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Speaking my life: Claiming my Space

Speaking my life: Claiming my Space

One of my earliest memories is being told not to laugh so loudly, not to argue. Before l knew what a prostitute was, l knew if you laughed too loudly you were behaving like one. Decent girls did not laugh too loudly and decent girls did not talk back or argue. But how does one repress laughter? How do you shut your mouth when the words are like a fire “shut up in your bones”? I couldn’t.

Growing up l had definite ideas of what l wanted to do. Journalism or law. Coming from a working class family, l had never met a journalist, never mind a lawyer. With hindsight, it seems speaking out chose me! Making my degree choices for university, l was told that l could not put Law as my first and second choice as l might not pass with good enough points to be selected for law school. In any case, l was told, law was hard and most people (read girls) failed. 8 girls from my school qualified for law school that year. All of us completed that degree!

I am sure my experience is not unique. I know a lot of women and girls have had similar experiences. Memories of exclusion. Not speaking up in class because you wanted to be liked by the boys. Playing dumb because you wanted others to like you. Choosing to pursue an acceptable degree that will not scuttle your marriage chances. You see, society punishes you when you do not conform. Girls who study law are told they are not good marriage material because they know their rights and are bound to challenge their husbands and in-laws! In some of our societies, marriage is everything. Politics is another arena where women are not wanted. No “decent” woman should be out in public, speaking out in front of men. In my language it is called “kufumuka”, it is both undignified and indecent. Labeling and name calling are an ordinary occurrence and if that is not sufficiently deterrent, the violence soon follows.

I have often thought of the violence of silence and l have tried not to make that part of my life story. I do not want others to appropriate the space that l could have occupied. I want my world view to be known. I want people to see my world through my eyes. On this journey l have had people who have taught me to have supreme self worth. My mother who never once said anything was impossible and my father, who always said l should never feel inferior to someone else.

World Pulse is a fine tool in my personal mission to take reach out to other women and take them along my journey with me. To accompany them on the journey to full bellied laughter, to finding their own voices in all their loud glory.


Carri Pence's picture

I love your words, where you

I love your words, where you place focus on proving people wrong. You worked hard to show that you can be a girl, speak, fight, and be an amazing lawyer. You didn't ignore your passion because it was a 'male profession.' Though your story is similar to others, it is unique, and you should cherish it. Because you didn't give up, you wanted to be amazing and not ordinary. And most want to be ordinary.

Thanks for your amazing entry,
Carri Pence

Catherine Makoni's picture

Interesting angle there!

Thanks Carri. That is an interesting take, l have never considered that wanting to fit in with the average is actually wanting to be average, ordinary! I love it! I don't want to be average! I do not want to be ordinary! Thank you!

akaneko's picture

Dear Catherine, You have a

Dear Catherine,

You have a wonderful way of expressing yourself and your story through words! This was such a moving and inspiring post that I had to read it several times. I applaud you for having the courage to stand up to society's norms and pave your own path. I can sense that you have the initiative, drive and passion to be a leader and to motivate other women to stand up for their rights in similar ways.

Thank you for sharing your voice with us and I wish you all the best in everything that you do!

Best wishes,


Catherine Makoni's picture

Thanks Alison. One of the

Thanks Alison. One of the things l truly cherish about Worls Pulse is the feedback. I am not sure if people realise how important it is but it is supremely important. One of my constant battles is breaking women's isolation. Because of our different operating environments and the seemingly insurmountable challenges facing our communities, it is easy to feel disillusioned and discouraged. Feeling like nothing you do is ever going to make a difference to anyone. Knowing someone understands what you are doing and is there to cheer you on and say "you matter", "what you are doing matters" is hugely encouraging.

Thank you.

Julie Tomlin's picture

Thanks Catherine

for writing such an honest piece. I think you are right that your experience is not unique but as others have pointed out it is the way that you have responded to your situation and refused to be subject to it that you express yourself and are unique.
Women who are living with such curtailments need to hear from women like you. You are right that the comments people leave are so important and vital and I think that is something that you can give to other women, listening, responding and encouraging.



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