Our first day in Amsterdam!! I had expectations and I was excited about it all. Being my first time to travel out of my motherland Kenya; I had heard so many things prior to this trip about how people lead their lives abroad, what they eat, how they dress and the thrill of all this hearsay was the fact that I was going to see and experience it all first hand.
On arrival, we were met by an Intern at the Mama Cash office called Heather, who would be our guide for the day. I noticed how clean the city was and that there were a lot of people cycling in the city and the bikes were even more than the people themselves. I have never seen so many bikes in my life!
We boarded a bus, different from how we do it back home of course, there is a more organised and systematic process to the transport system in Amsterdam and apparently in all of Europe, that I wish we could adopt back in Kenya. The bus took us to a stop near the hotel and from there we had to walk to the hotel which was about 5 minutes away. When we got to the hotel, we met other mama cash grantees who had come for the festival, Faith Phiri and Memory Banda, from Malawi.
We went for dinner with three of Mama Cash staff and Heather and there we got a small briefing of how the following day would be and what to expect.
The following day on Friday 26th June we were escorted to an Arts school which would be the venue of our rehearsal. We met two theatre and art directors Khadijah and Lennie took us through the presentation and delivery of our stories.
At the theatre we met Amber and Charlotte, from the Netherlands who would also be participating in the presentation at the festival. Our rehearsal session started by introducing ourselves and sharing our stories, which the art directors would then guide us on how best to deliver it.
I shared my inspiration to the group, which comes from a character called Akoko in the book the river and the source. Akoko is the daughter of a chief who married her off at 19. She got married to a chief as well and was unable to bear more than three children, and for that she was accused of witchcraft making her husband consider getting a second wife.
This did not sit well with Akoko and in her husband’s absence, she left and went back home something that was not very common among women during that time. Her courage, confidence and bravery to defy the harmful traditions bestowed upon her is one of the main things that inspires me.
This is because we are always taught to be like Akoko at the camp. To be confident and to be courageous, and most importantly to transfer the same skills to other girls who do not get the privilege of attending the camp.
FESTIVAL DAY…GELIK=ANDERS!! EQUAL IS DIFFERENT!!
The day I had been waiting for, the day I had heard so much about, and worked hard to prepare for was finally here! The theme of the festival was Gelik=Anders meaning Equal is different. This was such an exciting day and I was looking forward to the activities that would happen and most of all, the presentation I would be part of titled ‘NEXT GENERATION FEMINISTS’. We arrived at the venue earlier than the sessions were scheduled so as to do final touch ups on our rehearsals, which went very well and everyone had mastered their part of the presentation.
We were thereafter directed to the official opening of the festival which was done by the director of Mama Cash, Nicky McIntyre, and after that people went to different sessions by different festival organisers and participants.
I went to a session by Girls Rights Watch which reflected on issues on the post 2015 Agenda and whether youth should participate. I was not sure and I am still learning about what the post 2015 Agenda is, but it was a great session and also the fact that I got to speak despite the fact that I was the youngest in the room. I felt so empowered!!
Then came our session, ‘THE NEXT GENERATION FEMINISTS’. We headed to the room where we would be presenting and started getting ready and preparing and we waited for people to start coming in. In a few minutes, the room was already packed!! We had a great turn up for our session.
I was a bit nervous, but I was ready! I knew I would make my fellow sisters back home very proud. After everybody settled down, we started our presentation, Memory, went first and I followed. I gave it my all and represented the Akoko very well and I was also very proud of myself.
A Q and A session followed after our presentation, but Ivy, who accompanied me on this trip and Faith who accompanied Memory Introduced themselves first.
One of the questions asked was how people view Feminism in our countries, especially by men. Ivy responded by saying that most men identify with feminism ideologies but never get to say it out loud. She continued by saying that feminists are seen as these women who never go to the salon, or dress nicely or even get married. She gave an example of how she was even told to leave her feminism at the door before getting into the house by someone a while back.
The session and the presentation in general was received with very positive echoes and people were tweeting a lot about it. I was very happy about our presentation and the fact that we had done well!
I visited the Sex Museum the following day and went for a walk through the red light district, and this was a lifetime experience. I actually think I was very shy walking through the museum and the red light district. I was surprised at how liberated the Dutch people were about Sex!
This is not something you can find In Kenya and especially Machakos where I am from. I kept wondering how I would start explaining to my parents especially because of the culture of silence about sexual matters in African societies. This I must share with my sisters at the Camp during our Aunty’s box!
My last day in Amsterdam, we were invited to the mama cash office. They hosted us for lunch and I was very happy to meet the partners working with RCWG to support the camp program.
I also saw my fellow sisters from the camp in the june’s mama cash newsletter. This was very exciting especially because we were on the Cover page! Yaay!
The mama cash family was very friendly and welcoming and I was very proud to be part of such a great initiative.
I don’t take it for granted that I was chosen to represent more than 250 girls from the RCWG program, It was such an honor and I am very grateful to the Resource Center and Mama Cash for this wonderful life changing experience.
By Joy Mwende Kikuvi