Tag Archives: mandela

Power is not wh…

9 May

Power is not what we have BUT what our opponents Think we have

Wanjala Wafula

Power is not what we have BUT what our opponents Think we have

Wanjala Wafula


Menstruation verses girls education in Africa

13 Jan



By Wanjala Wafula


At a recent girl’s education round-table in Kampala Uganda, I came under intense condemnation for insisting that the menstruation debate and the improvement of toilet facilities for girls across Africa is not likely to substantially result in school retention for girls especially in the rural and marginalized regions on the continent. My submission was premised on the fact that the promotion of girls education on the continent is hindered by an array of factors, many of which go beyond the girl’s personal hygiene, comfort and belief.

For my detractors, I have spent over fifteen years of my life campaigning for girl’s education. I have gone to some of the most dangerous places on the continent to work with men, boys, and communities to advance gender parity, endorse women participation and combat detrimental traditions and customs including child marriage, FGM and widow inheritance. I have gone through the societal furnace as a result of my work with men and boys toward eliminating all forms of violence. I consider myself experienced and robust to be called an African pro-feminist.

I still maintain that education is women’s leading key to freedom from subjugation, fear and want. Education is an effective weapon to fight poverty. It saves women’s lives and gives them an opportunity to advance their lives. It gives women a voice and amplifies nations’ productivity and competiveness. It’s one of the primary catalysts of social, economic and political advancement. At the individual level, education is the ultimate liberator, empowering people to make personal and social choices. Education is also the ultimate equalizer, particularly in promoting greater equity for women, and for the poor and disadvantaged groups since education often is the only capital such groups can aspire to acquire. At the national level, educated citizens are the foundation for well-functioning democratic institutions, and for achieving social cohesion.

I have to uncover a fact that in numerous countries across Africa, menstruation products such as tampons and pads are not widely available in the first place. In countries where these products are available, they may be too expensive for women and girls or families who are already making sacrifices to send their girls to school. The making available of menstruation products cannot be construed to be the only solution to all problems related to girl’s education in Africa except if this is yet another economic frontage.

Girls in most parts of Africa are repressed by male dominance, controlled by traditional perceptions of a woman, and abused by the time-honored customs of their communities. The prejudice against the girl child in most African societies is not about race or ethnicity, but rather about gender and sexuality. The prejudice is not about opportunities but rather the robust forces that stand in the way of girls and women on the continent. It is evident that regardless of the extensive governmental legislation, traditional belief systems have established mechanisms for discrimination and violence against girls. Hence, their exclusion from entitlements, rights and equal opportunities is the norm rather than practice

I journey expansively across the African continent and I can assertively confirm that Quality educational opportunities are limited and parent/community support for girls’ education is lower than it is for boys. In many countries on the continent, and especially in rural areas, girls who attend school do so for only a few years, often dropping out when they are in their early teenage years. Harmful civil and customary laws are derived from traditional or religious beliefs and imposed upon millions of girls in Africa, who in turn face persistent discriminatory and violent practices often at the hands of their own families and communities. With or without toilet health facilities, the rural African girl is a victim of circumstances beyond her direct control.

In many marginalized regions across Africa, programs that are providing sanitary napkins/tampons as well as improving toilet facilities for girls are concentrated in urban centers. The programs continue to face protracted opposition with girls undergoing maltreatment in numerous places. Demands on girls time, conceptions of their gendered roles in the family and community, and biological factors related to their reproductive health are all obstacles to their access to quality education. Let‘s not water down the debate by providing escape routes.  I know for a fact that large numbers of girls are out of school in many parts of Africa.

Countries like Kenya, which pioneered the free primary education program, have nothing much to report about as the public education sector is literally grinding to a halt. Retention rates especially for girls across the continent are very low and secondary school enrolment rates show that the primary school system is not functioning effectively to enable girls’ educational achievement through the education cycle

The many obstacles that prevent girls from accessing, remaining and achieving in schools in Africa include female genital mutilation; biological challenges (including lack of adequate sanitation facilities); child marriage; socio-cultural conceptions of gender and education for girls; domestic responsibilities; lack of female role models including teachers; long distances to travel to school, thereby jeopardizing personal safety; inadequate number of trained teachers; and poverty forcing girls to stay home to earn an income. Do not even attempt to single out any of the above factors as the outstanding validation because they must all be addressed in unanimity.

I was stunned when a self proclaimed advocate of girl’s rights insisted that addressing the menstruation needs alone will cause fifty percent retention of girls in schools. She even told me to the face that men have no role in promoting girls education. Many times, programs seeking to achieve gender equality and girls’/women’s empowerment sideline the role of men or define their role in a narrow manner. How I wish the world woke-up to the reality that in order for girls and women empowerment to be reached, men and boys will need to be backers for girls’ education. For this I can vow!

There are numerous other reasons why many Kenyan girls are not being educated. One of them is the sexual prejudices against girls. In many places, it is a cultural element that women are not equal to men. Others have enhanced the archaic thinking insisting that women do not need to be educated. Because of this discrimination, many girls grow up and pass their lack of skills onto their children, especially the girls. Any direct engagement by the girl child in the struggle against the dominant ideologies of the patriarchal system leads the girl child to violate traditional belief systems and laws or conventional standards of her society hence the depravity

Community participation in girl’s education is a key missing link. Community engagement plays an important role in up scaling girls’ admission in schools and improving educational quality consequently developing the society. Increased community involvement is clearly related to improved access, and there is growing evidence that community involvement also improves the quality of the education offered.

I advocate for cross cutting interventions because not all problems affecting girls’ education in Africa are girls’ problems per se. Girls and other disadvantaged groups are especially vulnerable to the effects of generic problems associated with poverty, low GDP, HIV/AIDS, poor education resource mobilization and management and poor education quality. These problems cannot be offset by focusing solely on the education sector and on girls. The problems can be overcome by putting in place a blend of diverse interventions.

Give me a break! Numerous pundits across the African continent agree with me that data available indicate that menstruation accounts for only a small proportion of all female absenteeism from school. Let’s stop the sideshows and face the reality. I totally agree with the World Bank as it contends that if women in sub-Saharan Africa had equal access to education, land, credit and other assets like fertilizer, the region’s gross national product could increase by almost one additional percentage point annually. Mark Blackden, one of the bank’s lead analysts, says Africa‘s progress was inextricably linked to the fate of girls.

The  writer  is  a  Founder  /  CEO  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  in  Kenya. Visit    http://www.coexistkenya.com    or    email    Wafula@coexistkenya.com‐    facebook‐wanjala    Wafula‐ skype: coexist.initiative.  Tel:  +254-712653322


17 Dec



By Wanjala Wafula

During the 50th independence anniversary celebrations in Kenya, one insolent speaker took the archaic line of undermining women and other men who were not directly involved in the confrontations with the colonialists. He hailed the male freedom fighters without even giving credit to thousands of women who prepared food, hide the fighters and carried ammunitions for the fighters. The saddest thing is that all the dignitaries’ including twelve presidents and thousands of other high profile guests cheered him on.

I took to the social media to protest and in about an hour, over two thousand tweets supporting me had come through. I totally refuse to accept and be part of this pervasive perception of men having undue social and economic power. I will forever stand up against the falsehoods propagated by those not aware of the burden of negative socialization that is driving millions of men and boys into self annihilation across the globe.  I submit in this piece that men and boys are truly deprived in numerous ways.

I have vehemently insisted in the many pieces I have written on this subject that both women and men have the power only that they do not know they do and even if they do, they do not know how to use it. Defined in its rudimentary form, power means control over one’s life. If this be the accepted definition, then neither women nor men had power in the past as women’s role was to raise children against all odds, provide food for the family and literally be a slave to the man and his friends and family. On the same note; men’s role was to go to war with enemies imagined or real, acquire wealth through all means, live a care free sexual life and practice customs and traditions that exposed him to all the dangers. I submit therefore that neither women nor men had the real power they were socialized to envisage.  I affirm that Men’s blunder is their pretense of imagined might whereas women’s vitality is their veneer of weakness driven by negative socialization and maintained through negative masculinity, patriarchy, cultures, traditions and practices.

The egocentrism that continues to dominate the gender debate is only to the detriment of the men and the boys. While men and boys continue to bare the yoke of assumed manhood, millions of girls and women across the African continent are being re-socialized to balance continued existence with individual and collective fulfillment.  They are replacing the long held perceptions and socialization processes with the gusto to excel and succeed. They are beating the men at their own game yet our efforts to wake-up men from the darkness they continue being put by the negative socialization are met with ridicule and scorn. No one is socializing boys to become men of substance who pursue individual and collective goodwill. The few of us trying to break the ice are scoffed at by both women and men. I dare say that boys and men will soon be decades behind girls and women psychologically and socially. I even predict that in the next decade, men will be gradually more behind women academically and economically. If you doubt my prediction then I invite you to take a flight under the captain-ship of proficient Sophia Rita of Kenya Airways.

I do not want to sound like a doomsday prophet for the male gender of which I am. 
I believe in a world where all people, women and men, boys and girls find value in what I have always
called gender coexistence. I believe in a world where we all find value in things that make each of us
better than a world where we step in the way of others simply because we were socialized to do so.
I detest women’s movements that heap blame on all men or a men's movement blaming all women for their
woes. I have for years now been preaching a gospel to men and boys. I have urged them not to be silent
bystanders. I continue to tell them that when they see an incident taking place, on a bus, or in public,
they should never ignore it. This is my pledge for which I live.

I have always been an advocate of what I have always called a gender evolution movement. I characterize a gender evolution movement as one that promotes a switch from the rigid roles of our past to more elastic roles for the future. I see the gender evolution characterized by a generation of men and women who are imbued with the power to undertake and foster blissful, improved, cruelty-free relationships. I have seen former perpetrators of violence against children, women and even fellow men transform into persons who treat others with the decorum they deserve. I have seen them play a key role in raising children and I have also seen them compliment roles with their spouses. I know the gender evolution is possible.

I join my friends at the gender violence prevention network in advocating for sustained understanding and dialoguing among partners. I encourage all people around the world to listen to their partners. I request them to have a conversation about what they want in their relationships or family. I besiege them to question the power imbalances in their relationships and share their problems together. I strongly encourage them to value sons and daughters equally as all children are bestowed with diverse talents and endowments.

I insist that we all have the power to stop gender based violence. If it were a malady, we could easily call it a pandemic. If it were an oil leak, we’d identify it as a catastrophe. If it was an economic  meltdown  it  would  be  a  presidential  election  pledge. But  it  is happening  to  women  and  even  men,  and  it’s  just  an everyday  affair  being  treated  with  all  the casualness.  It is called gender based violence and it manifests itself in numerous forms and    cuts across    all    social,    academic, economic,    racial    and linguistic demographics. It is rape at home and on dates. It is the beating or the blow that one out of four African women receives in her lifetime. It is the perennial sexual harassment at work and sexual abuse of the young and old.  It is  murder  that  is  swiftly swept  under  the  carpet  or  the  depravity  that women  and  other minority  groups  face.  It is founded on masculine constructions and guarded by rigid and obsolete cultures and traditions.

GBV has far reaching consequences for women, men, families and communities, including increase in HIV infection, physical and emotional suffering, negative impacts on children, weaker families and communities and economic costs that hinder development and decrease our ability to fulfill our potential as individuals and communities. In my fifteen years of activism and advocacy, I have never felt as much hope as I do today. Men and women are taking action together. The world is paying attention. We are all saying enough is enough. Those who ignore this force, do so at their own detriment

When we balance power in our relationships we can prevent violence against women and girls. We can transform our own lives and our communities when we redefine power positively and change the ways in which we relate with others. I know we all have power but how are you using yours?


The  writer  is  a  Founder  /  CEO  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  in  Kenya. Visit    http://www.coexistkenya.com    or    email    Wafula@coexistkenya.com‐    facebook‐wanjala    Wafula‐ skype: coexist.initiative.  Tel:  +254712653322


“The happiest p…

9 Dec

“The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything


In Memory of Nelson Madiba Mandela Tata

6 Dec

In Memory of Nelson Madiba Mandela Tata

Help safe 500 little Angels in Kenya. Please visit the link and support


“Let girls be girls and not brides!!!!!”

1 Dec

Give them an education, value them, protect them and stop practicing archaic traditions and customs on them


Delegation from the Austrian Embassy pause for a group photo with Coexist Initiative Staff

25 Oct

Delegation from the Austrian Embassy pause for a group photo with Coexist Initiative Staff

Delegation from the Austrian Embassy pause for a group photo with Coexist Initiative Staff