6 years ago, I was an intern at one of the largest health firms in Africa. I had the option of choosing where in Kenya I would want to work. Kajiado — I chose this predominantly Masai community to be my home for about 4 months. I craved for the rich culture and also selfishly, I wanted some serenity from not having bars on my phone. I loved it!
A few months in, I was “ripe” enough to venture into the villages to supervise the community led training programs and I must admit that I was excited to be part of this experience as an extension of my life journey. The village members were gathered: old and young, men and women. What I immediately noticed that the men sat on benches and stools while the women — old and young, sat on the ground. One of my seniors, a man, stood to speak, the men listened, the women stared at the ground. My turn to speak came and the women stared at me with shock and disbelief. Some of the older men stood and left while others spat. The younger men clicked. As a small town girl, this was all new and strange. I was raised to be confident enough to share my opinions and this shook me. I could just sit and let the man carry out the training, I thought to myself. It then occurred to me that there might be a young woman in the crowd who was watching my every move and this would define the rest of her life. So I soldiered on and finished my training. The training was successful, the women actually executed their responsibility to completion, they felt more emotionally attached to the project, maybe an empathetic retaliation to my rebellious act — a girl can hope.
Fast forward to my enterprise, MAMA Ventures where I work with different age groups, gender pockets and cultural backgrounds, and I realize that with the action of gender empowerment comes the immediate reaction of cultural distortion. How then can you empower women and men, without pummeling into a self disruptive ripple effect that destroys the culture we have so greatly craved to conserve?
A conversation towards this solution is key, with the obvious need to preserve the Africanism effect whilst embracing cultural inclusion. I am continuously evolving my methods by including NLP strategies to my trainings, consulting with Africanists and considering the effect of cultural disparity to emancipate. I would love to hear what your methods and suggestions are.
- Wemo Kitawa, Founder MAMA Ventures. MAMA Ventures works with self help groups, schools, start-ups and SMEs to actualize their business ideas towards profitability and sustainability.