Auma Obama’s historical accounts to oppose gender oppression

Auma Obama's memoir

Photo credit: Photo | Pool

What you need to know:

  • Her memoir, And Then Life Happens, is an antique illustrative dossier, depicting a congenial, streetwise, self-confident avid reader.
  • It portrays her obstinate childhood feuds, of contending with an imposing philandering, transgressive, consequential and authoritative father.

Dr Auma Obama is a boisterous, ingenious and assertive women's rights activist, with an expose of eccentric mindedness and academic meritorious inventory.

She's the founder of Strong Voices Foundation, which empowers and elevates orphans into careers. She's a visionary equality enchantress, a former German lecturer at the University of Nairobi, and a humanitarian with Care International.

Her memoir, And Then Life Happens, is an antique illustrative dossier, depicting a congenial, streetwise, self-confident avid reader. Inquisitive about patriarchal norms, and disconcerted and exasperated by impertinent retrogressive traditions, that demean her proud sense of femininity.

It portrays her obstinate childhood feuds, of contending with an imposing philandering, transgressive, consequential and authoritative father, whose infamous colossal conscious actions led to her broken home.


Shortly after her teenage mother, Kezia Aoko, discovered she was pregnant with her, vital events emanated that eventually impacted Auma's life. Her flamboyant, academically brilliant father, Barack Obama, received a scholarship from a team that included actor Sydney Poitier, to study at the University of Hawaii.

He married Ann Dunham, 18, in Honolulu and they conceived Barack Obama Jr, before graduating top of his economics class. He moved to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in September 1962, for his postgraduate study and met his lover, Ruth Baker, before returning to Kenya. Ruth defied her Jewish traditions to follow her black boyfriend to Kenya.

For Kezia, this decision was shattering. She had assumed that she would be beloved, as the first wife. In her eyes, her husband had to respect Luo traditions and authorise her to remain with his parents in the countryside in Nyangoma-Kogelo. She was denied that option.

"We moved in with my mother's family in Gendia,  Kendu Bay," Auma writes.

The neurotic separation drove Kezia to the brink of lunacy. Due to financial constraints, she eventually secured Auma and her older brother, Nairobi School alumnus Malik Abongo, the arduous task of living with Barack and Ruth in Hurlingham, then Roselyn and finally Woodley.

Her father worked as a senior economist in the transport and finance ministries. They lived together for eight years until he lost his job. They moved to Ngara with her uncle Bonifus Odima, due to financial constraints, leading to Auma's continuous dismissal from school.

Ruth's guidance fortified Auma's existing affirmations on women empowerment, financial independence and rebellion against sexist customs. Ruth consolidated her idealism and her prudent sense of self-reliance.

A tearful Auma unhappily attended the bohemian, unsavoury Mary Hill Boarding School, at age six in Thika. It was run by the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, with notorious convent colonial stipulations. She moved to Kilimani Primary, which she began attending as a day pupil and was only a few houses down from their Hurlingham home.

She carpooled with the family of Tom Mboya in their Citroën, and was driven to school daily, by the Kenyan Minister for Economic Planning and Development.

Women rights groundwork

Her high school years were spent attending the prestigious aristocratic Kenya High, as a boarding scholar in Nairobi’s Kileleshwa. The teachers here further instilled Auma's women rights groundwork, with extensive discussions about the sovereign position of women.

Her father and step-mother Ruth divorced, leading Auma to expanded emotional turmoil. The school imparted her with the distraction from the excruciation smouldering inside her.

On some weekends, when other students visited their families and she had no family to visit, the tearful emotions rose powerfully to the conscious surface, resulting in bursts of crestfallen bedlam, hysterical sobbing and schizophrenic implosions.

After her A-level exam, she was accepted at Kenyatta University for a fine art and education course. A year later, in October 1980, at 19, she assimilated a scholarship on her own exertion, from the German Academic Exchange Service to study German, pedagogy, sociology and media studies at Heidelberg University in Saarbrücken, a four-hour drive from Frankfurt.

Through the scholarship, she acquired her first financial fortitude, omitting dependency from her father.

Since she wasn't 21 as demanded by the then-sexist self-deluded Kenyan jurisprudence, she couldn't apply for a passport without her father’s signature. Her mother, who secretly knew about her travel plans and supported her, could not judicially sign the application.


Auma's eloquence and persuasion elaborated to the German Embassy her estranged relationship with her father.

Her mother's sole signature was accepted. She left without the knowledge of her domineering father, who had insisted that she studies law or medicine.

A strange chain of events began transpiring in the Obama family. George Were, a litigator, entrepreneur and her father’s confidant, died in a car crash. Then her father died at 48, in 1982, in a well-orchestrated car crash assassination.

His superior knowledge of econometrics, had ensured he was the leading economist responsible for the national budget. He was set to assume the Central Bank of Kenya gubernatorial office.

Auma's stepbrother, David Opiyo Ndesandjo, died in another car crash, shortly after.

Auma delivers factual historical accounts and strong optics to oppose gender oppression and scrutinise financial self-reliance as a determinant of progress.

Jeff is a novelist, founder of Jeff's Fitness Centre and Big Brother Africa 2 Kenyan representative; @jeffbigbrother


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