Tuesday, February 16, 2010

a dialogue about slum life for young girls with Mumbi of Kiamaiko, Huruma

The last time I spoke to Mumbi, a young mother and community organiser in Huruma, Kiamaiko slum area in Nairobi, she was distraught! Her friend Lilian -who read to us parts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.s speech "I have a Dream" in her mother tongue (Maragoli) at a tense time when Kenya was subjected to violence after the election of 2007,died all alone whilst in labour without help in her little room. Violence in the slums never stops. It is only that we only like to focus on killings of another type.

"I wish I knew what Lillian was going through. I wish I was there!,", Mumbi told me in tears, "I would have saved her life!". Mumbi suffered alot and still is. I tried to tell her it was not her fault but I also feel very hurt. Lilian died holding her dreams in her hands and writhing in pain. But now Mumbi is looking at life more critically as a community organiser. She sees things in a broaders sense. An interview with her will follow later on my pages. I wanted her to share her typical day's task and her life in Huruma so that we could send her some inspiration and hope. What would you like me to ask her or tell her? Please post to me. I am sure many of us are familiar with hard situations. For now, I would like to share what she sent me. I hope that you will be patient to follow Mumbi's story with me as she shares who was and what happened to her friend Lilian. These situations are common in many of the countries of the world and everyone I think should take note. It is not a problem of poor developing countries on their own because often the causes of dire poverty are shared or are rooted in better off countries.

Mumbi writes,

I am a community organizer and have been for years. What I think is based on my experiences as a community worker, meeting and coming across countless families in extreme distress, facing disease and death at a level that is hard to imagine for the middle class Nairobi community living comfortable lives driving posh vehicle you could imagine of.

Every week 5 to 10 pregnant women die in villages or local hospital during child birth and when performing abortion. Can you imagine by the end of the year how many women will have died, and not even one will be registered by the local media.

What would have happened if so many mothers “to- be” died in hospitals like Nairobi Hospital, Aga Khan, and mater hospital name it? I fail to understand. Do the lives of these poor women in poor communities have less value than those who have?

Women from poor communities who are the majority in the Kenya population need support, and I hope that their lives are valuable enough for us to put resources on the table to save them. I believe that Kenya has enough resources that can to solve the problems women in the grassroots are facing due to lack of proper facilities in government hospitals costing us loss of many lives unsafe abortion claiming many lives of young girls in our society.

How many millions of shillings have been pumped into failing parastatals over the past few years in order to save them from collapse? Why can’t our leaders do something similar to save large portions of humanity especially women and children from starvation, disease and death? Is this not an important cause to support?

Secondary education is beyond the reach of many poor women, if the girl child and others are not educated then how much poverty, violence and criminality will they cause as they grow into unhealthy lawless, uneducated adults? We feel it high time that our government should be held answerable of the unnecessary deaths of young women and girls on its failure to achieve on the millennium development goals that promote safe mother hood.

Report by Ruth mumbi bunge la mwananchi women chapter/kiamaiko young women

--- On Tue, 2/16/10, Mumbi Ruth

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Valentine is Kenya

Kenya, will you marry me?
© Philo Ikonya, novella

My heart and head are in my feet

My bare feet squelch into the rainy mud and it comes out squeezy between my toes. Some of it hides in the inner part of my smallest toe. This mud in my village looks like thick liquid chocolate, but with the reddish color of cocoa.

But red soil here came from the violence of volcanic action. It was made when the earth was angry. I know she gets angry and I can soothe her, but I also know some things she cannot stand and what makes her real angry, bloodshed. I have to walk on her and so I beg my feet to speak to her for peace.

I know you. I love you, Kenya. From your earth, your soil, I was created because it is your earth my parents ate. Yet still, I have to ask you if I can step on your soil today. If you can please accept me to walk on you here and there, for this I will always plead. My feet you see, are my heart! I feel your pain directly from the soil into my heart when I walk. And you have been hurt so many times. They planted violence in you and violence grows with thorns of all types and virus, human flesh eating things, which kill children too. Mother, I know you would not like to say no to my stepping on you, but I beg you still. I know so many walk on you without a care for your own feelings, even erecting monuments where you should be green.

It is not true that once I call you my land I can do anything to you. I pass and go. You remain here. You are someone else’s land. What matters right now is that you love me. That I may not be hated by the soil of any land on which I tread. All land is one, the islands joining it from down below.

Well, I know what my great grandparents ate grew from your soil in Africa, but still I have to ask you even when am there, if I may put my foot on you. If I can make room for you, I surely can for all people. Whenever I lift up my foot on new land, please in your kindness and love, receive me Mother. I am never really a foreigner; am with you. My Mother, you are like me, the color of all of us is you, no matter what they say.
My toes speak to my head. You made my toes sensitive to you as if you knew, Earth Afrika Mother, that mine would be a long journey. My feet are all of me when I walk barefoot on you and we talk our own silent language of peace in a place where we do not fight because of color, faith or ethnic connections.
But I know you have been violated and so have I. When I come to a place where violence has been roughest I know it and I do a headstand. So, sometimes people are surprised to find me in so many places and sometimes, head down and feet up. I know you understand what no one else does. You knew that sometimes I would be looking up to the stars for some heavenly dew some places so faraway. That I would look up wondering if the milky- way has some milk of reason for me to clean my feet. I know that I am you and you are me. So, when you burn, I burn. When you hurt, I hurt. I know when the heat is rising near you for your destruction my beloved Kenya, even before they tell me. I know how a mother knows about her child’s temperature before her palm falls on its little forehead feeling for unusual rises and pauses of the rhythm of blood in the body.
You are so beautiful my beloved,
The sun rises and sets in you gently,
over rivers and valleys and desert,
sea and mountains
You are so wonderful my country,
You allow me to walk on you, you make me.
The moon of change rises and sets in you…

Change will melt in,
and rise again…to meet the stars...
And I wish you to marry, and if you would, marry me.
But the pain of strangeness is hidden in their eyes.
Why this map of pain?
Kenya, will you marry me?
My happiness would fill the earth and the seven seas
And we could take away the pain if you marry me.
How will you marry me, if they mutilate you and me so?

Tell them to leave your body alone.
I cannot live and watch you marry violence
You marry pain, I would you married me, changing.
I died the death of love- change,
Only together can we both rise again.
I have put
A triangle across Kenya,
uniting people and people,
sharing land and resources.
And mixing peoples,
with different genes
and stories.
Kenya will be home when you do this.
The North can have part of the South
Who said your compass cannot dance?
The east can have a part of Central
Who said you only knew once chance?
But here. It is my warning before your eyes
with red and yellow phosphorescent lights it blinks
so that you do not have another nightmare
accidents you have had none.
Please stop!
And think
Before the politician
Takes music
and makes it his.
Takes the church
And makes it hers.
Takes your granary,
and eats all your maize.
Takes your vote,
and turns it into hate blood.
Takes your dreams,
and turns them,
into nightmares.
You might see me in the wind.
and think you know me.
In a whirlwind that begins to gather dust
at your feet,
dancing a little bit,
blows and is over,
and you say you have seen me,
but you have not.
You might see me in papers
that come out freshly from a printing press
with words impressed on them
like kisses, and,
after many years of fear and pain,
talking and say you have seen me,
you have not.

You might see me in the rain after a drought.
you might see me in a river that washes its banks
as it shrinks year after year and say you saw me.
I am not here.
Know my name .
I want you to.
Know who I am
so that you will know me when we meet.

I introduce myself early
Wipe out confusion.
Names are important to me
Call me by my real one.
There are too many fake ones
floating around.
You tired of
hearing the word Change
I take particular care,
Change is my name.

My name like it or not
gets mutilated often.
You can hardly recognize her,
for all the circumcisional cuts.
In the mouth,
You tell her not to speak.
On her body
Not to move.
On her head,
you take her hair off
damning her river of reason,
you cut her again.

My name, you ban.
My hands you restrict
to my own body.
From my feet you cut

and in my heart
you mutilate my love.
And I come back proposing anew.

I am made of love.
My brain is all over me.
My feet can tell you
I must move
I must talk.

See Change

Don’t mix me up with
coins or even bank notes
That a fat politician
brings you for an election
talking about an erection.
I am not bar change
Am not shop change.
Be they big or small.
You laugh.
That is what you make me during elections.
Small change,
Big only in money.

I am Change,
Not in a language that means turn the other side,
Of the same coin.
I am change not in languages that mean replace.
I take new forms,
and walk through them
alive like fire that welds not burns to ashes.

Like Mau Forest,
I shed all my moisture.
To Trans-Nzoia river,
I want to pass by and leave
new shoots of sugarcane
In leadership too, the Nyando flows.
From Kipkarren to Koru,
I will re-fly my works.
In the Tana,
new life without crocodile
messages of death.
Mbagathi will go to Athi
and will listen.

I do not have many rivers
embrace me now,
before the Nile leaves you
and Sango laughs
atrocity to behold
nyawawa defeated.

Let me re-make my lakes.
the Nile
Must do that in Africa.
When they say I have come,
I have not, till the people
you see, rise and embrace me.

When I come,
like a new shoots of cane,
There will be songs,
sang in every mat and hut,
that remain of the past
chewing me.

Look me as a people,
all eyes and ears.
I am not one person,
I must sit tall in institutions,
Beginning with the matatu.
Universities respected and learning;

If you want to know when freedom is about to die
Look there in those two places, and at
Police in attitudes with class,
Bodies most holy;
trashed with laughter and cheer.
Look at State House;
it is built on a wetland.
Relocate it.
Take it to dry lands,
Or lake lands.

Look at dead words in the place of parle,
Move it.
and at best,
build it on the Athi that flows,
so it sees Kilimanjaro
and is reminded of Nyerere.
As it passes through our villages
and speaks our hearts.

As it flows through deserts,
and feels our pains.
I told you when you marry me,
You will not need to be told,
How sweet I can be.
You will show it,
In your own smiling fields,
pregnant with crop and money.

In ringing freedom in the media,
where the machete of tongue and pen hide,
Before you fail to see me
And how beautiful I am.
Change. Love me.