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Both Sandra and Fridah are students at Egerton taking Gender, Women and Development Studies. The former is a first year, the latter a finalist. Here in an interview with OneStepBeyond they defend a course perpetually misunderstood by many folks.
Why did you choose this course?
FRIDAH: I would be lying if I say I intentionally chose this course. I didn’t know what it entailed and the term baffled me as well. It was my last option just to get done with the whole process of career choice. I always wanted to be a lawyer or a news anchor. But ¹K.U.C.C.U.P.S, gave me a placement in the course. I even tried an inter-faculty transfer but three weeks into the lectures I fell in love with the course. And disregarded the outcome of the transfer.
So why did I love the course? I love working with the society and that is the vertebral column of the course. I love the law, and for one to be an effective gender expert, the law ought to be in ones finger tips. So yes…I love the course since, in a special way it entails what I would gladly do even without getting paid – fight for the minority and give back to my community.
SANDRA: Over the years, it has been noted that gender issues are the main cause of deterioration of the economy in the society. After a deep contemplation, I decided to choose the course Gender, Women and Development Studies for a better economy and along it a better society.
Gender is a term baffling to many, majority think it is synonymous with women. Clear the air please.
FRIDAH: What many people do not understand is that there is a difference between sex and gender in the field of our study. Sex is the biological difference between a man and a woman that is, act of being male or female. Gender, on the other hand, are the culturally and socially constructed attributes and roles ascribed to human beings on the basis of their sex. Like men don’t cry..they are macho, providers… While women are just emotionally weak beings, who are nurturers and their place is in the kitchen. So gender is not women… It’s about both sexes. As a course, its inclusive of: The disabled,the aged,the marginalized. Its very wide and diverse.
SANDRA: Gender is a term that has been wrongly understood, defined and perceived by the society. Academically, gender is the socially and culturally constructed differences of either male or female. It should therefore be noted that in its study, we not only focus on the women but both women and men in the society.
What is the place of the male child and men within the frame of Gender, women and development studies?
FRIDAH: I begin by saying that the term ‘women’ was recently removed from the courses’ name, therefore it’s now GENDER AND DEVELOPMENT STUDIES. I began by saying that gender is about both sexes. For any community to embrace change, it should be understood that women are also important in the society, men have to be on the same page in this. This is because they are the policy makers, and they occupy the central position in leadership for any community. They therefore are the greatest agent in spreading the gospel of women emancipation from discrimination and insubordination by culture as a result of socialization. Therefore they are very important in the study.
SANDRA: The main picture or portrait that comes out when the male child is mentioned during the study is that they have dominated the society in various aspects such as beliefs, norms and rights. But this course gives the male a favourable and positive attention a much.
Discredit the idea that Gender, women and development studies is a walk over, unimportant field of study as many may put it?
FRIDAH: I have heard many say, “Gender is for lazy people, you guys have fewer units hence you should all have first class honours. It’s a walk over, it takes no effort in passing” and many other belittling statements. Let me make it known that so far, there are no first class honours in this year’s class. That is cumulative of first and second year’s transcripts. Third year’s transcripts are not yet out. There are a few people with resits too. Clearly, if it was so easy passing this course, the above shouldn’t be the case. Gender requires a lot of research, being at per with emerging issues and current world, reading so many theories, more than ten legal instruments which are wider than the constitution. Which need to be read, understood, interpreted, criticized, analysed individually. The constitution and the list is endless. I would say being in a Math class is easier than being in a gender class. In addition what’s easier? Being in an office dealing with numbers, or being in a community dealing with different people with different problems and sitting in late night meetings formulating laws that affect the society, the country and the world? Besides, every field of study has its challenges and gender is not an exception.
SANDRA: It’s quite saddening when you find out that the people who criticize this course are the same people who lack knowledge on the same. They are even incapable of defining the term gender to be precise. Gender, women and development studies is equally important as medicine, engineering and other noble courses. In the study of gender we get knowledge on gender issues, position of women in the society and how gender and development associate. As we all know knowledge is power and therefore the knowledge of gender as a study gives us the power to change the society and minds of people.
Media portrayal of women leaders in Kenya such as Ida Odinga, Rachael Ruto and Margaret Kenyatta tie their identity to their prominent husbands…how wrong is this?
FRIDAH: Its definite that the women mentioned above will automatically have their identity tied to their husbands which is counter productive in my opinion. Behind every successful man there’s a woman. Therefore, if the prominent individual does an unquestionably impeccable job, the woman will get the credit even though they may not have contributed even a minuscule effort in the success. Likewise, if the husband does a shoddy job then the wife will still share in the mud. The two are in a marriage no matter bad we want them to be two distinct individuals, they share everything. However, we have seen these women having their own initiatives. Which one way or another still gives credit to their husbands. A good example is the beyond zero campaign by Margaret Kenyatta. Which gave birth to the mobile clinics to bring the child mortality rate beyond zero. This is a personal initiative but still gives the husband more credit than she.
SANDRA: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a feminist, in one of her Ted talks said that it all starts by teaching our daughters that they all matter just as much as boys. Why teach your daughter to become a good wife and not a CEO and yet teach your son to become a good leader and not a good husband? The media is wrong when it identify’s a woman as a wife to a prominent person because they believe that the woman wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for her husband. They forget that for some reason, women are also capable of being prominent and own titles. A good example is Wangari Maathai, she was great and prominent with no help of a male figure.
What might be the gender logic behind setting lower cut-off points for ladies and slightly higher for men by K.U.C.C.P.S?
FRIDAH: We call it the affirmative action. In this context, it is set to ensure that no sex is discriminated against in terms of education. For the longest time in history the boy child has been the dominant figure in the institution of higher learning. This was so as there were many barriers that hindered the girl child from getting to that academic level, and some of these barriers are constant till date. These include but not limited to:
- Biological factors such as the menstrual cycle. Most girls in the marginalized areas are not privileged to have sanitary towels. This meant they stayed at home during that time of the month for at least for days every month while the boy child is in class. How much time is this girl losing from school. If not for the pads, then for the tremendous pain experienced during this time, the girl loses her time from school
Talk of domestic chores..when the boy child gets home and does whatever after school, the girl has chores to do. Cook, fetch water, collect firewood etc. No spare time for studies.
Boy preference, most parents especially less civilized would prefer the boy in school to a girl. After all won’t she get married and her academics will end up benefiting the husband?
FGM for communities that practice it. After the practice, the girl is ready for marriage and her education is cut short.
That to mention just but a few. Hence, the lower cut off points was meant to bridge such gaps. To ensure as many girls as boys attain university and college education. Once the gap is bridged then the affirmative ceases to have power. Hence this is not a forever practice.
SANDRA: K.U.C.C.P.S sets lower cut-off points for ladies to bring about what is known as gender equity. Over the years, it has been noted that the male perform better than the female and therefore K.U.C.C.P.S lowered the cut-off points for women to enable them get entries to university. In this case therefore, gender equity leads to gender equality.
Are you a feminist? What exactly is feminism? Bashing men?
FRIDAH: Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies, social movements that have a common goal; to define and establish political, economic and social equality for both men and women. It’s about seeking same treatment for both sexes without discriminating on either. Personally, I am not a feminist since I do not believe in equality but equity. Equality wages war on men as it goes against the status quo of both societal and biblical beliefs. In a great way it appears to victimize the woman and make the man responsible for all the misgivings of a woman. Which I do not entirely agree.
SANDRA: No. Feminism is not bashing men. It is the advocacy to change on how the world or society perceives women. It is not accompanied in making women stronger because women are already stronger. Rather,it involves putting the women’s rights on the ground of equality.
What a man can do a woman can do better. If a man can kill Osama, a woman should capture him alive. Is that what the statement means? Walk us through in light of gender equity and gender equality.
FRIDAH: What a man can do a woman can do better in my opinion is a saying that is overrated. Truth is, there are cooks that are women, but better male cooks, a good woman hairdresser but great men hairdressers. I believe anyone can be the best at what they do if they give it their all. But the truth of the matter is; there’s that which men are best at. Who in their homes change a bulb when their brother is around or work on electronics in the presence of a male figure? Do we not believe in men doing a better job in such areas? It’s not because a woman can’t, its just that they are geared towards that, just as women are geared towards nurturing. If it’s the reproductive roles, a woman will do an amazing job. She is wired that way. She is affectionate, loving, nurturing, she’s emotionally supportive. Does that dispute that men cannot thrive in such duties? No? It’s great if we would appreciate our special abilities. Allow the men to thrive where they are most comfortable and vice versa. This will create a harmonious living where we appreciate and support each other without competing. In my opinion Equity is key, fair and just treatment to all men and women. Equality honestly is not achievable and the quest for it is a lost battle.
SANDRA: “What a man can do a woman can do better” is just but a statement that is put to uphold and remind the women that they are capable of achieving whatever a man would have and even better. We’ve seen countries with female presidents being better than ones with male presidents such as President Joyce Banda of Malawi (April 7,2012-May 31,2014).
Comment on the progress of Kenyan women in terms of their legislative influence such as tenure, leadership positions and prestigious committee memberships.
FRIDAH: I feel as a country we are doing a good job. Though we have not attained the required threshold of 2/3rd gender rule. Legislative role is fundamental to the country and having women in such positionens ensures gender sensitive policies. So far, we have three female governors yet we had non in the previous government. This shows women’s leadership abilities are being recognized and appreciated. We have women senators and Nakuru prides to have ours in the senate. In a nutshell, women are no longer staying in their comfort zones as before, they are coming up and defying societal expectations and orientations to take up the challenge and proving worthy of the positions they take. Of course there are a few who are corrupt and tarnish the good image that has taken long to build, but hey…every family has that one black sheep.
SANDRA: The late Wangari Maathai said that the higher you go the lesser women you find. Kenyan women are fond of fearing to take charge in leadership positions and prestigious committee memberships, not because they don’t stand a chance but because of the view from the society.The society views women as mothers and wives but not leaders.
Finally, how important is this course to the continent right now? What are its contributions?
FRIDAH: Women are the core of every success, a home, a family and or a country. Therefore, it is important for them to be empowered economically, in terms of agriculture, leadership, education, environment and development as a whole. And gender studies is also about the above. This will lead to development in areas that have been ignored for a long time. They say educate a woman and you will have educated the whole community. Hence, gender studies allows for the unreached women to be reached and for the men to be in a position to support women in this great revolution.
SANDRA: The fact that the course deals with cultural change, women empowerment and gender mainstreaming is already an evidence of it being important and pregressive. The field of study widens our way of thinking about both men and women. It enables us to do away with cultural practices that destroy our society and also empower women in leadership all over the world.
THANK YOU FOR READING
¹ Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement System
Visiting Nairobi, as a first timer, is a pure baptism of fire. Surprising emotions always surface at the thought of the ‘real world’ in which we have newly entered. It’s usually a blend of anticipatory anxiety and excitement. The former outweighs the latter. It is a feeling of loss, of uncomfortable and unforseen struggle – It is this awful trepidation.
Stepping into this city, you are not the same person you were when you emanated from home. You are a total freak. You get to know parts of you you didn’t know existed. You look upon the new place as a curiosity and then also wonder if there is like a snake that might bite you.
Our greatest fear remains taking a step and not knowing where our foot will land. Furthermore, it is kind of a sacrilege to ask just anybody for directions. Those relatives who stay in Nairobi should come for us from the stage. Do not leave us all in the hands of vague directions – the number on the matatus we should board and the colour of kitambaa a ¹mama mboga in our supposed destination wears.
If possible, conduct city walk tours to us. Show us Mama Ngina Street from somewhere called Hilton. Take us to see the statue of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. You must also not forget to conduct some cultural orientations, we want it the way only a teenager can want something!
To you, coming from the city centre into the suburbs where you live is as easy as pie. But to us who lived their lives in the village, getting lost is something that happens to the best of us, the rest of us, the most seasoned travellers of us. We get disoriented sometimes.
You’ve never heard something like Jericho School of pickpockets yet there exist a slew of these professionals. They don’t come individually. They come as disgruntled party members looking for clearance to run as independents. It is an invasion.
These are folks whose part time job is body building, you freak at the sight of their muscles. They are not your yesterday’s ragged rascals, they are highly refined operatives, who are fashion conscious and well fed. They know how to tell the difference between someone from Kisumu and one from Kindaruma North.
Our abounding fear is always this impending firsthand experience with gentlemanly goons – “working middle class men”, doing some off-duty errands. You wonder where to keep your phone, before they can dip a huge chunk of their Mathare hands into your pockets.
Acting a Nairobian
To survive the pickpockets and muggers, you’ve got to fake it till you make it. Act like a nairobian. Pretend you are singing some random Sauti Sol song with hands flying high in the air. Be doing something rather than standing still creating an impression you are lost or waiting for someone. If you spot a male – with descriptions akin to pickpockets – greeting you in public, thrust his fist with yours mid-air – I mean give him very strong ‘gottas,’ ensure you are mumbling some words like ‘ fiti fiti mzae.’ And do remember this rule number one: wear close-to-dirty, unappealing old clothes.
¹ vegetable vendor
“If you can’t write your message in a sentence, you can’t say it in an hour.” -Dianna Booher
There is nothing as off-putting as having to endure an individual who says so much of what could otherwise be said in so little ways. I want to alleviate that by offering some inspirational, informative tips.
Let’s face it, we have seen or met mighty people – executives, professors, lawyers in courtrooms, presidents among others – blather on and on, clichè after clichè spewing forth from their mouths in conferences, courthouses or on national TV interviews. Even more, their sweeping hand motions making a bigger impact of nothingness.
Many people, left to their own devices, will not seem to be giving other parties the chance to speak in conversations. Little wonder then, what they spend so much time ‘asserting’ is something that could be reduced to a simple, open and shut case, a ten second kind of thing. A yes/no stuff.
I mean there is always a way we can express our ideas in so very few words to not put listeners in a boring position. You appear very common and ordinary to speak too much in a situation only a few words could do.
Speaking less to say more is a powerful tool. If you say more than necessary, you disempower yourself before whoever listens to you. Besides, we only have limited time to speak. There is no glory saying the same one thing in ten different versions. “No one ever complains about a speech being too short!” – Ira Hayes.
Law four of the 48 rules of power admonishes:
Always Say Less than Necessary;
When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control. Even if you are saying something banal, it will seem original if you make it vague, open-ended, and sphinxlike. Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less. The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish.
So I think if you want to become powerful and a good speaker, you have got to practice saying less. Find a way to put through your ideas in as few words as possible. You ultimately can end up speaking a whole lot while saying very little.
Even in the world of writing, of expressing ideas on papers or platforms, the greatest secret has always been editing, mostly reducing on the size of the article as much as you can. For example, it would be better if I could express the contents of this article in just two paragraphs, that could be absolutely amazing!
An elevator speech is a clear, brief message. The time it takes to ride an elevator/lift is normally 30 – 60 seconds hence the name elevator speech. You need to be restrictive and persuasive about your speech.
Speaking less to say more is a nobel skill. It comes handy during interviews. And you can also use it to create an interest in a project, idea, a product – or in yourself. Your message should be short enough to spark the listener’s interest in your idea, organization or background.
Let me stop here. The message is already on the wall and I don’t want to fall prey of my own making: DON’T SAY SOO MUCH YOU CAN SAY SO LITTLE. Tell the negative committee that meets inside your head to always say less.
Our big gorilla
At any given one moment, everyone is battling with something. To one, it may be athletic foot. To another; raising a moustache which is not responding. The US folks are battling gun violence, home ownership and cyber bulling. The Spaniards are right now into the Catalonia’s independence crisis. We in Africa – apart from nursing hunger and malaria and nascent democracies, are embroiled in a battle with a big gorilla – time keeping – and we score very low at it.
There is a saying: ‘Africans don’t wait for time, rather time waits Africans.’
Is it true that Africans don’t keep time?
I will get there when I get there as long as I get there – African proverb
The world has conspired to profile us as very bad people in some faculties.
One is that we don’t read. That if you want to hide something from us, put it in writing. Though this school of thought has successfully been discredited. The writing is on the walls and yes, we do read.
Yet, when it comes to the theory of time keeping, at least as I have made observations, we remain defenseless. While time management isn’t a difficult concept, it still eludes a large number of people today.
The only milestone
I will not equate everybody in this equation though. At least the corporate world here in Kenya is good on time keeping. Their compliance with corporate time keeping is optimal and I must recognize.
But what about the others?
If you plan a 7AM event and you want people to come, ensure you write in the poster that the meeting starts at 6AM. The one hour unannounced lag will automatically account for our time-insensitive nature. But this is bad. Anyone who comes past 7, with this kind opportunity is naturally jinxed, excuse us he is not an African!
Why would we not keep time?
Those who know me will tell I’m a consistent time keeper, I really try. No, I’m good at it – there is not a trying time keeper. Look, we have bible study sessions in our school every Wednesday. Running from 7 – 9 pm. I always make it clear to members from the beginning that I would report ten minutes to time and leave 5 minutes to time. When my departure time reaches, I excuse myself and leave, regardless of whether the pastor is in the middle of praying for South Sudan or IEBC.
If I extend, I would not be able to read my accounting and practice math. I would not be able to write my blog, or read a novel. Sleep will catch up with me.
A story is told that our ancestors did not have watches and therefore waited for the moon, the sun and the rooster’s crow to tell them time. This could be misleading yet, it has trickled down on us.
Some come late to meetings because they have been hardwired to do so. They don’t appreciate the value of time. To them, they have the whole world at their disposal. Or they are waiting not to be the first to come late! Ridiculous. If you depend on others’s time keeping, you gonna have a bad time.
Importance of keeping time
We regain a kind of paradise when we stick to time. It allows a team to move with a uniform progression into the next activities scheduled. If people come late, the group will stop from time to time welcoming you and repeating on the things already discussed. Woe betide you if you this guy who always drag people behind. Hope is that you can change after reading this article.
It creates a good impression to keep time. Group members will know you are reliable, organized, and have ability to plan ahead.Good impression will create trust and confidence between you and others.
We must realise that keeping time shows respect. It also shows that you are a person of integrity. We have to learn to value time. So, if you want to be the greatest soul on earth, keep time.
How to keep time
By organizing, prioritizing and managing your time more effectively, you’ll be able to get through more in the day.
What to do when you will be late
Unplanned emergencies can always rear their ugly face between you and the impending meeting. Let your team leader know in advance you would be late. If possible, make a projection that you would be late by how many minutes. When you finally arrive, make an apology (in a way you don’t interrupt the discussion). Ask to be shown what you missed and what next.
We can’t imagine a life without time keeping. Time is a scarce resource. So, if you want to be great, learn to keep time.
When in second year, I got possessed with a crazy idea: that I could work at grassroots level to bring about change. To accentuate that idea, I thought of building something – a leadership motivational organization.
This way, I would interact with young people in high schools and colleges and inspire them and help unlock their basic human resources. And cause them to believe in themselves. And overcome the often downtrodding limiting beliefs.
Have always believed what is as obvious to me is as obvious to everybody else. If I can drive an organization, anyone can. When I was translating the thought of forming the organization into a material thing, I began first, personally then by building trust and engagements.
I identified two people – first a gentleman. We beavered away at creating the vision statement, mission, excellent objectives and relevant core values. We created several names for the organization which did not inspire us all together until we settled for African Transformational Group (ATG). I had initially proposed OneStepBeyond as the name but gave it up to have the suggestion of my partner count.
When we felt overwhelmed with the thinking, we sourced for a third party, this time a lady. We wanted to make it serious so we sent out a call for application on school’s Facebook page. But we eventually got her through referral.
She being a student of English and Literauture, we were elated her proficiency would give the organization an edge. We quickly gave ourselves tittles to get recognition for being awesome. I was the Founder – yes the founder of a piece of paper with a company name on it! The lad was the CEO, the lady the Director of Programs – very big tittles indeed.
With the power of three, we begun well with enough gusto. Approached a couple of professors to play oversight with the notion they would become our patrons. But, majority were both disinterested and busy. They had their time wholly earmarked for polishing their magnum opus – researches that are not only bizarre but also fairly impenetrable to the layman. Things like ‘The propulsion parameters of weaver bird’s poop,’ ‘ Which can jump higher: the dog flea or the cat flea?’ or ‘Impact of wet underwear on thermoregulatory responses and thermal comfort in the cold.’
So, in the issue of the patron, we decided to let go and did not seem to have the willpower to take it a step beyond. We depended on ourselves henceforward.
After several days writing literature and developing excellent organizational rubric, the grit of my two partners begun to wane, their strength demonstrated at the outset disappeared into nothingness. When we started out, we settled on an agreement that we would adhere strictly to the time of meetings which only became a fairy tale.
When I set out to understand why my partners gave up, I found they thought their 20s don’t count. That they are tender and delicate for corporate intricacies.
This is a dominant characteristic of the millenials – people from the generation born in the 1980s to mid 1990s. We just don’t believe we are old enough to build something up. That our decisions can’t count.
I find this totally compromising to the advantages the 21st century has put us all in. We are right at the cutting edge of technology and modern conveniences. We even read from our phones. We are constantly exposed to social media.
The key to greatness as young folks lies in the ability to confront our uneasiness and sometimes the all-consuming feeling that we are inadequate. We are not bound to start perfectly but if we remain long enough on course, we might get adapted to the often limiting sharp elbows or the occasional blind-side hits.
Plus if you’re someone who has always wanted to follow your dreams but never gained any traction, here is an idea: the people you bring in matters a lot. It is not their proficiency that counts but the often ignored soft skills like commitment, drive, grit and passion that really count. In other words, the ability to practice the subtle art of going one step beyond.
When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Note: Don’t ask what I’ve built. It’s an account of my wound and scars of a failed mission and how we can all avoid it.
One of the greatest growth lessons I was introduced to in 2011, while on a leadership exchange programme in the States was this: Be comfortable being uncomfortable.
It’s a mind-blowing phrase. And one of the ideas neglected too often by serious people: we spend too much time acquiring technical skills, but too less practicing the one virtue that will make those skills effective in the world.
Recently, my American mom – my host mom – in one of her occasional mentorship emails, reminded me to remember and practice the power of this wonderful idea (I shared with her my fascination with it immediately I was introduced).
I want to copy here below part of her email which I think will provide a greater insight:
…So, don’t ever get too discouraged by the hardness of it all. Or, by the often expressed negativity of others that may surround you (we are ALL dealing with this in today’s world- those voices of a small minority seem to drown the voices of so many doing good too often, and we can’t let those voices dominate!)
No one ever said it would be easy.
Remember the bold statement: “Get comfortable being uncomfortable”
I must confess I think of that saying several times a day as so many things I too am doing have made me feel very uncomfortable.
And yet I have forged ahead as I know bigger and more important things are at stake, than me being worried about myself, or feeling uncomfortable, or unpopular.
But, it is those kids/people who stick with it even when it gets really really hard, that ultimately change not only themselves. But positively impact the lives of their loved ones, their future, and ultimately the world around them! (Like Martin Luther King, Ghandi, … and other great leaders from our past).
Practically, no one wants to relish the thought of feeling uncomfortable when opportunities exist for giving up. Yet, majority of achievers have done so under the hardest of circumstances.
The hardness of it all is a blessing in disguise. It comes to help us open up to unimaginable possibilities, being vulnerable to unexpected changes, being compassionate with ourselves when times are tough, giving ourselves some extra love and kindness no matter what happens, and being grateful for the opportunity to experience it all.
When our view of the world as a comfortable place, or as a certain type of place, has been shattered, we are forced to restart our perspective on things. We suddenly have the opportunity to look out to the periphery and see things with a fresh set of beginner’s eyes again, which is extremely beneficial to our personal and professional growth.
Personally, most of the things I try to do often gets uncomfortable. While writing this blog always seem to come natural to me, sometimes stories don’t come at all. But I don’t fail to show up. I develop mental toughness, I celebrate the situation and make fun out of it. I go one step beyond. That hardship becomes my mental resistance training.
The underlying secret is to completely embrace reality and the broad range of experiences we encounter on the journey of life, taking the good with the bad. This includes all of our emotions, all of our ups and downs, all of our blissful moments and painful ones, and the entirety of everything in between. Life is not just rainbows and butterflies. It’s intricate, complicated, and remarkable.
Remember these words: No one ever said it would be easy.
The last article I sent revolved around the holy grails of nairobians and their yuppie culture. I’m back with another one taking a skewed look into the annoying habit of city dwellers bothering the locals with Kiswahili and English when they visit home.
I’ve always insisted that those who claim to have been exposed and infused with city mannerisms to speak with me in our dholuo so long as we are in the village.
Last month I was on elections upcountry and a certain teacher’s training college boy decided to engage me in English amidst locals who barely understood us.
The situation got so bad I stopped him and asked that I would appreciate if he could use mother tongue so as not to put people in an awkward social situation.
Whenever I go home, I always notice how different I am from the rest of the pack. My brilliance stands out, courtesy of socialization I get from libraries and media and people. I come to see how superficial and futile are most people’s thoughts, how narrow their ideas, how mean their sentiments, how perverse their opinions, and how much of error there is in most of them.
Yet, I don’t want to assert my brilliance by speaking in languages they don’t understand. I want to remain in the village, act in the village, do whatsoever is needful, and yet remain transcendental, aloof, detached, a lotus flower in the pond.
It speaks to a certain lack of culture, in fact, to launch into a language which you know for a fact the people around you don’t understand, especially at a public forum.
City dwellers be very careful when you visit home not to put people surrounded by goats, cows and chickens into an unnecessary challenging spot.
My biggest beef with you is that you never want to speak our mother tongue. There are some stupid folks raised in towns who think that not knowing mother tongue is the embodiment of civilisation, the pinnacle of coolness and ultimate marker of intelligence. But their heads are emptier than a divorced single father’s kitchen cabinet.
I love my language, I love the way my people are. I love the way we look, the way we act, the deeply descriptive expressions that come from speaking vernacular – I love it all.
It’s a good thing, I think, when you can speak English – and Kiswahili, but it turns negative when you insist on speaking it everywhere. It shows you are not interested in communication. You are interested in manifesting pride.