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Sunday, December 23, 2012

YWLI chosen 13!


The bi-annual feminist leadership institute conducted by the Young Women’s Leadership Institute-Kenya  is intended to run from November 2012 to April 2013.The theme of the three phase training is ‘My personal is Political; My power to influence change.’

The first session took place at the Lake Naivasha Country Club from the 28th of November to the 30th of November 2012. The participants are  young women leaders aged between 20-27 years who are already exercising leadership in their own way in their communities, institutions of learning or work place.(find their profiles here shortly)

As one of the lucky participants, I had the unique pleasure of interacting with these remarkable young women and our facilitators during the relatively short stay in Naivasha. The first session covered issues pertaining to Personal Empowerment & Gender and Feminism. I must say those are never the easiest topics to begin such an intense program but we made do and had lots of laughs and tears too while at it!

Every morning at around 6.30; we would ‘all’ meet for morning stretches. I am not really a sporty person especially in the morning and few of us rarely showed up for this activity. Our gym instructor-Jane, who also happened to be one of the 13 participants made me and a few others do our share of morning exercise when she did see us ;alone in the gym for 30 or so minutes!!!Am working on actually making it for the groups stretches next time…definitely beats working out alone!!!

Each day had a different facilitator covering a different topic though centered on the overall topic of discussion. I thoroughly enjoyed group work and group/individual presentations. I am always amazed at how differently individuals view the world, or more so how the same painting may mean very different things to people in the same room! In the evenings we enjoyed the warmth of a borne-fire together while we watched ‘For Coloured Girls’ or ready poems from a collection of poets mostly women who share their daily life experience or just chilled sipping some exotic drinks that the lovely club had to offer us while soaking the beautiful serene environs.

Of all the remarkable things that I learnt, shared or were reaffirmed to me, the most extraordinary thing that I took home with me other than adding a discipleship of new found friends was learning how to eat my frogs! Granted, we all have those things, people, experiences that hinder us from moving forward. We often know them but we are not always honest with ourselves to acknowledge them and deal with them accordingly and effectively. Seating quietly under a tree and accepting to be totally honest with myself I discovered stuff that I may not have taken as seriously as I needed to have, but those things have a way of limiting my potential and I decided there and then that they hurt…and they hurt like hell…but I have the power to accept them and the courage to deal with them effectively to avoid the paralysis they sometime cause me! I hate frogs, I fear frogs, I would scream if I saw one dead or alive but I am learning constantly how to eat  my frogs and refuse to be scared, paralyzed or limited by my life’s frogs!!!

Looking forward to the next session scheduled for the 26th to the 28th of February 2013!!!Till then let’s keep eating those frogs’ ladies!!!



By Mildred Ngesa poems 2012-Addis Ababa


When you absorb so much

Then give even more

When you hold everything

With no arms of steel

Don’t worry, it’s a courage thing

It comes with the boobs!


When you fight so hard

To love even harder

When you lose so much

To save so little

Don’t worry, it’s a love thing

It comes with the boobs!


When you work so hard

To hold the kin firm

When you give it all

To keep folks close

Don’t worry, it’s a family thing

It comes with the boobs!


When you laugh so hard

To cry even longer

When you dance so much

Then tumble even further

Don’t worry, it’s a heart thing

It comes with the boobs!


When you try so much

To look good and right

When you act so much

To be whom you are not

Don’t worry it’s a fad thing

It comes with the boobs!


When you bleed so much

To live each month

When you gain so much

From gallons that you lose

Don’t worry, it’s a girl thing

It comes with the boobs!


Addis Ababa 2012

Mildred Ngesa Poems 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Exuberant Eunice

 Eunice Kilonzo is not your average 23 year old! I had the distinct honor and privileged of spending close to a week with her and couldn't help but share this young ladies world view...here is a sneak peek into her world in her own words.find more of her in from her award winning blog I am not my Tribe...

My Heritage:
I am born and raised in Mombasa in a family of three; my mother and my younger sister.  I went to school in Mombasa; I am currently at the University of Nairobi where I am pursuing Bachelor of Arts (Political Science, Communication and Literature)
My Passion:
I am passionate about Kenya and more so the issue of Tribalism. I talk, write, tweet, Facebook etc on and about Tribalism and more so its salient effects if let to breed in our society. I discovered right from primary school but did not think much about it then how people would talk and label others by tribes.  Up until in 2008 when I saw the devastating effects tribe/ethnicity had in Kenya following the 2007 disputed elections. People suggested that there were other contributing factors, I agree but tribe was one of the prominent ones.
How it all began:
I had finished High School in 2007 and my aunt got me a phone (Nokia 2630) that was internet enabled. I had joined Facebook and I would put up notes on issues of tribalism, ethnicity and peace. I read about the Rwanda Genocide, more so because of its proximity to Kenya. I was terrified at the extent tribe would lead nations to wipe out its people. This sparked my passion tenfold.
I would research from the phone, buy newspapers and try to see what people other were saying about tribalism as well as engaged people in discussions. I particularly liked Mutahi Ngunyi’s works in the Daily Nation, to date, though I have not met him, I feel we think alike, I consider him my ‘virtual’ mentor.
I was at the time managing my mother's retail shop and I would talk to customers to hear what they thought about the 2007-2008 violence, its causes and views on tribalism. I was shocked at the level of disapproval some of the people had about the chaos, the grudges some had about certain communities as well as what they were planning to do in the next elections. For some reason, I found myself talking and telling them about tribalism and tried being a 'Kofi Annan' of sorts, ambitious? Could be but it felt it was the only thing I could do then. This is when I eventually begun my blog: I AM NOT MY TRIBE. This was in mid 2008,a year before joining campus.
Our Humble Beginnings:
I did not know much about the internet or how to manage a blog. I made mistakes, especially on posting and but with time, I would go to the cyber and learnt my way around blogging. In campus, I discovered that tribalism thrived and existed. In the students elections, tribalism would glare its ugly face and I personally heard and saw students who were threatened not to run against their fellow kinsmen, but give up their dream for a ‘preferred candidate’. I couldn’t understand this; I remember talking to one of my classmates who had to step down after being coerced. I tried to ask him to go back and reclaim his position but he just put it bluntly, “the last thing I want Eunice is to be isolated, it could get me finished here”. I then took it upon myself to talk to the kingpins of campus. Luckily most of them were my classmates while others we had mutual friends. I used this to my advantage. I would casually talk to them and ask about their ‘followers’ and what that meant to them…I would them tactfully talk to them about embracing other communities as they also had something to offer. Most of them were shocked by this suggestion, using the national politics to justify their course of actions. A few who saw sense in my thoughts and in as much they would not accept it publicly, they accommodated other tribes.
We’ve come a long way:
Whenever I would leave class, I would see posters of student’s communities asking for a meeting with their people. Out of curiosity I attended one such event and the agenda revolved around ‘protecting our community, not having boyfriends/girlfriends from those people and how they would reach out to their community leaders for some cash for non-existent projects in campus’. I couldn’t let this continue, so I begun bringing this posters down; in tunnels, hostels anywhere I found them. Now those who know campus, understand the role of goons, these posters would be put up by goons who would watch over them, I have seen what they did to those who either stuck their posters on top of those by the goons or worse still remove them. I was confronted by the goons who threatened to beat me and raid my room if I kept undoing their work.
Its true what they say, better safe than sorry, I took another approach. My roommates had known about my initiative and together we decided to print T-Shirts with the ideology: I AM NOT MY TRIBE. We first printed 10 T-shirts and wore them on a Friday, best part we were from different campuses so we got to spread our message. We generated interest not only in campus but in town.
Our biggest success:
Having people discuss issues of tribalism in campus. I would put up articles on notice boards in Main Campus, in the hostels and sign out with iamnotmytribe.blogspot.com/
This prompted and teased people who asked about the initiative. Another success was when the blog was nominated among the 4 top Political Blogs in the Bloggers Association of Kenya. In as much as I did not win the award, the nomination was a launch pad for the blog.
A third success is coming up with an Action Plan that runs up until April 2013. There are a few peace projects planned that you will all know in due time. In addition, I am glad to say that we have a board of six members, who will act as an advisory council as well as the initiatives interim secretariat.
I look at these as our learning experiences rather than impediments such as lack of proper training and skills on tackling issues of tribalism, Peace and conflict management. Another is it is still not easy to persuade people to have an overhaul in how they look at their tribes, which makes me wonder whether we are doing enough considering the many organizations which do the same things we do. The initiative as it is has a more virtual presence which is a challenge as we try to make it a physical entity, shaky but we hope to get there by mid next year.
But I won’t give up:
I won’t give up anytime soon. I will not stop if people are still marginalized because of their tribe, which is not something anyone chooses. I won’t give up if as Kenyans, we won’t emulate states such as Tanzania, Botswana who tribalism is a foreign term.  I wont give up if I can speak and write about it, in my small way. Yes, I won’t give up!
The Vision:
I envision us being a pace trend setter on issues of tribalism, peace and acceptance of all the 42+ tribes into one melting pot where there is no individual identity but a common powerful and colorful Kenya. It can be done, what can you do you think? Let me know!