Leadership: What does it mean to be a leader?

In Class Six, I served as an environmental prefect which probably is one of the most interesting roles I had, majorly because I was passionate about the environment because at the moment I was scout. The following year I vied for Head Girl and I won, this came as a shocker for me for a number of reasons, I wasn’t what people would term as leadership material, I didn’t feel suited to be in this position. Initially I was scared and felt I should have vied for Environmental Captain but as the days continued I embraced this role given to me by the people ( I was elected). At the end of the year one question kept on bugging me which was did I make a difference? Did I do something to better the school for generations to come after me? Being head girl was probably my last interaction with an influential position, after that I served as a class prefect and I called it quits. After these encounters there is one question that has always lurked in my mind which is what does it mean to be a leader?

In 2017, shortly after I applied for the African Leadership Academy and got rejected I started reading more on leadership and their core values as a school really intrigued and gave me some more insight on what I would term as a leader. The fact that I didn’t get accepted in 2017 made me wonder whether the fact that I served as head girl was not proof enough I was a leader.  You don’t have to be in a certain position to be a leader.

DIVERSITY: A leader is a person who accepts everyone regardless of their socioeconomic status, their religion, their race, their ethnic background. As a leader you must be willing to work with diverse groups. I say this a lot but diversity is the hardest thing to live with but probably the most dangerous to live without. Having different kinds of people drives creativity. It is hard dealing with people with different views than those that you have but as a leader you must learn how to cope with this.

CURIOSITY: By nature I am a curious person I always ask why and the fact that I question how things work and why they work that way has caused me plenty of trouble. As a leader you must question everything around why? how? You must be willing to be open to being questioned about your decisions. You must be open to criticism. Not every opinion will be constructive, some people are just simply being negative and as a leader you must know how to differentiate this.

INTEGRITY: Be a person of your word. Don’t preach water and drink wine. This makes you more trustworthy. While running Project Fmile  I have made commitments and been unable to meet them which made me feel horrid. I have done things contrary to my values and I do regret those moments. To be a better person in general I am striving towards being a person of my word.

HUMILITY: As a Kendrick Lamar said, “Sit down, be humble.” The definition of humility differs from person to person hence why people could have contradicting views about one person. For me being humble means stepping out of your pride to be able to achieve a goal, stepping out of your ego to socialise with “someone below you”

COMPASSION: This does not apply to leaders alone but everyone. You should be able to sympathise with everyone. Being passionate about mental health, I have learnt to be compassionate from the common mental disorders which are depression and anxiety to the not so common anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder.

EXCELLENCE: My mum told me a leader is someone with a vision and has a passion to accomplish it. The definition success and failure is relative, for me excelling is outdoing my best and achieving my goal. With excellence it should not apply to me but those next to me.

This is what leadership means to me and the fact that I have seen these traits in people don’t have ‘leadership’ positions proves that leadership is not about your position but the impact you would like to make.

 

 

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Does it really matter?

We live in a country where your tribe, religion, sexuality and even gender matters. I pause a question to you does it really matter? On Friday, the 7th December, 2018.I had the chance of attending a certain school’s finalist event. We had an activity where we were creating a budget for a hypothetical country and each of us had a seat in parliament. I decided to let everyone to pick their seat of preference then I took the leftover which interestingly enough happened to be Minister of LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) . I noticed a lot of uncomfortableness and opposition from my peers when tackling this topic. Once we were through with the session, a boy I choose not to name (we have become really good friends) came and asked me why I would defend something that is against my beliefs. I find it ignorant for one to assume my religion, I could be a Buddhist who knows?  We engaged in a really fruitful conversation which left me wondering does it really matter?

There are a lot of things that I love about being alive in the 21st century and some things that I dislike. One of the things I detest is islamophobia. Some of you might be wondering what is Islamophobia, it is the dislike of or prejudice of Islam and Muslims. Understanding this dislike is rather simple, it is because ignorant people who associate Islam with terrorism, some claiming there is the Sharia Laws and Jihad. I find it really ignorant to use this as an excuse yet you haven’t read the Quran. I wonder if someone’s religion matters, does it really matter? I have seen discrimination against Muslims in my country where Chapter 4 of the constitution gives us the freedom to worship. I have heard of so many public schools where female Muslims aren’t allowed to wear the hijab and it doesn’t sit right with me that some schools cannot have a Muslim as a head prefect or they have a problem with allowing them with Janamaz (prayer mat). I went to a very liberal school, Aga Khan, despite the fact it was founded by an Ismaeli Muslim, we were allowed to practice our faiths. During assemblies, a Christian would pray and a Muslim would recite Al Fatiha.  This community taught me tolerance towards every religion. Islam is the religion of peace, there are over two billion Muslims if all them were terrorists you wouldn’t stand a chance. The question is does it really matter whether one is Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu or atheist? If it does, why?1b69ca45-d8f6-430b-870d-1df830489ddb4dfad35d-49c6-4137-88b9-5ffce2752e8118d4042c-4adc-46e7-b073-6b26643c0d2c

If you know me you know I am a feminist and identifying as this comes with so many negative stereotypes but it is well. Being a feminist, my goal is equality for everyone meaning I will also speak up for mens’ rights. One time before a paper, I was talking to some boys in my class and one of them said to me he can never allow for a woman to be president which rubbed me the wrong way. I was slightly triggered so I told him watch me run for president and win. A friend of mine through Instagram engaged with his followers asking if Kenya is ready for a female president and the responses disgusted me to say the least. I never thought that my gender is a determination of how good of a leader I will be. I have seen men threatened by the success of a woman and it puzzles me why. Does my gender matter when it comes to politics or success? I have seen how shallow people go to attack female leaders, take for example Millie Odhiambo. I don’t why it bothers people so much that she doesn’t have a child.

What I am about to say next goes down in history as the most controversial thing I have ever written. Anyway about a week ago, a really good buddy of mine approached me and asked if I was willing to help out in a campaign, naturally I asked what the campaign is about then he tells me banning homosexual content in the country. I tell him I can’t because it goes against my beliefs as a person. I support LGBTQ rights. This statement has landed me in hot soup one too many times. I do understand where homophobic people are coming from. Some say they are protecting the institution of marriage but divorce is what is killing marriages. Some say God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve, I totally get them. What I don’t get is them going out of their way to make members of the LGBTQ community uncomfortable. What I don’t get is the discrimination against people for their sexual orientation. I could pinpoint verses in the Bible that technically say homophobia is wrong for example Jesus said when the people wanted to stone a prostitute to death, if any of you is without fault be the first to cast a stone at her. The other reason I hear for homophobia is the way homosexuals have sex is weird but they aren’t having sex with you. I believe anyone should be able to love whoever they want and even if you don’t agree with this, you could ask if it mattersb97e4592-fd04-415f-ba4b-337e63e23e14.

2019 is here and I am still talking about tribalism. My tribe does not matter when it comes to issues such as employment or admission at a school. I am proud of my heritage and everyone should feel the same way and no one should have to feel apologetic about which tribe they are from. No tribe or culture should be viewed more superior than others, why does it disturb you so much if I am from another tribe? Why does it matter if I am Luo or Kikuyu? I have experienced racism here and there, just casual racism and I wonder why my race matters so much. I thank God I am not American because the amount of racism in that country is sickening. I am left wondering why the color of my skin matters. Does it really matter?

 

 

Dear Black Girls

This is a letter to all the black girls out there. I acknowledge we live in an era where people on the internet get triggered in the name of being woke, some will claim this post failed to be inclusive of everyone but I felt I need to remind black girls everywhere a few things.

Dear black girls, your skin is beautiful the way it is. As a dark-skinned black girl, there is always that constant reminder that I would be more beautiful if I were light skinned. Last year, Sauti Sol released a song called Melanin and I felt represented in so many ways. The video was nothing but a work of art but of course Ezekiel Mutua begged to differ with this. He said the video was too sexual. What I saw in this video was representation of different shades  of black. For a really long time in the black community being light was deemed better cause it is closer to white. In November, Blac Chyna came to Nigeria to sell a bleaching cream called Whitenecious which was retailing for 250$. She claimed it was for hyper-pigmentation, if that was its real use then why the name? This company is prying on the low self esteem of black girls who have been told their shade of black isn’t beautiful. Dear black girls, white is not the standard of beauty. Dear black girls you don’t have to put your life at risk by bleaching. It is enough that some black girls cannot find their shade of foundation in make up stores, we demand for representation.

See the source image

Dear black girls your hair is beautiful the way it is. From a really young age, my hair has  been permed, I have suffered heat damage in order to ensure my hair is straight. This year was a big year for me because I did the big chop, what I felt was pure joy. I felt joy because I was no longer apologetic about how my hair grew. Black girls our hair grows against gravity and towards the sun and there is magic in that. I remember one time when I had growth in my hair and it would frizz, one teacher told me my hair wasn’t ‘straight enough’ I was about to ask what race I look according to her but of course I realized the repercussions of that. This teacher was black so of course I was annoyed that she thought that straight hair was better. Many people do not think afros are neat or presentable, I am not planning to wear my hair straight anytime. Black girls I am not saying it is bad to perm or straighten your hair but you shouldn’t do it to conform to European standards of beauty.

Dear black girls, your features are beautiful. This does not cut across only to black girls but every black person. Before the Kardashians came along, having big lips wasn’t deemed as attractive. I should know this, I was nicknamed fish lips at one time of my schooling life and at that moment I actually wanted thinner lips. Before the Kardashians came along, big butts weren’t a thing. At one point, big butts were part of the freak show, don’t believe me google Sara Baartman. As a black I have realized that anything about blacks isn’t pretty until a white person has them. Remember the time Zendaya wore dreadlocks on the red carpet and Giuliana said nasty comments about it but when a white person wears them they are beautiful. Black girls, your features are beautiful.

There are many things that annoy me, one of the things that seems to take the crown is the stereotypes about black girls. Films and media have depicted black girls in a single manner and as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story. Black girls are depicted as ghetto, ratchet, angry and as sexual objects. I have quite the temper and I fear once I am out of my continent, Africa, I will be seen as the angry black woman, of course my anger is not related to my race. I remember one time a boy of another race asked me where I learned to speak good English. I wasn’t offended by this because as a black I am expected to use colloquial English. I am expected to get into senseless fights, I am expected to yell at everyone because of my race. Black girls are often fetishized and sexualized. We are treated as sexual objects and of course black men are not doing anything to remove this notion as we can see from most music videos black women twerking and half naked. All we ask for is a bit of variety when it comes to black female characters and shows like Blackish have been able to do this.

Dear black girls, you are amazing and capable of doing whatever you want. May your melanin glow and afro grow.

Dear Kenyans

2BE58F93-EEBF-4E95-8463-E3B638D15F12.jpeg12th December marks the day when Kenya got independence from the British. 55 years we have been free from the chains of colonialism or so we think. Over half a century. I am a Kenyan and within the years I have been alive I have many concerns for my country majorly because I don’t think this is what the Kapenguria Six envisioned Kenya would be in 2018.
Allow me to pour out my emotions in this post. We became a British protectorate in 1895 then a colony in 1920. I would want to take my time to tell you how colonialism was probably the worst thing to Africa but by doing so I will deviate from the subject matter of this letter. I do not want to turn this to a History lesson so I will spare you the details that happened from the day we were declared a protectorate. Long story short, we have had four presidents since independence. We were once a single party country then we became a multi-party country. We are currently a very ‘democratic’ country.
My country has taught me beautiful things. One of them being making jokes of a really bad situation and Lord knows this is how I cope with the stresses of life. My country has also taught us how to be tribalists since birth. I live in a country where your last name matters so much. Tribalism is nothing new to Kenyans. Last year, we had our general elections and I remember people in school said my tribe wasn’t elite enough to run the country. The thing is we were voting for the candidates and what they believed in not their tribes. Depending on where I am will determine if I am comfortable enough to talk to my grandmother in my vernacular language. Sometimes I am even scared to say my surname because they tell people which region I am from.I have been discriminated against because of my tribe but I am not my tribe, I am Michelle Abiero. My question to you is why does it matter? Whenever elections are nearby, it is a very sickening time. We suddenly drop our common sense and turn against our neighbors because they are not one of us. We elect leaders because ‘yeye ni mtu wetu’ (this is our person). What changes has ‘mtu wenu’ (your person) brought apart from spreading hatred and animosity? We say how our generation is different but I beg to differ. We simply emulate what we see. Dear Kenyans open your eyes, if I were to ask you why tribe matters so much do you have an answer? If I were to ask you on what merit you elected your leaders do you have an answer for me?
I digress. 55 years on and our healthcare system is a mess. I will be told it is not in my place to call this out but you know what it is my place to call it out. I have been lucky enough to only go to private hospitals and by no means do I take that for granted. It is not only the public sector which is a mess but the private sector is suffering. You will be overcharged, you will feel like selling your kidneys to afford medicine, you might not get what you paid for. My people, how do we select people who go to medical school? Just because one has an A is that enough qualification. I once read an article which said you would rather die than be poor and sick in Kenya. Healthcare in Kenya is extremely expensive. It feels like daylight robbery but you are still not assured of quality healthcare. I have heard of cases where patients get raped in hospital or even the wrong patient is operated on. You might get mishandled, mistreated or misdiagnosed and I am not saying all Kenyan doctors are bad, I am saying some are in it for the money which sucks. Access to specialists is very limited. Our healthcare is not irredeemable; we can do something about it.
Let us talk about the mothers of irony, we put a 91-year-old to secure our youth sports fund. Someone who will likely not be there to see Vision 2030.Maybe the definition of youth changed since I was last in an English class. I swore never to talk about politics on my blog but today I am breaking that rule. I am sick and tired of Kenyan politicians, I wish you knew how exhausted I get cause of them. I am tired of the 2022 talks, let us first develop the country because we are taking to many loans that I don’t think we will be able to pay. These politicians have practically sold us to China and the worst bit is that most of this money doesn’t end up developing the country. Corruption is a reality. When the likes of David Ndii talk sense about the country’s economy, people hurl insults and this boils my blood. I need to comprehend how the bill to increase MPs pay passed. You people don’t understand the concept of leadership. You have to be a person of your word, you have to be compassionate, you have to accept everyone, you have to be humble and you have to excel in field of work. Why did you even vie for these seats if you don’t genuinely care about the people?
I don’t want to point an accusing finger, we can all play a role in developing Kenya. In 45 years, I might be alive. I hope to be okay taking my child to a public school and hospital not because I am unable to afford private schools or hospitals but because they are the best. I hope I don’t have to fly out of the country to access quality healthcare. I hope my child doesn’t have to study overseas to receive quality education. I hope MPs will be passing bills that are meant to improve the lives of the common mwananchi. I hope that we won’t be complaining of corruption and we will no longer be electing leaders based on tribe but based on what they have to offer. Dear Kenyans, these are my hopes for Kenya and I will play my role in ensuring these hopes become realities.

A Victim Of Circumstances

07FA37F4-AB97-497F-81AC-CB7AD8C3CB14.jpeg“Natalie, why didn’t you report?” he turned to me and asked. My eyes are soaking wet from recalling the events of that night in March, 2014. I don’t know if his perceptions towards me have changed. Maybe he will view me as some sort of slut . Maybe he will think I’m promiscuous or maybe he will say it was my fault, that my dress ‘invited’ him. Look at Dr. Ford, isn’t she enough of an example? The amount of attacks she got for reporting her assaulter. Lord knows  I tried to forgive myself after that incident but I really couldn’t. We are seated in a corner as I try to explain to him why I never reported.

I didn’t report because I did not think anyone would believe me.

I didn’t report because I didn’t say no or yes.

I didn’t report because I was eleven.

I didn’t report because he was my teacher.

I didn’t report because I thought everyone would judge me.

I told Allan this story because it was hurting me and he was my closest friend. I have never gathered the guts to tell anyone the events of that night but here I am sharing my story on the internet where millions of people can read it. My name is Natalie and I am a victim of sexual abuse.

I have always being outgoing, fierce and energetic. My parents can swear by that. I grew up in a small town, you know a town where everybody knows everybody. I wouldn’t define myself as popular but I am known. In school, my academics were great. I looked forward to any opportunity to leave school and this probably explains the number of clubs I had been in. I was in Drama, Debate, Scouting, Wildlife save for the fact I am not a huge fan of wildlife. 2013 was an interesting year to say the least, I joined drama club, I was friends with people I never thought I would get along with. Everything was fine.

That year we had a new teacher, Mr. Omondi, he was my science teacher . He was peculiar but he was one of the few teachers who genuinely understood my personality or at least I thought. He was kind, he would help me with my revision, he would share his poetry with me. He was one of the teachers in charge of drama and drama was my favorite club that year. Something about being on stage made me happy. 2013 was a good year until he told me that my friends trashtalked me and were just hypocrites. Since he was the teacher and I was the minor, I believed him. I was sad most of the times because I felt lonely. Over the holidays, he would call me and it didn’t feel right and I know you might feel it was my fault trust me I feel the same way. I was waiting to go to next grade in order to see less of him and I did. Sixth grade, I had different teachers and I was glad about that but I still saw him during drama practice. I remember once I had a male deskmate and he told me to pick between him and a friend I had known since nursery. I was naïve to say the least. I pretended like I didn’t understand what he meant. I still saw Mr. Omondi along the halls and in drama club. I wasn’t planning to quit drama, not any time soon.

We had drama festivals in Nakuru and as usual I was going. Here was a chance to leave town and do what I loved doing the most. It was a bus trip, I had sat with one of my closest friends. We were jamming to KISS FM. We were psyching ourselves up, we wanted to win and go for Nationals. It was a good day. We reached, performed and then indulged in foods my mum would not approve of. It seemed the objective of drama festivals is to ensure you end up with amoeba or something. I don’t recall most of the events that happened during the day but I remember the bus trip back. Mr Omondi insisted on sitting with me. I was honestly exhausted and I wanted to sleep. It was a three hour bus ride I presume. There were the usual noises after a performance. It was around 7pm.It was dark, I was wearing a black dress. The dress was my costume since I was playing the role of a teacher in the play we had performed. He had worn a blue shirt and a pair of black trousers. I had sat on the window seat and Mr Omondi beside me, I honestly tried dodging any conversations with him but at that rate it was impossible. He said “Let’s sleep that is a good idea.” His eyes were suggestive to say the least. He looked at me with desire and all I felt was fear and he professed his love for me. The next thing I knew his hands were inside my dress, he was touching me. He started moving his hands on my hips and I tried to stop him. I tried pushing him away but he was stronger I didn’t say yes and neither did I say no but I was eleven, what did I know about consent or sex? He placed a jacket on top of his hands in order for him not to be seen.He touched me and went towards my vagina, he slipped his fingers in and out of my vagina, all I felt was disgust. I was revolted. It was rough and painful. I was in excruciating pain but he seemed happy, that is all that matters, right? Two weeks later, he dedicated a poem to me on my birthday about the whole ordeal. I laugh when I think about this. Not only do you sexually assault a minor but you write a poem about it and give it to her on her birthday? Patriarchy has taught men they own women’s bodies. I AM SOMEBODY’S SISTER, COUSIN, DAUGHTER OR FRIEND. I AM SOMEBODY AND THAT IS ENOUGH

I should have screamed, and you could use this opportunity to tell me all the things that I could have done differently. To date I still blame myself. I feel like I could have done something. I break down when a boy accidentally or intentionally touches me. Sometimes I cry in exam rooms when I remember that day. I am here telling you my story in order for you to know it is not your fault. Almost five years on but I can’t seem to forget this incident and I can’t forgive him or myself. I was only eleven. What on earth did I know about consent or sex? I suffer from PTSD, depression and anxiety. I never walk alone, not even my parents know about the incident.  Two years after the incident he vanished from the school, I sometimes try looking for him, just to understand why he did that? WHY? I am nothing but a victim of circumstances.

25th November marks the beginning of 16 days of activism against gender based violence. This creative writing talks about how a young girl was sexually assaulted. Let us get the conversation going. Sexual assault/abuse hurts the victim and is very detrimental to their mental health. As Project Fmile, we will be doing our best to ensure that more people talk about sexual assault and gender based violence. If you are willing to talk about your experience on anything to sexual abuse, rape, harassment, physical and emotional abuse, please feel free to contact me.

Teenage pregnancies in Kenya

I honestly try avoiding writing about certain things on my blog in as much as I might have strong opinions on them and others may differ with me. Some of the issues I refrain from are legislations made in Kenya, political leaders in Kenya and what not. Lord knows I try.  I avoid giving my two cents on these issues because I don’t like controversy and I also do not like engaging in arguments online. But every once in a while, something  happens in my country and leaders give their say on it and I get really mad, because rarely do their thoughts make sense. As much as our constitution gives us the freedom of speech, I urge you all to use it responsively. Hence why I never talk about topics that I am not knowledgeable in. We should all try this.

Some time last year, I did a creative writing on teenage pregnancy. Please feel free to check it out https://michabiero.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/when-he-said-he-loved-me/. I honestly enjoyed writing this piece, majorly because it was and still is a social issue affecting most third world countries. On third of November, KCPE began. Let me explain, in Kenya, our curriculum is 8-4-4. Eight years in primary, four years in high school and four years in university (this is a lie). After your eight years in primary, there is a national examination done known as Kenya Certificate of Primary Education, to be honest I don’t like our curriculum but that is a rant for another days. On the first day of the exam, 20 KCPE candidates gave birth. Is it that our leaders cannot see there is a huge problem with a girl who is 13 or something being a mother? Over 100 girls are sitting for their national examinations pregnant in Kilfi County only.

Teenage pregnancy seems like an issue we would like to avoid talking about but then we have to.  What gets to me the most is that pregnant students are expelled from schools. You are barring a girl from accessing education because she is pregnant?  If this is not prejudice, someone sit me down and explain what this is. From the little Biology I know, I am well aware that for a baby to be formed we need a sperm and an ovum. In other words, it takes two parties, a male and a female. So if we are expelling the girl, why not also expel the boy? That is the only fair thing to do.

Here is the thing, we already have a problem and we need to fix it. I have had a few conversations with my friends regarding this topic. I think sex education is the way to go. Most parents avoid having the talk with their children and leave this delicate topic to the hands of our curriculum, which also doesn’t seem to be helping. We find it extremely un-African to talk about sex. Most teenagers are left at cross roads and find about sex from wrong sources such as their peers and porn websites. After that they will want to experiment. We have also sung about abstinence for years on end but it doesn’t seem to be working. I know a lot of people will not agree without I am about to say but we have to provide access to sexual healthcare to teens. This bill was previously proposed in parliament. Kids as young as 10 are engaging in sex which is a scary thought, but we need to find out why they are engaging in sex? I know religious bodies are completely against the idea of contraceptives. But you would rather teenagers to engage in sex and bring a baby who they are unable to raise?  If teenagers feel they are ready for the implications that come with sex, then do you as you please.

Lastly, let us not pretend that teenage pregnancies are as a result of consensual sex. We have pedophiles out here taking advantage of our teenagers or raping them. In my view, they deserve a life sentence. But patriarchy is still alive so no, justice isn’t getting served. By the way Ezekiel Mutua needs to mind his business, morality doesn’t equate to religion. Just stick to your films. You cannot impose a religion on a group of people and you have no right to dictate what a woman does with her body.

The flow of the ‘fro

On the 25th of August this year, I decided to cut my hair. A lot of people had questions  on why I decided to cut my hair. My reason was quite long so for the sake of keeping the conversation short, I would say I was experimenting. Now some lied to me, I had luscious hair, I am a lot of things but dumb isn’t one of them. I knew the state of my hair. Of course, I have had my fair share of experiments with my hair from dying it brown to set straws and what not. I honestly don’t think there is anything I haven’t done with my hair. I had relaxed, straight hair that had really bad ends and was fragile. This is the same type of hair I have had from childhood.

As a black girl, there are a lot of things that have been shoved down my throat, including the awful stereotypes regarding black women. I digress, I cannot be opinionated without the fear of being called loud. I fear getting called an angry black woman and I cannot lie I am angry about a lot of things like racism, tribalism, sexism, lack of quality healthcare in my country just to mention. I use the term black because that is referring to my race. If you have seen my photos, you know I am black, there is no debate about that. I identify as a black African, as we know there are Africans who aren’t from the Negroid race. One of the things that have been pushed down my throat as a black is the European standard of beauty. A lot of black features are deemed as ugly such as our hair, noses and lips. If you are familiar with the Dr Phil show, there was a black girl called Treasure who claimed she was white and the saddest bit she called black people all sorts of things, like uneducated and unrefined. Some claim it was hoax but if it wasn’t that was some whole other level of self hatred. I say this without the fear of contradiction, these are effects of colonialism. Colonialism was and still is the worst things to happen to Africa.

As a child, I went through the torture of having to put chemicals in my hair that would at times scald my scalp. I have never seen my natural hair and the few times I did, it would be referred to as growth and I would have to relax my hair which sucked. Making sure my hair was straight included unhealthy amounts of heat.  I believed in order to be called beautiful, I had to have straight hair. Growing up, there was no representation so none of the dolls had complexion like mine or ‘kinky’ hair which sucks.  As my tradition dictated, I would go to the salon to relax my hair before opening school and one day I asked myself “Why?”. I didn’t have the answer to this question. Was I this uncomfortable with my nappy/coily/kinky hair(call it whatever you want). Why did I even like straight hair? It felt as if I was unappreciative of my features as a black person. I would term it as an identity crisis. At the moment, I have very comfortable with my black features like my hair and lips. It has been over 2 months natural and I am loving it.My hair defies gravity and there is power in that.

 

Enjoy these photos of these amazing people rocking their natureal hair 39DB5BDF-5698-4839-AA4A-E1D03A670E7C6ACE4970-7FBA-4A1F-9810-D8401545E0FB3E5AB1BF-3BF5-4037-9BA9-F1B0C8C8890A9995271A-8459-45EE-B403-1286620B13A843042D10-B381-4878-9344-D0D4D671F076E542A17A-F4A1-440F-A7C4-F4A1688EA1F1935DA20D-E3CC-4D66-AB47-2E0FFC8052186B4D49ED-86F7-41FC-9973-F164ADCD0D6EC996342E-616C-4888-BDD3-F1777F2416DA

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Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

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Redefining feminism 

And girls wanna have fun(damental) human rights. My name is Michelle Abiero and I am a feminist. The most controversial thing I have said in my entire existence is that I am a feminist. Sometime last year I voiced my views on feminism. At the time, I didn’t understand this ‘movement’ fully but now I can confidently say I do understand the need of feminism. One of the things that shape my view on feminism is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s  TED talk ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ . You probably know it from Flawless by Queen Bey (Beyonce). To kick off this post, I have decided to quote the song.

We teach girls to shrink themselves
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls
“You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful
Otherwise you will threaten the man”
Because I am female
I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that
Marriage is the most important
Now marriage can be a source of
Joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments
Which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
In the way that boys are
Feminist: the person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes

As a feminist, I am viewed as a man-hating, angry female which of course doesn’t describe me at all. I don’t hate all men, I just hate men who rape, abuse and kill women. I hate men who treat women like second class citizens and men who fail to understand consent. I hate men who men who feel entitled, for just being men. I sincerely apologize if my thoughts on how decent people behave offends your fragile masculinity.

Being born a female in this world is tragic to say the least. We have to deal with certain things men don’t have to and of course that makes me angry. I AM AN ANGRY FEMINIST. I am angry the society teaches young girls that their hugest accomplishment is marriage. A woman cannot be in her thirties and unmarried, it is simply a taboo. From a young age in school, anytime a girl was caught doing anything wrong we would be asked ” What man will marry you?” This statement makes me beyond angry. My blood boils. We teach girls to compete for the attention of men. I have seen girls tearing each other apart because of a man, sis is it really worth it? We teach girls that it is okay to stay in abusive marriages/ relationships since being unmarried is a taboo.

Dear men, I would like you to understand what consent is. Since some of y’all seem to be illiterate, I will give the definition from Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary 9th edition.
Give permission for something to happen.
‘he consented to a search by a detective’
1.1with infinitive Agree to do something.
‘he had consented to serve as external assessor on the panel’

This is what consent is. Now when you ask girl to have sex with you and she says no, just swallow your fragile masculinity and go your way. It is that simple. Lord knows I am tired of being unable to go for a jog at past 7pm or at 5am. It is dehumanizing know that a girl will get raped and will be told well it will destroy his future. How about her? She is someone too. Don’t come at me with this nonsense that women will lie that they were raped for attention. Can you recall any of the names in Bill Cosby’s rape case? I didn’t think so.Only 2-8% of rapes are falsely reported. Believe the victim. It is funny how straight men understand consent when a gay man tries to touch them. Another thing that we are tired of is being treated like sexual objects. Don’t come into my DMs telling me that I have lovely boobs. DON’T. I am disgusted by men who hold their crotches in public while looking at women. I am tired of men who insult me when I don’t respond to their catcalls. I am most definitely tired of girls being slut-shamed. It is her body for crying out loud.

It is frustrating to know that I maybe more qualified or better trained than a man but he’s more likely to get a job. It is sad to know that if a woman wants to get ahead at work, she may have to use her body. It is degrading to be told that my place is in the kitchen/ home. I am beyond tired of toxic masculinity and if you feel particularly offended by what I have written, you are part of the problem.

Dear females, it is NOT okay to physically or emotionally abuse men. I acknowledge the fact that there are female abusers out here, I do. I also acknowledge the fact that men too can be raped, and they too get emotionally damaged by this. Toxic masculinity has also hurt the boy child. We have taught men that they aren’t supposed to speak up about their emotions. This probably explains why more men attempt suicide than women. Talking about your emotions isn’t a feminine thing. This needs to change, we need to unlearn all this.

 

Why Mental Health Matters 

Today is World Mental Health Day and if you are a frequent reader of my blog or follow me on social media, you do know I am a mental health activist. I was one before I knew it. From age 12, I have always had a keen interest on mental health. The first mental disorder I knew about was dissociative identity disorder (DID) formerly known as multi personality disorder. In 2017, two friends and I founded Project Fmile,a project that was started with an aim to spread awareness on mental health and suicide. The name came from the words Fake Smiles, most people I know who battle mental disorders always have fake smiles and we want to an end to this.We decided to do most of our activities online since we are able to reach a larger number of,and broader demographic of people. On our social media platforms(@projectfmile on Instagram and Twitter) , we discuss issues revolving on mental health. We talk about mental health disorders such as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and so on and so forth. We do not only want to spread awareness but we want to help people with mental disorders that is why we partnered with Oasis Speciality Hospital. One of the major highlights for us as Project Fmile was being invited for an interview on KISS FM, which is one of the largest radio stations in Kenya and we are extremely grateful for that. Words cannot describe how I felt during the interview. There I was talking about something I am extremely passionate about and I am extremely grateful for the chance to reach more people on this sensitive issue. We are also extremely happy to announce that FMILE MENTORS 2018 will be held in Nairobi in December . What FMILE MENTORS is about is creating more mental health activitists, we will have experts talking to us and it will be a learning experience for everyone there. Sadly, we only have 20 slots so make sure to apply and you will be notified by end of October.  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeuVsUiDhU-ZouFWX8E6LECkVGLgR2eFZlkg8gQ4fJO3hsWBg/viewform?c=0&w=1 

 My mum and I with Adelle Onyango 

A lot of times people ask me why I am so interested in mental health? Some even ask me why mental health matters. In the recent years, we have seen mental health awareness increasing and we have seen formation of projects to raise awareness on mental health and mental disorders such as Project Semicolon, Befrienders Kenya and This is Me Kenya. I must commend the people behind these fantastic projects and it’s amazing to see people starting the conversation on mental health and mental disorders which have been avoided especially in African countries. I wonder why there is stigma towards mental health and mental disorders, I wonder why we alienate people suffering from mental disorders. In Kenya alone it’s estimated that 4 million Kenyans life with mental disorders, the most common being depression and no being sad for an hour is not the same as depression. To make it worse,Kenya is one of the fifty four countries in the world without a budget set aside for mental health. 

For us to understand why mental health matters we have to define it. Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community according to WHO. If any of these is compromised then something is not right, something like stress does affect your mental health. The other question we beg to ask is why is there stigma towards mental health? This is more cultural and religious. Take for instance Chimamanda Ngozi’s TED talk ‘The Danger of a Single Story’, the same applies in mental health. We have a single story towards mental health and that is of someone crazy, incapable and deluded. If we got more people to share their stories on their struggles with mental disorders, it would help in eradicating these beliefs. That is why Project Fmile is doing ‘My Story Campaign’ if you’re comfortable with sharing your story, please send a video of you talking about your struggle with mental health on michelleabiero@gmail.com The other reason why there is stigma towards mental disorders is that many don’t understand its causes. Some of the causes are genetics, chemical changes in the brain and traumatic experiences. It is important for us to understand anyone battling a mental disorder is not to blame, a mental disorder is not a personal failure. Let’s get the conversation going. 

Mental Health Matters.

Sharon Otieno: My Two Cents

Hello guys, I know I went MIA for three months and I sincerely apologize for that. I want to write about something I’ve been meaning to write about since the story came out and that is Sharon Otieno, may her soul Rest In Peace. Sharon Otieno was a twenty six year old student at Rongo University in Migori County, she was seven months pregnant. Now of course, you don’t have to have a PhD in Human Biology to know by seven months pregnant I mean she was carrying a baby, another life inside her, it wasn’t a mere zygote or something but a life. She was murdered, stabbed eight times and raped. She was rumored to be involved with Okoth Obado, the governor of Migori County and DNA tests have confirmed that the baby was indeed Obado’s. 

In Kenya, we would refer to Okoth Obado as her sponsor, her sugar daddy, her blessed and I honestly don’t care what we should refer to him. The above terminologies are because of the age difference and of course for one to become a sponsor, he must be wealthy. It’s basic knowledge in Kenya that politicians are rich, at least that’s what we assume.After her murder, some idiots on Twitter took it upon themselves to write their unsolicited opinion on her death which I am quite aware I’m doing right now. The reason why I am saying they are idiots is because they said that the incident should serve as a lesson to young girls not to have sponsors. They decided to judge her life, which in a way was condoning the murder. They decided that this should serve as a lesson to young girls to work hard instead of looking for old men to provide for their needs.

I am no Saint, so I will not judge her. I will not also support the idea of having a sponsor but what I would like for Kenyans and any other person reading this to understand that  NOTHING JUSTIFIES HER MURDER. Nothing will justify her rape, nothing will justify that two lives were lost. I don’t know what type of sick person rapes and murders somebody. I don’t care whether she was carrying the governor’s child and maybe that was the reason. It will not justify the murder. I would like for us to stop criticizing her life but instead get justice to be served in this one case, it will give hope to millions of Kenyans that there are a few rational minds out there.

Until next time.