Make the Space Safe for Women

Zamara Foundation

Gender equality is a global fight. In Africa and specifically in Kenya, is a fight for equity and justice for women and girls in all sectors; leadership, health, education, and employment. Although the deeply rooted inequality accelerates stereotypes that are representing a society’s collective knowledge of customs, myths, ideas, religion about women, the fight to having women voices hasn’t been easy due to societal stigma, discrimination and even violence.

I am a young woman from a community where males are the dominant beings. The scariest thing is that women and girls are often seen as sex objects. The existing gender stereotypes continue to disadvantage the girl child who is three times likely to miss out on education compared to boys her age. These stereotypes constantly question the capabilities of women and girls conditioning them to behave in a certain way.

I recently read an editorial, a complete symbol of my society now. It was artistically drawn out of a woman’s burden with a whole family responsibility from feeding to clothing. It’s a societal decay and acceleration of patriarchy continuing to shape societal perceptions about sex, gender, sexual orientation where women and girls are sexually objectified.

As a young Afrikan feminist, I have learned that colours aren’t necessarily what we see. One has to look deeper to identify the symmetry and the cohesion making the colour what it is. My quest to champion women’s and girls’ rights haven’t been easy. Because a woman with a mind of her own is a society’s worst enemy. Your voice is not be heard. Society expects young women and girls to cook, clean and care for the entire family.

The Covid 19 pandemic exacerbated the impact of gender inequality. Women and girls are most affected. This is reflected in the increased number of teenage pregnancies being reported, and the high cases of gender-based violence and deaths from unsafe abortion. The constant abuse of women is a result of discriminatory social gender norms in our traditions including regulating women and girls at home, in schools and in the community.

I have had sleepless, fear-drowned nights where I had some of the weirdest vivid thoughts but still creating an illusion in my soul in the pretext of peacefulness. Deep down, I battle anger and hatred for some men, the community’s ignorance and blindness to her (women and girls) cry for HELP. I have had to stand out and speak up strongly for women and girls with dark rage in my heart. This has made me not be gentle in my words. But as I continue to learn and especially being inspired daily by Chimamanda’s words on feminism, ‘a fight for equality of all sexes,’ Women are more vulnerable to gender biases. and forced to endure societal stigma, violence and discrimination and control over health, life and body without question.

Ms Evelyn Odhiambo is an Undergraduate Student pursuing a BA in Journalism and Media Studies option development communications. Currently, she is the youth coordinator at Reproductive Health Network Kenya (RHNK) and also supports the SheDecides Kenya local movement as the advocacy and communications officer. She is a Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights trainer with Dance4Life Foundation, a young person representative in the Africa Free of New HIV Infections (AfNHi) steering committee and a strong passionate advocate on youth, women and girls comprehensive SRH.