Archive | April, 2012

Jotham K Nyukuri

20 Apr

ImageI have decided to support Jotham K Nyukuri for the Governorship of Trans-Nzoia County. Lets support him materially and by voting for him. Visit his site at jknyukuri.co.ke and donate.

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I am Indeed a man

17 Apr

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By Wanjala Wafula:

At a recent talk show with students of the Jomo Kenyatta University in Nairobi, one female student asked a very pertinent question that I wish to respond to here in this third rate column. I had just shared my vast life experience growing up in the villages near the Kenya Uganda border and the transformations that I went through to become what I am today. I shared with the students the pain I went through hearing women wailing all night from the battering. I informed the students about the devastation I encountered watching women literally serving as slaves in their own homes and to their own husbands. I shared with them the traditional definitions of masculinity and the roles that boys and men are assigned in various societies across Africa. I spoke about the preparations that I had to go through to become the ‘man” my community wanted. It is at this stage that an infuriated female student in her early twenties shot up on her feet and shouted “you are not a man”. The rest of the students and lecturers looked on in utter bewilderment but I was not deterred. At the end of the talk show, the now smiling young lady walked to the front where we were and murmured “I am sorry, help me find a friend just like you”.

The definition of manhood in many African societies is directly influenced by the communal nurturing of men premised on domination and safeguarded by archaic traditions and customs. It is through culture and the accompanying customs that the mindsets of men are set towards what it means to be a man. These beliefs about what it means to be a man/woman are formed so early. I grew up with my mother alone irrespective of the fact that I knew I had a father who occasionally visited. At a tender age, my mother began to engage and teach me about the experiences of women in a male dominated society. She taught me about domestic and sexual violence and the needed role that good men could play in ending it. Through these interactions with my mother and many of her friends who were all going through the same suffering, I began to pay close attention to issues associated with the collective socialization of men. Since the late 1990s, it’s been my life’s work and I have no regrets to report.

At The Coexist Initiative we work with boys from the age of eight. Regrettably, even at that early age, they have been already formatted to subscribe to the tenets of a world characterized by negative masculinity and the dominance of women and girls. I am often asked by men and women about how soon they should begin to have these discussions with their sons, we say, “Five is the age they start pre-school.” It’s at that age that others begin to teach and influence our sons. We tell them not to give others permission to teach and influence your sons. I train boys that being a man does not alienate oneself from undertaking duties and roles that they need. I tell them that washing dishes, doing laundry, going to the village market to do some shopping and cooking does not make me a lesser man. I tell boys and men that we are all defined by what we excel at not by what we stop others from being. Unlike the numerous programs working with men and boys, our approach extensively focuses on women as key players in the socialization of boys and the transformation of men.

We counsel women and girls to be direct but with love when talking to their sons, brothers, fathers, friends, boyfriends and husbands about manhood. We teach them to be engaging and not offensive. In addition, I always stress that the war against gender based violence can only be won if we went personal about it with men. It’s best initially to engage men regarding the women they love, mothers and daughters. I once asked a former convicted wife batterer to envision the world he wanted to see his daughters live in and he broke down in tears. I wanted him to tell me how he would want to see men acting and behaving in that world and his response was a tear in his eyes. I submit that men agonize when Gender based violence is personalized. How else would I justify the overall positive response that we get from men during our numerous discussions?

I was also recently asked about what I plan to do now that my daughter Becky is fourteen and in the bracket of what they call the danger spot. My answer is relevant to all parents. I continue to have a wide open door on communication hence allowing her to share with me all her experiences and guiding her through the turbulence of life without being judgmental. She loves journalism and music and I spend quality time with her preparing her for the eventualities that shall emerge. I support her in all her endeavors that don’t fit in traditional gender roles. I have open conversations with her close friends and their parents. One of my greatest moments in this struggle has been my realization that my deliverance as a man is attached to your deliverance as a woman.

I am happy that I’m still a man, enjoying many of the things that men like doing: soccer, adventure, a drink with my buddies and some backstreet politics. I am excited that I can do all of this and still support a world that’s safe for women and girls.

The writer is a Director/ Founder of The Coexist Initiative, a not for profit synergy of men and boys community-based organizations committed to eliminating all forms of Gender based violence, fostering HIV prevention and championing the rights of minority groups in Kenya. Visit http://www.coexistkenya.com or email Wafula@coexistkenya.com- facebook- wanjala Wafula- skype:coexist.initiative. Tel: +254712653322

Women are the Answer

15 Apr

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By Wanjala Wafula:

The world has been of late relentlessly barraged by three common news items with the prime being the dreary and nauseating world politics dominated by invasions of nations, a lunatic killing a hundred in Norway , the west’s  efforts to destabilize food sufficient Malawi, the dept crisis in Europe and America and the escapees of the mounting China. The second item has been the ravaging hunger in the horn of Africa with estimates revealing that over sixteen million people are starving to death. Pictures being beamed across the globe about the hunger situation in Africa are sickening to say the least. The third main item here in Kenya has been the bickering by politicians about their remittance of taxes as affirmed by the new constitution that was overwhelmingly supported by the same legislators. 

For me the priority for the world now is to sort out the hunger situation in the horn of Africa and Kenya in particular. I hasten to assert that women and children are the most affected as reports about the deaths confirm. Analysts recommend that the extent and scale of the food situation in the region is distressing and that urgent measures need to be undertaken to arrest the situation yet patchy governments led by Kenya remains unswerving to opinionated pettiness and sideshows. A picture of twins suckling their dead mother  now torment me each time I sit down to have a meal.

In the midst of the adversity, politicians and other stakeholders are passing the bucket even as others exploit the situation for the accustomed political expediency and mileage. The typical pretexts have greeted the food situation in the country with drought being peddled as the number one rationale. There is even hyped rhetoric about realization of the MDG’s in 2015 as well as the delusional Vision 2030 yet hunger remains a perennial episode in the country. What is startling to numerous analysts is the failure by the government and other stakeholders to address the ever missing link of targeting the real producers of food in Kenya who are women.

 

Today, there are leaders of nations who have successfully combated hunger. China, Brazil, Malawi and Vietnam, to name just a few, have done so by boosting government support to the smallholder farmers who grow most of the food consumed locally, implementing agrarian reforms, and establishing effective social protection programs. Not only is investing in smallholder agriculture the best way to beat hunger, it also has two to four times more impact on poverty reduction as investment in other sectors.

Discrimination against women is a hidden and insidious cause of hunger. According to the OECD, in the 21 countries where social institutions discriminate against women the most, malnutrition is nearly twice as high. In countries where women lack any access to credit, malnutrition is 85% above average. Where women lack the right to own land, it is 60% higher. Along with investment in agriculture we need to equalize women’s access to and control over productive resources and financial services.

Women bear almost all responsibility for meeting basic needs of the family, yet are systematically denied the resources, information and freedom of action they need to fulfill this responsibility. They make up slightly more than 52 percent of the Kenya’s population, but account for over 60 percent of the country’s hungry. In my view, women hold the key to a future free from hunger and poverty. This can be achieved by supporting women’s education, training them as business leaders, equipping them to become better farmers and eradicating the ever present enigma of gender based violence founded in patriarchy and manifested through negative masculinity. As mothers, farmers, teachers and entrepreneurs, a great deal hinges on their success. Evidence shows that with equal access to education, training and means, women can raise the living standards of their families and inject new life into the Kenyan economy thus actualizing the pre-independence trance of a “self sufficient” nation.

Women face extra risks and deprivations, as they are systematically denied their human rights to access, own, control or inherit land and property. They remain a minority (10%) of owners of land and housing and often face discriminatory customs, religious laws, and institutional practices that severely restrict their ability to gain and control such property. Women’s sustained depravity in terms of health related services and goods continue to deal a big blow to their efforts to render their families food sufficient. The situation is worse in cases where HIV is involved and specifically for families with people living with HIV.

 

Sadly, these conditions persist despite Kenya’s commitments under local and international law to secure equality for women. I submit that gender inequality, power dynamics in sexual relations and women’s lack of economic empowerment relate directly to current patterns of poverty manifested through the ever skyrocketing levels of hunger, poverty and inequality.

There is an imperative need to help women become business leaders. This can be achieved through providing space for women to play a key role in the decision making processes in the Kenyan society. Evidence shows that women in Kenya re-invest about 90 percent of
their income back into their households compared to between 30 and 40
percent for men. Giving women the knowledge and skills they need to
run successful farms and businesses is an efficient way to strengthen
poor families and enhancing the nutritional needs of the nation.

I have continually argued that we need to instantly help women grow more and better food.
Women produce between 60 and 80 percent of the food in most developing
countries, despite having less access to land and credit than men do. Providing them with the tools and the training they need to raise quality yields is one of the best ways to increase food production in Kenya which is prone to recurrent hunger.

The 2007 post-election violence affected thousands of female farmers in the most productive regions of the country with many of of them being battered, raped, maimed and killed. Women are particularly vulnerable in times of conflict, even as their role as providers becomes more important than ever. Easing their
return home by giving them the tools and training they need to rebuild can kick-start the recovery process for an entire community and the nation at large.

I recently watched a documentary from the hunger ravaged Turkana in which it was revealed that many women are denying themselves even that one meal to ensure that their children are fed. These women are already suffering the effects of even more severe malnutrition, which inevitably will be their children’s fate as well. What the women of Kenya need are not the infrequent food handouts mostly distributed by crestfallen politicians but a comprehensive rollout of initiatives and programs that are premised on empowerment and equality. To many of us, the women are the only sure avenue out of the perennial hunger situation in the world.

 

One Moses Okoth

8 Apr

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Wanjala Wafula

It has come to our attention that an individual called Moses Okoth has been maligning the Coexist Initiative as an organization and me as a person in diverse forums and providing spiteful references about us. For starters, I have only had one meeting with the said individual and this was after he was referred to us by the moderator of the Menresources list serve in South Africa. The main objective of the meeting was to help him with fundraising ideas and contacts because he wanted to host an event he called “walking a mile in her shoes”.

I convened the meeting in one of the down town restaurants in Nairobi and invited representatives from the gender department and the ministry of health. Moses came to the meeting accompanied by one of his friends. Please remember that this was the first time I was meeting Moses and I allowed him all the time to sale his ideas to the prospective donors. I have never again had a meeting with the individual. During the meeting he shuffled and meandered around the subject at hand.  He roamed from buying shoes to manufacturing ladies pads and the list was endless. He was not compelling and at some point I was mortified to have invited my key contacts to the meeting. The body language from the donors was that of revulsion and boredom and any coherent person did not need to be told.

I incurred the cost of the meeting and we parted ways promising that I would be in touch once we had word from the donors. He later shared a document with me via mail and it was about the same event and I will not bore you either. A few days later, he started sending me text messages expressing aggravation and at some point wanted the Coexist Initiative to fund the inane ideas he could not elaborate himself. We disregarded the individual on the instructions of numerous people who are in the know about him.

Recently, he sent me a text message affirming that his current employers had asked him for reference about the Coexist Initiative and that he had given a bad reference just because we did not fund his wild ideas. I called him back and he lashed out all the vulgarities. Today, I received a message from him asking for connection on a certain listserve which was hastily followed by the insults annexed below from him.

I will not waste my time anymore on him. We live at a time when triviality and non issues dominate certain person’s minds at the expense of the antagonisms facing the world. For us at Coexist, eliminating gender based violence is our calling and we leave the side shows and emotions to those who opt.

Regards,

Wanjala Wafula

Founder / Director

Coexist Initiative

His messages

Grow up…and use internet at times..i reacted to this message

Automatically….your email address just happens to still be in my

mailbox..GOSH i have nothing in common with you and the last thing i

would ever want is to even think of contacting you…Am so so so so

sorry!This was a HUGE BIG STUPID MISTAKE……….Pole!

 

I do have the text messages you sent me and told me to go to hell and that you dont have time to talk to me…I should go and learn things the NGO way and am wasting your time..that after taking a proposal we did …..not having any courtesy to talk or call back…spending all our time by having a meeting to tap into our thinking then NOW you expect me to hear what you have to say…?After an  error in a Netlog message that i sent BY Mistake..GO ahead Mr. Wafula,tell the world! and i insist GROW UP…If you are executive officer in an Organisation that is meant to be having a certain code of conduct do it by action! 

I still do have the time…i still insist that it doesnt matter what you do….is it that you want to threaten me…proof something or make me look bad? I really i am NOT interested….whether a fight….who you are or what you can do..I did report you and said i DONT want to work with someone who has and portrays an image different from what donors know is saying the truth and getting the can open on what you are doing is wrong THEN tell the WORLD! Final stop  making a mountain out of a mole hill! 

Vote for Deborah D Tuckers

8 Apr

 

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Hi Friends,

Deborah D Tucker is a friend of the Coexist Initiative and a very good friend of mine. Find her message below and vote in support of the reauthorization of the violence against women act. A vote for Deborah is a vote for me and the Coexist initiative. 

Thanks so much

Wanjala Wafula

Deborah D Tucker message

I was honored to be invited to submit an entry in this U.S. News & World Report Debate Club and would sincerely appreciate your review of my submittal and those of several others

You must go to the actual page at the link below to find the arrows up and down to cast your vote on my entry and to consider voting on each article posted.  You can see below that those opposed to VAWA are definitely in the lead on this at present.

I would be grateful for clicking the UP on my article to support advancing VAWA’s reauthorization.  At this point I am in second to LAST place!  And thanks to those of you who have already weighed in to counter comments on my submittal with additional information. That is much appreciated given the seriousness and importance of being accurate about the nature and incidence of violence.   Please check that out too!

Thank you, Debby

Whole thing:

 <http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-the-violence-against-women-act-be-reauthorized>

http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-the-violence-against-women-act-be-reauthorized

My Entry:

 <http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-the-violence-against-women-act-be-reauthorized/violence-against-women-act-is-working>

 
 

Calling on you

7 Apr

Dear Friend,

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Happy Easter to you from the Coexist Initiative in Nairobi-Kenya hoping you are alright. We are grateful to those of you who continue to support our working with men and boys towards eliminating all forms of violence towards women and girls in Kenya. This message is a call to you regarding our ongoing effort to raise $3,000 to offset our outstanding administrative costs.

We greatly appreciate your support. Support us with as little as $10 and together we shall make the world a safe place for all

Visit the link below.

https://www.paypal.com/ke/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_flow&SESSION=6-kN0k8oTBSf40EpOA8QsG1ClX1_HCV4lNzwpMeY6eE6PpHtZds_7iPA2nS&dispatch=5885d80a13c0db1f8e263663d3faee8d1e83f46a36995b3856cef1e18897ad75

Many thanks,

Coexist Initiative

Advisory Board

Not by Choice (Call to noble duty)

6 Apr

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By Wanjala Wafula

A story in a daily newspaper here in Nairobi recently described me as a resilient soul that swims against the tide in eliminating gender based violence. They went further to label me as a revolutionary for the course of others. Never mind that it’s the same newspaper that described me as a timid human rights campaigner for “battered” men eight years ago. It is because of others that I write this piece for the reason that it is the otherness of others that we all are.

Gender Based violence is a grave reality in the lives of many women and girls in Africa. It is a pervasive human rights violation, a public health crisis, and an obstacle to equality, development, security and peace. It’s an aftermath of the destructive gender norms dominated by negative masculinities and manifested in sets of traditions and customs that continue to demean women while destroying men and boys at the same time. I made a conscious decision to dedicate my life to working for the good of others when I realized that male inferred dominance over women has past extractions and its functions and manifestations change over time.

I concur with my detractors that I have devoted myself to championing the rights and freedom of “others” because for me gender based violence has devastating consequences to women and men, our families and the broader community. It increases women’s vulnerability to HIV infection and dents AIDS management efforts. It augments reproductive health problems and negatively affects women and girls general well-being. It decreases their ability to freely participate in their families and communities. Gender based violence hurts children, men and families by creating a culture of fear and mistrust that leads to the lack of intimacy, safety within familial and intimate relationships.

Our commitment as an organization is to work with men and boys as key partners in the fighting against gender/sexual violence, enhance HIV prevention and other human rights violations. We mobilize and get men involved in reproductive health attributes including sexual violence survivor support and male engagement in the prevention of mother transmission of HIV. We develop, share new and effective strategies of engaging men and boys as principle partners in eliminating all forms violence. We work with schools and other institutions of learning for purposes of fostering positive masculinities and relationships. We constructively engage the government and other administrative instruments so as to implement legal, social, political and economic promises made to women and girls.

We continue to pay tribute to groups and individuals who have committed themselves to bringing violence against women to the forefront of national attention and encouraging everyone in their various capacities to take action to end the perennial act. We continuously refuse the portrayal of gender-based violence as a women’s struggle only, where almost the only role available to (all) men is that of perpetrator or policeman. Our endeavor has been and will always be to get men and boys to embrace their rightful role as advocates against violence. The penchant of our work is that there are many men who do not commit acts of violence against women and girls but that men and boys have traditionally been silent and through that silence, have allowed the violence to continue.

It is my assurance that violence against women is conceivably the most appalling human rights violation in our land and that it is everybody’s business to eliminate it. Gender based violence is possibly the most pervasive offense as it knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development, and peace.

We continue to develop tools and resources all inclined towards making the world safer for all of us. We have our skeptics who remain determined to make our work irrelevant by denying us the resources and visibility that we so much need yet many of you continue to support our work with the little you have.

The writer is a Founder/ Director of The Coexist Initiative, a not for profit synergy of men and boys community-based organizations committed to eliminating all forms of Gender based violence, foster HIV prevention and champion the rights of minority groups  in Kenya. Visit www.coexistkenya.com or email Wafula@coexistkenya.com- facebook-wanjala Wafula- skype:coexist.initiative. Tel: +254-712653322