At Risk of Premature Death: Kenya’s Ambitious Young Women

Posted October 10, 2018 from Kenya
Presenting at a Conflict Resolution Summit
Addressing emerging new threats to peace and security in the modern age.

‘I got myself a sponsor’ by Teairra Mari, one of billboards top 100 hits songs in the US was my favorite song in 2013. Its beautiful lyrics, melodious tune and ecstatic rhythm defined a young woman who was in pursuit of going after what she wants irrespective of society’s beliefs and norms. Little did I know that a ‘sponsor culture’ would become a sort after and glorified phenomenon 5 years down the line. I was a young woman inspired by dazzling modern pop culture. I was passionate about life and willing to do whatever it took to achieve greatness and success. After all, this was the dream of all millennial young women who felt that they had the universe in the palm of their hand. Walking down memory lane, the 2000’s was an awakening period for all women. Our inspiration came from diverse generations of successful women. From Oprah Winfrey to Beyoncé Knowles who had it all.

I grew up in a patriarchal society where the low socio-economic status of women impeded their development and significantly reduced their chances of success. Because of this phenomenon, I was determined to change the status quo. The new generation of women, mostly young, decided that enough was enough. We were in the era of the ‘girl child’. A lot of focus was on empowering the girl child and providing opportunities for us to develop our fullest potential. Girl child empowerment programs flourished through financial, psychological and intellectual investment and support.  We were going to overcome obstacles that generations before us were unable to overcome. Life’s ever-growing challenges forced us to take up opportunities that came our way. Some opportunities were simplistic and easy to attain with short term results, whereas others were hard and complex with long term results. I chose to pick the latter. Why? because I was privileged enough to have a strict mother who didn’t believe in shortcuts and nurtured us with norms that we were to live by. This is in addition to being brought up in a religious Christian background.

10 years down the line, a lot has change. A vibrant, determined and unbowed generation of young women who have benefited from years of investment in the girl child have come to the lime light. The new generation of young women is challenging society’s cultural norms. The advent of the internet and Kenyan’s technological revolution has exposed us to the lives of reality tv stars like Kim Kardashian. This urban culture and modern trappings of a glamorous life has attracted the attention of a significant number of young women like myself all over the world. Kenya not being left behind. The sad reality is that the true life of reality stars behind the scenes is not shown. However, more and more young women in Kenya are attracted by this lifestyle. The desire to amass wealth and live luxurious lifestyle has become the norm rather than the exception. Today’s young women commonly referred to as ‘Slay Queens’, mostly below thirty years of age are smart, know their worth and are able to negotiate their way to anything. Sadly, this comes with several challenges which have turned to be life threatening. In the last 5 years young women of a certain age, class and living a glamours life have lost their lives under mysterious circumstances. Most of them sexually abused and then murdered.

Empowered and ambitious young women are seen to challenge asymmetrical power dynamics. These power dynamics are reflected in Kenya’s patriarchal society. A significant number  are going after what they want and making difficult decisions concerning their lives. This is something that previous generations did not have the courage to do. As a result, they are exposed to harm’s way and life-threatening situations. According to Kenya’s police crime report 2018, crime incidents increased by 1,448 cases in the first quarter of 2018 hitting 21,263 as compared to 19,815 that were registered in 2017. The report further says that in the same year, 1,213 men were reported to have committed murders compared to 222 women. More young women lare at risk of facing death because of their conviction, nurtured by a strong resolve to go after what they want and achieve their desired goal irrespective of the consequences.

This emerging situation is a new threat to security in the life of a young and determined go getter type of woman. I am that go getter type of woman. The reality is that a growing number of girls and young women are being empowered, and a significant number are choosing the easiest and fastest route to success. We may all not agree with this notion, but either way, they need to be protected from all forms of violence. They have a right to life. This begs the question; how should the society address the threats to peace and security facing its upcoming urban ambitious young women? Are young women becoming too self-aware and ambitious for their own good?  Perhaps young men don’t feel empowered enough to handle today’s modern young woman. There is an urgent need for a conversation on cultural dynamism in addressing Kenya’s patriarchal culture. This might bring to light issues that need to be addressed and values that needs to be instilled in Kenya’s young, vibrant, current and future generations. I believe that security experts and practitioners can address this from a policy perspective by developing new age peace interventions to compliment today’s urban culture. This threat to peace and security has the potential of spilling over because of common and shared cultures among diverse African societies. As a peace advocate, I am inspired by Arthur Ashe’s quote of ‘starting where you are, using what you have and doing what you can’ to create awareness and champion an end to violence targeted at Kenya’s young, determined and ambitious young women. After all is said and done, we need to create a safe future for our sisters and daughters who will inherit our determination to be the best that they can be.

This post was submitted in response to The Future of Security Is Women .

Comments 4

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Oct 12
Oct 12

Hi Yvone,

Thanks for sharing your interesting, but disturbing post. I'm very pleased to hear that the younger generations are questioning beliefs and systems for sure, but the increase in crime rate is definitely scary. When you say that a lot of women are taking the easiest and quickest way to success, what do you mean? I think it's great that they want to be successful and achieve their goals, but I'm really wondering what you mean by this. How do you feel is the best way to provide a safe future for girls and women in Kenya?

Hope you're having a great day, and good luck with your story submission!

Oct 14
Oct 14

Thank you so much JLANGHUS for your kind words and support. Yes, it is great that young women mostly in the university are going after success. However, they are preyed upon by older men mostly powerful politicians, media personalities etc who offer them a lot of money, luxuries and many other material things. Sadly a significant number of them end up murdered under mysterious circumstances. This is something that we are trying to deal with as a country.

Lily Habesha
Nov 11
Nov 11

HEy dear,
Thank you for sharing this story. As I'm very close to Kenya and visiting there often, I know about the young girls, I know their passion and I know they risk their lives to have what they want. As an Ethiopian, all things was so scary for me when I lived there. The technology has added to all this , in their boldness and ready to jump into success.
Sawing this before it happens, I wrote a book: "My Online Dates." to protect the young adult on year 2012. Tech is good, but we need to use it with wisdom, or else will lead us to many dangerous situations.

Polea Sanna


Mauwa Brigitte
Dec 07
Dec 07

Thank you for sharing your story for women, girls they want too much in life. Have you ever heard of Resolution 1325 and 1820 of the United States National Security Council? To defend the cases of the woman, girl and even punished all those perpetrators of violent crimes on any form. That all these women, girls must be able to break the silence by denouncing all these punishable acts by law for safety in general.