Sunday, January 26, 2014

The politics of circumcision: power and abuse in Kenya

"I will do the little that I can" Wangari Maathai
Those who see Kenya from afar say this is an interesting country. So do those within. Kenya is amazing.

But when I ask those form afar why, they tell me that it is because Kenyans get so involved in the nation's life. And what a blessing. 

Kenya aiming to save herself digitally right from the township areas to the classrooms can move any heart. Kenya, often on the lips of many for here is a country you cannot ignore. How then can Kenya overlook women in so many ways? Are we losing it? If we agree we have come this far it is because of our mothers, anyone questioning that knows that they are wrong.

Are women losing the battle to macho ways also in appointments? Are the appointing authorities still escaping their legal obligations to make sure that no public institution shall be managed by more than two thirds of one gender? Is the recognition that this is a clause that requires vigilance uppermost in the minds of those who have power? It appears not.

There are many Kenyans on Facebook crying and saying that they hate politics. This is a comment not infrequently from women. They want to serve God and they see this role as differing completely from the one those who go into politics obtain.

They do not even want to discuss these things, those dirty things, because they are tired of them, they say. They have not reaped the benefits of their citizenship which entitles them to involvement and engagement in the Constitution of 2010 because of the politicking that goes on in the Country. They are tired of hearing too about women leaders who are corrupt and immoral. Will they still be tired when their learn never to speak out?  Out of shame and fear? Will they miss some lessons already given by our mothers at Freedom Corner?
Odhiambo: genitals and tongue pulled by police 

But in the echelons of power, Kenyans are already preparing for the 2017 General Election. This is already making the headlines.
This means by the way to expect to be reminded again and again of who among the men is not circumcised and why. This is important in politics as they are today in Kenya. 

You might find it hard to understand if you do not come from there or if from there if you do not listen hard enough. This is the first wedge used to effect politics of ethnic groups. 
"Uuuu I cannot be ruled by a kihii, Nie ndingiathwo ni kihii!"
Kihii is the name of an irresponsible boy who is rough and cannot be tamed. How can you entrust yourselves to a man who... and even if he says he is cut. They not mean only the physical circumcision. It is a kind of acceptance. It is a rejection note. A reason illogically picked from some traditions to lie to the world.

In the end, the man to lead must be accepted by most of the so called mature people in the land, the voices of reason. And not to say there are none, but when it comes to networking in politics one is left to wonder. Do they care these voices who touch every node in the rural networks about the meaning of a vote? Freedom? power, woman? Everything gets reduced to illogical bare muscle: a tug of war. 

I begin 2014 on this note because Kenya's underbelly hides so much of what goes on with sexuality but occasionally and angling like a spitting reptile revealing power abusing power if it is not tamed. I change to the cause of women and their representation. Before Kenya got the 2010 Constitution some doubted that stating women should belong in power positions was not contentious. Now they see it is clear for all to see. Women have a long way to go despite the law, to get all their gains. When men in power are speaking in derogatory terms, they call women kihii, uncircumcised boy. Boy, not girl. 
Art work from Facebook shared on Facebook courtesy of NP
                                                   If there is anything we have learned in Kenya, it is how important women are in the power equation. We may want to dismiss them but they can and do make their difference. And so, they too are rejected as are those seen as 'others' who would like power. The words of the fight are usually aimed at women. But so are fists. 

I may not agree with the thoughts and policies of some people regardless of their gender but it beggars the imagination that a man would lift his hand and slap a woman. It does not matter who that woman is to me but in this case, no matter the muck on the road to power, the woman is none other than the elected Women Representative of Nairobi: Hon. Rachel Shebesh. So that every woman in Nairobi and is slapped in her slap.

The matter takes a stranger twist when it is clear that he who slaps is the Governor of Nairobi County, Governor Evans Kidero, so there go the governed! And then there is a circus of who did what and when, a court case and as evident on Fb discussions people are are angry and confused.  And the long talk about reconciliation as a nation when cracks at the very top and between men and women are so evident. The youth, the poor youth without means took to other ways long before. But women.

Suddenly there is a familiar mould of the nature of the Woman Representative since time began. When I look at it carefully it goes back to many strong women I know in history. Evish. D' Eve lish.

"She tempted me, she slapped me, she pulled my... She gave me the fruit." To the cacophony love affairs are added and you see, they are always a woman's cunning way. I may be wrong on her own specifics here but this is not debatable. Her weaknesses were turned into the sin of all women in the whole world at all times. Basically prostituted as in spread all over the place.

Oh yes women, they the untamed, unfaithful and always in the wrong people would say. And some people are now so tired of this story and the lesson it has left is lack of trust in women. The question that begs an answer is soon vanishing as many have.

That a man shall be defined as a man because he does not flinch in pain is a widespread notion. Yesterday I heard it said of young men on the island of Tonga. But is not having a heart and wisdom the epitome of power?

In political parlance in Kenya, one will never cease to hear the use of the words 'circumcised' and 'uncircumcised' I pray that these be the last generations that use language in such a base manner especially in public but I know my prayers are already dashed. For the youth too are scandalised and will go the same way.

It was late last year when the Kiambu Senator Kabogo, referred in public, and I love what we say in public for it always reveals whom we are in private, as a an uncircumcised boy, kihii.

Here we are in the intricacies of macho thinking when a woman who is in power is reduced to a thing, an object of ridicule. It does not matter that this reference was made to one Alice a woman leader in his area. It eventually applies to all women. 

Actually, the Governor is on record now saying no single woman can go into leadership. I do not want to remind him who Michel Bachelet, the former and again re-elected President of Chile is, because he has known many formidable single women of his area and knows that he is afraid. Perhaps also afraid of Maria the Mother of Jesus, for we all know who Joseph her husband is. 

He has seen strong women in Kenya. Martha Karua and others have frightened him. Njoki Ndungú. Let the Kenyan media not even call him Neanderthal man. Oh, that man was better. Who is this?

But where are the people? They are the power that must stand up with their single mothers who have all too often given all they have and carried not only their families but even the nation on their backs! 

I ask this question with deep concern. Away in exile, some people called me back home in 2013 for political office. I had in the past expressed interest in local and national politics before 2009, when I left. None of those calling me said, "Come and be the Governor of Kiambu or Nairobi or wherever…" No, they were quick to tell me to go and be a Woman Representative. Mhhm. I have nothing against Women Reps.. but too many people have the idea that a woman cannot be a governor? A president.. and down the line they get the kind of people they elect for office in general. This is worse  than what a particular senator might say. Just where is people power? Why should we spend our time listening to the above in a nation where many are starving every five years and no one plans ahead?

2014 Jan:
2014 :
2009 April:

This blog is against the circumcision of women in the world. It holds that a woman is endangered by cutting her. This blog is aware that this is done in many parts of the world including in modern cities by those held in the grip of certain beliefs in the practice. This means that to be called 'Uncircumcised as a form of verbal abuse is irrelevant and almost a compliment were it not that for some hearers it means that the person so abused should be held in low esteem.' 

The blogger was also abused verbally that because of her boldness and voice she is an 'uncircumcised boy'. She reacted in a poem:

"Freedom bells, they ring in our bodies,
We are proudly not getting down 
to be cut

Did you think I would stammer when you call me Kihii
uncircumcised male?
Call me again, more times,

you killed so many of our young sons,
this name is my compliment.
In their hidden dead bodies,
still freedom bells, I say, ring,
through us." 
Out of Prison- Love Songs (Aus dem Gefängnis Liebesgasänge) Löcker, Austria and E-book@P.Ikonya in English:

There is still more to women woes and power over her body. I know that at school we talked about Western Kenya, where Liz comes from, with regard to a forced marriage custom which included the abduction of a girl going to, for example, fetch water and the making of her into a wife immediately, through rape of course for often she did not even know it was going to happen. 
 But the elders knew it. But the religious and local leaders knew it. 

The examination of the balance of power is prerogative in the growth of a nation and a wise leader would be eager to call things by their names and stand up for the sovereignty of women without which we are not dignified as a nation.

The role of Mother's is often not in question
Fatherhood: Every man has a nation

Patriot? Not unless you can acknowledge .. just begin by that… and feed all your children Oh, Kenyan man. 

With regard to fatherhood as in may places, Kenya stands accused. The responsibilities of fathers in families is often by remote control. And then they denigrate single mothers.

Many say that if the children go wrong it is the mother to blame because she is always with them. There is a strong need to balance what is required of fathers in families in terms of: time, contribution to tasks and economic input. 

For there are many homes that lean on women on their own. But single mothers cannot and should never take the responsibility for the children alone. Neither can single fathers. It just does not work. There must be social structures that help resolve the burdens of good upbringing and constant thinking on how this is to be managed. This is political.
Martha Karua, a Kenyan politician used to speak about the day that women shall be paid for working at home. It is time also to speak for the many millions of women who are slaves in our own homes, working only to often be abused by the men in the family.

So the women who are saying they will not talk politics had better begin right at home, for family is a political set up. It is there that all must discuss politics or should.

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