A Travellerspoint blog

Upward Mobility: Words from Women in Power

The only way to truly understand cultural perceptions is to talk to the members of the community – so I did just that. I had two great interviews with women in power and the men who work alongside them.

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Hi Everyone!
As I’ve mentioned before I am working alongside one of the PhD students, Miriam Rotich, who is associated with IGERD (Institute for Gender Equity Research and Development). We’ve compiled a list of people I should meet and talk with before I head back to Nairobi next week. In addition to the meeting with Chief Letting of Kesses Location, I also had the opportunity to speak with the Divisional Youth Officer, Janeliza Mwaudende, District officer for Kapseret, Faith Masika, and female councilors of Wareng county, Councilor Josphine Tarus of Cheptiret ward, Councilor Elizabeth Sang of Kepchamoo ward, and Councilor Judith Sang of Kapseret ward.

Officer Mwaudende of the Divisional Youth office works with youths out of school who have either completed up to form three but not class 8. The different organizations she facilitates, including youth and employment, youth and the environment, youth crime and drugs, youth leisure and sports, youth fund and kazi kwa vijana (work for youths). These organizations were created to get those who are not completing an education involved in the community and hopefully enable them to finish their education and become an asset to the Kesses community. We talked a lot about furthering education and some of the obstacles the youth of Kesses encounter – especially the difference between males and females and Officer Mwaudende explained that there is a stigma behind furthering education; many families are satisfied with their lifestyles and see their main priority to make use of the available land and to marry and have families. It was Officer Mwaudende’s perception that women are still stuck with the mentality that their main goal is to marry and start a family. The only way we discussed that could turn around this mentality is to have community based civic education in which sex education is discussed and the opportunities there are for the town. “Economic empowerment” is a term that many of the council members used to describe what they think would inspire change. Funding is necessary, but the ideas and the will to induce change is needed most in the area.

Our next meeting was with the District Officer for Kapseret, Faith Masika. There are not many women in Officer Masika’s position and what makes her even more unique is that she is one of the younger individuals in this position (men and women included). Faith spoke with Miriam and I about the adult education programs and women’s microfinance groups which allow women to work together to raise funds for unexpected expenses, additional agricultural investment and children’s school fees. With both the adult literacy programs and the women’s microfinance groups, women do not want their husbands to know that they are participating in these groups. There are cultural pressures on women to maintain the status as a housewife and mother and not to continue their education or to procure their own finances. Despite these pressures, there are many women (and men) who have taken their KCB examination. Within the last year, 80 women and 70 men received their primary certificates. These programs are sponsored through the government and offices like Faith Masika’s help organize and set up the programs.

The greatest benefits from the program, according to Officer Masika, are that the living standards have increased for the women and families who participate in these programs. Women are becoming more aware and conscious of national and community issues and are now participating to help induce change where change needs to happen. My meeting with Faith Masika verified my personal philosophy that increasing education has a direct impact on the community participation and growth. Additionally though, the major issue is that there are still women who are hiding the fact they want to continue their education (which was cut short due to early marriage and pregnancy or lack of funds) which means there are still many women who are not even willing to come out to the meetings or classes for fear their husbands will reject their requests. This mentality is limiting the growth the area could have. Within the last 2 years, Eldoret has been built up and has recovered from the post-election violence in 2007, but it has not reached its potential yet and there are many who are struggling to make wages high enough to support themselves and their families.

I asked Faith the question I ask each of the officers I’ve interviewed – are there international aid or groups who participate within the community. She responded the way many of the others have, “there were many groups here to help in the early months of 2008 after the election violence” (which hit Eldoret the hardest of anywhere in the country). There were groups such as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the Red Cross and programs which came to build up schools in Kiambaa and Kamuyu, but other than those who responded right after the election violence, there hasn’t been many within Eldoret itself. (I heard from the Ministry of Education for Kesses who explained the role of PeaceLinks SNV and SOS within the different smaller communities. )

Officer Masika did explain that there is an annual capacity building and training seminar on Women’s day that speaks to women in the community. They discuss equal opportunities, the women’s and men’s roles as parents, and how women can empower themselves through education and participation. She said that it is a very inspiring program for those who attend, but that attendance rates need to go up and there needs to be more community support for Women’s Day activities throughout the year.

My next visit was with 3 of the 6 female councilors of the County Council or Wareng. There are 35 councilors total in which women only make up 1/5 of the council. I also had 2 of the auditors for the county sit in and join our discussion. These women gave a lot of insight on the struggle it is to become elected even at the local level. Doris and Rhoda are both in their third year of office and neither have completed their post secondary studies. Rhoda was an active farmer in the community and Doris was a clerk for a secondary school. Both women explained that their roles as councilors is to go into the communities and to see what needs done within the community and then set a plan in action to make it happen. They look at dilapidated schools and different infrastructure programs that need readjusted. They started talking about women’s enterprises groups and self-help groups, in which she said these are still ongoing with women in the community and they collect money and give loans to those within the group. This concept seems to be popular within Kenya more so than the harambe groups that were nationally known. Harambe means literally translates into “pull together!” and was a common phrase and idea during elections. The same mentality exists in the US – politicians make promises to help communities grow but after elections are over, there is little follow through.

We talked a lot about the role of women and the difference between the men and women when it came to the family and even within the council. The women I was talking to began discussing these topics like they were the latest gossip. Many of them stated that women are the ones in the community and households who take the initiative to speak up and insist that change happen whether it be for the children to go to school or that a road needs to be tarmacked or that there needs to be a peace settlement between neighbors. The reason women’s groups work is because that they embrace the idea of harambee and know that unless they work together, their community will not be adjusted and modified as it needs to be. They each mentioned their own anecdotes about where women worked more efficiently together compared to the men and despite these occurrences, men still ran the government and held public office.

Free Primary Education is always a topic of discussion because there are many different views and opinions of its effectiveness. As always, they remarked that the student-teacher ratio was too high and that the funds allocated to pay the teachers is not sufficient. There are higher enrollment rates for girls compared to boys in primary school but by secondary school, there are more boys than girls. Girls are expected to marry, they become pregnant or they are forced into illegal employment ‘opportunities’ such as prostitution or selling of mtumba to make money for the family. The schools which have the lower drop-out rates for girls are the boarding schools because they are kept in school and are not exposed to the harsh realities many of their peers in day school experience. Then again, boarding school is more expensive and is not covered under the Free Primary Education Act. But in regards to community development and education, ignorance is now being faced with positive thinking and development is occurring as a result. Girls are seeing women in power and women who are fighting for them to receive an education which paves a path for girls to follow in their footsteps.

The problem though is today’s school age generation does not want to go into the teaching profession. They see their teachers as low-paid civil servants and the majority who have their teaching degrees are no employed due to the low budgets for hiring teachers. Also they see the strain on their teachers trying to teach more students than is realistically able to be taught. It is a financial and mental strain on these teachers.

The women council said that there have been some scam NGOs that were operating after the election violence but they were caught. The problem is, now communities are hesitant to accept the help of NGOs due to the negative past experiences. The women councilors recommended that NGOs be monitored more, as should the community spending, and there be a closer interaction between the donors and those being sponsored. Many of the NGOs don’t even come into Eldoret and see how their programs are working. Some of the positive programs mentioned were SOS schools for orphans and Kentrum farmers who sponsor greenhouses, and train and facilitate the market in the area.

Councilor Judith works with disabled individuals and she said that the neglect towards girls is the same as the neglect toward the disabled in the community. But she said that the other councilors are supportive of the proposals shes made for handicapped ramps, schools that help disabled children and employment centers for the disabled. Judith brought up a great point that gave an optimistic look toward the future. She said that although there are only a few female councilors, they support one another’s projects and make sure they are addressed and executed. So as more time goes on, more projects will be completed and the alliances between these women will continue for years to come. There are two women MPs in the Eldoret area, Professor Margaret Kamaar and Hon. Peris Siam, and these women leading at the national level empower women to run at the local level within their jurisdictions because they have the support from above.

I’ll finish this post with their recommendation to girls. Girls need guidance and to be walked through the steps of success and the only way to do this is through example. The Councilors love their jobs because they go into the community, they see what needs done and the majority of the time they can make it happen. The girls in the community and schools see women doing things and making a direct impact in the community and they are optimistic about their chances for the future. They also ask girls to stay locally “even for just a bit” to help build the community after they receive an education because that is the only way Eldoret can grow into a positive community. They hope through their example and self-help groups that girls will realize they have the means to have a reputable profession, to obtain independence and confidence to break the cultural barriers which have kept them trapped.

My next post I’ll give an overview of my talk with the Ministry of Education and how we learned from one another and plan to start an international partnership once I return home! Hope you all enjoy my blogs as I enjoy sharing them with you. See you all in 20 days!

With love,

Wendi

Posted by WendiBandi 08:26 Archived in Kenya Tagged educational Comments (0)

A Realistic Look at International aidin Kenya's villages

First field experience!

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In December 2007 Kenya was shook with the angry clashes between disputed neighbors after the national election took place. One of the most contentious areas hit with the post-election violence was Eldoret, Kenya. Eldoret is a large constituency located in the southwestern part of the country and is also the location of Moi University where I am staying. Communities and international NGOs and advocacy groups came together to set up peace-building socio-economic strategies to rebuild the communities hit the hardest.

On Thursday, I went by matatu with one of the other undergraduate office workers at IGERD (Institute for Gender Equity, Research and Development), Felix, to look into some of advertised international partnerships along the main road to Eldoret. The area between Eldoret and Moi University is Kesses location and within Kesses are Cheptiret and Chpkioyo, two villages Felix and I visited. Our task was to locate the signs and see what the purpose was behind the organizations and projects, when they were started, how many people participate and what the proposed outcomes were. We found three different signs and after asking the locals some questions, we found the base of each of the project campaigns.
Our first stop was in Chepkoiyo, which is one of the villages closest to Moi University. Im a lttle confused how the lines are drawn but think Chepkioyo is apart of Lelmolok village. But in Chepkioyo was a sign that stated

“Chamwedo Youth Group: Mushroom Project, Lelmokol Village”.
ATICAD Kenya project 2009 (with the contributors listed as): IOM-OIM, GOK, Japan

The IOM-OIM is the International Organization for Migration and the GOK stands for the Government of Kenya. We asked around and were pointed up a very narrow path behind the sign to two makeshift tents where we met one of the members of the project and his wife, toodler daughter and his father. He didn’t give us his name but did tell us a lot about the project and his own experiences. In Eldoret, most of the violence was directed toward the Kikuyu people living in the area. Eldoret, although it is home to members of the 42 different Kenyan ethnic groups, has a Luo majority and Kikuyu minority (compared to the rest of the country where Kikuyu is the majority and President Kabaki is Kikuyu). The Luos who were disappointed in the election results took their anger out on their Kikuu neighbors. This man and his family were one of the many families who suffered from these attacks. The path we walked up was lined with tree stumps, which he explained, were chopped down by the Luo invaders and then his house was set fire to. This family is one of the thousands internally displaced families who is now living in a makeshift tent with a tarp as a roof. He told us that the project was started by the IOM who wanted to start a group to have those living in the area of different ethnic groups to work on a project that would in turn create economic benefits. Most of the initial 50 members were between 18-35 who either finished form 4 or dropped out at class 8. They wrote a proposal and Japan agreed to be the main contributor. So the Japanese agents gave building supplies and enough of the mushroom start up kits for 30-40 mushroom tubes. These tubes are about 6-8 feet long and have fertilizer in them with mushroom seedlings. They need to be watered 5 times a day by a regulated house. The original members built the structure together, set up the tubes and would check on it once a week at their weekly meetings. They would sell the mushrooms at/to AMPATH a market where the proceeds are split between the sellers and a treatment clinic for HIV positive community members. (My IU friend Malliron had an internship with AMPATH prior to the start of the summer classes. HIV is one of the main causes of death in Kenya and East Africa.)
I was really impressed on the initiative taken and asked the man how the project has been going since its inception. He looked at me and Felix and explained that through the course of the year, there are only 13 ‘active’ members but as he lives on the land, he is the only truly active member. Of the 40 mushroom tubes, only 3 produced mushrooms. With the limited results, members stopped helping and went on their own ways. It did diminish the barriers between those of different ethnic groups, so part of the goal was achieved, but the man said he really did hope for better results as it could be profitable for all involved and strengthen their newly formed friendships. The one optimistic possibility is that there is a local administrator and one of the Japanese funders who will check on the project annually, and hopefully they will help fix the problem and the organization will start up again.

Our second stop was to the RCEA Women Group Bakery Project, also an ATICAD Kenya project started in 2009 with a collaboration of IOM, the GOK, and Japan. Although the women weren’t there as it was mid-afternoon by this point and they bake in the mornings, they men in the area explained that it is running well and they sell cakes and whatnot for difference celebrations such as weddings, birthdays, graduations etc. I plan on stopping there one morning in the next week to meet with some of the ladies and get their take on the participation. I also am interested to see how the GOK and Japan sponsor the program and how often.

We then made the trek to Cheptiret where Felix is from where we had the opportunity to meet with Chief Philip Letting. Chief Letting was very hospitable and excited to hear I was doing research on the community development in regards to peace building and socio-economic expansion. We discussed the “Shelter and Livelihoood for Peace and Reconciliation” project sponsored by – yep you guessed it – Japan, the Government of Kenya (GOK) and Japan. He explained that it was a project started in 2009 to build shelters for the Internally displaced persons (IDPs) after the post election violence in 2007. They worked with the Cheptiret secondary schools. Chief Letting said that the most affected fled - both residents and businesses- thus hurting the Eldoret economy. The project helped those who remained by providing shelter, temporary shelter at first, and then permanent structures as more funding came in by Japan. The IOM gave $7,500 USD to the community as a whole, those affected and those not, as an attempt to “eradicate hated and use as a unifying factor of those affected and those not affected.” The most affected area he explained was what is called the “northern corridor”: Timboroa, Leinguse, and Burnt Forest. The community is hoping to build over 9,000 homes in those three areas mentioned above. They are now starting to move into Cheptiret (and hopefully our friend involved in the mushroom project) and start up some of the businesses who have left. The project is aimed right now at just providing homes for those affected with little concern about the schools. There is a constant evaluation of the project from the local administrators of the project, especially the IOM. I saw a few of their trucks in the area throughout the course of the day which was promising. I get from the Chief and our friend at the Mushroom project that Japan supplies the intial necessary inputs but it is up to the community with the help of the IOM and the GOK to build up from there. From what Ive read, this is one of the most beneficial attempts as it forces the community to work together rather than rely on continuous monetary aid.

After meeting with Chief Letting he asked if I would do the honor of signing the guestbook in which all of those who meet with the chief and the council sign. It was a nice gesture and now I have record proof of being there. Hopefully I’ll find my name in the book again.

Our last stop was to the Kesses Farmers Marketing Federation: Horticultural Market Stalls supported and sponsored by the IOM, Japan and GOAL Ireland (a new addition to our international assistance countries). Felix, who is a member of the federation, recognized one of the committee members so we went up to talk to him and realized that the vice chair, secretary, vice secretary and treasurer were all there which gave us the opportunity to talk to them and ask some great questions. The federation is facilitated by those affected by the pose election violence and aims, like the other initiatives, to bring peace to the Eldoret south area. Japan gave initial material support of farm equipment, the stalls where produce is sold, training for the farmers. They said that they check in often, usually when planting begins and the monitor the planting. They have also bought uniforms for orphans and have supported the feeding programs (offering breakfast and lunch) for 7 day schools such as Arnesens primary school. Representatives of the project come monthly and help with teacher training. IOM provides continuous support in terms of assistance and oversight, where as Japan initiated the peace project and initial input costs. There are 4000 members I the federation which are divided into 16 clusters (based on location) with 7-10 per cluster of small scale farmers who work together to sell, rebuild farms and provided support and assistance for one another. There is an annual general meeting but the committee members meet every week, then there are quarterly meetings of the chairperson from every cluster with delegates and officers in attendance which is where most of the federation decisions are made. The Federation’s economic role is to sell products of farmers to the NCPB – the National Cereal and Produce Bought organization at the national level. They also market all famer’s outputs at the local level – maize and milk primarily. In order to keep the strength of the Federation alive, the members rely on NGOs and well-wishers to regain necessary finances. In other words, due to international competition and that there is a cooling facility in Cheptiret, it is necessary to have the federation be the most viable option for farmers to work through in order to stabilize prices and participation. The federation has a lot of potential to have a flourishing horticultural exporting community (as many of those working in Eldoret are farmers).

So from these visits, I’ve seen where international partnership can benefit a community. The idea behind Japan’s and Ireland’s assistance is the same goal of the World Bank. Provide the country with the knowledge and skills to recreate growth and then sustain themselves. Since Japan opted to not continue with monetary support, the Eldoret community is forced to work to maintain the economic growth reeked from this endeavor. I’m going to do some more research on these topics, but the trip was definitely beneficial and gave me a lot of insight. Hopefully I can learn more about Kesses federation and the school programs as that is my main research concern.

Hope everyone is well!

Wendi

Posted by WendiBandi 10:26 Archived in Kenya Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

Thank you - Asante Sana

"All You Need Is Love"

I write about my adventures and discoveries, but it is the support from my family and friends at home that keeps me going. There isn’t a day that I don’t log onto facebook and have at least 4 or 5 well-wishers and friends just saying hi and encouraging me. Mom tells me every night of at least one person at work who asks how I’m doing or comments on the progression of my blogs. Everyday that I check my blog, I’m so surprised to see how many people are keeping up with my travels. And finally, the love, encouragement and excitement from my family, Mom, Julie, Jake and Michael and my second Mom, Mwalimu, gives me the courage to continue working and learning in Kenya. Julie and Mom have always been supportive of me and I’ve become accustomed to talking to them on a daily basis and despite the thousands of miles apart we are, they have not faltered at all. What has surprised me the most has been Jake and Michael. They comment on my status, send me a facebook IM when were both online, and spend a good amount of time talking to me on the phone. I knew they would keep in touch but their excitement and eagerness to share even what they consider mundane news from home keeps me smiling everyday. I’ve recently learned too that Grandma and Grandpap have been keeping my blogs and print them and keep up with my travels and many thanks to Aunt Annie who is passing on the word to everyone and keeping Gram and Pap connected to me. All of these comments and efforts by those reading and supporting me have pushed me more than you can realize. The first few days were really hard, despite my excitement, because I was alone in a completely different country about to set out on my first steps of my assumed career path. I was scared, confused and nervous, but what got me through each day was the friendship I received from the Muthama family, Dr. Kivuva and Dr. Wanjiku, but most importantly the encouragement from my friends and family. Mwalimu Leonora is one of the few people who can be empathetic toward my confusion and frustration of being in a new place and her emails have made me realize that I’m not alone in that department and that once I build my strength, I will have endless possibilities. That strength comes from all of you and I just wanted to take the time in this message to thank each and every one of you. I hope you continue to read because there are so many amazing things I’m learning about Kenya. Looking forward to seeing you all in one month exactly and give you a huge hug for helping me through this exciting adventure!

With love and gratitude,
Wendi

Posted by WendiBandi 07:49 Archived in Kenya Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Fun times in Eldoret/Moi University

When it gets dark at 730, you’re on a quiet campus and its best to not travel at night, what do you do for fun? Plenty of things!

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My experience in Kenya isn’t all about research and reading. We do tend to have fun although it’s not in the same realm of Barcelona’s definition of fun. It is usually about 55-70 degrees here on a given day and we are inland so there is no access to a beach. Moi University is a quiet campus in which everything dies down around 5:30 when class is dismissed and students go home. Living at the guest house has introduced me to the Indiana University students who are my closest friends here on campus (aside from Sister Clara). We eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together at the main guest house and joke around about the ridiculous things some of their professors say and do. At night before dinner we are usually all doing reading or blogging in the dining room waiting for dinner at 7-7:30. At dinner we usually share antidotes and our day’s travels and adventures and after dinner resume reading or we retreat to either Malliron and Candane’s room or Jordan and Abby’s room for games and talking.

(Just a refresher- Malliron, Candane, Justin and Nicole are all grad students and Nikki, Jordan, Abby, Sarah and I are all undergrads. They all go to Indiana University and live in the two houses next to mine. We all get along really well and hang out together. More about them on the first Eldoret blog post.)

Kenya is a new place for all of us so its nice to have one another’s company. You’d be surprised how nice it is to speak in English, make jokes and use sarcasm without thinking twice. Sometimes we just talk and hang out. We’ve watched “How to Train your dragon” once. It is really hard to download movies because there are downloading restrictions outside of the US and Canada for some programs such as Netflix and tv-video.net. Also, they internet credit is sold according to how many megabytes you buy, not minutes bought. So a 500ksh credit top-up can last you either 4 or 5 hours or half an hour if you are trying to upload pictures or download something. So watching a movie is a treat. Sadly I didn’t think to bring any DVDs with me and I haven’t found a place yet that sells legal copies of movies yet.

Another one of our favorite nighttime activities is Indian poker and telephone Pictionary. Don’t be fooled- we usually peal over laughing at least 3 or 4 times during each round. Telephone Pictionary is probably our most played game. Depending on how many people are playing, that’s how many pieces of blank paper each person receives (ie 8 people playing, each gets 8 pieces). On the first sheet everyone writes a phrase or lyric or person. We’ve had some such as “baby got back”, “harry potter”, “lady gaga”. After you write your phrase or name, you pass the stack of your papers (with the phrase on top) to the person next to you whose task it is to try and draw the phrase. Whoever is done drawing first gives a 5 second warning then you have to pass the stack, with the picture on top and the phrase on the bottom, to the next person, whose task it is to try and write a phrase from the picture. You continue the trend until you receive your pile back and then show everyone the progression or regression of your pictures. It seems juvenile but there is little to do at night and its advised for us to stay in unless we’re out in Eldoret with some type of chaufer or professor/local companion. Even when I was staying with Dr. Wanjiku, Khadi and I didn’t go anywhere except to Dr. Wanjiku’s sister next door.

Sometimes we have friends join us like the three New Zealanders who met Abby, Jordan and Nikki through their program one night in Eldoret. They came over on Wednesday night and joined in our games (they were forewarned) and we all ended up having a great time. We are trying to plan a night to go out and meet up with them and some other students in the program at Click, a popular restaurant with tv and a hang out for most university students. (Mit, Matt and Cole are all working with a land surveying agency and they fly over East Africa taking aerial shots and depending on the task looking for natural resources and mines. Sounds pretty cool!)

Although I loved my nights out in Barca, Kenya has a different atmosphere and as a white American female, it is best to take precautions. Kenyans are even cautious at night, taking taxis home and avoiding the matatus after dark. Is it because Eldoret isn’t safe? Not necessarily, but that going out anywhere in a foreign place is not safe. But I am enjoying myself and have had a good many laughs in the many rounds of telephone Pictionary weve played.

I’m thinking about taking a day trip to Lake Victoria for the day tomorrow as its only a 2 hour drive from Eldoret. It looks amazing and really relaxing so hopefully I get the opportunity to go! Additionally, Sister Clara and Khadi have taught me a lot about cooking and it’s a great chance to learn more about their cultures and their families as well (plus learn to make some really good food).

Hopefully I’ll be able to post another blog tomorrow about my visits into Cheptiret and Chepkoiyo, two villages in the Kesses Division of Eldoret South with my new IGERD co-worker Felix.

Hugs and love!
Wendi

Posted by WendiBandi 08:18 Archived in Kenya Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (0)

Family Around the World

Extended family has a new meaning for me. The family and friends of Mwalimu Kivuva have helped me combat my homesickness. In addition to the Muthama family in Nairobi, Dr. Wanjiku in Eldoret has opened her home to me as well.

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Hello everyone!

I spent an amazing weekend at Dr. Wanjiku’s house with her daughter Khadi. Dr. Wanjiku lives in Eldoret Town in one of the many estates in a really nice 3 room flat. Dr. Wanjiku picked me up from the guest house on Thursday night and after a nice 45 minute drive, arrived at the house where I met Khadi and we began making dinner. We had really good wheat chapo (chapatti), lentils and vegetables. We watched some American TV (woo!) – the “Amazing Race” and “Bite Me with Dr. Mike Leahy” and then I got a really good nights sleep and slept in for the first time in a while.

Khadi and I went into town and met Dr. Wanjiku and her daughter, Njeri, for lunch at the Moi University School of Public Health Guest house. Needless to say, the food was very good. Njeri just finished her Med school exam that took 5 hours(!) and we went to the Hostel to meet her friend Sam, another Med student. I got to learn a lot about the Med school process. There are about 30 students accepted into the program that are ‘government sponsored’ and the cost of attendance is relatively low but the school also accepts another 100 private students who have to pay much higher tuition prices. The dorms are absolutely TINY as I explained in my last post.

We walked around town and went to the market. There are a ton of sellers at one place and they haggle you a bit to buy from them. The most astonishing fact was that kids walk around selling plastic bags for 5ksh (the equivalent of 6 cents!) Sam bought a bag off of one of the boys and he asked him if he goes to school (in Kiswahili) and the boy replied, “No because I work here.” It was a really hard moment as the child only makes 6 cents per bag and a lot of people bring their own bags. I realized then that this was not an oddity – that it happens more often than not. Depressing, but it let me see what I was working towards eradicating.

In my reading this week, I learned a lot about mtumbaism, the largest industry in these areas. Mtumba is the Swahili word for second hand clothes. One of the authors I have been reading, Hon Mwandawiro Mghanga, writes about mtumbaism and the process of underdevelopment and the effects of globalization on developing countries like Kenya. Globalization is in reality global capitalism in which there is apparent distribution of wealth between the OECD countries such as US, Japan, the EU and China, compared to countries in Latin America, Africa and Southwest Asia. Trade is skewed between countries like Kenya and their trading partners in the wealthy North. Most parts of Kenya are ‘peasant substance societies” meaning they are horticulture producers exporting cash crops such as corn and coffee, and the majority of those living in the communities center their trade around the microcosm of their villages and small towns. There are no commercial centers with malls, mega grocery stores or shopping centers like Target, Walmart or TJ Maxx. Instead, there are many small outdoor markets, a low-key supermarket and then many stalls and walking sellers with mtumba for sale. These second hand commodities do not just include clothes but also shoes, socks, blankets, cars, utensils, machines etc. Since 1970 mtumbaism is becoming more and more accepted as 78% of Kenyans identified themselves as struggling, 13% are suffering while only 9% consider themselves thriving and my observations within Eldoret, Nairobi and the surrounding the communities of these two hubs validate these claims. While waiting for a matatu to return to campus from Dr. Wanjiku’s, I was offered things from hairbrushes, watches, clothes, illegally downloaded music and dvds and children’s toys which definitely fit into the mtumba category.

Not everyone though is living off of the mtumba trading system. My colleagues, the Muthama family and Dr. Kivuva are just a few of the many I know living middle income lives and not suffering. There are malls, but the majority of Kenyans cannot afford to shop in these places. Those who can, like the Khamasi and Muthama family and many of the colleagues at Moi, live doesn’t vary much from what I am used to in the US.

I met Dr. Wanjiku’s Somali family who now lives in Kenya and Fatuma’s two kids, both who attend primary school and are thriving students. They helped me with my Swahili and we read a children’s book and had a wonderful meal. The Kenyan government passed the “Free Primary Education” act in 2003 which provides education for all students, yet some of the schools lack the basic necessities let alone new books. The main difference I notice between Kenyan children and kids in the US school systems is the amount of gratitude. Kenyan students, like Dr. Wanjiku’s niece and nephew, are appreciative that their parents pay school fees for them to go to private primary schools rather than the dilapidated public education facilities. Ill save the details about the school systems for my next post about my research, but I’ll finish off on the subject by saying that the only option for upward mobility is through education which is why it is so valued.

Apart from visiting with Dr. Wanjiku’s family and friends and watching TV, I learned how to cook ndazi and make chai! I cant wait to make some at home as its really good. I returned to see my wonderful friends after a long weekend apart. Check out the next two blogs soon to come with details about what we do for fun around here and my research so far (its going really well!)

With love, hugs and kisses for all,

Wendi

Posted by WendiBandi 07:21 Archived in Kenya Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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