Lights in their Community: A Collection of Interviews of Kenyan women

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
Hellen Keller

In a country such as Kenya, where the majority of the women are illiterate or semi-illiterate and where a mere handful complete school, there are a disturbing array of problems facing the women in our homes and communities. The main thought across the country is survival, and undoubtedly the reason why so many pairs of feet find themselves walking to market at the crack of dawn. Often, the few who are educated fail to connect with their sisters who are not. We may blame busy schedules and, in my case, geographical distance, however, while we are away, there are unique sisters back home holding the country together by their might and determination to survive. This project is intended to preserve their stories and share them with women overseas and at home to honor their resilience and ensure that we never forget their sacrifices.

This past summer, I was trained as a web developer and acquired a broad array of experience in web development and in particular, multimedia applications. During the training, I worked on sponsored projects to document the renovation of a landmark building on campus, partnered with another student to learn how to produce quality video and other multimedia presentations. Thrilled with my new found skills, I am eager to combine them with my interest in urban studies and document women in the communities I grew up in back home. I have a few disposable cameras and a notebook or two to start off this project. I hope to meet more women and share their stories as I travel in East Africa.

I heard about the tireless work that women in indigenous communities are doing in Kenya and realized that more people need to hear about them to promote cultural understanding and community partnership at home and abroad. I was born at the tail end of the first United Nations’ Decade for Women, and reaped the benefits of the initial goals of equality, development and peace because more young women such as me went into start school. Growing up, there was little resistance if any to my education, as both my parents wholly encouraged me to attend school and excel at studies.

As the second generation of women in my family to pursue higher education, the barriers to progress such as early dropout by peers and the inequality as I moved to the next level became apparent to me. I watched as witty, intelligent girls, many without role models or supportive families fell behind and even left school entirely. Most recently, as I prepared to leave Kenya for further studies abroad, I visited many of my relatives’ homes and met many girls from surrounding villages who had no such plans to study, although they definitely held the ambition close to heart.

Amidst the women who wished me a safe journey in my home city, I saw the wives who were raising children whose fathers squandered whole salaries on illicit liquor and girls who were barely in their teens picked coffee all day while their brothers studied at school. I had mixed feelings about leaving my country with these contrasts. I realized, that the point of leaving was to marshal my resources into being an effective ambassador for Kenya and give the world an accurate picture of women and progress in African homes, such as mine. With this project, I hope to compel people on both sides of the camera to work to a better understanding of how to survive adversity through real stories show how these attempts engender lasting change in a community.

Follow my words and pictures as I share the women’s lives and their stories.

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