What you need to know:
- We have hordes stuck in unhealthy relationships and jobs that don’t serve them
- Women who have a long list of choices but who ignore them simply because they do not want to work a little harder
- This is the year to leave your comfort zone
I met a woman with the most heart-wrenching ‘love’ story when I travelled to Mbeere, Embu County, last Christmas. When she finished her standard eight in 2010, this woman, who we will call Ndegi for the purpose of this story, had little options available to her. Growing up, there had never been much money to go around between her peasant farmer parents and her five siblings.
When most of the girls from her class were going off to High School, Ndegi was doing what girls from poor families in her community do – working on her father’s small piece of land as she waited to see if she could catch the eye of a man. Preferably one with a larger piece of land from which she could earn a living. She caught the eye of a much better prospect, a teacher at a local primary school.
He was dashing, intelligent and he spoke to her about education. Courtship those days took the form of evening walks from the local market, three kilometers away, on Sundays. On Sunday, over many months, she began thinking that there could be more to life than an acre of sorghum and millet plants. She began thinking that she too, like the wealthy women in her village could live in a stone walled house. That maybe, she could even go back to school.
Then, one Sunday, her boyfriend invited her for lunch at his home. She was elated. His ‘sisters’ served them in his house. When evening came, her boyfriend left the three-roomed brick house locking her in from the outside. She was elated. It was a marriage proposal. You see, in her village, if a woman like her spent a night with a man in his home, she was considered married to him. All she would need to do would be have him come with his family to tell her family that she had now moved homes. At nightfall, a different man came. One she had never met before. One she learnt not too long after was mentally handicapped. She slept with him that night. She found out later that the man who had courted her was a cousin helping him to get a wife and that he was in fact, happily married.
Ten years and three children later Ndegi can only think about what her life might have been. Why didn’t you just leave that night? I asked her. “And go where? I knew my father would be relieved to have one less mouth to feed and he has a piece of land where I work to raise my children,” she told me.
Ndegi had limited choices and even the few she might have had, she seemed not to be aware of. We can’t say the same for a lot of other Kenyan women. We have hordes stuck in unhealthy relationships and jobs that don’t serve them, women who have a long list of choices but who ignore them simply because they do not want to work a little harder, to leave their comfort zones.
Let us do better this year. Examine all the choices available to you before making life decisions. Stop being the woman who shrugs and says ‘whatever you like’ when presented with choices. Even if it is a choice of food or drink on a date, take as many chances to make choices this year. Take charge of your life.