Just How Far Are You Willing To Go As A Woman?

The Afrika way
Posted April 1, 2009 from Kenya

I recently read a story that depicted the extremes that women are willing to go please a man. The story made me realise just how much more needs to be done in the empowerment of women.

Meet Winny Chepn’geno’s, a 29 year-old mother from Kenya. She was a mother of a beautiful girl when she met and fell in love with the man who is now her husband. It has not been an easy journey for their love, and she had to sacrifice a lot, even her daughter to prove just how much she loved the man.

Though the man claimed he loved her, he refused to accept her daughter, just because she was not biologically his. He demanded that the mother get rid of her daughter, the girl could not be a part of the new family.

Winny was desperate to please the man, and her in laws. So she approached her relatives to take care of her daughter, but her explanation was not good enough for them, so they refused. Seeing no other option, she decided to kill her daughter, and considered the problem solved. She strangled her daughter and threw her into the river.

The law caught up with her, a few days later, and initially sentenced her to life imprisonment; the sentence was later reduced to 10 years. She had three children with the man and was pregnant with the fourth child by the time she went to prison, and she bore the little girl behind the prison walls.

Here is the twist in her story, immediately she was imprisonment the man abandoned his children, and has never visited her in jail. The children are now under the care of her relatives. She had sacrificed her daughter’s life, and was now languishing in prison, just to please a man. Yet, the man just brushed the dust off his feet and walked away to another life, after all she was just another woman. She has now served five years in prison, and it is another five years before she gets out. Her children have been forced to spend ten years of the most important stages of their lives without either of their parents.

Winny’s story made me realise just how much hold the patriarchal society still has on women today. Women still believe that a man makes them whole, without a man they cannot accomplish their purpose in life, why else would we go to such extents. We do not find identity in ourselves; identity is in a man. That’s how it was in the traditional patriarchal society, and sadly women still believe in such traditions.

I recently came across a literary book called the empire writes back, and as I read, I begun thinking of applying some strategies in the book to the gender campaign. The book talked about Abrogation (destroy) and Appropriation (reconstruct).

If I apply the above two concepts to the gender campaign, Abrogation means that women around the world should be encouraged to deny the privileged position of patriarchy; that a family cannot be happy without the man, that a woman is not whole without a man to love her. It means that women all around the world should refuse the categories that define the patriarchal structure. In most societies, patriarchy sets the standards; women need to rebel, against these standards. Rebellion! This can start right from home, at a personal level, from the women’s groups we are a part of, from the small projects we run, and in our organisation.

After Abrogation, then comes in appropriation, this means that we now set the standards; new standards in society, that divorce it from patriarchy. We consistently fight for the application of these standards to the point that patriarchy becomes extinct.

The two processes sound radical, revolutionary, but after coming across Winny’s story, I realised we may need a revolution. Patriarchy controls women, to the extent described in the above story. There are many women, whose stories have not been brought to the public. Winny is just one of the stories that has now been told.

There is no final destination for the gender campaign; the destination is the journey. As soon as a child is born the parents have a duty to inform the children that the only difference between the two genders is the biological details, and that does not make one better than the other.

Comments 3

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  • geedha
    Apr 01, 2009
    Apr 01, 2009

    thanks for introducing Abrogation and Appropriation ..winny's life is almost the same life of every women in patriarchal family structure. i think women are not aware of it . Only by challenging patriarchy and living an alternative life (which is of course very difficult) makes some change .I think destroying patriarchy means we have to challenge almost every structures in society like religion, family , literature, films almost everything . thanks for ur good story.

  • Sunita Basnet
    Apr 02, 2009
    Apr 02, 2009

    Dear Friend, Thanks for your story, keep it up. I am with you. While I was reading your story I was thinking myself. I was thinking about my country, Women and their situation. I read twice your story and found something which touched my heart. The sentence "he refused to accept her daughter, just because she was not biologically his" took my attention. Why children have to suffer because of their parents. This is not only about suffering but also about "life and death". To born as a daughter from her mother is not her fault but she was killed by her mother. Only saying "I love you" is not love and support from male. we women have to understand this. If they cannot support us in our difficulties why do we became pleased of them? Till When? We need to understand the true love and stand against Winny Chepn’geno’s husband? How long women and children have to suffer from those types of people? Thank you Sunita

  • Sophie Ngugi
    Apr 13, 2009
    Apr 13, 2009

    Hi there, The story of Winny is truly a sad one but not unique to her which makes it even more sad. That a woman's worth is determined by the men in her life is really extreme but yet it is in other subbtle ways inculcated in the society each and every day. That's why one is expected in many communities to clarify if she is Miss or Mrs and depending on her age respect given accordingly! That must have been what a disempowered Winny felt. The poor girl was standing in her way of her gaining respect in the community if the man left her. I feel women we have a role to play in assisting sisters to be able to feel the comfort of being who they are, do we always do that??? It depends, it would be nice to hear other people's experience of how they are or are not supported to accept themselves. May be Winny would not have been allowed in the Merry go rounds in her village if she is a divorced / seperated woman; may be her parents would not have take her back, may be her circle of friends would change (how many times have younger women been faced with loss friendships due to change or lack of change in marital status). I dont support her action, neither do I blame her, I just wish she was able to speak to someone supportive before it was too late. And an innocent girl is dead, this man should also have been put in jail!!!