This is for MAMA!!!

14 May

 

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Memoirs of my childhood

This piece is dedicated to my mother Jane Naliaka whose blood surges in my veins today. An icon endowed with gifts yet to be rivaled in the land of the mysterious as the inhabitants of Chepkutumi village situated on the adulating Kulisiru mountain wish to be called. It is her courage in the face of adversity that the villagers marvel about. It is her tenacity in the midst of turbulence that incessantly attracts all and sundry to her. It’s her ability to forgive and forget that eternally torments her adversaries. It’s her prudent counsel that has shaped the renowned and mighty. It’s the trust in herself and her devotion to God that propel her. It’s in her strides that many of us have devoted ourselves to doing what we do. I am sorry mum if this piece offends you in any way but it is because of you that I am.

My memoirs begin on a rainy Christmas day, many years ago when a boy whose name reflects the season was born. Those who are still alive vividly remember the events of the day as if it was yesterday since it was the day the tall, well build, blond and ever smiling primary school teacher gave birth to her first born. News about my birth amplified the already festive mood and tales have it that countless roosters lost their lives as the revelry went on for days. It was the coming to pass of a pronouncement by my audacious grandfather that a son shall be born in due season to takeover his mantle punctuated by polygamy, aggression, dominance, egoism and merry loving. I was born predestined for self obliteration.

At age six, I started learning the ways of my people specifically my language that is parked with expressions that extol the male gender and one that demeans females. I started learning the tasks of boys my age in the community which included taking care of livestock, farming, hunting, learning tricks of warfare and protecting my family. I started being assigned the duty of protecting my mature female cousins. I remember my late grandmother whispering in my ear to the effect that “women are like our goats and you must always protect them because they can be lost”. I was taught how to speak, eat and walk like a man. I was taught how to make my ancestors and my people happy by always suppressing those who stood in my way and getting what I wanted whatever the cost.  I recorded many “triumphs” and fatalities as the scars on my legs and hands confirm.

Days turned into years and soon I was twelve. My uncles evicted me from the young men’s hut and I was forced to move into my old step grandfather’s hut where other boys my age resided. I soon realized we were being primed to undergo circumcision which is still regarded as the fundamental right of passage. It was a horrendous experience as the trainings sometimes lasted an entire night. I participated in night dances and oaths all centered on making me the man accepted by my people. We swore to dominate women and girls. We swore to individually or collectively subdue any women and girls we desired. We were taught only to trust men and never to listen to women. They ruptured our thumbs on our right hands and we swore over our blood never to be dominated by women. They singled me out and prevailed upon me to stand up to my mother who they accused of violating the traditions of our land by encouraging girls to go to school. In a nutshell, my age-set (Bachuma) as we are tenderly called made our people proud by successfully undergoing circumcision and returning home safely.

As we celebrated, I noticed that my mother had a black eye and bruises all over her face. Women kept looking her direction and made gestures to each other. She strangely avoided direct eye contact with me and occasionally a tear would drop from her eyes. On this occasion, we were not to have contact with women not even our own mothers. My father seemed distraught but occasionally showed me flashes of happiness. He was bothered and largely out of place. It was not until the following day that my late sister Roselyn told me that my father had badly battered my mother and taken a second wife with the blessings of the elders and my relatives. I was torn between being the man I had just been initiated to being or taking sides for the good of our family. I will let this rest for now.

One year after circumcision and while still in secondary school, we were mobilized and ordered to identify the girls we were to marry. As my mates identified their wives to be, my mother stormed the venue and pulled me away. That evening she faced the wrath of my father who roughed her up while she bought stuff on the market. I remember hearing women cheering my father on even as I dashed to save her. I remember the ridicule and mockery I endured thereafter. A few months later, Roselyn my sister died after some brutes abused and killed her. I remember the times we lived fondly Roselyn and I will forever work to ensure no other girl faces your fate.

I passed my secondary school examinations well but my clan decided that it was time for me to seek employment. They secretly raised money to bribe the police recruiting officers to enable me join the police force. I was tricked to the recruiting venue and their plans were working well until mother surfaced again to heave me home. I joined the advanced level studies and later qualified to go to university.

I remember my short stay with my step mother and the plight I endured until my mother forcefully rescued me. I remember the toil we had to undergo with my mother and my other ten siblings to raise school fees and for our upkeep. I remember how we toiled on the farm and the many times we went without food. I still keep my mothers wooden wedding box that she gave me to use while going to secondary school because we could not afford a modern one. I remember the nights we had to light a fire in our sitting room to study because we could not afford paraffin to light up the lamps. I still hear my mothers reassuring voice declare that what we were going through was only a season and that nothing stands in the way of the determined.

I just remembered that we have a Journalist, Banker, public health officer, Agricultural researcher, accountant, Pastor, teacher and a statistician in our family. I just remembered that my mother is now driven in a Peugeot 505 and lives in a fully furnished and solar lit mansion. I forgot to tell you that she is back with my father and that she supports over 100 families of relatives many who wanted her dead.

I have made it my divine call to tell men and boys that negative masculinity, harmful traditions and practices and violence against women and girls are not what makes us men.

The writer is a Programs Director of The Coexist Initiative, a not for profit synergy of men and boys community-based organizations committed to eliminating all forms of sexual/gender based violence, fostering the respect of the rights of minority groups and enhancing HIV prevention in Kenya. Visit: www.coexistkenya.com or www.menspeak.coexistkenya.com

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One Response to “This is for MAMA!!!”

  1. kate barasa May 14, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    Bless you Auntie Jane,my mum who laid my foundation in school and church,i beneficiary of her motherhood.Its her,Joan,Selinah,Euphmia,Alice,and a few more others who introduced to primary education.May the good Lord bless their work of their hands,the fruit of their labour and their generation

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