Remember Moraa Ng’iti, Mekatilili wa Menza and Muthoni Nyanjiru?
I actually came across Muthoni Nyanjiru while I was reading something on women empowerment (something I have always advocated for until a few months ago) and began wondering why it took me so long to know about her, yet she is an icon, a lady icon. Its actually saddening how the Oxford Index describes her as “a symbol of heroic female militancy and activism, and one of the many unsung Kenyan heroines.”
For those sailing in the same boat as I, Muthoni Nyanjiru was a working class woman and a member of the East African Association (EAA) who led people in demanding the release of Harry Thuku who was arrested by the British occupiers for agitating for the rights of Africans.
Just when Jomo Kenyatta and cohorts announced that Thuku was going to be tried instead of being released, Muthoni Nyanjiru ran to the front of the crowd that was gathered outside the prison, lifted her dress over her head, and cried “You take my dress and give me your trousers. You men are cowards. What are you waiting for? Our leader is in there. Let’s get him.” Such, was unacceptable among the Agikuyu community, a fact that Nyanjiru was well aware about.
Why such a woman remains uncelebrated poses so many questions. The answer is simple, we are living in a patriarchal society. A society where men have more power than women, men have some level of privilege to which women are not entitled. The very reason I am writing this. That to me, Muthoni should be over-celebrated than her male counterparts who have been in the struggle, because she was a woman, and women should not do what she did. Polluted mind!
It did not take any women empowerment campaigns for the 20’s women heroes to engage in male perceived activities. On the contrary, these women knew and appreciated the ability within them and let no chauvinist beliefs hinder them from doing what their hearts were convinced they could. They did not call for any male approval for them to engage in the struggle for independence. And, therefore, we should not celebrate them because they were women, but because of what they did to society.
It’s such thinking that informed my decision against the idea surrounding “Women Empowerment Advocacy Campaigns.” Women are not weak. If anything, women are the strongest creatures to have lived. There is this old common quote “Behind every successful man, is a strong woman”, ever thought about it? Then the good book with recordings of God’s word affirms “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.” So what else do we, women, want to be told to know that within us is a power, so strong that we can change the world?
Over years, I have believed the idea behind women empowerment is to make women feel and believe that they are weak beings. That they cannot compete with men on equal levels. That whatever they get, (government appointments, prosperity in the business industry, a good car, a posh house and all those good things “reserved” for men), must be associated with some male figure in their life. That probably they slept with man so and so or they have some affair with man so and so or they are related to man so and so. Sucks!
The African woman, through the hard way, though, has learnt to swim against the tide. When we see women being governors and clinching other top seats against powerful and influential men, then we have the last hope remaining, that women are outgrowing the belief of them being weak beings. That women no longer have to entirely depend on the gender balance nomination thing. That women can actually go out there and support their own, killing the”women are their own enemies” notion. Nothing tickles my adrenaline as much. It’s soul fulfilling.
And now, could we just have the women empowerment campaign advocates focus on telling women that it is actually possible to swim against the tide?