Brother’s Keeper: Silver Lining on Humanity

“When terrible things happen does it mean we are doomed? Maybe or maybe not. It might be our access road to redemption.”

Do not be mistaken. I am not a religious man but I’m spiritual. I believe in a higher being but question almost everything to gain a better understanding of it. For some, I have never had a justification but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist nor does it prove their existence but for God, well I believe there is a higher being. This is not a sermon nor a religious debate but a deliberate case for and on humanity.

Last week as always, we host the Ryculture #BonfireChats on the last Friday of every month. These are discussions by and for the youth in efforts to enlighten, engage and evoke them to act for the betterment of their communities. It’s our way of fostering a support network among our peers as we support one another. Our topic of discussion on this account was the controversial “Reproductive Health Bill” for which we had guests from different organizations coming aboard to unpack the bill while at the same time assessing it from the youth perspective and the context in which we operate. You can find the recording here.

Towards the tail end of the discussion we had one of our participants who mastered the courage to speak up about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) both as a victim and an advocate against the act. Having gone through the cut, she gave an account of her experience especially during her menstrual periods which come with extra pain. It’s heartbreaking to have an individual breakdown in the middle of a zoom chat in recalling an ordeal they had to go through just because it’s part of a culture.

In her words: “Unashonwa kama nguo and being a child you can not do anything about it.”

Her account made me reflect back on two cases: one was with a colleague we’ve been friends with for the past seven (7) years. Over the period she has had to go back and forth from hospitals for reconstructive surgeries. It’s the greatest form of emotional pain I have ever felt talking to a close friend and a confidant but then there is nothing you can do about it.

The second case is on menstrual hygiene and access to these products. As I earlier alluded to in a previous post, I was born and raised in a remote village in Western Kenya and as you may be privy to access to sanitary materials have never been commonplace for young girls especially in most remote communities. On this case I had a classmate who happened to have been orphaned and lived with the grandmother. She was the most industrious lady in my entire primary school years. I hope she kept on with the same spirit. Unfortunately, menstrual flow doesn’t send memos. In class six, it so happened that her menses came while we were in class and being from an underprivileged family she didn’t have access to any pads then. Her flow wouldn’t give her peace. As ignorant and troublesome boys we as well wouldn’t grant her the peace and support she needed. Luckily enough there was a program that was being run to support needy children and some caring teachers who made it their business to look out for such ladies. She was taken care of. From her experiences I could imagine how poverty could strip one off their dignity to the core.

Why am I sharing this with you? These have been moments etched in my heart. At times I rebuke myself for having failed her in a way. On the other case I blame our system but in the latest I decided not to feel sorry for them but to speak up. For both cases these are actual experiences of people who have gone through such traumatizing ordeals. These should serve as lessons to us and inform our actions moving forward. FGM should be a thing of the past. When we concluded the call I had a chat with her and agreed that she’ll take it up and bring out experiences from ladies who’ve been affected by FGM. Watch out when it comes up to support the cause. Let’s learn from their experiences and rewrite the narrative.

On the later, there were school programs established to ensure girls could access sanitary materials from schools. In the wake of COVID-19 with no schools the struggle is definitely more pronounced. Let’s play our part in our communities and most importantly put in place measures to guarantee that no lady will ever go through an ordeal as the one my classmate went through.

For we feel for others and relate with their circumstances is enough to make us want better for future generations. Let’s not only wish for better but also act to make it a reality. For she was the only “Fish in Lake Victoria” as the school knew her.

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