THE ROLE OF KENYAN MEN ON WORLD PULSE?
When the World Pulse held their meeting early this year in Nairobi, Kenya I kept on craning my neck hoping to see another man enter the door to join us. I was surrounded by women and everywhere you looked there were eager feminine faces, and there is nothing as intimidating as that. I remember joining World Pulse in 2010 and being asked all sorts of questions about my gender. I didn't mind the questions as long as most of my online friends stayed far away tucked in their countries of origin. But when the meeting came calling, I knew I was in trouble.
The day or reckoning began like any other day. I woke up and left for the office where I spend the day working on the following weekend's episode of SUNRISE AVENUE, which is a children's programme on KBC TV. I actually spent the whole day thinking about the upcoming meeting and whether or not I should skip it all together. After unsuccessfully calling Leah Okeyo, to tell her about my impending unavailability I somehow made up my mind to attend the meeting and if possible, keep a safe distance. This was easier said and done.
When I arrived at Heron's Hotel, I found Jensen and the others seated, sipping coffee and chatting about what they should do in terms of setting individual goals. I soon joined them and started secretly longing to be joined by another man. My prayers got the desired answer when Ian joined us. I was able to connect with people I had met online. What I like most about world pulse is the real connection a person gets to make. The members are genuine and they make one feel at home. I have met many people on other online forums and never have I felt at home. This means that world pulse is a helpful and wonderful online concept and forum that all women, and men need to embrace with their arms open wide open.
The meeting came and went, which was followed by normalcy. Normalcy in my world means working on the deadlines of the children's TV programme apart from my normal writing assignments. I spend each day asking myself whether I really had the strength to belong to world pulse. After the meeting I started thinking of what I should be doing on the forum. I decided to start reporting on issues affecting girls and women. Sometimes early in March I wrote about Beatrice Adega, a woman entrepreneur from Kibera. This was so challenging since all I have is nothing else but the desire and passion to put across the story. I hired a camera person and off we went to cover the story which I posted on world pulse under A CALL FOR HEROES section.
I have been doing other stories on girls. Soon an alert came through a radio news feed that a group of girls have to drop out of school every month due to lack of sanitary pads. I was calling high and low, looking for sanitary towels for a group of a hundred-and-three girls in a slum school in Thika Town when I got an email asking me to attend a retreat for world pulse members in Kenya. Like in the past, I wanted to opt out since I knew I was definitely going to be the only male member at the retreat. But Leah, with a little help from Lin (Mama Africa) compelled me into attending.
One of the challenges I face as a male world pulser is that at times I feel like I am treading on unfamiliar grounds. Take looking for sanitary towels for instance. Many of the people I have been asking for help have either been thinking that I have no business delving in women's issues, a fact which makes me question my role in world pulse. Imagine having a burning desire to research, disseminate, advocate and write about the rights of women and girls as a man. As if this is not enough, I am yet to go to journalism college.
I am just wondering, asking myself if there is a place for me to get involved, get training and equip myself with the skills that will enable me get the stories of young girls and women out there? Secondly, I have been unable to become a 'voice of our future' correspondence because I am not a woman. This makes me wonder where I fit in the framework for advocating for the rights of women. At times, many are they, I feel like I am biting more than I can chew. It makes me want to run, run, run as fast as my feet can carry me.
What stops me is very simple. I have a story to tell about my desire to see young girls grow into empowered women in the near future. I have a story about how I think girls should involve boys in their issues. I have a story about the kind of cheerful song I want to bring in the lives of the many young girls I encounter as a TV journalist. I believe every one of us has a song. It doesn't matter how other singers sing. What matters and counts, is that all singers have individual singing styles and we all need to keep singing by making sure we leave this world a better place for present and generations to come. This is what keeps me going strong as a world pulser.
So I arrived for the retreat knowing I was going to be the only man. I was relieved to know that I am in the right place. I met and interacted with wonderful women who have dreams, hopes and visions for our country and the world at large. I left knowing the world is finally in better hands. Despite all this I left feeling something needs to be done to make other men a part of the changing process that women are going through. As a man I have as much right to be involved in the wonderful journey that women are taking towards empowerment. I too have a song to sing, a vision to impart and a journey to travel. I just ask to be a part of it. I have many challenges, like going to see the 103 girls - with or without the sanitary towels - so I can cover their story and even though I don't have a digital camera and still lack so many things I just choose to focus on what I have going for me, which is my desire to see women hold their heads high in the society.
All I ask is to be a part of it. The question is: is World Pulse listening?