Hear No Evil, See No Evil and Say No Evil by Nerima Wako @NerimaW

Hear No Evil, See No Evil and Say No Evil by Nerima Wako @NerimaW

(Photo courtesy)

(Photo courtesy)
I really enjoy reading George Orwell, even though many people would say that he often wrote about dismal societies, one would think that his works were kind of depressing. But they show a reality and sometimes a reflection looking at what is happening in our country, I cannot help but think about his book 1984. He wrote this book in the late 1940’s about what the future of society looked like.

In summary it speaks about a young man who lives in a society where, you are not permitted to socialize. People work to make a living and not ask questions most are young, the older generation are very few and no one is really sure why. All media is controlled and there is a narrative spread throughout the country about their history, which is false. There is also the presence of police in tankers, just everywhere to intimidate you not to go against the grain they are called the ‘thought police’. You are not allowed to think differently or ask questions, anyone who did suspiciously went missing.

After quite a laborious election a few months ago, there are still remnants of tension when it comes to the political discourse in Kenya. After August we witnessed large civil society organizations being intimidated to silence, and several cases of riots and police shootings. Some reports demonstrate as high as 35 – 50 people lost their lives during that period in the hands of the police and to this very day no one has been held to account for those deaths.

The nullification of the August elections, forced us into an unprepared election in October, which birthed a resistance push for reforms in the electoral process. Taking a naïve approach, there appears to be two sides: one begging for the country to move on because of the economic ramifications the elections caused. The price of maize flour almost doubled, high cost of fuel and even electric power.

Statistics demonstrate that there is inflation in the country. The economy was slow during that period and business terrible. Then on the other side of the divide there is another begging the country to reform systems for the sake of democracy for the good of all. To have systems in place that tackle historical injustices and promote equality for all citizens in the country.

When Mr. Raila Odinga chose not to take part in the October fresh election, most of his supporters chose not to partake in the event. Afterwards, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) led by Mr. Raila Odinga was created and used as a mechanism to call for more transparent, fair and credible elections, by taking economic actions such as boycotting certain products.
However, the movement slowly dwindled and quickly became an opposition tool and anyone associated with not voting in October was branded to be opposition. January 30th, Mr. Raila Odinga took an oath as the People’s President and the following day, CS Matiangi announced that NRM was an illegal group.

Major television stations that covered the event live have been off air since now and no one is quite sure of when they will be back on air. There are reports of journalists threatened with arrest and individuals involved in the oath being arrested. Yet, here we are going on with life as though there is nothing major in our country. Frankly, people do not know where to begin. What do you say? What can you say? Or what can you do? So rather than worry that we are slowly slipping into a dictatorial nation and freedoms are violated once in a while, we behave as though nothing is happening.

Back to our 1984 similarities, in relation to the ‘thought police’ that I spoke of, we see a certain message constantly being repeated, that the President is focusing on his big 4 agenda. “The big 4” it has been drilled into our heads, that he will be focusing on universal healthcare, affordable housing, manufacturing and food security. We see puppets sent to continuously mention the big 4 in every press briefing, or opinion leaders to mention it in their columns of the kind of legacy that he would like to leave behind in his second term.

And that everything that the government is doing is for our own good. 1984 doesn’t have a good ending, as several of George Orwell’s books. But something stood out, many people go through life mindlessly, and like sheep the government is proud to control the mind of the people. However, if those sheep knew they were sheep, that realization is the first step toward change, otherwise we will die sheep without knowing we were sheep to begin with.

Nerima Wako
@NerimaW

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The Wicked Wild Web By Scheaffer Okore

The Internet has become a way of life. Just like all living things it feeds on elements that are in constant motion and human emotion that is in perpetual wanting. This is evident on how fast any content shared on a certain medium can circulate and come back to its original sharer whether it is true or false is another issue.

Deutsche Welle recently organised a workshop called “Women At Web” to closely examine the levels of women engagement online and some of the pros and cons surrounding this said engagement. So many issues arose from this as many of the women who were present at this workshop were from different East African countries with equally different online demographics.

The different demographics determined so much when it came to how, why and what women shared online. Journalist Carol Ndozi from Tanzania whose work champions for the freedom of speech both online and offline expressed deep concerns about the shrinking space for expression. She elaborately described how silencing of hyper-visible women like her and many of us present was something that needed rapid legal action.

Josephine Karungi a television host from NTV Uganda shared similar sentiments. She questioned whether the intention to ensure women’s safety online was genuine because if it was why do complaints of online harassment fall on deaf ears. The amount of harassment and the demand that the victim be able to quantify or prove that they are being harassed is something that baffled all of us. Patricia Twansiima who is a feminist lawyer from Uganda also echoed the same thoughts highlighting how the more visible a woman was; the more prone she became to attack online.

The disgruntling thing about this was how proof was a requirement and Miss Twansiima asked, “How do you prove emotional abuse, isn’t the fact that someone is required to quantify how much they’re emotionally abused abuse itself?” Many women online who are pushing unpopular narratives, asking questions that disturb the perceived normal and growing their voices are a threat to many. These women are an annoyance because they refuse to go away and perform silence.

Women like me who get called all sorts of demeaning names because I refuse the heaviness that comes with the weight of unspoken words. Catherinerose Baretto who is a change catalyst in gender equality from Tanzania articulated the imbalance that exists amongst men and women when it comes to online engagement. She went further to expound on how this imbalance was simply a reflection of the offline existence. We are not equal offline why and how would we be equal online.

The intention of the workshop was to figure out how to mitigate the risks posed by online presence specifically for women in order to get more women online. My concerns were around securing the women who already exist online. Those women who are constantly walking into hateful spaces littered with nothing but vitrol and yet they keep going how do we secure them. Kenya for instance has a cyber crime act that’s supposed to secure online users from cyber bullying amongst other ills such as child pornography and the NCIC (National cohesion and integration commission) whose vision is for a peaceful, united, harmonious and integrated Kenyan society. These two alone if they worked the rate at which online toxicity would be reduced is unbelievable literally.

We must start questioning whom exactly commissions are supposed to serve if not the people. Kenyan online space is home of tribal and stereotypical labelling even from leaders who should know better. It’s the playing field of all sorts of bigotry with minimal ounce of sense. Much about what is wrong with online spaces just like offline spaces is the lack of consequence. No society ever walked the path of upward progress without the adherence to some kind of order and the consequence that comes with failure to abide.

There were interviews we conducted in Machakos county during the workshop and almost all the women we spoke to about their engagement online, shared similar sentiment of harassment they’ve witness other women face. One lady a clothes seller told us how she uses the Internet to popularise her business but is scared to engage actively on political issues. She’d love to engage but said political issues get heated up very fast and she doesn’t want to be attacked. This is a form of self-censorship where one doesn’t do something they’d want to do out of fear of a negative reaction. This happens to many of the women we spoke to.

There’s a fear of vilification, of being seen and being made an easy target amongst many women who wish to be active online. How therefore do we create safe spaces online without seemingly curtailing freedom of speech? What are the limits to freedom of speech? Must free speech mean you have the right to attack someone personally for it to be termed free? Shouldn’t we teach those in charge of online safety what abuse means and that it involves invisible scars? Should digital literacy become part of our various curriculums now that we have more and more younger Internet users? Amongst many of us who already use the Internet, do we understand what digital literacy means?

These were some of the many questions that we brainstormed over during the workshop and not all of them were answered. The most important thing was that digital literacy was something to be taught to each and every one of us. We need to be aware so we can create Internet users who are responsible for what they share and equally what they consume online. Many of us are oblivious of the impact our content has and those of us who do and still choose recklessness or bullying should be held culpable.

Carol Ndozi shared how we ought to elevate the online space to encompass a digital citizenship status with a set of rules that govern. It is the open-endedness of existing online without consequence that enables abuse. I believe speech is free but hateful, spiteful and dehumanizing speech towards a person’s being shouldn’t be. If we are to be digital humans then we must attain digital citizenship and that requires no blurred lines between right and wrong.

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Feminists Are Here And You Need To Listen To Them. By Okore Scheaffer @scheafferoo

I was honoured to be part of a group of African women who gathered in Maputo, Mozambique by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung to forge a pathway on modern day feminism. Today more women are publicly claiming feminism than before, and it was therefore necessary to go back to be able to understand why this ideology is here to stay. I realise that even the definition of feminism has been totally bungled leaving it with numerous negative undertones.

Feminism is the rejection of and struggle against Patriarchy (as a system and set of structures and ideologies that privilege men and allot them various forms of power in all societies) and is also the celebration of freedom for women everywhere.

As Stevi Jackson and Jackie Jones (1998) put it: “Feminist theory seeks to analyse the conditions which shape women’s lives and to explore cultural understandings of what it means to be a woman”. It was initially guided by the political aims of the Women’s Movement – the need to understand women’s subordination and our exclusion from, and marginalisation within, a variety of social arenas.

Many are misled by the notion that feminism means sidelining men or anti-men instead of the real feminist tenets and values like Equity, Choice, Opportunity, Protection by laws, Gender Justice, Inclusion, Non-Discrimination, Human Rights etc. it’s got nothing to do with the laughable argument that feminists are angry women who’ve failed in their personal lives honestly we cant be this inane.

Feminism to me is the fight to attain full humanization of the female person. And I mean literal humanization where you make a woman humane and grant her the right to belong to herself and the right to be enough. Women in societies past and present rarely belong to themselves. Feminists refuse to accept that inequalities between women and men are natural and inevitable and insist that they should be questioned.

Sierra Leonean scholar Filomena Steady defines African Feminism as humanistic feminism, which to me speaks on continuity of humanity but not recognition of humanistic nature of women. This traditional cultural view places women in the centre as custodians of societal order while upholding men as the guardians of women’s custodial rights. This is the genesis of the problematic issues that modern feminism has to deal with.

The use of African culture plus convenient religious texts to supress and condone inequalities of a system that devalues another gender requires re-thinking. African feminism embraces beauty, femininity and a complex power matrix that isn’t antithetical because traditional African feminism embraces and protects more masculinity than femininity and ferociously places the male gender at the peek of everything and ranks the female second.

The African context upholds femininity but not feminism and we must understand the difference. It’s the selective nature in which families raise a girl completely different from a boy that irritates. It’s the use of roles to define what gender should and shouldn’t be that worries me on how a man who cooks and cleans is labelled weak and a female who provides is seen as trying to be a man.

Attributes like intelligence; wisdom, leadership, discernment, defiance and many more that depict exceptionalism are never meant to be possessed by women WHY? Feminism annoys many because it demands for questioning of everything. It points a finger to each of us and highlights our role or lack of it making it uncomfortable. Feminism will demand that we question things that seem so harmless like why pink is viewed, as a feminine color while blue is masculine.

It’ll push us to interrogate why boys play with mind engaging toys whilst girls play with simplistic domesticated toys, why boys are raised to mask and disengage their emotions and girls are taught otherwise, why a man with “softer” phenotypically features are mocked, why women have to embrace and perform masculinity to be taken seriously in certain leadership positions.

Feminism is the discomfort you feel but refuse to talk about objectively because it holds us all culpable actors in enabling an unjust structure. Women are steadily unlearning patriarchy and its deeply uplifting I’d like more men to do the same. Unlearning patriarchy is having the ability to indulge yourself in a mental renaissance and being willing to be cognizant to the ways in which inequalities driven by patriarchy have benefitted men and marginalized women in equal measure.

To comprehend the existence of feminist theory requires that you check your biases, stereotypes and prejudices. Political and economical structures are dominated by the male gender this is modern day inequality supported by patriarchal structure. In Meitingen municipality in Augsburg there’s a wall in the mayor’s office with no women recognized purely because of patriarchy.

In Kenya most of the elected first female governors are a reflection of the farthing integrity of the male counterparts with equally dirty hands. Politics is a man’s game, you must be like them their game their rules. These rules are among the many that society has implored to sustain patriarchy.

Feminists want a society that respects the right of women to flourish without having to explain themselves, a society that doesn’t measure a woman’s worth using her civil status, a society that doesn’t collectively punish women for mistakes of one woman and allows women to fail granting them a chance to start over, a society that’s committed to the safety of women, a society that perceives leadership as a human trait and not a gender trait.

I challenge us during this time of the year to go back and talk candidly with women who raised us and ask them one question, if society was to see you as human-flaws et all-what would that mean, and would you be the same person you are today?

By Okore Scheaffer
Program Manager at Siasa Place
@scheafferoo

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Monthly report 2017

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