Featured Storyteller

KENYA: Our Leadership Must Be Remembered

Wamweru Imaya
Posted June 30, 2020 from Kenya
Photo © TAP Africa
Photo © TAP Africa

Wamweru Imaya on why COVID-19 is our chance to recognize women’s vital leadership in times of crisis. 

“After the crisis, will we look back and remember women’s incredible leadership and contribution during this time?

Right now, during the COVID-19 crisis, the unrelenting leadership of women has never been more apparent; and yet, there is a real risk that our contributions will not be recognized or remembered. The global pandemic, which has been likened to a third world war, is a rare opportunity to rally behind women and acknowledge our role in bringing the world back to normalcy and saving the lives of many. 

All around the world, women are taking on crucial caregiving duties, preparing meals for their families, cleaning, and even nursing those who are infected by the virus. Never mind that they too could become infected; women are still rising up and caring for their affected family members. 

In the villages, women traders are supplying fresh food and groceries to community members, ensuring that everyone is fed and life goes on. In local town centers, women who work as tailors are busy making masks and locally-made soap, ensuring that everyone gains access to these valuable, life-protecting items, at affordable prices. In fact, they are stepping in to fill gaps left by governments in providing subsidized hand-washing soap and masks! 

In the same spirit, women, who make up over 70% of the healthcare workforce, mainly as nurses and support staff, are on the front lines battling COVID-19 and saving the lives of their fellow men, women, and children, without pausing to think about how much they may be risking their own lives. 

The leadership and collaboration of women across the world, especially in times of crisis, is vital to rebuilding, and it must be celebrated. I think of the recent “Meal & Book” initiative in Nairobi, Kenya. A video call with four young women from Canada, Sierra Leone, the US, and Kenya led to an inspiring initiative that is mobilizing and organizing across borders. Dr. Ranjani Somayaji, Fridah Ndoro, Roopa Somayaji, Clara Fallone, Teresia Ndoti, and I spearheaded the project, both online and offline, bringing together local women traders, tailors, liquid-soap makers, technologists, journalists, and corporate leaders to support vulnerable girls at Moonlight Centre in Nairobi’s Dagoretti Corner. 

Working together on a fundraising campaign, these leaders have rallied women and men to donate to their cause, raising more than £2000 in just days, with an ultimate target of £2970. The initiative aims to run for three months, providing weekly food supplies, liquid soap, masks, sanitary pads, and books to 45 girls identified as most needy and at risk of starvation during the lockdown.

It is inspiring to see the liquid-soap maker preparing and packaging soap to be delivered to girls and their families. The tailor sitting down at her machine, cutting the pieces of cloth into shapes and sewing them together as masks, with care and precision, ensuring that the girls who wear them will be protected from coronavirus. The cereals trader packing rice, beans, and maize flour, as well as making the final packages for distribution to girls. The volunteers collecting the packages and delivering them at the girls’ doors, bringing hope of conquering the pandemic and resuming school…

Yet, on the other end, it is as powerful to see women reaching for their bank cards and donating to support groups of girls, every week for 3 months or more, while also contributing new ideas on how processes can be made more effective and efficient. 

Indeed, the solidarity of women and their ability to come together in sisterhood to support their communities and individual members, is on display all around the world. Many are innovatively creating ways to support families, friends, and countrymen, keeping hope alive and reassuring us of better times to come.

While it is true that many governments and agencies could do more to bring women’s voices to the table so they can be heard at this very crucial moment, women are nonetheless standing up and taking charge on their own. It is very encouraging to see that some of the countries that have done well in beating COVID-19—New Zealand, Germany, Taiwan, Finland—are women-led! How beautiful!

The unrelenting leadership of women across the globe in times of crisis must never be denied. We must ensure that, following COVID-19, we do not forget the contributions of women, as we have failed to recognize the contributions of so many. Certainly, stories have been written, songs have been sung, and poems have been recited in praise of women — yet, women continue to suffer and be demeaned, ignored, and disrespected.

Recently, I participated in a global Wiki-Edit-a-thon. We mobilized women around the world to review profiles of women pioneers on Wikipedia and edit them. It wasn’t a pleasant discovery to learn just how many high-achieving women pioneers’ stories had never been captured on Wikipedia: athletes, political leaders, activists, engineers, technologists, educationists, environmentalists, artists, and many more pioneers were discovered to have no presence online, with few having their profiles underwritten. I can’t help but think that the reason society rarely celebrates these important contributions is a fear-driven need to silence these powerful women and dim their light. 

I wonder, following the COVID-19 crisis, will we look back and remember women’s incredible leadership and contribution during this time? Or, as in the past, will we move on and simply forget the women heroes who were at the forefront of this fight and won?


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Comments 36

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Chi8629
Jun 30
Jun 30

Thank you for sharing Sister .

Wamweru Imaya
Jul 13
Jul 13

Thank you dear sister!

Jill Langhus
Jul 01
Jul 01

Congrats, Dear, Wamweru!

Keep up the great work.

I hope you're safe and well!?

XX

Wamweru Imaya
Jul 13
Jul 13

Thank you dear! Been a hectic few weeks. Finally home in Kenya, self-quarantining and am so so grateful.

Jill Langhus
Jul 13
Jul 13

You're very welcome, Love:-)

Yes, it sounds like it. Yay! I'm glad you're finally home.

XX

Congratulations, Wamweru! Please update us. Keep writing!

Wamweru Imaya
Jul 13
Jul 13

Thank you so much dear Karen. Let's read and write more.

Qurratulayn Khan
Jul 01
Jul 01

Hello dear,
congratulations and keep going :)
May God speed you
love

Wamweru Imaya
Jul 13
Jul 13

Thank you dear sister. Many blessings

Tamarack Verrall
Jul 01
Jul 01

Hello Wamweru,
So true that women are the ones stepping up to solve the emergencies that this virus has brought, along with all of the other world emergencies that you recount so well here. The details of this work being done deserve the respect of being acknowledged, and your report does justice and will hopefully be read by many, remain in the documentation that needs to continue, and into the world records as the truth of these times and throughout time. Wikipedia is famous for omitting women and it is great news that you and other women have been taking them to task. The hiding of our efforts and contributions has been an ongoing tactic to keep us from knowing how important our work as women has been. Your post undoes this erasure and is a rallying call for us all to document the work women are doing everywhere, every day.
In sisterhood,
Tam

Wamweru Imaya
Jul 13
Jul 13

Thank you Tam! I totally agree with you, we have a responsibility now more than ever to begin documenting the incredible work women all over the world are doing now during COVID-19 and always. Much love

Ponelo Kalonga
Jul 01
Jul 01

So inspiring Wamweru keep up the good work.

Wamweru Imaya
Jul 13
Jul 13

Thank you sister. Much love. Stay safe

ARREY- ECHI
Jul 01
Jul 01

Dear Wamweru,
Congratulations dear sis.

This is a very profound read celebrating women's incredible leadership especially in times of challenges. I have witnessed women do the unthinkable to ensure everyone is safe and good but often sidelined.

Keep writing and winning dear sis and well done for your recent project. Hope you are keeping safe.

Congratulations again.

Wamweru Imaya
Jul 13
Jul 13

Thank you sister. So true! Women are at the very front-line of this...it is only fair if we recognised it. Let their names never be forgotten. Many blessings

Arem
Jul 03
Jul 03

Hi Wamweru,
I hope you're well.
Thank you for sharing your story - I also shared it with my sister as you inspire us to all do better.
We need to keep the momentum going!
Take care! xx

Wamweru Imaya
Jul 13
Jul 13

Thank you so much dear Arem for reading and sharing. In sisterhood.

Stay safe

Oludolapo
Jul 04
Jul 04

Well done, sis

Wamweru Imaya
Jul 13
Jul 13

Thank you sister!

Bakhita.Atit
Jul 06
Jul 06

Such an energy Wamweru, lovely story there. I thing I need to tour Kenya well next time I visit. I should have met you. thanks for sharing that inspiring story.

Wamweru Imaya
Jul 13
Jul 13

Thank you dear. Would be happy to meet you when you are around next time. Welcome

Kika Katchunga
Jul 06
Jul 06

Hello MAMWERU
thank you for sharing this strong voice which fights for the well being of women; it is, wonderful I really like, you have all my support. good luck in your projects

Wamweru Imaya
Jul 13
Jul 13

Thank you Kika. Together in sisterhood. Keep going too.

bhavneetk73
Jul 06
Jul 06

Good going Wamweru
Keep inspiring
Thank you

Wamweru Imaya
Jul 13
Jul 13

Thank you dear one. Blessings

Adanna
Jul 07
Jul 07

Congratulations Wamweru!
Keep up the good work.

Love,
Adanna

Wamweru Imaya
Jul 13
Jul 13

Thank you Adanna dear. Stay safe

Chidimma
Jul 07
Jul 07

Congratulations Dear. Good work. More wining.

Millynairi
Jul 09
Jul 09

Congratulations dear Wamweru. I am proud of you. This is so inspiring.

Wamweru Imaya
Jul 13
Jul 13

Thank you Milly! Together in sisterhood

Elizabeth Ziro
Jul 12
Jul 12

Wow!
Very true insights and well articulated . Congratulations are in order Wamweru

Wamweru Imaya
Jul 13
Jul 13

Thank you Elizabeth. Great to hear from you

esther atosha
Jul 14
Jul 14

congratulations dear

Nini Mappo
Jul 17
Jul 17

Hello Wamweru,
Yours is the story that first brought me to World Pulse, shared by a friend:)
What is incredible about your story is how it acknowledges the contribution of every woman, in both their visible and invisible worlds. The fact that the unknown woman in the village is as much a leader as the one with a wiki page is really refreshing and empowering!

Your story paints the picture that if women stopped looking after their homes, families and communities, the whole society would crumble. It's as if, so to speak, women's leadership is the bedrock on which societies are built.

Thank you for paying such a comprehensive and informative tribute to all of us.

And congratulations!

Wamweru Imaya
Jul 17
Jul 17

Dear Nini, thank you for reading. Your comment is powerful and yes, I agree with you " women are the bedrock on which societies are built." In fact, in my assessment all women play such a crucial leadership role in society as role model, teachers, carers and all. If only we supported, encouraged, and recognised them some more?

ANJ ANA
Jul 31
Jul 31

Dear Wamweru,
Congratulations for your powerful sharing. Its so true that front liner are women who are leading the caring and serving sector and doing very diligent work. Its really commendable despite being forgotten or overseen time and again. But now i am sure the leadership will be counted as we (women) will write our story and we celebrate our HEROS. We acknowledge our (women's ) work and contributions.
Cheers,
anjana