Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Action by Storm

It seems as if this month is filled with one name. Ory Okolloh. In the last month, I have come across her name several times and finally I decided to do what Google allows me to do best. I looked for her. 

I am glad that I found her. Atleast virtually. If you haven't had a chance to listen to this inspirational woman, mother, sister and African, I suggest that you click here. In her talk about her life, being African and being subject to gazes full of pity, I felt myself speak. When she talked about being in the Diaspora and the pull of 
the Diaspora, I knew she was speaking not to me but about me. 

Her brainchild, Ushahidi, "bearing witness" was home for me when Kenya was on fire. Together with a team of revolutionary Africans (David, Juliana, Eric and a team of volunteers), they are providing this valuable resource to NGOs, for free, to monitor emergency situations. Her team is handing power to the masses, because through their mobile phones, they can create change come war, rain, flood and drought.

Ory, by her move to change things has re-stirred something in me.

In the next few weeks, please be on the look out for a move to a new home site and the long awaited video uploads from other powerful voices.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Equity and equality

It is perhaps not by chance that I find myself embroiled in discussion concerning the face of feminism. While there are various ways to undertake change for the good of the community through the empowerment* of women, one that strongly takes center stage is the idea of equality. Please see my post "Circle" and resulting comments.
Feminism to me goes beyond equality into the realm of equity. Only because through equity do I see an "equal" and mutual respect for all the roles played by the different members in society. Through equality solely, I have no so far seen the respect for a "stay-home mom" as I have through equity which in my perception entails a respect for the role played by a "stay-home mom" that say, a CEO of an oil company might receive. Both roles are important in sustaining the economy and should be rewarded along similar lines. Notice that I have not said a "male" CEO rather, it should be taken that it is not the sex of the holder of the position but the structure that causes disempowerment of "stay at home moms."
Therefore as per my earlier post "Circle" it is not the fact that I was being "bid on" as a woman, that would disempower me, rather it would be the structure under which that negotiation process and surrounding practices, was carried out. In my perception of the structure of bride price and the surrounding rituals, it serves a purpose and that being to hold a family together. There have been other negotiations that have torn families apart, however it is not the fact that the negotiation was over a woman that caused conflict. Rather it was the spirit (therefore structure) under which the negotiation was carried on.

Now to open up a can of worms so the cliche goes...what do you think about female circumcision/ FGM?

*a word that I am yet to fully decipher

Monday, August 04, 2008


This poem is from a deep soul and supporter of kati ya wanawake - a tribute to a sleeping sister:


Storming into our lives
At a tender age,
You weaved another God's umbilicus
Among friends and strangers
Offering what was beyond us,
A first born to our first borns,
A sibling to the only child,
A sister, an auntie, a friend,
To those who know kinship beyond flesh and blood
Sealing the bond
With the quietest of smiles
The beauty of your soul
Invisible in the eternal depth
of Silence
that was the hallmark of your presence

It is well my baby girl

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Last weekend saw the move from one phase of my moon to another. In completing the first 4 steps (of 5) in the Kikuyu marriage process. I am now the mother of my father-in-law, the worker within my in-law's homestead and the first wife to my husband. Traditionally.

I never understood why brides cry in that moment when they are handed over to the other family...until I burst into uncontrollable tears. I can't even explain why it happened. It just did.

So now each morning when I wake up, I think about my husband and the family we will have together. And about the work that is still left undone so that my daughter will carry on the pride of her mothers before, in being an African woman.

Then I remember Saturday, just last Saturday and how religion played a large part in the day. How the ceremony was seen as part of God's way.

And it seems okay.

In my home as the bride price was being exchanged I thought about the bad publicity that this ceremony gets. And as the items were shared out among my relatives, I remembered the role that this process plays. It is not about greed or commodity exchange but an actual appreciation to the other family for the raising of a woman who will become the ground for the future of the Agikuyu.

Or as I was told, "Ciana nii cia agikuyu. Ti cia muhiriga wa aiicakamuyu, na ti cia muhiriga wa aangari." The children belong to the Kikuyu (my ethnic group) not to the house of Aiicakamuyu (his clan) or to the house of Aangari (my clan).

The brideprice which will be paid throughout my lifetime will be the link between my mother and her son-in -law. Through it my mother will maintain a relationship with my husband and through it she will know that I am well taken care of. She is to protect him as his father is to protect me, because I am now his (my husband's father) mother. My first son will be named after my husband's father.

In it, I see a ceremony that brings a circle to it full circumference.

Which is why I cried.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

dance my feet, carry me quick

It has been a brilliant year. In it I have been to 2 parts of Africa I never thought I would be going to. First it was YOWLI in Senegal and recently to meet the family of a very close friend in Mauritius.

And in each of the places it was beautiful to see how women saw and understood themselves. In Senegal some of the women fashioned their hairstyles extravagantly and darkened their lips with almost-black lipstick. They expressed their sexuality openly among other women and aggressiveness when need be, even with their male counterparts. They took care of their image as they defined it for themselves. I attended a wedding party in the street, a woman's only event where I found myself charged into a frenzy to dance by 8 drummers who sweated hard as they pounded into the drums.

In Mauritius, I saw what I thought India, the US and Kenya would look like if blended together. The families I came across were close. Here they valued dance too and friendship. And rum and wine. I danced sega in a sega outfit and danced with different women of different ages. Kissing each three times on the cheek to say hello and goodnight.

There is such diversity on this continent and I cannot wait to see where my great maker will take me the next time.

This is to the beautiful women from the beautiful continent.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

YOWLI we are.

In July this year, I was privileged to attend the Young Women's Leadership and Knowledge Institute (YOWLI) in Dakar, Senegal. The institute, which ran from the 23rd June 2006 to 23rd July 2006, brought together a new wave of activism. Here I met remarkable young women my age (18 - 33yrs), who were working in their little corners of the globe to make the changes that many societies will surely benefit from. The conference was organized through the African Women's Millennium Initiative on Poverty and Human Rights (AWOMI). It was the Director, Yassine Fall's dream to see women from all over Africa and the African Diaspora, come together to discuss issues like, poverty, GBV, and the economic policies that did not favor the societies we live in and the women who often go uncounted when it comes to GDP. There were also discussions on ICT, accountability and the use of the media to engage youth on the events of their changing world.

At the institute, there were young women from South Africa, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Zanzibar, Madagascar, Brazil, Haiti, Morocco, and 18 other countries. Each woman brought her expertise and areas of focus whether it was in Law, GBV, Sports, and AIDS/HIV etc.
The taught sessions were led by Yassine Fall, an economist with the United Nations, Dr. Habib Sy, Executive Director, Aid Transparency and Assitan Diallo, a leading gender rights activist from Mali. There were visits to parts of Senegal that bore significance to the institute and the learning attained there. These visits included an area occupied by flood victims who remain ignored by the government despite international coverage on their plight.
YOWLI culminated in a conference from July 16th – 18th 2006, attended by representatives from UNEP, Ms. Esther Hewlett, Founder, Youth Philanthropy Worldwide, Hon. Phoebe Asiyo, a former Member of Parliament, Kenya, Amina Ibrahim, Special Advisor on MDGs to the President of Nigeria, Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland, Susan Nkomo, Women's Affairs, Government of South Africa, Barbara Charbonnet, Columbia University Earth Institute, among many other great leaders and role models.
For this year, the goal of the newly formed YOWLI regional branches is to seek and demand Accountability from the government, multinational corporations and local organizations. If the say they will do something, they have to make sure they will, furthermore, their actions should be to the benefit of the people they claim to represent and the same people they claim will benefit.

By the characters of the participants, much of Africa and the African Diaspora are about to be shaken by the determination of the women to make a change. Keep checking for more on YOWLI or if you have a burning desire to learn more about the movement email me at

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


As I promised in an earlier post, I would like to point to a new link to the DUSC blog (look on the right of this post) pending the creation of the actual website (I am actually looking for a volunteer who would like to be involved in this great team). Email me

Also, update on a couple of things. Dr. Kameri - Mbote is part of the Consititutional Review Process (a sign of hope!).
Does anyone know how I can get in touch with Njoki Ndungu...I am thinking a nationwide campaign to make rape the forefront of issues. My friend was recently thugged by robbers at her house. They raped her househelp claiming that she looked innocent.

I'm taking possible ideas on how to make more people aware of what a violation rape is.