Monday, December 2, 2013

THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE!

I am a feminist J and if you ask what most people I’ve interacted with think of me, top of mind would be “Assertive feminist”. From my adolescences I have constantly amazed people with my strong approach to feminism. Come to think of it, to be nobody but yourself – in a world that is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle. I have been fighting my entire life and I got no intention of losing this battle.

I am a 3rd born in a family of four and recently graduated from Maseno University with a degree in BSc. Actuarial Science with IT. I have had a longtime fascination with women rights affairs and this is reflected in my active participation, starting in primary school, all through high school and university in activities such as students governing council, peer education and inter-university nonviolence and peace keeping forums. As each new cause came along, I was ready to support it whole-heartedly. I realize that as I grew up, the world did help me develop, at an early age, a deep sense of concern for young women plight and a genuine desire to play an affirmative role.

In order to succeed in my endeavors as a leader, I realized that professional training and capacity building was essential. In June 2011, I saw a Call for Applications to the Annual Feminist Leadership Institute at YWLI on the internet and I applied. I was amongst the 25 successful applicants who attended the residential Leadership Institute Program by Young Women Leadership Institute, YWLI in Mombasa, Kenya. The Institute was designed to equip young women with feminist leadership skills and build strategies for harnessing young women’s collective power for social transformation in Kenya. It was a milestone for me in my women-rights activism as I got an opportunity to learn and appreciate our diversity and uniqueness in tackling the plight for African women. To start with, the Institute put great emphasis on leadership and personal empowerment skills that have greatly strengthened my ability to approach problems logically and systematically. The Institute used real life situations which helped me bridge the gap between abstract principles and reality. This interdisciplinary approach is essential in responding to young women problems today.

My calling in activism began as a program intern at I Choose Life – Africa, Nyanza Program – a leading SRH NGO. As a Program Intern, I led a team of Peer Educators in initiating sustainable behavior change communication programs in Maseno University. For instance, we founded the Blue Pink Association – BLUPIA that worked collaboratively with the Female Students Association of Maseno University (FESAMU). FESAMU’s overall goal was to create safe space where female students could articulate their views and vision on the women rights development agenda whereas BLUPIA hosted a dynamic network of young men and women who were committed to promote gender equality and equity by taking into consideration the differences in women and men’s lives and recognizing the different approaches targeting young women needed to produce outcomes that are equitable. In partnership with the Maseno University AIDS Control Unit and office of the dean of students, we ran several successful campaigns that involved door to door hostel visitations that sparked focus group discussions, hosting ‘Girls’ on the Block’ radio show on Equator FM and the #SITAKIMYA social media campaign. To date, I take pride in having these programs running sustainably notwithstanding that all founders have already graduated.
From my experiences, I have learnt how I want to shape my future. My goals are clear: I want to be actively involved in developing and advocating for policy decisions that will benefit young women in my society. I want to unveil the objective truth of young women problems and tackle them to the best interests of the nation. I aspire to seek justice and bring to a halt all forms of sexism that undermine women while developing alternative visions for a just world.

In conclusion, feminism as a philosophy has a good deal to offer both men and women and there is great need to debunk the myths surrounding it. Africa is bubbling with opportunities in this “golden age” of economic significance and we need vibrant, visionary and competent individuals to steer her to greater economic heights – it is time for young women to stand and be counted. Remember, it is always small actions that make big differences.

By Moraa Osoro


Young Women's Leadership Institute (YWLI) is one of the four partner institutes of the African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Ethiopia Office.

For more on IIE , ACE or YWLI please follow the links below.
www.iie.org/
www.iie.org/en/Programs/ACE-for-Womens-Leadership
www.ywli.org