BY NAISULA LESUUDA
No one ever sings an ode to the mother of a great man or woman; in fact, we do not pay any meaningful attention to these women unless they are in the public limelight themselves.
Unless a mother is a Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Mama Ngina Kenyatta or Indira Gandhi, she does not register in the memory of nations or the pantheons of celebrity. Who, even among historians and other scholars, remembers who Jomo Kenyatta’s, Nelson Mandela’s or Mahatma Gandhi’s mothers were?
And yet all the generations are channelled into this earthly life through motherhood. The institution of maternity has often – doubtless billions of times – felt like a thankless task, and yet it is essential to everything that flows from the existence and survival of the human race.
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta’s forthcoming participation in the London Marathon, part of her Beyond Zero initiative, and which had as its dry run the March 9, 2014 Maternal and Child Healthcare Half-Marathon event in Nairobi, has some of the noblest and most magnanimous objectives known to man.
The Beyond Zero campaign aims to raise awareness and galvanize support toward combating maternal and childhood mortality. As good causes go, this initiative is unmatched in its moral and ethical fundamentals. The First Lady is stepping outside her very considerable comfort zone to lead a tangible campaign targeted at real and beneficial results.
And her moral imperative is such that she is leading from the front, from an elevated office, as a national role model and in the service of empowering the truly helpless. It is a shot into the dark of the future, but there is no doubt that it is an investment in humanity. Future Mandelas, Einsteins and Wangari Maathais will no doubt be among the millions who benefit from this far-seeing, enlightened and heartfelt campaign.
The Cooperative Bank of Kenya MD Gideon Muriuki, captured the spirit and big heart of the Beyond Zero campaign upon presenting a cheque of Sh10 million to the First Lady at State House, Nairobi when he remarked: “Only a mother can fully understand the challenges our women go through every day as they struggle with the challenges of maternal healthcare and the pain of losing children for things that can be avoided if we work together. We request and appeal to other corporate institutions and Kenyans of goodwill to join hands with the First Lady and create a women’s movement around wellness and the importance of healthy living”.
More than 5,000 Kenyan women die annually of pregnancy and birth complications and more than 100,000 infants die before their first birthday. In 2012, the last complete year for which statistics are available, more than 13,000 children suffered HIV infections and much more than half of them had no access to essential medication.
The Beyond Zero campaign is powerfully suggestive of the “tipping point” concept, phenomenon and principle as elucidated in Canadian journalist, best-selling author and motivational speaker Malcolm Gladwell’s 2000 book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Gladwell’s thesis in The Tipping Point is that when small numbers of people begin behaving differently their behaviour can project outwards until a critical mass is achieved, changing the world.
The Beyond Zero campaign has all the ingredients to change the world where mother and child mortality and early childhood diseases are concerned. With this initiative, the First Lady is not only usefully redefining her role, which is not prescribed in great detail in the Constitution, but also leading by deed, leading by the most wholesome, example. Pious purposes intoned at conference table talk shops are all very well, but Margaret Kenyatta would rather roll up her sleeves and literally hit the road for this most worthy of all good causes.
She has embarked on a unique signature and legacy in the annals of good works that genuinely help others and impact on countless lives. Children are the future of the race on our small planet.
If we do not invest in children’s welfare and chances of living into adulthood, we fail the greatest test of all; the ultimate act of faith.
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has opened a huge window of opportunity by showing the way to give the future a chance. Beyond Zero has all the power and passion of a life-saving idea whose time has come.
(Naisula Lesuuda, OGW, is a Nominated Senator of TNA)