice the men or tempt them into getting sexual thoughts.

At the time I was doing that post, there was a wave of women who were supposedly inappropriately dressed, being stripped naked and shamed on the streets of Nairobi. I personally did not think that the men had been given any mandate by anyone, to teach women who couldn’t seem to dress in our “conservative” way, a lesson on decency. I put conservative in quotes because there are so many ills taking place in our country, to concentrate on a woman who is wearing a short dress. And most African women are naturally voluptuous so something above the knee definitely enhances this.

My only concern however, when women feel the need to finally embrace their sexuality despite what society feels or dictates, is whether they are portraying the right image to the women of tomorrow. The women of tomorrow are the young girls who are still growing. I believe that feminism is a cause that is meant to impact the future generations positively. There are women in some countries in the world, who nowadays participate in voting in the general elections, because a feminist somewhere stood up against the exclusion of women, from pivotal decision making of the country they were citizens of.

There are women who have been allowed to get an education because a feminist somewhere was vocal about the importance of educating the girl child. A feminist somewhere championed the building of more schools that would enroll the girl child and therefore empower her. The only impact I see with the oversexualization of women and women who are willing to go along with it, is young girls lifting up their skirts and posing in their innerwear just because their music idols do it. Young girls taking provocative selfies for social media with the main intention of getting more followers, admirers, likes and comments.

We are teaching the women of tomorrow to use their bodies for so many benefits including getting jobs in organizations. We are not teaching them to use their abilities. We are teaching them a shortcut to everything and a very sly shortcut for that matter. A woman’s sexuality is indeed powerful. We don’t have to strip naked and twerk like there’s no tomorrow just to make an impact with our sexuality. But then, we live in a society that glorifies sex and will definitely try to justify the parading of a woman’s assets as some other form of feminism.



What We Should Be Teaching Our Girls

If we truly desire to have a society of empowered females, then we need to start early by instilling certain knowledge in our young girls.

With all the outward negative influences being advertised as gospel truth, we risk losing the women of tomorrow to these fallacies.

It is about time now that we set the record straight by teaching our girls that;

They should always say NO to sexual violation and harassment

According to definitions by Wikipedia, Sexual harassment is bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors while Rape, is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration perpetrated against a person without that person’s consent.

I’m deeply saddened to learn that just recently, a certain school in my country nearly covered up a rape incident that happened within the school grounds. It is alleged that a Biology teacher (currently in police custody) defiled a 14 year old Form 1 student. The poor girl was forbidden by the school administration from calling her parents to report the incident, made to wash her garments (thus losing all evidence in the process) and kept in school until the duration for taking prophylaxis for the HIV virus lapsed.

It is further alleged that it was only after pressure from the rest of the students, to take action against the injustice, that the school decided to involve the law. The parents of the girl got to know about the rape incident from the police.

I have a huge problem with this scenario. Judging by the fact that the school is headed by a female, I wonder why she did not think it wise, to take immediate action that would have clearly helped the girl. I wonder why yet another female, made sure that this girl washed her garments therefore destroying all the evidence. I’m not in the business of pointing fingers and until the verdict is clear in this case, I shall leave it that.

However, I feel angered that a young girl’s innocence had to be robbed just because someone somewhere, had the audacity to not control his carnal desires. I feel like the whole approach to this situation was totally wrong. By making this girl keep quiet about what had happened, it was unfortunately being instilled in her that perverts can be excused as long as they are in authority.

We need to teach our girls to say NO to any forms of sexual harassment or rape for that matter. It doesn’t matter whether it has been carried out by God forbid, a relative, religious leader, an older friend of the opposite sex or a stranger. Rape is rape and sexual harassment is sexual harassment. We need to teach our girls to speak up when someone of the opposite sex touches them inappropriately or in a way that makes them uncomfortable. We need to get rid of that fear in our girls, to report something they feel bordered on sexual harassment or violation.

That way, our girls will clearly be able to distinguish between gentlemen and perverted individuals. They will be able to know that a man who respects a woman, does not force himself on her, neither does he touch her inappropriately without her consent. They need to know that gentlemen exercise self control and do not give in to their desires to touch and grope, like to quote the Bible, the heathen.

There’s a very thin line between being sexy and exposing themselves to perverts and ridicule

Nowadays when exchanging nudies and pouting in skimpy attire for selfies is the norm, our young girls need to know that there is a very thin line between being sexy and exposing themselves to perverts and ridicule. They need to know that once they have sent that nudie to that boy they supposedly fancy, then they should be prepared for any type of consequence.

Young girls need to know that their bodies should be respected by them first before any other person can accord them any respect. That once they have shared something on Instagram or Facebook or sent something to someone in an uncompromising situation, then it’s out there. That other person can decide to share it with the rest of the world or to prey on this young girl.

An increasing number of teenage girls are engaging in online dating and while there’s nothing wrong with trying your luck out on dating sites, we need to teach them that at their ages, they are still very vulnerable. All kinds of people sit behind their computers on a daily basis, posing to be people they are not. That good looking teenage boy whose profile picture on an online dating site may make you want to melt, could actually be a 60 something year old sexual offender preying on you.

The seemingly innocent requests to send him a selfie of yours in a bikini or a nudie, could just be a ploy to entangle you with something more dangerous than you could have ever imagined. Indeed, many sexual offenders have been known to forge friendships with unsuspecting teenage girls, in search of validation and approval via social media, only to lure them into their dens and violate or even murder them afterward.

We need to teach our girls that the celebrities they see online, posting selfies and photos of themselves on a daily basis are actually well protected. They rarely leave their houses without well trained bodyguards in tow to protect them. Their houses are fitted with the latest, sophisticated security equipment to quickly sense an intruder. They are on a whole different level from our young teenagers, something that they rarely disclose when posting their “sexy” photos online and details of their lives.

Our brains are our most powerful tool

We should teach our girls that despite the seemingly urgent need to pursue vanity, what we posses in our brains shall always be much more important. Looks fade, trends come and go, we age, but our brains keep on acquiring more knowledge as we carry on with life. The education we acquire from books, nobody can rob us of it. Our creativity and talent is God given. We may not be the most popular girl at school or even considered pretty, but that gift we have is much more precious than a thousand words of validation from our peers.

Our young girls need to know that they can look up to the likes of Malala as role models and not only the Miley Cyruses, Kylie Jenners and the likes. They need to know that they are not too young to do something for the benefit of girls their age. They need to know that what others think of them does not matter as long as their brains are intact. After all, they are strong women in the making.

Now I’m fully aware that I have mentioned we several times. The we is actually me and you who are more informed than a teenage girl. These are our mothers, our older sisters, our older female cousins, our female teachers, our female guardians and just about anyone, even if not female, who can teach a young girl on just how to be a strong future woman.

This Woman, Winnie


I decided to pay a little more attention today to one particular phenomenal African woman, Winnie Madikizela Mandela.I’m not from her generation nor her country, but through the stories I have heard and read about the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, I know for sure that she played a huge role in it and suffered greatly, as a result of her political involvement and activities at that time.

She was not an entirely perfect woman. As a matter of fact, some of her flaws and legal battles long after the dark period of apartheid have been documented and talked about. However, I would like to look at her from the angle of Winnie being the mother of two daughters and a wife of a man who had initially been jailed for life.

Born in 1936 to educated parents, Winnie eventually ended up being the first black professional social welfare worker. She turned down a scholarship to further her studies after attaining a degree in Social work in the US, so that she could serve the needy people. In the process, she devoted her energy and skill to the struggle for equality and justice for all the people in South Africa. Indeed, a feminist in the making amidst turbulent times.

After marrying Nelson Mandela in 1958, Winnie suffered harassment, imprisonment and periodic banishment for her continuing involvement in that struggle. In 1964 when her daughters were about 5 and 4 respectively, her husband, Nelson Mandela was tried and imprisoned for life. Of course leaving Winnie behind to fend for her children single handedly. However, the harassment by the South African government of the time ceased not and Winnie, was eventually forced to send her two daughters to boarding school in Swaziland in order to protect them.

It is indeed a rough, murky world for women who have had to endure their husbands being detained or jailed for political reasons. Many have equally had to suffer castigation from society and abandonment from people they once considered friends. The harsh reality soon dawns on them that together with their husbands, they are now considered enemies of the state. And to avoid a similar occurrence happening to them, other people will refrain from being too friendly or helpful of such women. This was no different for Winnie Mandela.

Here you are, a young wife and mother of two small children, who suddenly has to contend with being considered an enemy of the state, just because you and your husband are involved in the struggle against obvious injustices to human kind. Whose only desire is for equality for all and to feel like you actually belong in this land that you were born in. I can only imagine how turbulent those times were for Winnie. Yet her courage is immeasurable.

For 17 months at some point, Winnie was put in solitary confinement as a harsh punishment for her activities. Yet her spirit was not broken. She just had to send her children away. A huge sacrifice for a mother to make for the sake of her children no matter how painful. Many times, Winnie had often wondered if she would ever see her children again, whenever she was forcefully torn away from them. It was even worse that she was denied physical contact with her incarcerated husband.

When I look at Winnie, I see determination and a will power to overcome like no other. The kind of emotional turmoil she went through when her husband was jailed for life and subsequently when she kept on being picked up by the police. Many in her position at the time, would have given up the political activities that kept them constantly in trouble with the authorities. Most women in such a situation would have chosen to raise their children quietly, as they wondered what life held for them, now that they had been rendered single mothers by the unfair arm of the law.

Yet Winnie decided to make sacrifices that were too difficult for any woman with children to make. She carried on with her quest for equality and justice. She ensured that the name Nelson Mandela was never forgotten. My own parents once commented that they always knew someone called Nelson Mandela existed but they did not know how he looked like in person. So it was quite exciting for them to watch him on TV for the first time, walk out of the prison gates, hand in hand with his wife.

Mind you, both of my parents are Kenyans. So you can imagine how much zeal Winnie had in ensuring that her husband’s cause and name were not forgotten, despite not knowing if he will ever walk out of the jail gates a free man or not. Indeed her strengths as a woman surpass her known  weaknesses greatly. It would be unfair to judge her by her weaknesses while keeping in mind what she had endured during the struggle against apartheid including a finalized divorce in 1996.

As women, we can learn a lot from Winnie. It doesn’t have to necessarily mean being involved in political activities that put our lives and those of our children at risk. It simply means that there is much more to life as a woman than our looks and charm. It means that with determination and immeasurable courage despite what we might be facing in our personal lives, we can overcome many obstacles. It means that with zeal and a belief for better days, we can eventually achieve our dreams and goals. It means that if we are in a position to fight for justice and equality, then we should stand courageously and do so no matter what people will say.

And so on this day, all the way from Kenya, I salute you, Winnie Madikizela Mandela! You taught us women how to be real women.