I’m in a matatu on my way home. On this particular day, I woke up feeling like a Somali, so I decided to dress like one. For those who don’t know, the traditional Somali dress is referred to as the Guntiino, commonly spotted in red but you can find the fabric in different colours. It’s often beautifully wrapped around the body. I chose to make a dress out of the fabric though. I’m holding on to my complementary scarf and I feel so amused that I wasn’t able to wear it all day because it’s been unbearably hot of late.
Its international women’s week and the 8th of March is the official International Women’s Day. This is a global day that seeks to celebrate men and women and the strides made to achieve gender equality. However, that’s just my opinion. Women’s day means different things for different people. On that note, what does it mean to you?
I look back on the woman I am today and as I look forward to the woman I want to become; not become entirely because it’s not a destination but the woman I want to continue becoming. Suddenly my heart just skips. I can’t explain it. It’s like nostalgia, a sense of admiration and respect and a ray of hope. Yes, that’s my Untamed heart everyone.
Guess what, I just had loads of memories bubbling in my head. The men who have shaped and continue to shape the girl I was and the woman I continue to become. They are so many; possibly more have impacted me in many ways that I may never know.
So there are my three brothers, all younger than me. These guys wait at the gate every time I go to the salon, curiously waiting to see my newest hairstyle. I also try to be the boss sometimes, making them wash the dishes and all. I’m motivated by the fact that they look up to me and are always waiting to celebrate my achievements. I have many stories, from one who is always talking about cars and technology, I switch off but he continues haha. One time one of them wanted to know where and how I get opportunities to travel out of the country or meet great people. He watched me apply to speak at the UN General Assembly last year. The application was too long for him to observe.. Guess what, I got the chance to go to New York but I couldn’t afford it haha. Wait, I can’t believe I’m laughing about this. I still want to go to New York. I want to see the statue of Liberty. I want to visit the University of Columbia, who knows, maybe even study there. I want to visit the United Nations Head quarters there and just have a chance to learn how they run social media platforms for all the UN agencies. I want to attend the New York fashion events. I want to shop forever and not go broke. I guess that’s life. My siblings are on the frontline of cheering me on and I think that’s a blessing.
Oh then there’s my Dad. He together with my mum has given me the best and most especially in terms of school. I studied in the best schools offering the Kenyan curriculum. I learned from the best teachers. I had so many books I couldn’t finish reading them. I may not have gotten the best grades in my class continuously but what matters to me is the fact that he always knew I was giving my best and that gave me the motivation to keep striving to do well. When I was in my late teens and would get invited to events on empowerment, he would drive me there and wait for me. Imagine, tired as he was during a whole day’s work, he always waited and when he couldn’t take me, he always ensured I had a taxi back home. I learned to be responsible on my own as time went by but he is always at the forefront of blessing my dreams.
Cynthia Untamed has continued to evolve over time, with many challenges and successes over the last two and a half years. When I wanted to start this blog, I had no money to hire a website designer. I would randomly talk to people about a dream I had to write stories of young Africans. Then I met my buddy Tim Humphrey. I may never be able to repay his kindness. He helped me design this platform together with my logo and facebook page. I invested 3100 Kenya shillings only for hosting and domain ownership. I know God has a way of paying forward. Tim if you are reading this, know that I appreciate you.
Somebody say Oh My. All Kenyan, all the time. Who says that haha? You guessed it right. Jeff Koinange shaped the early days of my wish to tell stories. I used to watch Jeff Koinange Live consistently on KTN. I would tweet all the time and he would read my tweets. It’s funny how I used to feel famous after that. I told him via twitter that I wanted to meet him but of course I was sure he wasn’t going to reply. So one time I was in class and I was a bit bored and decided to switch on my data bundles. The first message I saw was him telling me to go watch the show live at the Intercontinental Hotel. He said that once I got to the hotel I could just ask the concierge to show me where the show was being recorded. By the way, I had to Google that word concierge and it was also my first time at the Intercontinental. Let me be honest, I actually thought I was going to be arrested for talking to a celebrity. Imagine, sometimes I reflect on my 19 year old self and I keep laughing. To keep the long story short, watching the show live sparked a dream in me. I wanted to tell stories in my own way and I was learning slowly but hopefully and I still am. If you can dream it, then you can surely reach it.
One time, I was at the Chandarana Supermarket in Muthaiga and no, I wasn’t shopping. I was actually interviewing the Bidco Africa Marketing Director Dr. Chris Diaz. Yes, there were all these people staring at me. Oh the life of a writer can be interesting haha. When I started, I often looked for stories to write but very people would say yes to feature on my platform. Others would say yes with so much excitement, ask me to send them questions and once I did, I would get blue ticks on Whatsapp. Of course with the rejections there were also the acceptances. One thing that stood out for me with this particular interview was the fact that I learned a little bit of branding Kenyan products for particular audiences. Many moons later, Dr. Diaz wrote my recommendation for an opportunity I was applying for and I got it.
Kwa hii life, usikaipanick. (Never panic in this life) That was my history teacher in high school talking to me amidst my many Es in high school. I was in one of the best national high schools in the country and yes, I was scoring Es in Mathematics. It was depressing and confusing. I would never have met our Deputy Principal Mrs. Kimei one on one if it wasn’t for him. He directed me to her for guidance and that is how I came across ‘Life Journeys, Seeking Destiny, Conversations with High Achieving Women in Kenya,’ a book highlighting the stories of successful women in Kenya. Slowly by slowly, I am a woman becoming, reaching for the moon and the stars above. Does anyone know what exists beyond the stars ? He told me that my grades should never define who I am in life if I was giving my best. It didn’t make sense then but now it does. I did well in my national exams in the end but I had the motivation to be more that my grades in my last exam.
So what’s the point of all these stories? It’s to show you guys that we have men out here who in one way or another, are making a big impact in the lives of not only women, but also young men and the country as whole. Life is about the little things. Those small things we don’t post on social media; Those small acts of bravery and encouragement that mould the women in our lives who may be our mothers, our sisters, our girlfriends, our nieces, our nephews. So if you are a man and you don’t feel appreciated, just know that it’s not a waste. It makes a big difference. You make a difference in our hearts and in our lives.
‘Joseph, why are you letting her win? I am not letting her. What I am seeing cannot be true. Ah, checkmate. Fiona has won. Joseph, you are not serious, a girl has given you checkmate? Sorry, I am just a lucky beginner…. I will never play with you again.’ This is a conversation captured from the Queen of Katwe. Young Fiona learns how to play chess and outshines her male counterpart. The result is that his peers mock him for being defeated by a girl who unfortunately feels guilty for doing better.
We need to continue the conversation everyone. Girls and boys should be moulded equally do well in life and to protect and support each other. No girl, no child should feel bad for doing well as compared to their colleague of the opposite sex. While acknowledging that boys and girls face different challenges, we can still think and build smart to balance for better. No girl especially, should grow up being told that she can do better than the boys in my opinion because this statement keeps reinforcing competition against our male peers and brothers. However, we can take into account the differences in gender and create an environment where each child is allowed to explore their maximum potential.
Hey you, happy International Women’s Day and always remember to dream big and hope deeply.