When I started participating in the Women Forum, one of the activities in which Kubuka collaborates in Kibera (Kenya) addressed to women, I imagined these evenings consisting of girl talk about the divine and the human, as I do with my friends in Spain. Talking about our feelings, what keeps us from sleeping, and our illusions and desires… And yes, some of it is about that, but very soon you realize that African women with no resources are practically forbidden to feel, to complain, to have a future…
Today we want to give voice to Szinafa Mmboga (50 years), Ann Kanini (33), Maximilian Ndubi (26), Mary Mutuku (40), Mueni Colleague (38), Jacqueline Nduku (38), Elisabeth Koki (46) and Rose Akumu (38). These are Kenyan women who participate every Friday in this forum with the aim of not only reducing their lives to work and taking care of their children, with the purpose of having a space for them; where they can enjoy their talks, films and laughs. Moreover, it includes saving with the system of the Table Bank (each week they contribute a small amount of money that they save for future business) and also look for alternatives that will increase their economic capacity, which as you can imagine, is reduced.
Kenyan society does not think of their needs at any time for the sole reason of being women. In fact, such initiatives that try to empower the female gender are very necessary in countries like this because when talking to men you realize that women have no value here. They refer to her as an inferior being and believe that it is unthinkable that a woman can live without a man. And on the contrary, “if a man does not have a woman, he quickly finds another”, they answer.
This idea is still firmly entrenched in the minds of the women in Kenya, but fortunately there are others who have realized that having a man by their side should be like having a companion, not an obligation or a burden. Ann tells us, “ I left my husband because he was a child, I had to take care of everything and we were not happy. At least now I decide, I take care of my children and I fight for my family and me. “ This case and Mary´s, who also separated from her longtime partner, are the perfect examples of how Kenyan society is evolving, but as always, important changes take time. Jacky tells us that “the problem is that in Kenya there are no women with power, you can find some in politics, but there are no true leaders”. Next to us is Annita (7 years), the future of Kenya, daughter of Jacky, the youngest of four sisters. Her mother inculcates the importance of family and also tells Annita how her life has been with the desire that she not make the same mistakes as her.
Jacky, like a large number of women in Kenya, is a single mother. Becoming pregnant without being married is badly seen in this country and of course, the one that gets the worst outcome in this situation is always the woman. It seems that the man has nothing to do with it, as if the conception of a child were not up to two people, … It goes to such an extent that women now prefer to get HIV than to become pregnant because “the baby is visible, and instead, the disease can be hidden”, crushing logic… As you can see, the importance of “what people will say” is also a national sport in Kenya.
One of these Fridays we saw an African film where I really got to live through another situation that makes the defenselessness of women in Kenya even more evident. The story was about an orphaned girl whose relative was trying to abuse her. I was horrified and the girls told me that this movie only reflects the reality of the country. That is to say, that these situations are habitual and they are silenced within a macho society that does not allow the women to play a relevant role.
For all this, Kenyan women have a great challenge ahead. The main thing must be to allow themselves to dream and fight so that the dreams become reality, this will open their way so they can demonstrate their full value.
Because their dreams are big…
Szinafa would like to be able to open a clothing store just as Ann wants to prosper so she can bring her eldest son out of town. Max on the other hand, dreams of opening a clinic and exercising his nursing career, Mary wants to grow occupationally in order to have a big house for herself and her children and to continue paying their education. Colleta’s dream is to set up a hairdressing salon, and Elizabeth and Rose also want to undertake. Finally, Jacky works hard so that her four daughters can reach the university and buy a home.
María Simal is a Kubuka volunteer in Kenya.