Men Should be the leading Feminists #Africa4Her

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It’s Wednesday night, I’ve been invited by a friend of mine (Otile Brown) to ‘Iclub’ in Nairobi for the launch of his new music video. I head off to the club where we are ushered into the ‘high’ table. A host of local popular comedians who frequent the stage of a popular comedy show can be spotted near the podium where a comedy night was about to begin. While I’m not an enthusiast of the show and its comedians, I respect their hustle. So seeing them in attendance promised some good laughter; at least for my friends. And with baited breath we all waited. When they finally stepped on stage, the jokes were crude and  outrightly misogynistic.

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The more they joked, the more I wanted to grow wings and fly away. The place had become a mill of vulgarity. The so-called comedians uttered rubbish before a crowd that was so drunk with folly and other intoxicating substances. Their ability to sift through crude and insensitive jokes that were being made was incapacitated.

As the night progressed, women were the objects of wrath, their sole objective was to humiliate them. Like the watchmen anxiously wait for the dawn of the day, I waited for wholesome funny content to be injected in these malnourished misogynistic jokes but nothing was forthcoming. The humiliation of one lady who wore a jumpsuit was particularly torturous. The ‘jokes’ about her ‘assets’ were too much for me to take. I couldn’t leave because my friend hadn’t performed yet so I endured the horror that was unfolding before me.

“They are intentionally abusing these ladies and humiliating them before the crowd in the name of comedy. And some ladies here are laughing about it. While today it might be about another lady, the next day it can easily be them, their sisters, their mothers or their close relatives,” I complained through a text to a friend.

For a long time, women have battled (and rightly so) the skewed patriarchal world-view that their place is in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant. Problem is, this narrative is changing at a snail pace.

We can’t hope to be an industrialized nation when the bulk of men only see women as objects of abuse and pleasure.

“Think about the humiliation those ladies have gone through?” I was trembling with rage so I texted my friend.

“They identified a woman from the crowd and embarrassed her like that?… wah… what was her reaction?” my friend inquired.

“When the insults became too much, she went and changed,” I explained.

“I feel so troubled right now. Wah, these comedians are very crude, irresponsible, perverted, disrespectful and foul mouthed. I can never come here again. I can never watch their popular comedy show too because if this is the kind of talent being raised on that platform, surely the apple couldn’t have fallen far from the tree,” I went on a rant.

Sadly, issues affecting women have been turned into a ‘joke.’ 21 years since the world convened a landmark conference on women’s human rights in Beijing, China, there is little to write home about. While it seems exaggerated, let me jog your memory a little bit on the heinous abuses that have been meted on women.

According to the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey of Kenya, 4 out of every 10 Kenyan women undergo some form of violence, whether physical or sexual.

According to the same report, Gender Based Violence, including domestic and sexual violence, human trafficking and harmful practices, such as forced child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is still endemic in Kenya. All these despite the existence of legislation, administrative directives, judicial sanctions, and awareness-raising efforts by a variety of agencies and the government.

In January 2014, a 20-year-old Indian woman was raped in public by more than 12 men by orders of the village elder for having an unauthorised relationship with a man.

In January 2016 in Wajir, Kenya, a man logged a kitchen knife in the cheek of the wife. An X-ray scan showed that the knife had gone through from one cheek to the other. In addition, some of her upper teeth were missing and she had bruises all over her face. She said that the husband has been beating her frequently.

A 23-year-old woman was gang-raped and thrown from a moving bus in Delhi in 2012. She died two weeks after the incident. During the trial, one of the men who raped her blamed the girl for the crime while on trial.

In November 2014, women were stripped naked and assaulted for wearing miniskirts or other clothing perceived to be immodest in attacks across Kenya.

According to statistics from the Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC), 45% of women between ages 15 – 49 in Kenya have experienced either physical or sexual violence with women and girls accounting for 90% of the gender-based violence (GBV) cases reported. One in five Kenyan women (21%) has experienced sexual violence

While Kenya has made tremendous strides towards the road to achievement of gender equality, retrogressive culture seems to be the biggest obstacle towards a victorious march to the promised land of equality.

On further discussion, we identified a worrying pattern. Most women who are abused act as the recipient of brewed frustrations from the perpetuators of violence. Thus, every time a guy who feels insecure has a chance of attacking a woman who is already struggling with one thing or another he reduces her to trash. It makes him feel good about himself. He feels like ‘A MAN’

The statement that the presence of a strong woman illuminates on a weak man’s infirmities hits home like a bull’s eye. This is mostly common in urban areas.

Yet women break their backs to raise families every day across the world, especially in Africa. My own mother gave up her right to a good life so that her 7 siblings could have a chance to a life she only dreamt of. She spent most of her life sacrificing while doing menial jobs in rice fields and other homes to put food on the table.

Looking at her; the wrinkles on her face, the memories of her all the sacrificial things she did to put food on the table, the frustration she had on her face when we wronged her among many other struggles only mothers can go through to raise their children, I would be a fool if I don’t fight for equality.

The unfortunate narrative seems to be the only story that unites many women across the world especially in third world countries. Men must be on the forefront to fight this backward reality. I will not just put a badge to speak about gender equality. I will not just tweet about it when YALI will be carrying out #Africa4Her campaign. I will be involved in championing gender equality.

You don’t have to be a woman to be a feminist. Anyone standing up for the rights of women is a feminist. My name is @DannishOdongo and I’m a feminist.

The writer works for Capital FM Kenya and also runs a CBO (Be Generation) on a part-time basis. Check out his blog dannish.co.ke

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