The Fear of Calling Home Without Money
30th Oct marked an exceptional event for many slums women. This is the day they voice their unheard predicaments. Converged at an open field in Kibera, women from various slums represented their fellow women in large numbers. This forum is an initiative of a humble 25 year-old woman – Jane Anyango Agar, who is so dedicated in creating space for the slum woman in society.
Jane, like many slum women, left the village to look for greener pastures. Her first landing was at her auntie’s place in Kibera. This is not the city she had heard so much about. There was no electricity, no toilets, no water and no food. “I slept stomach-empty most of the time. The nights were cold and days started unpromisingly. Each day passed with a drop of my hope to excel in life. I felt wretched.” She recounted poignantly.
Jane says village life was far much better. But she couldn’t dare return empty handed. “When you board a dream bus to the city, the aim is to make money and a lot of it in the shortest time possible and assist those you left behind”, says Jane, amidst chuckles.
There is a lot of expectation from society too. That’s why most people prefer to suffer in silence and disconnect communication from their close families. “I didn’t communicate with my parents for nearly 3 years and the thought of calling just to say hello sickened me. I knew their first request would be money which had proved to be chicken milk to me.” She reveals.
City life exposed Jane to more pain as she shared a one – roomed mabati house with her aunt, uncle and four of her cousins. They were lucky to have an extra small cube-like kitchen. “Privacy in our house was costly; we had to stay out for hours to give auntie time with uncle”, Reveals Jane.
“Weekends were worse” she adds “I loathed the thought of it. Both auntie and uncle weren’t working. After church on Saturday, they spent the whole day resting. Then, we joined other children in a play ground. Some played, some acted while others just sat and watched. I opted to form a group of girls of my age to share and sort out our issues. Through this, I realized we had a lot in common. I loathed not weekends any more. I looked forward to our “Kamukunji” days with enthusiasm and anticipation”
Their long whining hours and days of apprehension produced new vigor and anticipation. “We realized that no one apart from ourselves will come from the so called class environs to better our life”, says Jane.
To succeed in life, they had to change their attitude and way of thinking. She says the greatest mistake they made was to accept what others thought about them – that a slum woman is illiterate and idle, indolent and messy. “Most people treat slum women with contempt and believe that they are top pick pocketers thus treat them with the same attitude’’ laments Jane.
Jane, together with her friends, came out in 2004, strong and willing to speak out for the slum woman. They formed POLYCOM development project. The effort and strong will to change slum women would be fruitless without converting other slum women to join the Forum. They moved from slum to slum advocating change of attitude.
This move gave all the slum dwellers a strong Forum through which they could speak with one voice to the effect that a slum woman should be empowered to cater for her own needs individually. All they want is information and inspiration.
The slum women of Kibera meet under a tree every Thursday. The Forum is attended by women from all ages, young and old. They share latest `wamama’ news, discuss women issues and invite Councilors and area leaders to give advice. They do not leave their daughters behind as they advocate for change. They have GIRLS SPEAK OUT FORUMS. This Forum has helped a lot of girls to say NO to negative things in their lives.
Kiamaiko slum has an interesting institution – Bunge la Wamama (Women’s Parliament). Theirs is a real bunge (Parliament), where they conduct all their activities and debates “bunge style”. Started a year ago by four women, the Women’s bunge has over one thousand members.
“Our vision is to have the biggest Movement ever in Kenya and thus talk with one voice”, says Mumbi, the group’s Co-coordinator. She adds, “Tumekanyangiwa siku mob sana, saa ni time yetu, tume elevuka, eti tu-me…” (We have been oppressed for a very long time and this time it’s our turn) as the rest shout in chorus “E-LE-VU-KA!” passionately.
When the chief guest stood to speak, she attacked fellow women because they urged their daughters to harden to harsh treatments from their husbands in the name of culture. In making her point, the guest mimicked the women thus: “Mwanangu, rudi, kwa bwana, mwanamke nikuvumilia, ata mimi nilipitia hayo hayo’’ (My child, return to your husband. A woman must be tolerant. I went through the same treatment).
Jane is such an amazing leader. She says that very few people who have interest in Kibera slums are genuine. Most have individual interests. “How many movies have been shot from Kibera?” She asked rhetorically. They follow us even to the IDP camps. A German crew invaded a camp near Eldoret, they were “kind” enough to camp and eat with them. To add to their generosity, they paid them to be filmed. Each kid was paid Ksh.2000 and adults Ksh.3000. But they never explained that they were filming to sell their pictures to the world. “As a result, the world laughs at us. Some even think this is Africa’s life style”, she says.
Silence Kills Family Members
Locals are not angels either. They get donations in the name of changing slums. They come and dish out 200 bob to women and steal the rest of the money. These handouts have changed women, men and children in the slums. It became very hard to call for “A pass information” Forum. In such cases, the first question is not an enquiry about the agenda but a loud question about the take. IDPs had also adapted this style to an extent of creating “supermarket IDPs”. These, she says, are on-and-off IDPs. They only rush to camp when they sight a lorry of goodies.
Jane says her message to fellow slum women and even men is for them to come out in large numbers and work hard in creating change. Sadly, she says, men and young boys are always used by politicians only when it suits them.
Because of commercialization of almost everything and fear that relatives are always after money, no one will ever feel comfortable phoning family members back home. “When I revealed the reason for my non-communication to my family, they were stunned. My silence killed them softly. They needed me, not my money. I felt guilty but that is history. I can only tell anyone who feels stuck to never shun parents.” she concluded her narration.
As she recounts this, my mind flashed three years back. I sat down with a dude who had come to Stockholm through Denmark. “This is not the ulaya (Europe) I thought and dreamt of. I have suffered a great deal. I just wish I can just gather enough guts to return home’’ he laments. By then, he was hosted by a fellow Kenyan whom, he claimed, was getting fatigued.
This is a dilemma faced by many city and Diaspora dwellers. Every one looks upon to them like a tree dripping with honey. This discourages many from calling home when they don’t have `M-PESA’ or `WESTERN UNION’ announcement.
Another dude jokingly said, sometime you call home and the second word from hello is a question. And the question, what is the pin number? Please give it to me before the line gets disconnected. As Jane says, never hesitate to let your folks know your real economic situation. Your silence might kill them.
One of Kenya’s most powerful men has just been in Stockholm. Apart from being powerful and famous, Prime Minister Raila Odinga is one of the leaders who has taken a passionate stand to save the Mau forest. Already millions of Kenyans are starving, rivers have dried up and thousands of animals have perished in drought.
Currently the settlers are in a mad rush to squeeze the last penny from the forest before they are evicted or re-located. This has resulted in aggressive felling of trees. The trees are then sold off as logs in a bid to maximize their profit out of the forest before the government takes a stern move. Thus Mau forest is drying with every click of a second.
The Prime minister should not be shuddered by a selfish slice of Rift Valley MPs who are busy antagonizing his efforts to conserve Mau. These politicians shouting loudest own huge chunks of land which they acquired illegally. These are the same guys who sold part of `their’ land to innocent poor farmers. The list which was tabled in Parliament by the Prime Minister revealed that the beneficiaries of Mau forest are rich and politically connected individuals. Why then should they be compensated?
Noble Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai recently requested the government to consider the plight of the millions of Kenyans at stake but should not be cowed by the few self-seekers who fail to see the importance of conserving Mau forest and see voters instead of destruction.
Mau forest is Kenya’s biggest catchment area. The rivers that flow from it feed savannah of Maasai Mara as well as four other national parks. The famous “Pink Lake” is in danger because all the rivers that feed it have dried up.
The outcome of Mau destruction has been felt far and wide. The Mara river, which is fed from the Mau forest, is having low water which is threatening to dry up any time soon. The recent wild beast migration from Mara to Serengeti was not spectacular as it has been in the past. No hunting by crocodiles as the beasts leisurely walk in and out.
If evictions are implemented immediately, the forest could be re-stored within the desired time frame of three years. Kenyans need to do whatever it takes to ensure that the Mau catchment is preserved.
LETTERS FROM SHIKU: Who ought to do what in a relationship may puzzle many couples especially in Europe. Many, especially men, feel used when they find themselves locked in a relationship of mixed culture. According to African set up, women are responsible for all house chores. This is our culture. Isn’t it? No. It was! My friend and I had tight ties back in Stockholm but not because we had so much in common as girls. We shared one big hurdle – we helped each other in house chores when need arose. Our men, true African sons, could not do women stuff.
Our fore fathers set this and named it culture. The head of the home, which most men presume, was the family’s bread winner. The wife/wives minded their husband and children. Today, everyone “wins bread”, and this situation leads to a common question; if you enjoy 50-50 bill sharing, why then don’t you enjoy 50-50 sharing of house chores especially in a country where house help is a dream too expensive to achieve? Are you Westernized when it comes to financial matters and return to your Africanized skin when house chores are mentioned?
“Women should choose what their men wear, polish their shoes and make sure all is in order before they leave the house” commented Natasha, a guest in a fashion talk show called Sebuleni. She added that when the man in your life accompany you looking scruffy, the question is not about him but about you. And the question is always ”why are you dating a wrong guy?’’
Natasha is not the only woman to proclaim publicity that women should wash their men’s stuff as well as their under wears. That from the onset of their marriage, a woman should pack for the man. That an acquiescent wife should not mind packing some “jwala” incase her jamaa get’s thirsty and is tempted to eat the forbidden goodies. How amusing? That it is the role of a woman to take over all house work and grooming and dress her man when she marries the him, right? Wrong!
The reason why women go along with this script is because many of us do not know any better. We grew up watching our fathers .The men never moved their hands as far as their stuff was concerned. They comfortably cleaned their noses and left the dirty cloth for the woman to clean and the lady of the house did so passively and contentedly. All men did for themselves was to shower, which, nevertheless, they found tasking and skipped days in the bathroom.
Our fathers never set foot in the kitchen, not even for a glass of water .The man would be seated on his throne (the comfortable daddy’s couch in the sitting room that no one dared sit on) and would call his wife from the bedroom to come and pour him a cup of tea (from a flask that was right under his nose) or switch on the television. Spiteful, isn’t it? No! That was the norm. And that was then!
The woman obliged dutifully. Our mothers would tell us to cook for our brothers and warm it up when they needed a second helping .We observed the irrefutable division of the roles and internalized it. So when we start dating, we are only too eager to prove to our boyfriends that we are wife material. When you visit him in his un-kept bachelor abode, you make a fuss of tidying it up.
“This table is caked with dust oh! Darling, how do you sleep on this nasty bed, let me air your blankets” and the song continues….”darling you should have told me you have dirty dishes, I would have come running”. Stupid girl!
Coming Home Drunk and Silly
The guy soon realizes that there’s no need for paying for the clean-up for you will sweat blood to see that you clean his clothes, cook his food and scrub his floor. Soon he gets the idea that a woman, girlfriend or wife is only as good as her housekeeping skills. Marriage becomes an extension even an upgrade of the dating, so that the more you scrub, the better wife you are.
The more nails you break cleaning his clothes and doing other house chores, the more useful you get. As a noble helper, you even polish his shoes. Before long, the guy learns to only use his hands in the office or at the pub where they are loyally needed to hit the keyboard and to drain beer from a glass.
The question is not how much a man does at home but how much he does for himself. It is less of household chores and roles than self – reliance. Liberated men are self dependent and are not so fastidious about traditional roles. They see their wives as human beings and part of them, not a working machine which just needs a couple of minutes servicing when she retires to bed with all bones aching. It is unhealthy to have another person as your crutch. Closed – minded men should learn to do things, at least something, for their own good. Can today’s life work if we follow yesterday’s rules?
Check, for example, in developed countries, a man will fix a meal without feeling emasculated and the woman will bring home the bacon without mourning the days when men were the sole providers. They share all duties. Their men learnt about it from their fathers. They were practically taught that women are to be loved and respected.
Luckily, Nairobian men have been liberated. Shopping around town, you will not miss men pushing trolleys full of shopping. At the cashier, his woman will flash out notes to settle the bill. Other men arrogantly load their frontage with a good baby carrier, smiling and talking sweet nothings to their little ones.
My friend, Martin, intimated to me that men fear marrying learned, highly ranking women, not because men are intimidated by them but because these women have neither the time nor the desire to spoil them. That, to an African man, a wife should be home early to receive him when he gets home, drunk and silly.
I attended a function recently. One guy said he couldn’t rise up to pick a drink. Obviously, he was aggressively opposed and attacked by all the ladies who were present. But when he tabled his reasons, we all calmed down and submissively served him whatever he asked for. He belongs to the era of “a woman must do all for me!” Regrettably, he has refused to change with age and annoyingly think, like his wife, all women should run to his service.
It is high time men stopped looking at house chores as the women’s turf; it is somewhat demeaning for a man. I have heard so many men say that they can’t cook even if their wives got sick. They would prefer to eat junk. Sickly! And this class of men have stretched arms as far as ulayani.
I bet most women will remember an incident when they got home late, found the man seated busy but infuriated on the internet or watching a movie. He is annoyed coz he is hungry. And he is hungry, not because you had gone shopping thus nothing was at home to cook, but coz you, as his woman, wasn’t present to make food for him. Isn’t it absurd? These are lock-minded men who have refused to unlock their thinking.
Men, should start thinking of their own independence. By all means, a couple should do things for each other but also each should do things for himself or herself. Everybody should carry their own weight.
Who is Smarter in this Paper, Money & Love for Fun Business?
Love, that sweet feeling, has become a matter of “who is smarter” in today’s dot-com era, a situation that has raised the question as to: What is wealth? As evidenced by hot-spot stories and comments at KSB, wealth has become associated with “Papers” Ulayani. That is, regardless of your age, you are hot, fresh and “date-able” if you have them papers. If your lover accompanies you back home and you venture into the streets of Nairobi, many Nairobians will be tempted to think that you are in for the money. I thought so too. Little do they know that the old “hottie” you are tightly holding may be your stamp to the “Green land” or paradise especially in Europe.
Who is fooling who in this scenario could be a very complicated question. According to how the reasoning goes, the aging woman or man will have enjoyed the fresh goodies by the time the stamp is done. That is to say, she/he will be, psychologically, two years or so younger. Isn’t that worth the special stamp?
In that situation, there is no user because it becomes a “do me, I do you” business deal. The case of the guy whose papers developed wings and “flew” is both interesting and unique. It is more of a hide and seek love game. The poor inexperienced guy didn’t understand that the oldie was a doer too. In their case, it was a question of who could touch the finishing line first and the young dude was clearly outdone.
But, playing with the mind of a young lover for the sake of getting them “papers” is inhuman and selfish. The freedom the “paper” offers is incomparable to the scars the betrayal leaves behind, the lost trust, the feeling of disgrace and distaste. Some of these misdeeds do stalk our lives and dismantle it later.
In Kenya, the “paper love” phenomena is diverse .To many people, especially the young and energetic youth, wealth is money. Nairobian boyz have become nuts with money, big cars, partying and elderly but “fat pocketed” women. This trend has become so notorious that you will find shameless youths advertising themselves in newspapers and accurately quoting their preferred age categories. In this case, fourty and above women are hot cakes. The youths are not ashamed that after the adverts have done their job and hooked them up, they will, in turn, become sex pests addicted to easy money and exposed to all kinds of dangers!
Young Kenyan blood looking for whites know where to pull them from – Salsa clubs. Recently in a club, a youthful dude jumped in for a Salsa dance with hands tightly locked as if to safe guard a white chick he was targeting beside him. They giggled and fondled before linking up in unison. What became immediately apparent was not their “love at first sight” but their age difference. The woman was an “oldie”, complete with wrinkles down her face and marked signs of senility dotting her thin body.
You Could Hit the Jack-Pot or get Packed in a Plane for Deportation
I pay my entrance fee and take a comfy and central seat to face the dance floor. In a short while, more similar couples approach. Salsa beats are vibrating, stealing away the evening. Both novice and veteran dancers give out their best as they strategically look for prey to be led to the Hotel bed later for hanyaring in exchange for cash. Life has changed and the boy prostitutes aka sex workers are doing it openly.
This is the famous Hearts Club in Moi avenue, best known as “Salsa Sunday Refugee”. The Club has free coaching and dancing sessions. For some reason, the coaches are all young boys and their trainees are women, most of them whites. As a spectator, I was in for a free dance. Salsa dancers are real entertainers. Interestingly, half of the boyz are hooked to white chicks. A clear observation is that their best Salsa moves continually earn them a ticket in these chick’s beds and after doing what they know best, they earn extra points to enable them drive their cars and weekend outs. It’s tragic to say the least! Young people are getting spoilt because of poverty and lack of opportunity. For them, hanyaring whites is a kind of profession and they do it in style.
The future-focused ones push for college education. That is, if they are from needy families. This leaves them with something to show after the oldies are placed out of the country. Those whose parents can afford school fees see no further than partying. They party and “bed-dance” more than studying. The oldies leave them both empty handed and empty minded. Those “fleshing up” with Kenyan Mamas are not luckier as the Mamas soon get bored or decide that it’s time to get faithful to their permanent partners. Don’t mind that these decadent youths are our Kesho’s leaders. It is a clear indication why we end up with half -baked , if not, useless leaders.
Girls are not better mannered. A recent research shows that university students are more frequent in the famous sex streets. Some go to an extent of sneaking in men in their college rooms during the day. A certain girl, whom I will call JJ, was quoted saying that “I am a designer girl, and to maintain my taste and style, I have to work extra, day and night”. JJ says that sometimes, she is forced to make out in her room to balance her studies and business. That’s to say, she studies in between clients.
Most of this fun-searching cartels are in marriage institutions. Women have, in recent times, followed the men’s bold step of having fun outside marriage. Some women are looking for money and some are looking for fun while, in the case of Ngambo, others are looking for papers. Whether in Kenya or in Stockholm, we are in the love era and, during the excursions, the fundamental issue is whether you will be smart enough to get what you want and get away unscathed or whether you will become another loser and get yourself packed in the plane for deportation.
If you are smart, you could get your papers and jump out. If you are slow, the woman could fly with your “paper baby” and leave you stranded and paperless. You could go down with an infection in Kenya in the process of doing a sick oldie who can no longer be done Ulayani or play your cards well and scoop the jack-pot by fixing an oldie on a Kenya sex tour and making away with Euros, Kronas or even Francs!