Resounding Calls of Our Heritage

A Luo Woman (The Luo Culture: The Luo Homestead Part I)

“We all have a heritage and as far as it goes there’s a common heritage & value compass. Heed the call.”

Having a heritage is one thing I do hold dear. I am not as versed with my ancestral lineage except for the chants we used to make as children in the fields looking after animals. “Dave K’Odhiambo, Odhiambo Ka’Aduol, Aduol Ka’Koko, Koko K’Opondo, Opondo K’Owang’, Owang Ka’Sewe, Sewe Ka’Magonglo” and that’s as far as I can go. In all that streak there’s one thing that I’ve always tried to pick up and knit a fabric that holds the positives & values that have transcended this lineage. I’m certain I’ll not be the last in this lineage but what beckons in my mind is what I’ll pass on to the next generation. I’d want to tell stories of greatness, hard work, resilience, dedication & hope. These are some attributes I’ve been able to witness in the last two generations that I had a chance to interact with but this isn’t what I’m about today. There’s more to what I heard and saw in them. Of specific interest to me is the fact that however much circumstances changed from one phase to the other, there was always a common commitment to never forget where we come from. In a fleeting memory I remember my Dad talking of his admission to college and the most critical piece of advise he got from my grandfather was to never forget where he came from. I never got to comprehend the basis of it but as I went through life, I’ve come to acknowledge that life plays out in ways we didn’t know or expect and in that journey we carry on the legacy, hopes and aspirations of a generation. Question is whether we’ll let them down or stand up for what they believed in.

I’m writing this piece from a point of concern having noted a growing trend for individuals especially the elite in one way or the other to detach from their heritage. I’m not asking you to nurture your tribal biases or such but rather to look back on their hopes and do better. As a healthcare practitioner, I acknowledge the hope & trust that’s bestowed upon me to stand for and represent those most in need of my intervention. These include the patients who need care whether in my close vicinity or in the most marginalized of places, those who can afford and those who can’t afford. Those who have are at the margins of giving up any hope. It’s within my purview to act right and stand up for them. This I’ve noticed has been sent aback as individuals focus on their immediate interests with little regard for the ramifications of such acts of omission or commission when they happen. We’ve got to do better and I urge all of us in our circles of influence to not only think of ourselves and what we stand to get out of our actions. We need to see beyond the immediate but the basis for which we are in the spaces we are in, the bigger picture of what we aspire for entirely and ultimately the contribution we can make in these spaces.

I recently transitioned to a new role and during the interview process, there’s something that stood out for me. Considering the role is on facilitating the registration of and access to life saving medicines to patients who need them where they need them, my interviewer had a resounding proposition that on taking the job it’ll be on me to see the contribution of my work to patients who depend on me for their care. This is not often the standard but the exception. When I work on ensuring patients have their medicines, I consider myself a patient, I remember my grandma who couldn’t access care when she needed it and succumbed, my parents on lifelong medication among others. It’s not about me but about all those who may not be at a vantage position as I am and it is my responsibility to do what’s right for them.

Why am I bringing this up at this moment? As a country, Kenya, we are witnessing a looming shortage of antiretroviral therapy (ARVs) for HIV/AIDS patients who have been dependent on USAID funded programs to stay alive and meet their daily obligations. When we don’t act right, hold the government accountable for streamlining operations with development partners, improving efficiencies on their systems for this population, the cost will be high. I may be in a position to afford medication if it ultimately comes to be but what happens to those who can’t afford or even access the supplies to buy when they need them? Let’s do better.

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