Sunday, 16 December 2012

...Of Hugs and Kisses...

Public displays of affection are physical acts of intimacy the view of others. PDAs vary from one culture to another as well as time and context. I can involve handlidding, hugging, kissing, touching etc. What determines PDAs has to do with personal taste, cultural and religious beliefs. And any laws applying to a specific religion. There is a wide variance in what gestured are considered PDAs, and whether they are acceptable, tasteful or legal.

In western countries, it’s very common to see people holding hands, hugging and kissing in public. In Latin America, the practise of teenagers gathering in public parks to kiss, caress, or even have oral sex is common. In some countries, in south Asia, Africa and India, such acts are tantamount to serving a jail term because they are considered obscene. However, relaxation of previous generations’ social norms has made public displays of affection more common among the younger generations demographic.

The kiss on the cheek has to be one of the greatest mysteries of all times. One or two, on either cheek. We have those enthusiastic kisses which will go for more and will be intend on getting them. Why not one? Surely one can deliver the message fully. If you are of the one routine, you pull away after the first kiss and you leave your poor greeter with her or his lips pursed. You place your head back awkwardly and endure the rest.

Just when you’re thinking ‘thank God it’s over’ you see their face still leaning toward yours. You should be on high alert. He or she is going for the lips. If you’ve been caught in such a situation, you should be informed, because before you know it you’re locked in a mouth to mouth kiss.

The most peculiar thing about this segment of greeting is that you’ll normally get it from the most unbelievable sources. E.g. school mates, family, and friends. It’s even worse and awful since most people insist on talking during the greetings; it makes the counting and head co-ordination even the harder. Why do people have to kiss on the lips? The words add, unlikely and unnerving cannot aptly describe this behaviour of women and men with no gayish tendencies to insist on kissing each other on the lips. What’s worse, say in a public place, you only need to see the works of disgust and shock of the people around you especially conservative one’s to know what I mean.

Here goes my best group equation, for every five they knows, they’ll hug ten and here is how it works; A and B are friends. A meets B, hugs and kisses him or her, stands back, is introduced to C and promptly hugs her. They are especial;postID=1894801607510439230ly good at accompanying every greeting with sweet lies like ‘oh¦ my God, I missed you so much’ or ‘hey, bro, what’s up?’’ these people are just great to watch. If it’s not you they are embarrassing that is.

Another group that’s weird, you meet them today and within a week, you graduate from simple handshakes to those tight hugs that leave you barely breathing. It’s really taxing to wait until they’re done. Apparently, they call it showing affection. But seriously, seeing and knowing that adults of today were not brought up on a lot of touches, hugs and kisses. It’s understandable why the whole PDA thing is slowly cropping up in our society through the youths.

Unless you know what you’re doing, aim for the hand; stay away from hugs and kisses. Stick to the handshakes, you can never go wrong there.

Article by
Carol Mbinda
Camp alumni and Graduate

Monday, 3 December 2012

Whats Sex Got to Do With It??

Girls are hot. Reproductive rights are not. This is the strange and yet unspoken contradiction endemic in the current development discourse about gender equality. From the boardrooms of Exxon Mobil, to the World Bank, to the offices of the Nike Foundation and the overflowing halls at Davos and the Clinton Global Initiative, you can hear people talking about the importance of investing in girls. Women are often added as an afterthought—their inclusion is often phrased as “girls and women” rather than as “women and girls.” Most often you hear that “educating girls” is the magic bullet of the 21st century.
The last time I heard something being prescribed as often as the solution to everything from low GDP rates and malnutrition in infants to endemic poverty, it was the early 1990s and the buzz was about something started by a Bangladeshi man named Muhammad Yunus. Girls’ education is the new microfinance. Yet educating girls about their sexuality and providing funding for access to contraception, safe and legal abortion, and broad education about their reproductive health and rights—which was a significant emphasis of global philanthropy in the 1980s and 1990s—has now dwindled in popularity. Although a few dedicated foundations and the European bilateral aid donors continue their commitment to organizations such as the United Nations Population Fund, the new global actors are focused on girls’ access to schools and learning.
Proponents of girls’ education (of whom I am one) are right about many things. Girls who are educated are, in the long run, likely to marry later, bear fewer children, educate their own children, and be less vulnerable to sexual abuse and coerced sex (and therefore less likely to be infected by sexually transmitted diseases). These outcomes have important positive implications for the poorest developing countries that are still struggling to expand their economies and provide basic services to their citizens. Larry Summers, former president of Harvard University, who was widely criticized for his 2008 comment about women’s lack of natural aptitude for science and math, was once considered the guru of girls’ education. During his tenure as chief economist at the World Bank, he argued that investing in girls was among the most effective development choices that poor countries could make in their march toward economic and political development. Yet while these outcomes are encouraging, we need to remember that girls deserve the right to be educated, even in the absence of such results, simply because they are human beings and because women’s rights are human rights.
Second, it is important to remember that although education brings with it many benefits for girls and the women they grow to be, it is not a magic bullet. It is not the solution to the pressing and interlinked problems of climate change and population growth. High levels of education for girls and women at high-income levels can coexist with stubborn structural gender inequality, as is the case in Saudi Arabia and Japan.
Third, as the disturbing Stieg Larsson novels remind us, it is far from clear that educating women is the answer to decreasing violence against them. Societies with highly educated women and girls still continue to struggle with endemic and ongoing violence against women. A November 2011 report from the US Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, estimates that one in four women in the United States has been sexually abused, and one in five has experienced physical violence and abuse.
So what is going on? Why is the discourse in the United States so determinedly focused on the issue of educating girls, and what are we refusing to talk about?

Women’s Sexuality Is Messy

The answer is the messy stuff: women’s sexuality. It is striking that the most influential media messages about the importance of investing in girls tend to depict them as “little girls.” They are 12 and pigtailed in Nike Foundation’s short and catchy animated film. There is nothing threatening or unsettling about a cute little girl. We don’t see a young woman in all her sexual complexity—her power, her attractiveness, her vulnerability, her mystery, her desire to attract and influence others, her need to be loved, recognized, valued. As a colleague from the Nike Foundation once said to me, “It is much easier to sell girls’ education programs to male CEOs than the politically charged agenda of women’s reproductive rights!”
Campaigns about girls’ education rarely focus on girls in the United States or other parts of the developed world. Implicit in the message is that this is about “those girls”—the ones who are brown and black and poor and live in different countries and aren’t like us. There is little, if any, talk about the similar challenges that face our own girls—the ones who live at or below the poverty line in Oakland, Calif., the South Bronx, and rural Mississippi.

So we want to educate girls, but we don’t want to talk about sex. We want girls to read, but we don’t want to provide them with information about their bodies. We want to save girls from female genital mutilation and rescue them from brothels, but we don’t want to know why they choose to sleep with their boyfriends or trade sex for commodities or affection or grades. We want girls to get married later, but we don’t want to talk openly about contraception or abortion. Even the Obama administration, the best friend American women’s reproductive rights advocates have had in a decade, refused to abide by the US Food and Drug Administration ruling to allow over-the-counter access to birth control pills that would allow early prevention of possible pregnancy. Last November, it was only thanks to the feverish efforts of women’s rights advocates that Mississippi did not pass a law outlawing the use of IUDs.
This is the inconvenient truth that is hiding behind the current excitement about educating girls. We are happy to educate them and hope that reading, writing, and ’rithmetic will somehow magically translate into positive outcomes. Yet everything I learned from funding women’s rights organizations for 14 years at the Global Fund for Women suggests that women and girls cannot rely on formal school education alone to prepare them for a world that continues to treat them as “less than.” Girls and young women need basic information about their bodies and programs to build confidence and self-esteem. The value of sex education in schools has been studied and recommended for decades, and sex ed has been incorporated into the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Yet this remains one of two important documents—the other is the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women—that the United States has refused to ratify because of internal political resistance from conservative forces, which believe the best way to deal with sexuality is to suppress it and encourage abstinence.
In February, I was in meetings at the United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA. In the 1990s, UNFPA was a pioneering organization in global reproductive health and rights. Working with civil society and governments, it helped create the groundbreaking consensus of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, where more than 150 governments committed to making access to contraception and family planning part of a comprehensive approach to gender equality. Yet, despite this global consensus, the Bush administration cut funds for this UN agency, pushing millions of women into positions where they had little or no access to birth control. As Julia Whitty wrote in a May 2010 Mother Jones article, “Although it’s unclear how many babies were added to the human family as a result of the global gag rule, the UN estimates that at its height in 2005, the unmet demand for contraceptives and family planning drove up fertility rates between 15 and 35 percent in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Arab states, Asia, and Africa—a whole generation of unplanned Bush babies.”
The real irony about the unwillingness to talk about sex and contraception is that this conversational lacuna is happening against the backdrop of climate change and natural resource depletion. Last October, the seven billionth person was born on our globe. You would think that everyone would be touting the results of studies by the Futures Group and the National Academy of Sciences. These show a strong correlation between addressing the unmet need for voluntary contraceptive use and family planning and the potential to reduce carbon emissions by 8 to 15 percent. Yet these are topics that most environmental and women’s rights activists are wary of broaching. The environmentalists shy away from talking about family planning for fear of being labeled racists; the women’s rights activists resist openly discussing contraception or abortions for fear of losing support among US conservatives.

Yet if we want our daughters to grow up with confidence, courage, and competence, we must make sure that they grow up with knowledge about and access to contraception. We should build schools, fund libraries, encourage teacher training, and support free tuition, but we also need to push for comprehensive access to sex education for both girls and boys, not just abroad, but right here in the United States. The words of Margaret Sanger are as prescient now as they were when she first uttered them: “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.” If the future of the world depends on the freedom of women, it must include their sexual and reproductive freedom. If not, their “freedom,” to paraphrase Janis Joplin, will be just another word for “nothing left to lose.”

Article by
Kavita N. Ramdas
Executive Director
Ripples to Waves

Tuesday, 6 November 2012


Gossip, according to most people, is an ugly word made up of lies, half-truths, rumours and private and intimate affairs. It can be traced back to the anglo-saxon times to words that meant ‘God’ and ‘kin’, which is contrary to what most people think. Gossip can be positive if you’re sharing information that is not necessarily negative, but the problem is that it usually quickly turns negative commonly known to many as the ‘inside scoop’.

Let me call it informative discussion. It is synonymous with small, light, informal conversations for any social occasion. There is actually no way people can live without discussing the what, how, when, why and whom of others. It is normally depicted as a person given secret information and who divulges it to others. I will equate it to rumors especially when they are untrue. We have the signs of people engaging their noses deeply into other people’s business. There are the knowing looks, nudges, winks, furtive glances and for those who have not brushed up on the skill, hands partially covering mouth.

Gossip is everywhere and is inevitable just like change. Its in schools, workplaces, church, cities and around our homes. There are celebrity gossip, wrestling gossip, Barbie gossip even E-gossip. Gossip is entertainment for most people, but for those being gossiped about, its detrimental, negative and damaging to their lives.

Gossip is basically lies, lies and more lies. It always starts with people having tid bits of information about a person they know or don’t know, and they take that information and build a new story around it in their heads. Then they tell their friends who spurn it with even more false information. So by the time it reaches ears of the supposed person; it’s another level.

Gossip gets carried away because talking about other people’s crazy made up lives is sometimes more fun than talking about reality. Real life is crazy enough without having people make stuff up about you & vice versa. There has to be a better way for people to socialize without making up lies. There is nothing worse than a little ‘harmless gossip’.

Most people will deny that they are gossiping and dress it up as “fact”. Apparently, we have one special category of people that are the most dangerous, the all “perfect” kind. These are the people who you’ll never find a hair out of place, always have a good word for everyone and everything they encounter, your confident, friend etc. woe unto you when that friendship reaches it end, they will make you grovel and dig deeper and regurgitate all the stored up information at very unexpected moments. Before you tell your tales to them, scratch just a little beneath the surface and its quickly apparent that underneath all that gloss is one hideous mask..

However, even as we tell our idle little stories and indulge in half-truths about others, we must try to draw the line at the hurtful malicious stuff that can destroy reputations. There are actually three stains of gossips, one; the innoculous chitchat about the weather, schools, churches etc and its an easy descent to number two; a more personal level about people, family, friends moods, character & personality. This kind of rumour, though not vindictive becomes the basis for judgements of character and so often grows with re-telling to the intimate and private problems of others.

Lastly and thirdly; slander, no wonder apostle paul, censored those who “get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busy bodies saying things they ought not to” (1 Timothy 5:13). This is the type of gossip that tarnishes reputations, divulges secrets (proverbs 16:27-28). This kind of gossip more often originates originates from a distortion rather than a lie, while statements and actions can usually be confirmed, its hard to prove intentions. Everyday slander, however, discredits character, twists motives and undermines public confidence.

That said, its difficult to curb gossip. Simply be careful where and how you wag about your tongue and about whom. Whether true or false, gossip affects us all.

Proverbs 18:8; the words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down Into the innermost parts of the body.

Article by Carol Mbinda
RCWG Camp Alumni

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Happy International Day for the Girl

‘On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.’
October11,2012 marks the first month that the world celebrates this unique day. So much has been written and said about empowering girls to the point that it is almost ‘cluttering’ people’s minds. Critics say that ‘the whole girl empowerment thing is a little over the top.’ Some ask about the boy child, and say that empowering the girls has been pushed too far at the expense of the boy child. Such critics only highlight just how we have a long way to go in ensuring gender mainstreaming. So much has been achieved yes, but still much more needs to be done. Society has a long way to go in accepting that there is need to empower women and ensure that they are at the same level of contribution/participation as their male counterparts.
The theme of this years’ Day of the Girl is Child marriage. A recent report on the Daily Nation newspaper stated that ‘Kenya ranked high on Teenage mothers list, out of wedlock, into school: combating child marriage through education, nearly 3 in every 10 girls are bearing a child, heavily disorganizing their school lives.’ Issues such as the preference for education of boys over girls, and forced early pregnancies for girls (as per the study), or the disregard of the utility of the added resource provided by women, continue to thrive as barriers to development. There is a cycle of undermining and marginalizing of girls, which reinforces systems in which girls (and later women) are undervalued at all levels of engagement, from community to state levels. This poses serious challenges, not least, stagnation around the quality of progress achieved for development. The potential is far from maximized for whole societies. We have seen the manifestation of this problem in the perennial gaps in women’s representation at the most senior levels and this remains a major stumbling block.
As a result of these challenges which are inherent in our society, it becomes urgent to ‘catch girls young’ (early intervention), and support them in achieving some degree of personal empowerment, which will form the basis for their personal values with their families, at school, university, and work – places that they constantly face exploitation, harassment and discrimination of some kind.
Today, as the world celebrates the Day for the Girls, the Resource Centre Women and Girls(RCWG) family will celebrate its Sheroes whose courage continues to inspire us even long after some are gone; Leaders who have dared bring the women agenda on the table for discussion in an effort to give us a voice; Mentors who have worked tirelessly to bring out the great potential within us;  Feminist and Women Rights activists who have challenged negative society norms that oppress girls; Institutions and Organizations that have thought it important to bring the girl child on the spotlight in their activities; parents, guardians, brothers, sisters and friends who have stood by their daughters, siblings or friends and supported them at times when they needed that support; Young girls who ‘get it’ and inspire their peers at that very low level.
It is such people whose tireless work, passion, solidarity, courage, wisdom and understanding that has brought Girls this far and will bring the change that is needed. It is them that will bring the girls on an equal level to exercise their full potential.
Thank you!

Posted by Rachel Sittoni

Rachel is a graduate from the RCWG camp. The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the RCWG opinion.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Miniskirts in Schools

When i was in High school, We used to get uniform skirts sooo long, you had to step on them while walking and sometimes even fall down...Recently, there has been a debate over Honorable Mutula's response regarding wearing of short skirts after a school goes on strike after their head teacher refused them to!! I think Most people in Kenya just don’t like change!!! They like to remain primitive and old fashioned, and for this reason, they are dragging the progress of other people who want to move forward. In my opinion, I think that the skirts should not be too long and not to short. Allow them to be at least in level with the knees...That’s not too bad is it???
I am not saying this because i wish that at my time skirts were shorter, because with or without permission, we wore short skirts but then we would keep hiding from the teacher on duty because if you were was an immediate suspension, or the skirt would be confiscated.
Anyway, if it is a matter of indecency, ok. I agree sometimes girls can go overboard and over do it and abuse such freedom, but this does not apply to girls only. Any person granted the freedom to do something can sometimes enjoy that freedom too much and abuse it in the long run.
Therefore, i think people should not be quick to harshly rebuke Hon. Mutula. Even though he has yet again retreated on the allegation he made, we are glad he heated the debate for us. I am not advocating for mini skirts in high school, although it would be good if the girls were given a little freedom to show 'some legs'. And i am saying this with the knowledge that some male teachers might give this as an excuse to abuse some girls in school. However, it should be noted that this can not be a major contributory factor to abuse. There are several, and i believe we know a few. It has happened in the past, and is continuing to happen in most schools, What the Ministry of education is doing to stop it is a discussion for another day, but for now let us consider this whole issue at hand.
Post your comments and let us hear what you think about this issue...

Wednesday, 25 April 2012


Three years ago, 32-year-old Lilian Kirabo* was raped. She talks about her struggle to overcome the trauma and her struggle to accept and love the child she bore as a result of the attack. I wish I could forget that day… but I cannot. It was on 31 January 2009. I had gone to meet an old friend who had promised to help me get a job where she worked. Since she lived in Mombasa, I had travelled from Nairobi the previous day so that I could honour our appointment. We had agreed to meet at her office, but when I got there, I found it locked. I called her on her mobile phone, thinking that she was just running late, but it was switched off. I decided to wait for her by the lifts; this way, I would not miss her. About 30 minutes later, there was still no sign of my friend. I got impatient and decided to inquire about her at the office next door. Had I known what would happen to me there, I would have taken the next bus back to Nairobi. But I did not know, and the consequences haunt me to this day. I knocked, and entered. I found two young men, who courteously welcomed me and asked how they could assist me. I inquired about my friend’s whereabouts, but instead of answering my questions, they asked why I wanted to see her. I told them that she was supposed to assist me get a job. They handed me a sheet of paper and asked me to put down my name and other details. They said that they, too, could help me get employment. Why not? I thought. As I was writing, one of the men left. The other one started rummaging through the drawers of the desk behind which he was seated, as though looking for something. He suddenly jumped over the desk and held a knife to my throat. It was cold. I was too surprised and shocked to react, so I just sat still. He calmly informed me that if I tried to scream, he would slit my throat and throw me out of the window. “People will think that you committed suicide,” he said. Then he started to insult me, accusing me of being a prostitute who had come to Mombasa to look for white men. He bolted the door, undressed, then raped me. He did not bother to use a condom. It was horrible and it appeared to me like a bad dream. I had never imagined that I would be a victim of sexual assault. When he was done, he unbolted the door and called the man who had left on his mobile phone. The accomplice came in and ordered me to get out and not pass through my friend’s office. He even followed me to make sure that I got into the lift. When I got out of the building, I tried to call my friend, but her phone was still switched off. Even though I was still in shock, I managed to ask for directions to the nearest police station so that I could record a statement. Walking in there is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I felt embarrassed, but knew that it was important that I report what had happened. When I found a policeman at the desk, I asked if I could speak to a female officer. I recounted my story, but she seemed unmoved, making me feel even more embarrassed. She informed me that she was expected elsewhere, but would accompany me to the office where I had been attacked. We found the office locked and when we peeped through the window, it looked empty. She advised me to go back to the police station a day later since it was a Saturday. I made my way to my aunt’s house, where I was staying. I thought of going to hospital since I was worried about contracting HIV, but I had no money. Asking my aunt for money was out of the question because I knew that she could not spare any. I was also still feeling embarrassed and was afraid that she would not understand how something like that could have happened to a grown woman. Instead, I took a shower, then called my mother, who was visiting her parents in Kampala. We are close and I felt comfortable telling her about the rape. Unfortunately, she too had no money, and advised me to return to the police station on Monday. The policewoman accompanied me to the office, but it was still locked. We waited for a while for the caretaker, who was not in his office, but the officer got impatient and left. I felt that she was not supportive and seemed not to understand the magnitude of my despair. I went back to my aunt’s home and tore the documents the police had given me to enable me to pursue the matter. The following morning, I boarded a bus back to Nairobi. The journey home seemed to take an eternity. I switched off my phone because I had no desire to talk to anyone, but my mind was in overdrive. I had a lot to worry about. HIV crossed my mind, as did pregnancy. Already, I was the single mother of a five-year-old girl whom I was struggling to raise. I had gone to Mombasa with high hopes of getting a job to enable me to give my daughter a decent life, yet I was going back home worse off than when I set off. I wondered how safe my daughter was if I, her mother, was not. Two weeks passed in a blur. Then I began feeling sick in the morning, making it difficult for me to get up. When nausea set in, the possibility of pregnancy loomed. When I missed my period, I felt as though my world had crashed. All that occupied my mind was the pregnancy. I worried every minute of the day and night. I could not sleep. Eventually, I decided to have an abortion and went to a nearby private clinic. I was informed that the procedure would cost Sh7,000. I did not have the money. Even if I did, I would have better used it to pay rent, buy food, and pay school fees for my daughter. In desperation, I tried to induce an abortion by swallowing a detergent, but nothing happened. I tried several other concoctions, but they too did not work. I finally decided to commit suicide. But first, I decided to confide in a friend who works at the Kenyatta National Hospital. She told me about the hospital’s Gender Violence and Recovery Centre (GVRC), where I could receive free treatment. She also cautioned me about abortion and informed me that I did not have to keep the baby if I did not want to. She took me to see a psychiatrist who, over time, helped me to open up. The personnel at the centre called my mother and informed her about the pregnancy and also told her that I needed support. My mother became my source of strength. It is because of her that I managed to stay sane through the pregnancy. I would get agitated whenever the baby kicked. I felt as though my abuser was not done with me. I hated to feel the baby move and I hated the thought of giving birth. I resisted taking an HIV test and only gave in when I was booked for delivery after it was explained to me that I needed it so that I could protect my child from contracting the virus in case I tested positive. When I got the results, I was relieved to know that I was free of the virus. I finally gave birth to a baby boy. He did not resemble me and I resented him. My mother decided to call him Blessing. She took it upon herself to show him love when I could not. This gradually changed my attitude towards him. Mother encouraged me to breastfeed him and, to my surprise, I found myself getting attached to him. She also talked me out of placing Blessing for adoption, and promised to look after my son as if she were her own, if I could not bring myself to do it. Learning to love Blessing It has taken time, it has been emotionally and psychologically taxing, but I have learnt to disconnect my son from the rape. I now love him regardless of how he came into my life. Blessing is now two-and-a-half years old and I love him with all my heart. He is a loving boy who enjoys football and building blocks. He is talkative and observant. He gets me talking whenever he notices that there is something bothering me. He does not hesitate to ask, “Mum, ni nini?” (What is it?) An important lesson this experience has taught me is that it does not matter how old you are, or how you are dressed. A rapist will always find a reason to attack you. On the day I was attacked, I wearing a long flowing skirt suit since I was going for a job interview. Why would anyone argue that rape victims invite the attack because they dress indecently? If this is true, what about children? We have heard of grown men raping two-year-old children. This experience has also motivated me to speak against sexual abuse. Thanks to the training I have received at the Kenyatta National Hospital’s GVRC, I know a lot about such attacks. I visit schools in Nairobi at least once every week to speak to pupils and students about rape and other forms of sexual assault. My interaction with these young people has taught me that sexual abuse among children is common. In most cases, the attackers are relatives and other adults in whose care they are entrusted. My colleagues and I teach these children how to spot a potential perpetrator and when to report to their guardians and other people they trust of suspicious friendships. I urge parents to talk to their children about sexual abuse and caution them about getting involved in inappropriate friendships with adults. It is something I do with my daughter all the time. A candid talk will equip them with survival skills that they can apply even as adults, skills that could keep them safe from sexual attacks.