stereotypes

Is The World’s Fascination With Africa Hypocritical?

A couple of weeks back, I happened to get into a conversation of sorts on a page I follow on Facebook centered on a certain meme. The meme in question had an individual announcing their desire to visit Africa, with the other person insisting that the individual be specific on which country in Africa, they would like to visit. Of course our opinions happened to be varied with other page mates concluding that a section of us were simply being overly sensitive.

However, I think we have very valid reasons as Africans to be skeptical about the world’s fascination with Africa. Having been categorized as a third world continent for the longest time possible in addition to getting quite negative coverage by the international media, we can’t sometimes really help wondering whether people from other parts of the world, genuinely appreciate our continent.

In certain cases, the desire by others to visit the continent has been in essence, to confirm whether Africans still lead lives as the primitive people they have since been largely branded to be. Not forgetting the fact that a majority of countries in the African continent have a dark history of colonization and therefore, are still a tad bit distrusting of the intentions of foreign visitors. Not that we feel a repeat can happen but past experiences tend to shape present perceptions.

Africa is a continent made up of several nations with very distinct cultures and ways of life but that has not stopped the rest of the world and especially the West, from failing to acknowledge this fact. Hollywood has often seemed confused and thoroughly ignorant about Africa when basing movies and shows  on the continent. It is always disconcerting for an African to watch a movie or show, that decides to mix two African languages, from two different countries and then try to pass it off as a movie set in one particular African country.

Even more upsetting is having to keep explaining yourself in a foreign country as an African, that where you come from is not plagued by war and disease. The idea that Africans still walk around naked, live in makeshift homes, possess primitive ideas and the likes, has failed to completely fade from the minds of  Westerners who seem to still feel the need to “discover” the continent.

I understand that for foreigners of African descent, their wish to visit Africa has always been to connect with their roots. For us Africans who have been born and brought up in our motherland, we may many times fail to understand this specific need.

Perhaps, we find it absurd that they would just desire to be in the continent, without being specific with which country in particular because for us who come from the continent, we can easily trace our roots. And our individual roots, happen to be centered around a particular locality and not the continent as a whole.

voiceofafrica.fm

Indeed one of the arguments that came up in the aforementioned conversation on the page, was related to this inherent need by African-Americans and people of African descent from the Caribbean, to visit the continent. However, this does not completely erase the fact that our continent happens to be the most misunderstood by many, often basing their view of the continent on hearsay.

Call it inferiority complex, sensitivity or what but Africans are increasingly getting tired of having to justify their legibility to others who are not from the same race or continent. Issues of racism and racial discrimination do not make it any easier for us. It only serves to heighten our skepticism of the world’s interest with our continent.

It should be understood that histories of oppression by others who felt superior to us, have contributed largely to Africans feeling the need to protect themselves from hypocritical intentions. We may argue that issues of xenophobia are perpetrated by Africans to fellow Africans and therefore as an African, I have no right to conclude that only those not from the continent discriminated against us and oppressed us.

Xenophobic attacks such as the ones witnessed in South Africa are deeply rooted on colonialism and the fact that Africans felt divided and denied of opportunities at that particular dark time. I’m no advocate of senseless killings neither am I trying to lay blame on the colonialists at this point in time. However, how a nation chooses to heal from past hurtful experiences, determines the way forward for the development of the nation in future.

I would like to believe that many South Africans have healed but there is still that percentage, that has not completely healed and are therefore willing to incite and attack their fellow brothers and sisters, whom they feel are taking away opportunities meant for them, the original citizens.

As a continent that is forever trying to get to the same level as other continents and many times falling short in the process, our main concern is being genuinely accepted as capable of competing on the same level as other continents. It may seem like a far fetched idea to many but past branding of the continent as incapable has contributed to our wariness. We may many times fail to understand other people’s intentions or might even be right about their hypocrisy, who knows?

Advertising For A Wife

Quite recently, I came across an article on the Nairobian, about a 32 year old Nairobi man who had decided to place notices all over the city advertising for a wife. Apparently, he had spent about Ksh3,500 on the whole venture and his notice included the specifications for the woman he wanted and a deadline date of March 30th 2017. Among his list of specifications was an insistence that the woman should not have kids and should be able to work in the farm.

He also made a point of mentioning to the Nairobian reporter who did his story, that he was not interested in Nairobi women as a result of their indignified ways. And that so far, he had started narrowing down to his choice despite the fact that many pranksters including men, had already contacted him. Well, that is the most stupid thing I’ve come across since the year started and here’s why.

I find it very stereotypical when men living and working in Nairobi thump their chests and declare, “Mimi siwezi oa msichana wa Nairobi” (I can’t marry a Nairobi woman). Then what are you doing in Nairobi?! Pack your bags and relocate back to the village where you will find a village woman of your choice! Even more so irritating, when some Nairobi men arrogantly assume that a Nairobi woman, is just like the rest of the “bad” women they have been involved with in the past.

A workmate of mine once asked me if I was married and I replied in the negative. He then went on to ask if I had children and I replied again in the negative. Then the fool said in a huff, “nyinyi wasichana wa Nairobi mnadanganyanga hivyo na mko na watoto nyumbani” (you Nairobi women pretend that way yet you have kids back in the village). Were it not for courtesy, I would have smacked him right in the face. Why was he asking me if I have children yet he supposedly knew the answer?!

Nairobi men I speak to you today, those stereotypes that you have over time developed about Nairobi women are the reasons why you are probably still single in your 30s.

Image courtesy of Google

Image courtesy of Google

For someone to even think of advertising for a wife and with such dumb specifications like she should not have children, I think quite a number of Nairobi men are fumbling in the dark. Those horror stories you were once told about evil Nairobi women, are probably lies from a male relative or friend, who was unlucky enough to date a particular woman lacking in morals. They lied to you and you foolishly believed them and began viewing all Nairobi women as conniving witches only interested in money that you may not even have.

I find it insulting for a grown man to look down on a woman who has a child to show for a past relationship. Would you have liked it better if she had aborted that child and then proceeded to lie to you that she had never been pregnant before? I wonder. Along the way, I stopped being judgmental of single mothers as I have personally been a product of a two parent home and eventually a single parent home. Before you decide to judge a woman for having children out of wedlock, find out what happened first with the child’s father. You are equally not a saint. Or would you like us to believe that you are still a virgin male at 32?

Enough of this nonesense about Nairobi women or town women being this or that. Are you even looking in the right places for the right women? If my memory serves me right, one Nairobi woman/girl if you would like, since we have developed a Kenyan habit of referring to women in their 20s as girls, recently married her Nairobi man in a union that cost only Kshs 100. Before all these other companies chipped in with their contributions of a grand wedding, tiered cake and double honeymoon to Diani in Mombasa and Dubai, this Nairobi woman agreed to be joined with her fiance in holy matrimony, that only cost Kshs 100 for both rings. I repeat for emphasis. She did not exhibit any signs of being materialistic as the stereotype often states.

So if you are working as a security guard at a firm in the city and are busy setting your eyes on a lady professional in the company that you man the doors for, do you expect her to fall for your charms? Don’t you see the disconnect there and that your priorities, let’s be realistic and honest for once, may not align to each other’s? I have been an employee before and I’ve had security guards and other men too not only the said profession and with all due respect, at the place I worked at hit on me. I made it a point to politely make it clear that I wasn’t reading from the same script. Not because I was a snorty, materialistic Nairobi woman then, but because it was the honest truth.

Oh, I understand that some of these women you are trying to hit on and hint marriage at are not even in good careers but still resist your advances. Did you take your time to read the signs of whether she was on the same page as you or you proceeded to simply announce your intentions, assuming that it’s traditional for a woman to readily agree to settle down with any man, who exhibits signs of being serious?

Wake up and smell the coffee! There are rules to the attraction game and you should never proceed with your advances on a woman, who clearly shows the signs that she is after your money and does not even seem to care about you. Because you just know it when someone is golddigging you!

Don’t lie to us Nairobi men, you knew it when she always contacted you when in some financial need. But for one reason or another you chose to ignore all the glaring signs just like we women have a habit of ignoring certain obvious red flags. It’s a human need to want to feel loved and to strive to achieve that. Probably that’s what makes us ignore some uncomfortable truths in our dating life. But hey, I’m no moral judge! Been there, done that!

I simply implore on men who hold onto the mentioned stereotype, to kindly consider changing their views. Not every Nairobi or town woman is no good and you probably just need to work on certain aspects of your life to attract the right people in your life. I’m not sure if this man advertising all over for a wife will be successful but I’ll be honest, it’s just dumb.

 

 

Are A Woman’s Strong Features A Determinant Of Her Desirability?

What makes a woman feminine?

Is it the shape of her face, her soft curves, the roundness of her bottom…? Are these attributes of hers considered female, what men are going to look at and say “wow, she’s hot!”? What about a female who naturally has strong features, otherwise considered “manly” or “masculine” in many quarters?

I sought to find out what 3 men thought about dating a woman who fell in the latter category. One mentioned that he wouldn’t mind the masculinity factor, as long as she possessed all the qualities he looked for in a woman.

As a matter of fact, for him, those special qualities would surpass her physique. However, he was quick to note that sometimes, the physical attributes of a woman contributed to the attraction factor, from the opposite sex. But all the same, he went on to mention female sport figures who possessed obviously, very strong features that he considered attractive.

The next man gave a complete no. He was very certain that he would not even be the slightest bit attracted to such a woman, just from looking at her strong features. The third mentioned that he tends to look at the physical attributes first in a woman.

He admitted to this being superficial and a mistake on his part. However, he highly doubted that he would get past the masculinity factor, in a bid to know more about her as an individual and what special qualities she possessed.

Well, not to judge these men for their honest opinions, I think the answers they gave me, are in truth a reflection of what many men and women alike, think about the desirability factor of a woman, considered to possess strong features.

Tennis Star Serena Williams. Photo courtesy of New York Magazine

Tennis Star Serena Williams. Photo courtesy of New York Magazine

One such woman regarded as masculine by many, happens to be tennis star, Serena Williams. To many, Serena could be confused for a man. Never mind the fact that she recently got engaged and could be walking down the aisle very soon. This is just proof that someone of the opposite sex, despite all the hullabaloo surrounding Serena’s physique, found her attractive and is willing to spend the rest of his life with her.

As an individual who has recorded huge successes in the tennis field, it was inevitable really for Serena to look the way that she does. An immense amount of training goes into becoming a professional in specifically, sport. Back in the day, when Serena and her sister were just beginning to learn the ropes of tennis under the tutelage of their father, they were just but normal skinny girls. But it would take a lot to mold them into the huge stars they have since become.

To exhibit the kind of strength and endurance that Serena exhibits on the tennis court, significant effort goes in building the right physique for it. And this is evident on many female athletes engaging in sports that need a high level of stamina, not only Serena whom many have singled out.

I tend to find musician Pink, equally possessing quite strong features which can be partly attributed to the fact that she’s also a gymnast. Many of her performances have seen her suspended in ropes while performing various tricks on stage. You need the right body for that.

Musician Pink during one of her performances. Photo courtesy of Google.

Musician Pink during one of her performances. Photo courtesy of Google.

Sports aside, in my usual routine of poring over the Internet for information, I quickly discovered that there are certain features in women, considered masculine. A square jaw was one of them. Some women I saw being pinpointed as seeming “manly” happened to possess square jaws.

There was equally the racist factor that singled out certain African-American women as being masculine just from their looks and what others considered linked to their heritage. It is sad that the former first lady of the US, Michelle Obama and British supermodel Naomi Campbell are some of those  Black women, whom if you dig deeper in the Internet, you will find many trolls calling them male or other unsavory names. A cruel reality of the many forms that racism can take including bashing genetics.

British Supermodel, Naomi Campbell on the runway. Courtesy of Elle.

British Supermodel, Naomi Campbell on the runway. Courtesy of Elle.

Back here in my country, the physical attributes of a woman equally seem to play a huge role for many in the desirability factor. There’s what biology and society’s standards of beauty have over time portrayed to be feminine. For quite a number, a woman is defined by the soft features that make her feminine. If she seems to lean more on the strong features, then something must be wrong, we tend to assume.

The fact that men are considered visual creatures may also partly contribute to this deeply entrenched idea of what a female should look like. Not to seem like I’m bashing the male, but it is accepted by many, that men look at a woman’s features that are different from theirs and therefore attractive to them. If the woman appears to look like a male, then definitely the whole idea is kind of distorted and the man can be forgiven for reacting with unmasked surprise, at this turn of events.

However, the often, negative, unmasked surprise goes both ways. Women may tend to question how female a fellow woman is, if she seems to come across as male. We assume that if this is how we look as females, then the rest of us should look the same. Quite a close minded view, you might be tempted to conclude.

Well, when genetic factors are at play as they always are in determining our individual physiques, there’s nothing much we can do about it. Looking at this whole issue from a feminist view, regardless of how a woman’s physique is, what she possesses in her mind, is far more important than a pair of well sculpted legs that may appear manly to some.

We need to stop this objectification of women, that tends to place more emphasis on what is considered sexy in a woman, at the expense of her talents and what she is capable of doing. Many women in the sports field are increasingly being objectified while pursuing what they are good at. It could perhaps be the reason why the likes of Serena Williams, have constantly endured castigation over how they look.

For many, if she looks like a male, then she definitely acts like a male and quite a number of men, may shy away from pursuing such a woman. Physical attributes have little to do with a person’s personality and a woman who possesses strong features, may turn out to be the most feminine in personality. However, many can agree with me that changing deeply entrenched perceptions may prove to be the hardest.

Thoughts?

We Need More Positive African Stories

I’m becoming addicted to watching  CNN. Nowadays, American politics, the war in Syria (as if that’s not depressing enough) and small bits of pieces of News from Europe dominate the channel. A couple of nights back, I was watching the African Voices segment on it and it was refreshing to see Africa painted in a positive light.

There was this Rwandese guy who is a designer and designs really cool, African print bowties among other items of clothing. We saw him drive to the market to buy vitenges(African print material/African batik fabric), visit the barber shop to trim his Patrice Lumumba inspired look and go for a morning walk. And I was happy that the world was seeing a different side of Africa. Not the usual depressing news of war, starvation, terrorist attacks,  political coups, poverty, retrogressive cultures, illetracy and what nots.

Internet Sources

Internet Sources

That’s not all Africa is made up of. The negatives and unprogressive life. I know by now that the Middle East is starting to get pretty tired of all that negative reporting of the continent. The African continent equally got so tired of it a long time ago, that an African would not hesitate telling off a foreigner, who still views the continent through the misguided lense of the Western media. And I think CNN is starting to move away from the stereotypes and depressing stories of Africa. Kudos to them!

There is alot about Africa that the world needs to know. It really irritates me when I encounter individuals on Facebook groups, who still think that Africa is lagging behind in the 20th century, when the rest of the world is so 21st century. You need to open up your eyes to what this continent has to offer, other than what you have over time believed is the real thing.

A lot of foreign news reporters will mostly visit the marginalized areas of Africa or the slum areas or conflict areas and do stories about those. Their intentions may indeed be pure as they would like to bring these issues to the world’s attention. However, most of the time, these kinds of stories only serve to mislead the recipients, who may lack the zeal to dig deeper about the African way of life.

Africa is a progressive continent. There are developed urban areas, improved infrastructure, up to date technologies, learned individuals, talented individuals, exposed individuals. It’s not all about animals and living on trees wearing nothing but a flap of skin to preserve our modesty. As a matter of fact, I believe some of the well dressed individuals come from Africa.

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

What many people from the West may not know is that aside from the Maasai culture in Kenya, there are more than 10 other different cultures from the 43 different Kenyan tribes.

For the longest time possible, Western media really concentrated on the Maasai community. And with good reason, don’t get me wrong! This is one of the communities in Kenya and Tanzania that has upheld most of its original cultural practices pre-colonial times. It is a rich culture that tends to fascinate the West and people not from the two countries.

However, it would surprise many that other communities in Kenya despite the Western influence in their way of life, still carry out their respective cultural practices to date. Take this personal encounter, for example. I’m sometimes a storyteller, so bear with me on this.

A friend of a friend was getting married sometime in 2013. So as is synonymous with my country, we do a traditional wedding first before the White church wedding that is Western influenced.

Internet Sources

Internet Sources

I happened to tag along. Now in her community, the girls have to be covered from head to toe in two pieces of a lesso (wrapper) for the hubby-to-be to identify who his wife-to-be is. In our midst, there were two girls who had the same skin tone and similar looking feet.

One was of course the lady getting married. And we had this hilarious moment, advising her to tie a colored band on one of her toes and alert her fiance about it via text, before we came out so that he doesn’t get confused and fined, for picking the wrong girl.

So the older women covered us up, all girls about the same height in the lessos and we were guided outside where the ceremony was taking place. Believe it or not, the hubby-to-be seemed a little confused and nearly chose the girl with feet that resembled his wife-to-be, despite the colored band he had been alerted to earlier missing on the girl’s toes.

I mean, these are some of the cultural practices from other communities in Africa, that the Western media can do stories on other than the usual. Just to show how over time the African culture has blended in with the Western culture.

If you thought illetracy ruled the African continent, you should take a look at the highly talented graduates, from many of our universities. People who come out of campus not with a job mentality but a vision to be self employed and despite whatever financial constraints they may face, strive to achieve their goals. And many times, if they are committed enough to their dream, their efforts pay off.

We do appreciate the genuine curiosity of foreigners who would love to truly know about our continent. But just don’t lump me in the athletics team in campus overseas, just because you assume being a Kenyan, I can automatically run. Not all of us Kenyans have the ability to do long distance running and that’s because we are equipped and talented differently. We possess a diversity.

Being from the African continent and proudly so, I would advice anyone seeking to do an African story to intergrate himself or herself with the African society. Visit the developed areas, watch how the African carries his/her day to day activities and trust me, despite what we may face as a 3rd world continent, you are going to get beautiful, positive stories to tell the world about us.

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 😉

 

Do African Women Really Need Husbands To Keep Them In Check?

What happens when an African woman gets married?

  • People in society take her seriously.
  • She is no longer considered a threat to her married friend’s husbands.
  • She gets to sleep with one man.
  • She now has somebody to keep her in check in terms of taming her once ill habits while still unmarried.
  • She can now be accorded the status of a respected mother once children are in the picture.
  • She has a title while being identified as Mrs. So and So.

What happens when an African woman fails to get married and especially if she has children or a child from a previously failed relationship?

  • Every perverted man now feels he has the warrant to hit on her.
  • Her married friends can be excused for secretly considering her a threat to their marriages.
  • She is untamed because she has no figure of authority in the house.
  • She must be slutty for choosing to remain unmarried and especially if there is evidence of children.
  • Who beds her?!
  • She probably set unrealistic standards that ended up in her being single.
  • She is damaged goods.

And what happens when an African woman fails to get married, has a child/children or no child and is highly successful in her career?

  • Well, some influential man contributed significantly in her climb on the career ladder.
  • She’s free to use her body in whichever way to get ahead. No inhibitions. I mean, she has no husband…

About two weeks back, I attended a Girlfriend’s Confidential Talk in Nairobi and when the floor was opened for women to share their views, literally every unmarried woman mentioned something concerning the pressure to get married that some were already facing. The theme behind the talk was totally different but it was not long before the conversation veered off toward marriage and the expectations that the African society places on women concerning it.

A Ghanaian traditional marriage. Photo courtesy of www.pinterest.com

A Ghanaian traditional marriage. Photo courtesy of http://www.pinterest.com

There’s a notion in Africa that a woman needs to have a husband in order to be kept in check. Single women in top positions in our country have often been criticized bitterly concerning their marital status. It almost seems like nobody in Africa wants to believe that someone can remain unmarried at a certain age and be totally normal. There has to be something wrong with that person according to many. And it sometimes goes both ways with unmarried African men in their 40s and 50s being considered selfish and irresponsible to choose to avoid starting families.

African women approaching marriageable age with no fiance in sight have been known to go to crazy lengths just to speed up the marriage process. I was a child or pre-teen then, I can’t remember, when some preacher decided to show up in Nairobi with a promise that after his crusade, all the women present will be contacted by their future husbands. As ridiculous as it sounded, Kenyan women turned up in droves all jostling to get space in the already crowded stadium where the crusade was being held.

The pressure for an African woman to get a husband is pretty much intense. As you approach your late twenties and seem not to have an eligible character in sight, your elder sisters, mum and aunts will begin questioning frequently when your boyfriend will be visiting. I think the most appalling thing I heard from a close relative was to hurry up and get married before my arms got flabby. Apparently, according to some, women age faster than men. And in Africa, we do not quite want to believe that an older woman can indeed get a husband.

We associate marriage with a woman having a husband who ensures she tows the line. No wonder all the tag names that single women and mothers have to endure being branded. Marriage is a wonderful thing but many times the “Wives submit to your husbands” Biblical phrase is usually taken out of context. Marriage is then made to seem like only the woman has an obligation to the husband to be obedient and to follow his direction.

We forget the Biblical phrase “Husbands love your wives just like Christ loved the church”. So it is not only women who are obligated to obey the husband and to submit to him and to allow themselves to be kept in check. Husbands have an obligation too to love their wives unconditionally. How will it be possible for a woman to submit to a man who does not show any slightest signs of love for her?

Love does not only encompass romance and sex. There are many aspects of love that ensure that the act of submission of a wife to a husband is easily and willingly, effected. Love includes care, support, understanding, encouragement, wise counsel, guidance, tolerance. It is only when both African men and women understand this that the stereotype of African women needing husbands to be kept in check will go.

As a matter of fact, you do not need a man to keep you in check. Your own individual principles are enough to keep you in check. Every person has different principles. Principles are varied and choosing to be and act in a certain way depends on an individual’s perspectives. So even if an African woman who has always been a rebel got married, a husband will not successfully change that. It may even be a cause for their separation or divorce. And that is the main reason why compatibility in a partner is particularly important when choosing someone to date possibly leading to marriage.

I feel like many African women fail to reach their full potential while single because their minds are preoccupied with the pressure to get married and the fear of their success while single being associated with sleeping around. Marriage is a personal choice and there is absolutely no wrong in a woman choosing to concentrate on career and fulfilling her dreams first before settling down in marriage. We all seek self fulfillment at some point in life.

It would indeed be a tragedy if a woman rushed into marriage to beat the biological clock and got kept in check by a husband so much that all she ever wanted to achieve got buried 6 feet under. We need to understand the concept of marriage rather than confusing it with a husband’s right to domination of a wife. Because this whole keeping in check argument is in essence a form of patriarchal, chauvinistic thinking needing to be done away with.

Thoughts?

 

I recently got the opportunity to join the contribution team of Conor Boyle’s amazing blog The Conversation Room. You can keep up with some of my posts and Conor’s work on http://www.theconversationroomblog.wordpress.com

 

 

Why Being A Minority Can In Fact Be Beneficial

My niece attends a predominantly Asian school. It may sound baffling to some seeing that we come from an African nation. However, as a result of the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway line over a century ago, Kenya has quite a significant number of Asians of Indian origin. Some, 4th generation Indians born and raised in Kenya. So being a community that values giving back to society, we have a number of schools that are predominantly Asian.

For many Kenyans, the idea of enrolling your child in a school where he/she will be a minority is quite scary. We all love to feel safe and as a result of that, we prefer to stick to the familiar. My niece’s mum values exposure and good education. So when her little one got admission to this school, she was elated. She saw this as a wonderful opportunity for her child to be exposed to so many things beneficial for her growth and development. She did not look at her child being the only black face or part of the very few black faces in a class of 30 or so Indian kids.

While in high school, we had only one girl of Asian origin enrolled in our school. It was a boarding school with an estimated 300 girls and 700 boys. In our 4 years in that school, she was the only Indian. It is a known fact that many Kenyans of Asian origin lack a strong preference for boarding schools. I can only guess that the fear of having their children as minorities and away from home is what deters them from considering boarding schools in Kenya.

Photo Credit: Google

Photo Credit: Google

For this girl, it was actually a marvel to us for sometime. Mind you, two of her brothers had been in the school before her and had performed exemplary in their finals. I remember us waiting with bated breath just to see how this girl would handle being assigned dorm duties. We all had our own individual dorm duties but the fact that we were not used to seeing Indians in boarding schools which were predominantly African, we were curious to know if she could equally bend and mop like the rest of us.

I tend to feel that sometimes being a minority goes a long way in changing your views about others. For this Indian girl, I’m sure she would not hesitate in sending her own children to a good Kenyan boarding school in future. By experiencing being a minority in one, she is better placed to understand how things work and the fear of her children being in danger while there is significantly minimized.

If my niece were to attend college in a town overseas where black faces are countable, she will be better placed to deal with culture shock, I presume. She may even be in a stronger position to explain to ignorant people what race is all about if by any chance she experienced some form of racial profiling.

The reason why racism exists is because we have not been exposed to other cultures in a minority position. I have a friend of mine who relocated to China quite recently and judging from the WhatsApp messages I frequently get from him, he is having the time of his life experiencing a different culture and food. I recently suggested to him that he starts a blog just from getting that feeling of enthusiasm from him.

Looking at myself as an individual, I have been in safe situations all through my life and sometimes, I get the jitters just thinking about how I can adapt to an unfamiliar environment. I do not consider myself a racist per se, but I’m ill equipped to handle a situation where I feel like I’m the only one who looks like me. Get the drift? However, it does not mean that I would not jump at an opportunity to experience other cultures.

Through mingling with other individuals who do not look like us or think like us, we in the process expand our world view. Most of these racism incidents are perpetrated by individuals who have grown up safe. Deep down, these individuals equally fear being in a position where they are minorities. However, they cover up for this by acting superior.

When I see some Kenyans grinning dumbly at foreigners, I know that we have a long way to go. We need to interact more with people of other races to understand that they are just like us. Humans who eat, sleep, walk, talk and work. The only difference lies in our respective cultures. Africans and people of African descent overseas complain a lot about White privilege and the likes. Yet in my own country, we are guilty many times of treating people of fairer skin like little gods. Aren’t we also contributing to White privilege in a way?

It would be better if we took time out just to fully understand how other races functioned. Not that I’m on a mission to praise my friends and relatives. They are just but few examples who decided to take the plunge of being in minority positions no matter how scary it felt at first. In truth, those examples challenge me to want to try the same.

Any thoughts?

 

 

The African Pressure For Grandchildren

Slightly over a month back, 27 year old Kenyan woman Jackline Mwende suffered the brutality of domestic violence when her husband of 7 years, Stephen Ngila chopped off her hands after a gruesome machete attack in their home. Reason behind the attack; In their marriage period, Mwende had not borne him any children.

However, the story takes a turn for the worse when it came to light that the root cause behind the couple not having any children was in fact due to Ngila’s infertility. This had been previously proven at a clinical facility. But being an African man sadly with the chauvinistic thinking that men cannot fail to produce offspring, Ngila went ahead and attacked his wife. Slashing her across the face and back then chopping off both of her hands.

Jackline Mwende on the left with injuries after the attack and her husband, Ngila on the right after arrest by the Police. Image courtesy of nairobinews.co.ke

Jackline Mwende ( left) with injuries after the attack and her husband, Ngila (right) after arrest by the Police. Image courtesy of nairobinews.co.ke

It was a tale that left a sour taste in the mouth and got men and women alike outraged and speaking up against it. Women leaders  visited Mwende in her father’s home where she was recuperating and later, in hospital where companies pledged to come to her aid with prosthetic limbs and a decent monthly stipend.

Mwende may have gotten a great deal of help after her ordeal but her limbs are not going to be the same again. The scars she now bears will often be a cruel reminder to her, how brutal domestic violence and patriarchy can often times turn out to be.

But was the pressure to bear children only coming from her husband Ngila? I can’t help but ask.

With all due respect to both families involved in the aforementioned , I will choose not to use them as a reference point for my argument. However, I will choose to look at the African societal set up instead.

In Africa, children have often been associated with being a source of wealth. Indeed parents who bore many children in the olden times needed not worry for it was assumed that they would have helpers in old age. We may have moved from the olden, primitive times but Africans still hold on to the notion that children are especially important in a marriage to complete the family unit.

It is not entirely uncommon to find African women who have faced enough castigation from in-laws simply for the sole reason that they had not borne their son a child/children. Many African families equally value the boy child and an African woman in such a familial set up would give birth to as many as 6 or 7 or 8 children just looking for a boy.

The fear often being that if she does not bear her husband a boy child, then he will definitely go in search of another woman to marry who can give him boys. These things are happening up to date in African society. I reside in Nairobi myself, the hub of East Africa, a capital city and I still encounter stories of real life educated people, who are actively seeking to conceive boy children as if the girl children they have are not human enough.

The pressure from the parents of the husband and sometimes, from those of the wife not doing much to help matters. The idea behind this usually being that the grandparents yearn to see their grandchildren which they consider a blessing to live up to the point of seeing children of your children.

Often times, these aged parents may not see how much their demands may be affecting a couple trying unsuccessfully to conceive. I mean, why do you think rogue pastors in African society are raking in big bucks just from offering false hope to childless couples? It is this pressure for grandchildren sometimes leading to sarcastic remarks from in laws directed many times to the woman and the husband being urged to get a fertile wife to bear him children.

There are many African women who have been cast aside by their husbands because the family had no children. In Africa, unlike the West, you cannot just decide not to have children as a woman. Society expects you to have children by a certain age. As a woman fast approaching my late twenties, I nowadays frequently encounter individuals who assume I’m already a mother. Not that it bothers me. As a matter of fact, I chuckle at their assumptions for I identify it as an African thing.

A wedding photo. Image courtesy of www.brides.com

A wedding photo. Image courtesy of http://www.brides.com

However, the tragedy behind this pressure for children/grandchildren is that African women get blamed for there not being the existence of offspring. Africans do not believe that a man can be infertile even if medical tests prove so. There’s this often stupid belief that African men are fertile, studs in bed. If there are no children, then it definitely has to be the woman. She has to be blamed. She has to be punished for it. She deserves to be added another wife who will bear children.

It is a backward belief. A chauvinistic kind of thinking that makes many African men shy away from infertility treatment. They just don’t want to face and admit the fact that the problem can be both ways and that there is nothing wrong with that. Treatment of either party addressing the underlying issue can solve this. They instead choose to ride on the wave of a false belief of an African man being powerful enough sexually to produce children.

So you can already tell how much mental torture an African woman goes through if she does not get children within an expected period in marriage. The husband may even justify the domestic violence with the fact that “Mwanamke amekataa kunizalia” (A woman has refused to bear me children). As if a normal functioning woman with motherly instincts may just make an intentional decision to irk her husband by not getting any children.

As a modern woman who has become exposed to other societal views, I think that the decision to have children by a couple should be theirs alone. I also urge African men to open their minds to the world of medicine. Infertility can be both ways. There is no shame in it. There is medical help for it. Bearing children is not only a woman’s thing. When two people come together with the intention of conceiving, it is a joint decision. The child will bear both of their DNAs.

How ironic that African children are considered to belong to the father yet when it comes to matters conceiving and family planning, it is the woman who is often blamed or tasked with that? Food for thought, per se.

 

The Woman In Office

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this post are the author’s.

I have never been so much into Politics in the past and recent past. Indeed, I have hardly blogged about politics in my whole period as a blogger. However, I can’t help but be a Clinton supporter in the American race for presidency. I really admire this woman’s strength and resilience and the events that have unfolded during this American campaign period, have only made me really want her to clinch the presidency. Not that I know much about American politics save for watching the CNN News and chancing on Hillary Clinton’s autobiography in the campus library one rainy evening, which I chose to devour as I found the book highly interesting. But that little knowledge I have acquired about this woman, has led me to firmly believe that women can indeed be world leaders.

There has always been a tendency in the past to associate women in the public eye with beauty, fashion and style. All we get to hear about is what she was wearing and who dressed her and how she looked in the process, downplaying some of the significant roles that a woman in the public eye is supposed to perform. And while it is of equal importance that a woman should take care of her appearance and especially, if she occupies a certain position that requires her to look the part, I tend to think that always being concerned with how she looks doesn’t really matter sometimes, but only does a good job of furthering the stereotype that women ought to be admired in the physical sense and not the intellectual sense.

Image sourced from www.motherjones.com

Image sourced from http://www.motherjones.com

In my country, when wife to the late Joshua Orwa Ojode who passed away in a helicopter crash in 2012, mentioned in a recent anniversary of her husband’s death, that she would wish to represent the Ndhiwa Constituency just as her deceased husband once did, it was interesting to note that what many people noticed was how her hair looked in one of the photos. The said photo did the rounds on social media with Kenyan men and women alike bashing her for what they termed as her hair appearing “wild”. With some going as far as to suggest that she needed a salon visit before declaring her political ambitions. I mean, did anyone consider that it could have been windy on that particular day?!

And while I find Clinton to be well put together in her pantsuits ( we call them trouser suits in my country), subtle jewelery and well coiffured hair, I’m glad that the focus is not always on what she is wearing and which designer she is representing, but on what her values are as an American individual and how she plans to move the American society forward should she become president.

Mrs. Mary Ojode, wife to the late Orwa Ojode in mourning of her husband's death. Photo courtesy of www.capitalfm.co.ke

Mrs. Mary Ojode, wife to the late Orwa Ojode in mourning of her husband’s death. Photo courtesy of http://www.capitalfm.co.ke

The photo that got tongues wagging concerning the apperance of her hair. Courtesy of www.nation.co.ke

The photo that got tongues wagging concerning the apperance of her hair. Courtesy of http://www.nation.co.ke

It should equally be noted that women in office should not necessarily be divorcees and therefore deserving of the stereotype that some careers for the female gender cannot accommodate a husband in a woman’s life. Indeed Clinton has had her fair share of marital woes and especially in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. I have come across some articles that criticize her on how she chose to handle some of the scandals with other women involving her husband while he was in office. I do not consider her unwise per se, for choosing to stick to her husband as she would go on to state in her 2003 memoir that No one understands me better and no one can make me laugh the way Bill does. Even after all these years, he is still the most interesting, energizing and fully alive person I have ever met.

Her choice to save her marriage remains a personal choice. I bet she does value the family unit and the American people equally do irregardless of the divorce rates in the country. If they didn’t, then none of the Obama family pictures would have constantly been put on display like they have been. And beautiful pictures indeed which serve to show that strong willed, opinionated, educated, career oriented women like Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton can still balance being a mother, wife and office duties.

In African societies, women have constantly been under represented in political issues concerning the country. We tend to sensationalize the fact that women are highly emotional and of a lesser intellectual capability to fully understand what running the country entails. The chauvinistic nature of most African societies firmly imprints in the minds of men that women should not hold positions of leadership. That women should always cower behind the leadership of men. It is refreshing to see that in recent times, more African women are taking up positions of leadership and more African men are beginning to realize that behind that veneer of sexuality and beauty lies a sharp mind.

A woman’s presence should not only be gauged by her marital status and how she looks physically. I recently came across an article in one of the local papers, where women vying for women representative position in the coming 2017 elections, in one of the parts of our country, were being termed as “beautiful”. It was more like who is fairer than the other. I felt as if the emphasis should have been more on their political ambitions and less on their physical appearances. However, this only served to show how much society in recent times, has objectified the woman so much to the point where it did not matter what age she was, what she represented and what she believed in.

Unlike her counterpart in the American presidency race, who has often exhibited high emotions and an ignorance on how some policies, other societies and races function, I feel like Clinton has handled herself with grace and intellect. It would indeed be refreshing to see a superpower being led by a woman and equally, a motivation for African women that high positions in the country are possible for them to hold.

 

 

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…

or

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

or

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

or

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. Twitter.com

An unidentified African woman. Twitter.com

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?