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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Mara Experience…

The Second Bi-annual Feminist Leadership Institute

I have never been to Narok; let alone the world famed Maasai Mara, so when I received the notification that the second YWLI Bi-annual Feminist Leadership Institute was to take place at the prestigious Keekorok lodge in the Maasai Mara, I was beaming and grinning from ear to ear and I soon learned that I was not the only one sharing in this excitement!

The Mara is indeed a beautiful place; and I see the rationale in taking 13 elated YWLI mentees to a serene environment away from the hustle and bustle of daily life for maximum effect and internalization of the program. It is during such moments that I am reminded to notice how blue the sky really is and how chirpy the birds can be in the morning or even how warm the sun rays feel on my skin…bliss. As difficult as it may sound, we actually had to forgo most outdoor activities  and game drives to get with the program; which as it turned out was a great deal of fun too…

One the first day of the program we covered Human Rights & Women’s Rights and a discussion on the gains for Kenyan Women in the new Constitution. As a lawyer, this was particularly enjoyable especially the clarification from a feminist perspective of why the need to separate the two. As I soon relearned, Human Rights many a times do not articulate issues that are predominantly faced by the women folk, it is in this regard that Women’s rights aim to address, those gaps and loopholes left in Human Rights instruments. After a hearty lunch we got down to the passion test!Now,I don’t know about you but it can get annoying and a bit irritable for a comrade to ask you repeatedly for ten minutes or so ‘who are you? ‘And you must respond with a different answer each time. Having lived for close to a quarter of a century with myself, I would imagine that I know myself pretty well but that was questioned. Its funny how in an interview that is the question I least struggle to answer but in a real setting it seemed problematic. Moral of the session…keep asking myself who am I? And am I living up to what I stand for?

Most part of the last session of the day was a reflection of our rivers of life. We had to get creative and actually put down on pen and paper images and words that best captured our rivers of life. I do not pride myself in being a great artist but I am without a doubt very proud of the piece I came up with. Having made use of the geography classes I attended once upon a time, I was able to draw a very vivid river that had meanders and contours which represented how life sometimes really is…never a straight line. I thought it was remarkable to put my life on paper and I thought that I have the power to keep shaping my river to suit my specifications and keep altering and reviewing the same. During the gallery walk where we had to walk round the room and share our rivers, I noticed some fellows had added tributaries which represented other people who influence their own river and vice versa. Others had very difficult images to look at like the single black dotted painting on a white background but had very philosophical and profound theories on the same.

Day Two was all about marketing me, negotiating change and conflict resolution and a discussion on authentic feminist leadership. For the first part of the session on negotiation skills and marketing me, the facilitators paired us into groups of two and gave us each a different fruit to sell to two judges. My partner and I unfortunately got a fruit which we both neither eat nor knew what exactly it was. I believed it looked like a gigantic mango but we were soon advised that it was in fact a sweet melon. So how were we to sell something which we did not eat or know? Luckily for me, Jackie my partner is in the agribusiness and has incredible background in chemistry and biology. She also does a lot of market intelligence so I only really did the persuasiveness in terms of the benefits the fruit has for the skin and hydration especially after a few days of rich game meat eating. The water melon, pinapple, jackfruit, orange and banana teams also made strong sale speeches but the judges felt worthy mention had to go to the orange team for their well choreographed and innovative ideas but I am happy to have the bragging rights that the sweet melon team sealed the deal!!!  

For gender and Leadership intundem with the authentic feminist leadership, the facilitators divided us into groups of four where we described leaders we admired and their qualities. We had to present this to the rest of the group together with leaders who we had briefs on some of whom included Ann Njogu and Leymah Gbowee.

On the third and finally day, we each presented our leadership journeys and our goals. We also had a body mapping session which was by far the most fascinating activity. It was from this that we discussed the importance of the need to take care of ourselves first and foremost before for obvious reasons. The late afternoon so us out for a game drive where we were lucky enough to see some Nat-Geo action up close with a pride of lionesses zeroing in on their super-an unfortunately buffalo. The last dinner together is always quite a ceremony where we dress up and have an open mic session. We each had a few minutes to present a song, poem or text which was a great sharing experience. The most part of the evening thereafter was left to shaking a leg proper Mara style…..till next time!!!


  1. As usual..awesome piece...u better familiarize yourself with fruits next time...great job and keep the great work up...Amina..

  2. Hey Amina,guilt as charged I am a pineapple kinda girl but yeah....hope you are doing great too