As a girl and later a young woman, I had always been passionate about human rights. I believe this was sparked by the folk stories I was told by my grandmother, mother and aunties or the cartoons I watched growing up. The stories always had a hero who saved the day by preventing bad things from happening or bad people from achieving their goals. Years later after joining high school, I had the courage to start my own Model United Nations club in order to strengthen my understanding of human rights. As the years went by, I noticed the plight of girls and women starting with my community. Girls seemed to take on most of the house chores whereas boys played with their friends. Within my extended family, I could notice that women in my family worked through-out the wee hours of the night from morning while men retired to bed early. It didn’t matter if all of them had a day job. Girls were not excluded either. We could only go to sleep once all the chores where done whereas the boys had retired to bed earlier. This was worse whenever we had visitors who could come any time of the day. To a large extent, this affected our school performance.
My mother who was born in the early 1960’s, a decade before the women in development era, took all this in her stride. Whereas my grandmother brought up her family with the notion that girls and boys are equal, the society being a patriarchal society operated in a different way. As a result, my mother was expected to live up to the society’s expectations after she left home. This meant putting others before her and seeing men as more superior to women. Together with my aunties, their needs which included food, health care and opportunities for personal development always came second. I also saw majority of my aunties physically and emotionally abused. Sadly they were forced to stay in violent marriages because society would judge them harshly.
As I got older, I developed a closer relationship with my mother and grandmother who openly spoke to me about being a great woman. In their words, a great woman was an educated woman who was full of confidence, courage and had the passion to go after her dreams. As a shy girl, I remember one day when my mother told me that fear would make me lose out on many opportunities life had to offer. Through her words of encouragement, I felt like she was trying to achieve her dreams of having a fulfilled life through me. She also stressed that my generation unlike hers, was exposed to numerous opportunities which she encouraged me to go after.
Today, I am grateful to my grandmother and mother for guiding me through life by giving me advice that has propelled me to be a woman who is informed, inspired and full of purpose. Because of their guidance, I got the opportunity get university education and proceeded to be a women’s rights champion. As a result, I have had the opportunity to speak in various international forums and conferences as well as get recognized by organizations such as the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, the United Nations, the Unite States Institute of Peace. Presently, I empower girls and young women with skills, knowledge and information on women rights, gender equality and violence prevention through a non-profit organization I founded two years ago. I believe that it is my responsibility to empower the next generation of women leaders so as to pass the same mantle that my grandmother and mother passed to me. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Thanks to them, I now see a brighter future for women and girls in Kenya.