This week I travelled to a few towns outside Nairobi. I am tempted to call them rural Kenya but if I name the towns then I may be accused of being blonde since the really are some of the more uptown towns in Kenya.
It got me thinking, that there are 2 kinds of Kenya, the Nairobi (and a few cities) and its environs Kenya and the rest of Kenya. No wonder when you go to some places within Kenya, they will ask you ‘how is Kenya’ coz as far as they are concerned, Kenya is only in Nairobi. If you want to determine if locals are ‘Kenyan’, check their reaction when you tell them you are from Nairobi, a light bulb goes on.
The other Kenya
So anyway back to the other Kenya that we rarely talk about. Recently a friend of mine also visited this other Kenya. Hers was actually the real ‘other Kenya’. You know the Kenya where girls are married off at 10 years old, girls are circumcised, most kids do not go to school, endless list.
This friend of mine was part of an organisation that is trying to help this community through some initiatives that would benefit the locals. However the locals are resisting these initiatives, not because they do not recognize the help these initiatives will bring to them, but because these initiatives interfere with their norms.
Norms like where they bury the birth placentas, norms like where the locations of circumcision, in other words local superstitions.
My first reaction was really, how is it these communities are fighting such a noble initiative and thereby fighting for status quo because of superstitions? Do not get me wrong, I think some of our traditions are good and have a place in our society. However, some are too far-fetched and should really be discarded. Then I began to ask myself what has made me get to the place where I can distinguish between reasonable traditions and unreasonable ones; the answer was simple, education. An education that for one reason or another, does not get to these forgotten lands, how with the classrooms being under trees and girls being married off at tender ages.
Without getting too entangled in these stories of mine, what I am trying to communicate is just the disparities in Kenya.
You see, we have made some good strides in urban Kenya (read Nairobi); we have witnessed some good growth that should be applauded. We are on a path that could easily get us to a society that is developed; we could even reach vision 2030 of the nation being purely middle income economy.
However, there is another Kenya that is neglected. And it is a big part of Kenya. It is the rural Kenya. It is the places where education never gets to. It is the places where we are extremely backward. These places are so ignored.
The leadership problem
I will shy away from blaming our leaders though I know they have greatly contributed to these disparities. In fact in most of these rural places, their leaders are never there, they are based in the other Kenya, the Nairobi Kenya. Their personal interests take center stage of all they do.
They will use the people in these rural Kenya. Ignite tribalism, ensure not too many are educated, misuse the funds allocated to them.
The result is a very backward society which cannot even keep the leaders accountable to any of the promises made. But then again from the leaders’ perspective, mission accomplished. The more backward these people are really, the better of the leaders are. Then they can be leaders for these communities for generations to come with nothing to show for it and no one ask them anything!
Our ‘leaders’ is a topic I like to avoid as I honestly believe it leads to a bottomless pit. You see as I throw a lot of stones to our leaders, then I stop playing my part, but even worse I do not look at the part I play in having such leaders!
New leaders…the solution?
This week we have had an issue with our members of parliament attempting to pay themselves awfully high amounts that we just cannot afford. But their greed cannot allow them to see beyond that. The complaints and uproar of Kenyans goes to deaf ears, they care less. I will tell you why, they know they will just need to ignite a few tribal issues and we will vote them back even after all this uproar.
Then again I am not sure if I was the MP I would be any different. Our software is just engineered in a way where self-interest takes first place. So truth be told, actual truth, if I was in that parliament, do not be too sure I would not vote in these hefty salary increases, and neither would you.
You see you just need to check the guy who was elected an MP not more than 2 months ago, he is already voting in for the hefty increases! He’s not been in parliament for 2 months so it surely cannot be that parliament has corrupted him. Perhaps his software is just corrupt. After all I bet the guy paid a few guys to vote him, so why should he not recoup this cash, it after all is an investment right? This guy has probably bribed authorities all his life, what makes you think that when he becomes president or Member of Parliament he will be any different?
I am convinced that the change we need in this nation is actually a totally new set of leaders! But those leaders will only be created using a bottom up approach. You know the kind of approach where you and me have values that will ensure that when we are leaders we are servants first, perhaps less self-centered. Otherwise even if we changed all our MPs this coming elections using a top bottom approach, I know we would not have much change, in a few months their innate nature would prevail, the self centered kind.
So I will not look into the leaders, I will focus on me for the solution to these disparities I am talking about.
Let me applaud the Kenyans who have taken upon themselves to be part of solutions, I probably painted a very bleak situation in the previous paragraph but actually in reality we have some Kenyans who hell bound on doing the right thing. Who are playing their role in changing this nation for their better. Who have initiatives that are changing people’s lives. Or who are part of initiatives that are impacting people’s lives.
I applaud you. For choosing the road less travelled. I know you know the benefits of this road, more than the rest of us who watch from far. I applaud you yet again.
You are our hope…not the leaders
But this is my plea to you, it is easy for all of us to focus on changing Nairobi, and we should and we have. But there is a lot of work that needs to be done in rural Kenya. A lot of work.
I am sometimes amazed at the number of NGOs in ‘Kibra’, many doing a good job, though I always wonder why with all these help ‘Kibra’ is not a better place, perhaps that we are enabling the problem than looking for long term solutions (a topic for another day). But really the point here is, perhaps some of us should be in rural Kenya and not Kibera that is where the real work is.
What am I saying
I guess I have said a lot of things so let me bring it all together.
There is a lot of work you and I need to be doing. The only reason you are not from Pokot and uneducated is by some fluke chance so do not rest on the Nairobi laurels.
Will we all be able to go to Pokot, most likely not. Infact even with all these passion I have for rural Kenya I have not been to Pokot and saying I will be in the next 6 months is a lie. The other truth is even if I was in Pokot, Marakwet needs me so does Turkana. And am using Pokot just as an example.
My proposition is this; there are people whose day and night is Pokot and Maralel (maybe not enough and we need to build a lot more), and many more coming up. Imagine if you financed their activities. Imagine if you liaised with these organisations and as a group of friends financed the construction of a school in Pokot so that they stop going to class under the trees. Or if you financed an organisation that is educating girls from these places. Or if you financed some of the disabled children in these areas who absolutely have no hope in the midst of all the problems their societies face. Imagine.
This is the sole reason I am passionate about ‘AN ARMY OF GIVERS’. We all cannot be playing active roles in changing this nation but we all surely can financially contribute to this.
There is power in money; the little you have can change someone’s life. It is the reason we all relocate from our rural homes to Nairobi in search for better lives that are often measured by the monies we have. So take your food budget, or your calls budget or your entertainment or investments budget. Reduce it slightly; give that to an organisation with a base in rural Kenya. You will have planted a seed.
You will have changed a life. I dare you to get involved. I dare me to get involved.