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I Am Enough

I Am Enough

Observing the lives of women in my community as I was growing up always left me with a deep sadness and many questions unanswered. These questions were so many they crowded my head like a swarm of bees – following me where ever I went. Why is life like this for women? How can society move on as if treating half the population of a nation like slaves is okay? Why do women take it lying down? How can one accept a life of domestic violence? How can women continue living without space for speaking for themselves? Where will change come from?

The largest percentage of women in my country get HIV/AIDS from their husbands – death is served them on a platter in their own homes – the place where one is expected to be most safe and protected. Women and their children are neglected by their husbands and women struggle to make ends meet amidst the most challenging conditions any human being has to undergo. Women endure physical and psychological violence in their homes. Sexual violence is increasing and spreading like wild fire in my country. And no one speaks about these things.

My mother always woke up at 4.30am every morning and was the last one to go to sleep. When I was growing up, many women spent their days tilling the land and on weekends, spent the days in the forest fetching firewood. Everyday, water had to be fetched, food cooked, land and children taken care of – and only women did these jobs. Of course the children came in handy to help make their mother’s loads lighter. Men spent time socializing and drinking. Young men and boys were always free to do what they liked. I wanted to be a man. I started reading books to help me think like a man. However, very quickly I realized that I did not want to be a man. I wanted to be a woman who lived a life without societal and traditional chains. I wanted to have equal rights with men. I wanted a level playing ground for all of us – boys and girls. But how does one ever do that? Education. Education is the one vaccine that will free women from cultural bondage. Education is the husband who will never desert a woman. Education opens the way for reclaiming a woman’s potential for self, family and community. However, even with education, a nation needs certain policies, legal frameworks and the political will to empower women. When a woman realizes she is ENOUGH to change what is not working in her life, opportunities become limitless!!!

The core problem facing Kenya today, related to poverty, disease and lack of development, is the exclusion of a large population from accessing means and engaging decisions that would transform their lives - Education, Enterprise, and Empowerment (the 3 E’s). Lack of the 3 Es generally leads to exclusion from processes of empowerment because women have no knowledge about issues surrounding their circumstances. All manner of myths are attributed to causes of poverty, disease and violence – aspects that affect women and children differently from men. Women are made to believe that to be poor is okay for religious reasons. Women believe that HIV/AIDS is a curse that affects bad people. Women believe that men who do not beat them do not love them. Specifically, however, lack of the Education disenfranchises an individual overall, and among other things, leads to lack of jobs and other income generating opportunities, which means one cannot afford to meet their basic needs. This in turn leads to lack of Empowerment, where empowerment refers to the ability of a person to take control of their lives and attain self-reliance. Empowerment is about a woman KNOWING she is ENOUGH to attain whatever goals she sets for herself.

Kenyan women remain largely excluded from peace and security processes despite their efforts in preserving social order and educating for peace at the grassroots; lobbying and advocacy for the equitable distribution of resources at the national level and despite international policies which explicitly call for women’s involvement in decision making at national and international levels. This marginalization hinders efforts to build sustainable peace and stable communities in Kenya. Moreover, when women are excluded, the differential impact of the decisions on men and women is not fully understood, women’s rights are not overtly addressed while their recommendations are excluded from final agreements.

Although Kenya ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1984, it has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol to CEDAW or the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). Kenya has been known for a government that has continued violations of women’s rights: the persistence of discriminatory laws and traditional harmful practices, in particular in the area of the family; violence; obstacles to access to education; female genital mutilation; under-representation in political life; and obstacles to access to property and health services. There have been delays in adoption of legislation that eliminates discrimination and protects women’s human rights. Bills pending before parliament include: the Family Protection Bill 2007, the Marriage Bill 2008, the Domestic Violence Bill 1999, the Matrimonial Property Bill 2008, the Equal Opportunities Bill 2008 and the Affirmative Action Bill 2000. With a parliament with 12% women representation, it is easy to see that a tough fight has to be fought to have parliament pass these bills.

In August 2010, 71 percent of Kenyans voted in favor of a new constitution. Signed into law by President Mwai Kibaki on August 27, 2010, the constitution provides for greater civil liberties and enshrines key economic and social rights. It advances the status of women in Kenyan society by according them equal rights in private and public life. However, in the light of the entrenched social, economic, political and cultural issues related to the gender inequalities embedded in those rights, many women look at the constitution as just another thing the government is doing to look good. How will the constitution help the country end impunity of its leaders? How will the constitution help women really attain equity as citizens of Kenya? How will the constitution end poverty, violence and all those other problems women are facing in their lives. Indeed, how will the constitution help end suffocating patriarchy in our society? Disparity on land access is one of the major causes for social and gender inequalities in rural areas, and it jeopardizes, as a consequence, rural food security as well as the wellbeing of individuals and families. Widows and orphans in Kenya are facing serious challenges with regard to land that is left after their husbands/fathers die.

Widows and orphans lack basic needs because they are poor. Widows in rural areas in particular and children in crisis (AIDS orphans and vulnerable children) have no education, hence cannot secure well-paying jobs or successfully engage any income generating activities (enterprise), cannot afford housing, end up on the streets and slums, become beggars, and their children become street urchins; so the cycle of deprivation continues (lack empowerment). The condition and situation of these people and in particular women and children in crisis in Kenya today, manifests absence of social empowerment.

When I grew up, I promised myself that I would read until I completed all education – at that time I did not realize that one can never complete education. My inner knowing was leading me to a concept I now call – recognizing I am ENOUGH. This means, as a woman KNOWING I am endowed with all I need to become whoever I need to be to become the source of change in myself and my community. Today I am proud that I have several degrees and I am using the skills I got from that education to enhance the life of women and children in my country. I started a non-governmental organization (NGO) known as International Peace Initiatives (IPI: www.ipeacei.org). I started this organization to support poor women, women living with HIV/AIDS and children in crisis (orphans and vulnerable children) to create ways to overcome their economic challenges and for children to access education. IPI’s goal has been to look for innovative and creative ways to engage these people to enable them break the chains of disempowerment. I address two approaches IPI has used to empower women and children as examples of interventions that I believe bring a new way of looking at empowerment of marginalized and vulnerable people in our communities.

As I worked with women through IPI, I came to realize that women do not have faith in their capabilities. Indeed, they have no idea of their potential and the possibilities available to them. I started a program to educate them on their rights and how they can support one another in groups. We started what we called circles of ten, where women met in groups of ten and did bead work. They would also do other things they were interested in to create income for themselves. Most of those able to lead these groups were the more educated women like teachers. Unfortunately, these women would steal the groups’ money or con the poor women in other ways. So I started thinking of ways to directly empower the women themselves so that they could run their own projects. This approach has worked well. Poor women get very excited when they realize they are leaders.

The second program I started is one for children in crisis. Amani Children’s Homes (ACHs) are a practical strategy for care of AIDS Orphans and other vulnerable children (OVCs). The strategy is participatory and empowering in that the recipient is called upon to participate in her/his liberation from the challenges she/he is facing. This approach was born from the concern that most care programs for OVCs are based on a welfare approach. A welfare approach basically gives full support to a child without asking for any responsibility on the part of the beneficiary. It is a free handout that causes the recipient to depend on the donor/caregiver/benefactor. The approach International Peace Initiatives (IPI) proposes moves the children from a dependency syndrome mode to a state of taking responsibility for freeing themselves from the challenges facing them through participating in their liberation, thus taking charge of their lives.

IPI’s strategy for OVCs care is based on what we call the 3 Es: Education, Enterprise and Empowerment. We believe that these three elements provide a holistic approach to providing the life skills that each individual child needs for development. Education provides the information that enables the child to get knowledge for understanding their condition. This understanding enables the child to harness skills needed to build an enterprise or enterprises that enable the child to free themselves from poverty. The enterprise provides empowerment that enables the child to create a sustainable response to the challenges of attaining self-reliance. In fact, ACHs, not only keep kids in school and foster self respect and self-reliance, they also are self-sustaining as entities. In the end, ACHs are demonstration centers for the entire community and exhibit what promoting and living by the 3-E’s looks like. The ACHs model is a participatory and transformative approach for/of both individuals and communities.

Now that I live and work in Kenya, I have joined hands with others in the country to create a National Action Plan for UNSCR 1325 so that women’s voices can be heard and their contribution to decision-making and peacebuilding is entrenched in our policy making mechanisms. I have also joined the World Pulse Citizen Journalism program to give me skills to share our stories and to move out of the abyss of silence society and we ourselves have imposed on women. Women’s contributions are unique, collaborative, inclusive, and embedded in compassionate responding to another. When I, as a woman recognized I am ENOUGH, I am UNSTOPPABLE!!

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard from corners of the world.

Comments

martha llano's picture

Beyond

You are doing an amazing job NEVER stop. Even when you have had enough.....keep up.

all the best

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

Amani K's picture

Thank YOU!!

Hi Beyond,

Thank you so much for your encouragement. I will remember that - NEVER stop!!!

Thank you for reminding me that the work never ends - I will pray that Grace keeps me empowered and powered to keep keeping on!!

Blessings and peace,

AmaniK

Dr. Karambu Ringera
Founder and President, International Peace Initiatives
Vice President, Global Ecovillages Network (GEN) Africa
Advisory Board Member, Women Human Rights Institute, University of Toronto
Member and Delegate, Soroptimist Internationa

SAsong's picture

Thank You

For addressing this topic...you capture that hunting question within women's spirits...Am I enough? And you demonstrated how you are engaging in having a social impact. I really enjoyed reading how you captured so many different issues affecting the quality of life for women in Kenya. YOU ARE MORE THAN ENOUGH!!! You are very right in that "women do not have faith in their capabilities"...I also ponder these questions on a daily basis, because I have come across educated women who still struggle with unleashing their full potential. I would really love the opportunity to work with you on my project - Threads of Our Fabric . Your voice and what you are doing would be an inspiration to many. Thank you for being BOLD to LIVE & demonstrate the power of the 3Es. I hope we can connect! Hugz!!

Amani K's picture

THANK YOU!!

THANK YOU so much for your comment and invitation. You hit the nail on the head when you say even educated women struggle with believing in taking full charge of their potential. That small 'other' inner voice that comes from right inside of our soul telling us we are not enough needs to be nipped in the bud before it totally annihilates and totally silences women further because TODAY they are needed to save our Mother Earth. We, women need to URGENTLY, heed the call to wake up and take CHARGE because so far, the results of the 'other' way of being has taken us to the edge of the precipice.

Thank you for adding VOICE to this issue that women do not like to talk about - we are SLEEPING on our POWER - and we need to WAKE UP and RE-CLAIM it; RE-MEMBER it; RE-CONFIGURE it; and LIVE it!! WE ARE ENOUGH!! SISTERS, let us wake up!! Our children and the generations to come are CRYING for AND DEMANDING of us to wake up and SAVE the globe - we HAVE to heed the call. This space here in World Pulse is one sure way to get us there - let us SPEAK!!

Thank you for the INVITATION to your work. I will check it out and you too, please share more - and we will work together!!

Blessings and peace.

Karambu

Dr. Karambu Ringera
Founder and President, International Peace Initiatives
Vice President, Global Ecovillages Network (GEN) Africa
Advisory Board Member, Women Human Rights Institute, University of Toronto
Member and Delegate, Soroptimist Internationa

warona's picture

Hi Doctor!

Dearest Amani,

You ve taken me through your through all levels of life.Be unstoppable sister.Indeed you acquired education first and i believe you were successful. If you are illeterate what can you do. A clever man is the one who rises up to get empowered.I tell you,you will never get disappointed.Amani keep the Spirit of hard work.You are a strong woman dear.

Yes Doctor we are more than Enough we women.

All the best to you DR!

Warona

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time "

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

Amani K's picture

Thank YOU

Thank you Warona, for your comments. We ARE enough - i hear you. And yes, success is about US taking ACTION NOW!! Very well stated!!!

Blessings and Peace,

AmaniK

Dr. Karambu Ringera
Founder and President, International Peace Initiatives
Vice President, Global Ecovillages Network (GEN) Africa
Advisory Board Member, Women Human Rights Institute, University of Toronto
Member and Delegate, Soroptimist Internationa

vivian's picture

Well done.

Dear Amani

What a wonderful frontline story you have here and thank you for the programs you are doing for children in Crisis.

Vivian

''Every woman have a story at every stage of Life''

Amani K's picture

Thank YOU

Thank you Vivian - i hear you!!

AmaniK

Dr. Karambu Ringera
Founder and President, International Peace Initiatives
Vice President, Global Ecovillages Network (GEN) Africa
Advisory Board Member, Women Human Rights Institute, University of Toronto
Member and Delegate, Soroptimist Internationa

Cindy Bishop's picture

Fantastic!

Dear Amani,

You are much more than ENOUGH!! You are amazing. The work that you are doing is so necessary. I thank you for sharing your story; it is excellent! I am so inspired by all that you are doing!

With love and compassion, Cindy

Amani K's picture

Thank YOU Cindy

Thank you so much for your comments and encouragement. Be INSPIRED so that you ARE MORE in 2011!!

Blessings, Love and Light,

AmaniK

Dr. Karambu Ringera
Founder and President, International Peace Initiatives
Vice President, Global Ecovillages Network (GEN) Africa
Advisory Board Member, Women Human Rights Institute, University of Toronto
Member and Delegate, Soroptimist Internationa

Rudzanimbilu's picture

Oh Amani, what can I say?

I am so proud of you for standing up for women not only in your country but all over the world. Your words are like screeching wheels, resonating a sense of hope and I want to join in as well and SAY IT OUT LOUD...I Am Enough. Education is one of the way out I totally agree but most of the time we need more than education and your solutions will bring all the changes. This is really powerful, well done!

Rudzanimbilu Muthambi

Amani K's picture

Thank YOU

Thank you Rudzanimbilu. Yes, we MUST create solutions to our problems - great thing is that solutions are all IN us - all we need do is look inwards - the Divine Light there sheds the LIGHT of WISDOM and KNOWING - that enables us to act as needed!! Indeed, we ARE ENOUGH!!

Love and Light,

AmaniK

Dr. Karambu Ringera
Founder and President, International Peace Initiatives
Vice President, Global Ecovillages Network (GEN) Africa
Advisory Board Member, Women Human Rights Institute, University of Toronto
Member and Delegate, Soroptimist Internationa

sonialowman's picture

What an incredible story.

What an incredible story. You are not only an unbelievably inspiring woman, but also an inspiring writer. I am grateful to have read about your life, the work you do, and the perspective you are bringing to Kenya. Keep living with your heart leading; keep speaking with your strong voice; and keep spreading your absolutely vital messages, so that others can learn from your words and through your examples.

I live in the US, where I am supposedly "equal", and yet there are so many ways that we are not yet there, even here. Your message is completely universal. It not only gave me a window into your life and that of Kenya's women, but it caused me to reflect on my own relationship with female empowerment. The phrase "I am ENOUGH" should be shouted by women all over the world, because collectively, globally, we have been told repeatedly that we're not--even in places like the US, where it's much more subtle. EVERY WOMAN needs to not only hear, but believe, that she is enough. And it's thanks to leaders like you that the hearing will start to become the believing.

Thank you for the work you do every day, and for sharing it through your beautiful writing, so that, across borders, we can remember something that transcends borders: we ARE enough, and we're in this together.

Amani K's picture

Thank YOU

Hi Sonialowman,

Thank you so much for your great comments - and for reminding us that this message is universal - EVERY WOMAN in every corner of the world needs to KNOW and remember she IS ENOUGH!!

Blessings and Peace,

AmaniK

Dr. Karambu Ringera
Founder and President, International Peace Initiatives
Vice President, Global Ecovillages Network (GEN) Africa
Advisory Board Member, Women Human Rights Institute, University of Toronto
Member and Delegate, Soroptimist Internationa

Dear Amani,

thank you for bringing an update on women's situation in Kenya.
I am happy to learn about you and your activism. Certainly, we always need to receive knowledge and skill in order to take an attitude, act and produce the change. Still, with a joint efforte and knowledge the change can come faster.
So, Enough is never Enough, from this perspective.

Let's keep moving, let's keep learning, let's keep failing and succeeding!!!!

We are more than enough!!!!

With greetings,

Victoria

Victoria Vorosciuc
Project Coordinator
"Empowering women to participate
in community life"
WorldPulse Media Corresspondent

Nancy J. Siegel's picture

Clearly, you are enough!!!

Dear Karambu, my dear unstoppable force,

Your article is very powerful, extremely well written and very convincing. I agree with you that the key to the planet's future is the personal empowerment of women. Most of us do not understand that we truly hold the power in our own hands, that we can learn how to effect change to benefit our own lives and others', that we are ENOUGH. I salute your courage and your work. I am still hoping that we will be able to connect in the coaching portion of the program, although I recognize you have more than enough on your plate. Please know that I want to support you in any way that I can.

Nancy

P.S. I would like permission to share your article with my community. Please let me know if that is okay.

Nancy Siegel

Amani K's picture

Thank YOU Nancy

Thank you so much for your encouraging words. Yes, we will connect before the program is over, i am sure. Thank you so much for your support. I am busy, but I will look for time so that we can skype.

You are very welcome to share my articles with your community.

All the best and know, you are very special!!

Love and Light,

Karambu, the unstoppable force!!

Dr. Karambu Ringera
Founder and President, International Peace Initiatives
Vice President, Global Ecovillages Network (GEN) Africa
Advisory Board Member, Women Human Rights Institute, University of Toronto
Member and Delegate, Soroptimist Internationa

Dear Karambu,
I am so looking forward to your Op-Ed piece. I know you have much to share and eloquent, persuaive words to convince your readers of your viewpoint. Hoping to meet you one day soon! Love, Nancy

Nancy Siegel

bennettml's picture

We cannot wait

So wonderfully written...

We cannot wait for someone to acknowledge that we are enough....we have to believe it first ....and live it first....even when everything in our day tells us differently....it is not us.....We are enough!

MLB

wairimu's picture

Kenya needs you

Amani it is women like you that need to be in leadership in this country, such passion that drives change is commendable. Lets believe that as you work with the women, they will have the confidence to stand up and be counted as part of the leadership in this country.
Much Love
Martha

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