Free to Speak – What More Could I ask for?
“If you continue like this, you will never find a husband,” said Janet as we entered the lecture hall for our afternoon classes. This was during our third year at the University. I dismissed her comment and proceeded to find a seat, wishing I didn’t have to sit through a 4 hour, monotonous lecture on environmental planning; not today, at least.
You see, earlier in the day, I had gotten into a physical “fight” with a male member of my class. The reason why the word fight is in quotes is that he hit me first: Now I feel like a 4 year old ratting out her older brother! The “gentleman” in question and I had disagreed on a trivial matter that I cannot for the life of me remember, no matter how hard I try. What I haven’t forgotten, however, is what happened 30 seconds into the disagreement: He slapped me.
Immediately his hand touched my skin, it occurred to me what sort of a society I lived in: A society that had no qualms punishing women for speaking out. This realization came as a surprise because in my opinion, Kenya wasn’t a country where violence against women was rampant. I had heard and read of worse places where gender based violence was not only condoned but also encouraged. Unfortunately, I had deluded myself; Kenya was just as bad as any other place. In fact, a closer investigation into the matter revealed that at least 49% of all the women in Kenya were going to experience gender based violence at some point in their lives.
That’s when I began looking for ways to speak out against gender based violence preferably, without getting beaten in the process! I took classes on gender, poverty and development in a bid to understand why gender based violence was more prevalent in poor countries. However, one day as I was visiting a popular social networking site, I saw that someone had made a comment on gender equality in Kenya. On reading her profile, I found a link to her blog which led me to discover that she was also very passionate about women empowerment. I then sent her a message telling her how much I loved her blog, which, I must say, felt a bit weird because this particular site was, more or less, a dating site.
After some time, she replied to my message and sent me a link to a website where, in her words, “women could speak their minds freely without fear of violence”: That’s how I ended up on World Pulse. I made contact one day with a stranger through a web 2.0 application and she showed me the way.