At some point, while growing up, I noticed something wrong with how men and women lived. There was an imbalance that seems to upset me even when I was not sure what was genuinely crazy. Nonetheless, my personality, which is fueled by passion and curiosity, got invested in trying to fix that imbalance. In my opinion, all I was doing was trying to make things fair. It was as simple as a child seeking appropriate treatment to her peers. The rules my life was governed by did not make sense to me most of the time, and they made me feel lonely. It was in that loneliness that my curiosity found an outlet. I watched tv shows and listened to grown folk conversations about marriage and education and politics. Through this, I started learning that, I was right to think that some of the norms governing me were grounded on baseless arguments.
An iconic moment was the night I watched G.I, Jane. I can remember feeling my body tingle with excitement as I saw something that validated my concerns. Everything I was thinking and the feeling was being supported in such a brilliant way. Although the main character and I were facing different circumstances (She was getting Navy training, and I was navigating being seven years old), I could understand that what we were going through was similar.
It felt like a breath of fresh air when somewhere in my early teens, I learned about gender equality. It was not a widely discussed topic, but people would mention it, and after an uproar of disputed opinions, silence would follow, and the subject would change. To most people gender equality meant girls go to school, they get pads, no early marriage and the end of Female Genital Mutilation. By these standards, the world was well on its way to equality, and there was not much to be discussed. I, on the other hand, still had questions about why boys couldn’t cry or why I was expected to be bad at sport. I didn’t understand why I had to live in fear of being raped or why my ability to do house chores mattered way more than it did for boys my age.
Thrown, back to my loneliness, I started this blog in 2015. It was a space for me to understand some of the questions I had about life. At the same time, it opened me up to a world of other people with issues and the world of people with guidance on where I could get advice. I started learning from a global pool about what equality really is about. I didn’t have a name for what I was doing, all I knew is that I believed in truth and wanted more people to know about it. Two years down the line, one of my friends made a statement that would throw me into years of reflection “you are such a feminist. It’s in the way you practice advocacy for gender equality.“
Up to this point, I had read of gender equality advocates and seen some on TV. My understanding of advocacy was that it was the major leagues. It was the great female politicians I saw fighting for women’s rights while constantly receiving pushback and threats of all kind such as Millicent Odhiambo. It was women such as Wangari Maathai who made such a huge difference politically, socially and even economically. People who had done important things were the ones I understood as gender equality advocates. The word feminism felt like an even bigger term. I couldn’t see myself talking up the same condition used to describe the legendary people who inspired me with their courage and zealous characters. I felt so small in comparison to them and undeserving of claiming those terms.
Nonetheless, I chose to explore the concept of myself as a feminist and intentionally associated with people who identified as feminists too. Being in an environment with people who understood what I believed in felt like coming home. Something was empowering about the growth and understanding that came with finding a community where I felt safe. At some point, I took up feminism as an identity; it was who I was, and I wore it confidently and proudly showcasing it like a hard-earned trophy. I felt like I had finally reached where I needed to be. It felt glorious to walk in the path of someone who was ‘enlightened’. Learning became more natural, and with time I couldn’t even understand how people could not see that the world was broken. How could people be blind to the reality of the brokenness that has seeped its way into structures and social institutions?
There’s a thin line between passion and anger. Unfortunately, anger when not managed corrupt passion. I was angry for so long at the fact that the world has chosen to be quiet while millions suffer. I was mad as people I expected to be conscious were not, and it felt like a choice they made out of spite. I no longer felt excited about being a feminist but rather felt burdened by the weight of it all. This made me harsh and for a while I couldn’t truly advocate because all that came from me was a nasty coctail of anger and pride. Additionally, I felt ashamed as I thought of all the great women and men who enabled me to find the answers I had once sought. I was not doing right by them because I wasn’t pursuing the vision anymore. Somewhere in the process, I had made the journey about me when really it was about the cause and the society as a whole. I knew I needed to do better .
I am not an expert on feminism, but for me, it is about advocacy that is fundamentally rooted in gender equality. While it is heavily motivated and inspired by our personal journeys, it is my firm belief that one needs to be objective and find a way to look at the bigger picture which is seeking changes for the whole community. I understand feminism as a duty to defend and protect those who are not able. It is also a responsibility to be a voice for those who have been silenced. I am more cognizant of how personal this journey is and the fact that it requires a lot of work on self-development, patience, and forgiveness. It is not easy to find healing in spaces that do not even consider you to be wounded in the first place. We need to patient and kind to ourselves and take our journeys and those of others one step at a time.
Despite everything that I have been through, I am still that tiny girl that wanted things to make sense. I am also that young woman that was inspired to bring change to the world and earn the label of a gender equality advocate. In my case, by sharing stories and teaching people of what gender equality looks like, what it means, and why it is important to all of us. Admittedly, I have a long way to go, but I endeavour to be on the right track and to do right by those who I seek to advocate for. I understand my purpose is to teach people how to bring about equality to the world. It is what motivates me to wake and what keeps me up at night.