Her body trembles as the soft voice of the speaker calls the letters of her name.She fights the fear that rises with each applaud.when the lady next to her stands,she realizes that she is expected up the stage,she forces a smile and heads towards the red carpeted small stairs.The applause gets stronger,now mixed with olulation and a chant from somewhere it catches on.On the final step she feels the grasp of an embrace,this startles a little,the embrace is from Stellah Mwaniki,the director of inua dada, an organization that advocates for women empowerment.
She turns her head and the multitude astonish her,infront of her are women of all shades,all smiling,clapping,their eyes look expectant but she is afraid of disappointing them,afraid of the mantle she has been made to carry,oooh she feels her soul rebuking her of being a fraud,rebuking her of raising all this hope like a balloon on grass to burst it out,the crowds settle noisly,then it grows quiet,only encouraging smile and boom.
As she walks through the corridors of the second floor of the giant media house,her heart beats,years ago it would have been a miracle to think of just being in this building but now living her miracle she is afraid of being in it not out of modesty but a call to go to the directors office,yes the director of citizen tv,rarely do people of her rank reach this quarter unless you have done something extremely tromendous and on clear reflection she hasn't.
Her walk is a reflective one,her mind has taken over her being even for her eyes to fail to see the pictures of veterans and bigshots adorned on walls.This pictures many have come to think less as beauty but of intimidation to be obsessive story tellers to earn their place in it.Her footsteps echo as she makes the final steps to the wooden door on it ingrined "DIRECTOR" in silver,she does the final touches with her hair and dissipating some adrenaline,then knocks,a while and opens the handle.
The first thing one notices on entering this office,is not the bulk man with spectacles on the other end but of the trophies that form its interior,a declaration of how journalism award dinners end.The director does not look at her immediately, the papers have his attention,so her eyes find spot in reading the initials on his desk H.M Wilson, Director.The clearing of his throat startles her and upon looking they hold each others gaze,up close he looks old,a little worn-out but nothing can hide the aura around him,this man who lived reporting through countless wars when she was a little girl,now face to face,life is indeed a circle.
He struggles to place her and so she intervenes to his discomfort,'celine Agonah,you requested for me.'He shuffles through the papers and finds an envelope,looks at it for a while,"oooh yes,so this is a letter from Stellah Mwaniki,she wants us to highlight a story and she has selected you personally to do it."Her heart beats this is impossible,Stellah Mwaniki,the human rights lawyer who turned a fierce critic of the old government on their sidelining on women enough to make the IMF and world bank to hold loans on Kenya till changes are made,what might she want,"miss Agonah,"this startles her,"As I was saying she wants us,no,,you to handle this beat,"he hands over the white envelope, probably came with the letter,"That will be all,the rest you will work it out with the with the special projects editor."
At home she sits down with a mug of coffee and slowly opens the envelope,has no addresses probably was a later addition.
"I know your first question will be why you,before sending this letter I asked myself too,till I found your article on 'eve woman' and said she must be the one.It was a coincidence that I read it or even a coincidence that I watched your program that ran last Sunday on the lady In Nakuru and I knew this one has more in her,more stories to tell but your article confirmed that you yourself are a story to tell."
She continued reading through the letter and by the time she finished,the only thing she had in her was bitterness and anger towards her city.Then a drive grew,a bitterness became passion and anger a story and on the computer she sat, typed the word ,'Sexual harassment against women.' The whole country had been gripped on the television,the latest special on citizen tv was about to set the country a blaze,the trailer had generated five million views the first twenty four hours.
"Section 42 defines consent as a situation where a person agrees by choice and has freedom and capacity to make that choice.The voice of samantha loku booms through the television,the third woman on the special her case is the boss of National Bank of Kenya whom after coercion began forcing her into his sexual advances,what! the sweet philanthropist whose office adorns with a certificate of 'inunua dada' for placing more women on the companies board.Then there was mrs kabari who worked for Ushahidi,a software company,the HR told her to drop the case after suing,while the manager openly tarnished her character.Such stories filled the program with startling admissions from time to time ,Celine jumped in to explain the general civility code,the sexual offense act(2006)that calls for ten year imprisonment,as she boomed, pictures of women who had been stripped in Nairobi for 'Indicent dressing' appears and the admission of women who had been called names, 'slut shamed.'
Another part is where women who have almost been raped or harassed by taxi drivers at night while drunk, therefore vulnerable tell their stories,some shed tears as the voice of Celine booms,'but why are women not speaking up?"The face of Amy walimu,the radio bird appears on screen,"Basically is label avoidance,you know that stigmatisation of coming out."Another lady who was part of the series says,"Fear of loosing their jobs."
Later the face of Celine appears on the screen,"The objective of this program was to paint a picture of what women go through in this city,women not aliens,the mothers at home,your workmates,spouses,sisters and most of all tax payers,nobody exempts them from paying taxes yet the government can not fight for their basic rights,their bodies,their dignity."The country went silent,then the next morning letters began arriving from all over,more cases been reported ,women opening up,reports at the police station,social media hashtags of 'me too',demonstrations on 'my dress my choice'
At the stage she clears her throat and begins,'First of all you look beautiful from up here,'the crowd laughs,'I know the pain of being a human but I also know the extra pain of being a woman,I know how it feels like to walk with something that you need to protect instead of being proud of,how all the development,growth and love that we have added to humanity will be overlooked and only one thing will be seen your body, and am not talking about monsters,no,am talking about our fathers,brothers,uncles those whom time immomerial have been pited to us as opposites if not our inferiority............But am tired of being the woman who hides in a corner all her life,am tired of being the only one to have something to hide,I deserve a share of this humanity,I deserve a share,no I deserve the whole of my dignity,the whole of my body and that's not an entitlement ,it is a right and so let's stand tall and cry for us,for the history of this city shows that when women stand together, something happens.And we will not rest for history has given as a chance to claim what is ours."The crowd stands with applause,"And with organisation like inunua dada and Stellah Mwaniki,Grace muindi,I see a future,an army,Thank you.
The speech is replayed all over television networks and for once,a front page is not marged with politics,all over the city court cases are handled and the government appoints an oversight athourity to discuss the inclusion of women and constitutional changes on sexual harassment penalties.
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Wow. Exceptionally powerful... This line though..."no I deserve the whole of my dignity,the whole of my body and that's not an entitlement ,it is a right and so let's stand tall and cry for us" <-- YES YES YES Thank you for sharing this!