HOW MANY ANIMALS CAN YOU SEE?
Recently in my country Kenya, one of the powerful female cabinet secretaries resigned because of alleged massive corruption in the ministry she is heading. It elicited a lot of public reaction and online discussions. I felt that the attacks on her were too much and too personal. My recent reading of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead opened my eyes to understand why this was happening. ‘When a woman excels in her job, both male and female coworkers will remark that she may be accomplishing a lot but is “not as well liked by her peers”. She is probably also “too aggressive,” “not a team player”, “a bit political”, “can’t be trusted ”or“ difficult”.’ Today I read a post on World Pulse and remembered something.
On 14/11/2015, In one of the leadership Whatsapp groups, someone posted a photo shopped picture of the cabinet secretary in a bra and pant captioned “Ninakula pesa yenu mtafanya?” (I will eat your money, what will you do? )
It disturbed me that the person who posted is a national youth leader of one of the political parties in Kenya. I decided to reach him via his private whatsapp: Here is my conversation Tom (Not real name).
Me: I posted the photo he had posted on the group of a hundred or so members
Me: What value does an individual gain from derogatively sexualizing a woman online?
Tom: wawah …madam pls…eat slowly, we wont do anything (At this juncture I think he was imagining that I am excited by the photo he shared)
Tom: It is all over imagine
Me: My understanding of respect for women is that when an individual shares such it speaks a lot about their personal character and attitude towards women. Being all over is no excuse for an individual to further such unless the mind is being remote controlled by crowds.
Tom: I’m sorry dear
Me: To avoid your mother, wife, sister, daughter to face vulnerability to sexualization, you have to practice the same towards other women. Change begins with individuals and men more so a leader like you needs to set the example. That’s where social change is anchored. We seem to have a long way as Kenyan youth but it’s never too late to set a new trend
Tom: Sent me the famous photo with an elephant, horse and other animals: The one where you are asked “How many animals can you see?’
Tom: Chemsha bongo (Tease your brain)
Me: I am not going to Chemsha bongo(Tease my brain) when you and I are supposed to be having a serious dialogue as leaders who respect women on digital platforms and our collective role as young leaders
Tom: The picture was posted by **** and the youngest member of the county executive committee in **** County on **** forum
Me: I am referring to you reposting. Not the other person. We as leaders cannot just do queer things because other people are doing them. I have seen the post that you, Tom has posted. Is this a copy paste story of monkey see, monkey do? Then what are you spreading as a youth leader?
Me: We as leaders must respect ourselves and stand up for our actions. On matters of respect for women, we can’t say that we didn’t do it coz others didn’t. Otherwise we will rape, maim, etc coz others are doing it.
The conversation ended on 22:35 hours. I have never had from him again, nor have I seen him post anything derogative on a woman. I hope that my message to him got home and he will be able to serve with a different perspective towards women. Tom is in his thirties probably 33 or 34 and is in various Whatsapp groups where he can influence directly or indirectly.
Every leadership opportunity gives everyone a chance to promote and protect the rights and dignity of women.