Friday, February 28, 2014

Smashing Patriarchy!

 I am an emerging leader and a feminist working with the Resource Center for Women and Girls, in Machakos. I grew up in a community where girls faced many challenges and throughout my early life, I always wanted to change this reality for me and other young girls who faced similar challenges.  The difficult thing about being in such a position was getting a platform that would help amplify my voice in a very patriarchal society.

Working with the Resource Center for Women and Girls offered that platform for me. So many opportunities opened up for me including attending the Feminist Leadership Institute in 2011 hosted by Young Women’s Leadership Institute. The leadership institute was an eye opener for me and through some of the lessons learnt and unlearnt in that institute, I have become a better leader. I joined a political party and I am always interested in listening to and criticising any decisions our government makes involving women especially through the Young Women’s Leadership Institute’s platform.

I am in my final year in the University of Nairobi pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Philosophy and it is fascinating to see how patriarchal   previous scholars in the academic world were, with very little to read about ancient women scholars, although I’m happy to note that is currently changing.

 I am currently involved in a social change project that collects and distributes sanitary towels to girls in rural Nairobi who drop out of school due to lack of sanitary towels. I am also in the process of partnering with Single Mothers ‘Association of Kenya who sell re-usable sanitary towels and train women on maintaining hygiene during their menses. This is a project I am passionate about because it is very heart breaking to see a young girl with so much potential  missing school every month for 7days due to lack of sanitary towels, and this same girl, given the opportunity could excel in her society, which means less teenage pregnancies, better opportunities for her and reduced poverty levels.

Working with young girls and women is a passion I regard dearly. This is because it is quite evident that given an opportunity and with resources availed to them; women do bring about positive change in society. Women’s challenges are very similar all over the world and their resilience and zeal to overcome them inspires me and makes my passion for my work grow to greater heights.

Getting linked to the Young Women’s Leadership Institute was a golden opportunity for me. I was still new to leadership and feminist related matters and it is through YWLI that I was able to understand better that being a leader in my own way through different projects and assignments leads to many positive changes in the society for me as an individual and for my fellow young women.

I got to expand my network through meeting different young feminists who are promoting social justice in their societies. I learnt and unlearnt in the process and got involved directly and indirectly with different activities through the broad networks I gained from YWLI’s trainings and activities.

YWLI has been a big part in my growth as a leader and I am happy to be able to transfer my skills to the beneficiaries of our Resource Center for Women and Girls program through various activities and also directly through linking some of them to attend the trainings organized by YWLI.

I call myself a feminist because of my attitude and approach towards patriarchy. Patriarchy makes me Mad!! and I don’t understand why in very many parts of the world, women remain oppressed and are treated as inferior either through culture or government practices which do not favour them, while on the other hand when I look at different women even in their small ways, I see so much untapped potential.

It is quite evident that women are usually in the forefront of many changes and developments in the society yet the opportunities availed to them are very limited. Even in the current changing world, we still see some harmful practices intended to intimidate women in their leadership roles especially those in government positions.

Feminism has always been in existence, silently, even during the ancient and medieval times. We still have a long way to go; I can confidently say that the far we have come, it has taken some strong feminists to pave the way for us.

In future, I want to be among the loudest feminists in not only Africa, but also the world. I want  young girls by then to have feminist core values inscribed in them because, it is the feminist values which awaken the inner untapped potential of young girls to fight for their rights and to break free from the shackles of oppression by male dominated societies.
I would like to encourage young women to be the change! Change the world.

Ivy Nyawira

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.