BY DANNISH ODONGO
A lady friend of mine, from Canada, who doubles up as an atheist and a sworn feminist once involved me in a rigorous discussion about God’s gender. While she doesn’t believe that He exists, she said that if by any chance He does, then he must be male. According to her, a god who is a woman would not let the world be in a sorry state like it currently is. She believes that the world can be a better place if we had more women in places of authority.
Well, I’m really not into the business of trying to find out God’s gender, however, after the celebration of International Women’s Day, I want to make a case: Kenya can move forward faster in the hands of a female president. Let me elaborate.
You see, women are sacrificial beings. Mother Teresa, Wangari Mathai, Maya Angelou, Margaret Thatcher, Rosa Parks, among many other iconic women have changed the world and made it a better place. I felt a sense of hope sweeping through my body when I saw great multitudes (Approximately 15,000) who had turned up at Nyayo National Stadium for the Beyond Zero Half Marathon. It reminded me of the ‘power of one’ belief. We are a nation that is bent towards the all familiar phrase of “serikaIi saidia”. We constantly whine, but only a few of us rise up to take action presumably because the easier way out from a mess is to either blame others or complain but never take action.
I want to commend the First Lady, for taking action to improve maternal health in Kenya. When the initiative succeeds in raising the required Sh600 million, 27 counties will be equipped with mobile clinics. Statistics show that 108, 000 children die in Kenya every year.
Sixty five percent of those children die before their first birthday. It is also estimated that there are 72,000 infant deaths in Kenya annually while 48,000 deaths occur during the first 28 days of life annually. Her efforts remind me of the story of the hummingbird. Regardless of its size vis-a-vis the magnitude of the challenge it faced, the bird refused to be discouraged. The odds were against it, but it didn’t give up.
The First Lady had to endure the rigorous training and eventually run the race in an effort to reduce maternal deaths in Kenya. Those who have given birth can attest to the excruciatingly painful nature of the experience. But it’s immediately preceded by the joy of motherhood. Perhaps journeying between such extremes of pain and pleasure just to give life is what makes mothers so loving and in almost every case willing to put everything on the line to take care of their offspring.
Women have bent backwards over the years for the sake of their family and humanity as a whole. I was therefore understandably shocked to see some Kenyans opposing the idea of the First Lady’s Marathon on social media for the strangest reasons:
“Her husband, the president, can sell a portion of the huge tracts of land he owns to equip our hospitals.”
“We don’t need charity to change Kenya but policy; these women will be ferried to death traps in poorly equipped hospitals…”
What was even more astounding was that some of the opposition was coming from people who are mothers themselves!! This spate of criticism represents the most primitive school of thought that I have had the misfortune of encountering.
You see, Margaret Kenyatta is a Kenyan just like you and I. She could without any fault on her part comfortably fold her arms, sit pretty at State House and rightly wait for the government to do its job, after all, hiyo ni kazi ya serikali. She doesn’t owe anyone anything; not a mobile clinic and certainly not any statutory duties of public or elective office. Despite all that, she decided to do something about a real problem facing real Kenyans and for that, I think she deserves a round of national applause. Her efforts should act as a catalyst to the health sector for more investments and long-term solutions. Remember, a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to do extraordinary things in the face of overwhelming obstacles.
As I watched Margaret Kenyatta run the marathon to completion, I could not help but admire her determination and goodwill. I could not help but wonder what endless benefits this nation would enjoy if such maternal selflessness were transferred to the highest office in the land. The next thought that came into my mind was an irresistible one…Could it be that time has come for this nation to overlook gender prejudices to install its first female Head of State? Maybe not now but in the near future? Could the answer to the greed and folly that plague our institutions be the nurturing hands of one who bears a maternal spirit? I think it is indeed a matter that deserves serious consideration at the very least if not full implementation.
Follow the writer @DannishOdongo