Belated happy new year! I celebrated my 22nd birthday on January 6 and, in honour of that, here are 22 things that would make the world a better place if we all practised them. After all, to change the world, you must first change yourself.
1. Tell the truth.
2. Admit your mistakes, apologize, learn from them, and do better.
3. Confess your faults/weaknesses.
4. Express gratitude.
5. Ask for help.
6. Offer to help someone.
7. Give a sincere compliment.
8. Applaud someone else's achievements.
9. Communicate your expectations.
10. Comfort someone that's hurting.
11. Confront and solve interpersonal and intrapersonal conflicts.
12. Pledge your support to causes that build the world, not destroy it.
13. Discourage gossip.
14. Protest evil.
15. Share your knowledge.
16. Offer constructive feedback.
17. Defend someone against destructive criticism.
18. Tell clean jokes.
19. Say 'please'.
20. Express genuine concern for other people.
21. Keep your promises and do not make promises that you can't keep.
It's finally my birthday! 22! Here's my birthday playlist.
1. Palette by IU ft. G-Dragon
2. I by Taeyeon ft. Verbal Jint
3. Move by Taemin
4. Lemon by N.E.R.D & Rihanna
5. Todo Cambio by Becky G.
6. 7/11 by Beyonce
7. Cell Black Django by Todrick Hall
(If you haven't watched the movie Chicago, you won't get the reference.)
8. Universe by EXO
9. Into the New World by SNSD
10. Why by Taeyeon
A brave soul, he fought till the very end.
Oppa, you did good. You worked hard. You endured so much. You will be missed. Rest well.
In memory of Kim Jong-hyun
1990 - 2017
날 바라 보는 눈빛 에
무슨 의미 를 담고 있나요
조용히 불어 오는 바람 이
답 을 알려줄 까요
그대 까만 눈동자
말 은 하지 않지만
수많은 이야기 가
들려오 는 것 같아요
아픈 마음 도
아린 기억 도
뜨거운 눈물 속에
모두 녹지 않으면
지금 이 시간 속 으로
모두 흘려 보내요
In your eyes that look at me
What meaning is inside?
The quietly blowing wind
Will it tell me the answer?
Your black eyes
They don’t talk but
I feel like I can hear
My painful memories
If they don’t all melt
In hot tears
Send them all
Right now, in this time
(song by SE O titled Sad Heart).
Standing by her bedside table, she turned to look at the clock. It was 6:03am, Christmas morning. She could feel it coming, the panic attack. Her heart was pounding out of her chest. Her hands were shaking like those of a malaria patient. Beads of sweat were forming on her brow. She could feel the light-headedness start to take over. She sighed, took a seat, and closed her eyes for a few seconds to try and steady her heartbeat. Her mind when back to the day when it all begun.
It all happened on the night of Christmas Eve, six years ago, when she was seventeen. The night had taken a turn she did not anticipate. It was supposed to be a good night, she was supposed to have been reunited with her elder brother, Faraja, whom she hadn’t seen in months. He was coming home for Christmas. He had promised. He had called. He had said that he was on his way. But alas! In a cruel twist of fate, the rug had been pulled from right under her feet.
She remembered coming home from school to find a meal fit for a king on the table. Her parents had gone above and beyond to prepare for Faraja’s homecoming. There was pilau, chapatis, nyama choma, roast potatoes, roast chicken, an assortment of vegetables, and maziwa mala; all Faraja’s favourites. There were party signs all over the living room. She remembered how elated they all were. They had last seen Faraja last Christmas season when he had spent Christmas with them before heading back to university where he was studying to be a paediatrician. Since the university was so far away and his study schedule was very hectic, he could only afford to see them once a year, and they all agreed that Christmas would be the time when they all got together. They had waited with big smiles on their faces and when that doorbell had finally rung, they had all clamoured to the door, their hands wide open to give him a huge hug. But it wasn’t him. Instead, at the door, were two policemen, there to announce that Faraja was dead.
“We’re sorry to come bearing bad news, especially since it’s Christmas season. There is no easy way to say this, but Faraja is dead. He was involved in a hit-and-run accident. A drunk driver run him over. He was hit while pushing away a little girl from the path of the car. He saved her life. He was a very brave boy.” The officers had said.
The words themselves were soul-shattering. She could feel her world coming to an end. It was like someone was ripping her heart out of her chest. Her chest was constricting, she couldn’t breathe. Her brain fogged up. She vomited onto the floor before letting out a loud wail and collapsing from the weight of the grief.
They had buried him a week later, and life had never been the same since. The following year saw her fail out of high school and hence lose a scholarship to a prestigious university and her chance to go to university. Her parents’ marriage broke apart because her father sought solace in the bottle and became hostile to everyone. Christmas had forever become a tainted holiday to the family.
Now, six years later, she was still grappling with Faraja’s death. And although she had done better – she had redone her high school final exam, she had gotten into university where she was studying to become a paediatrician to fulfil Faraja’s dream, and she had gotten a place of her own in the city – it was always during Christmas that it was the hardest. Her family may have stopped celebrating Christmas, but the rest of the world hadn’t. The Christmas songs, the Christmas lights, the Christmas cookies; even the Christmas shopping offers, brought her to her knees, overcome with emotion, every single year. The Christmas season remained to be the saddest days of her life, and this year was no different. To her, Christmas would forever be a reminder of what she lost: a brother, a guide, and a friend. She sighed, shook her head, and walked to the bathroom. She took a lengthy cold shower then headed back to bed. She put a pair of headphones over her ears, plugged them into her laptop, and blasted out Stephen Foster’s Beautiful Dreamer to drown out the celebration that was happening all around her.
Meet Margaret Muchemi. A fast-rising commercial and runway model, make-up artist, former Miss Kajiado County, and Miss Supranational Kenya 2015, Margaret is taking the modelling and beauty industry by storm. I first met Margaret in a small primary school in Maragua where we both studied. She had transferred in from another school, and she was one class ahead of me. By sheer coincidence, we ended up attending the same high school. She was in form 2 then and a prefect, and when she found out that I had been accepted into Kenya High, she went out of her way to make me feel welcome and at home there. She even waited for my arrival and personally showed me around! Now, Margaret, or as she's fondly referred to by friends, Maggie, is wrapping up her studies at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) as she prepares to head to Harvard where she was accepted on a partial scholarship (details of which are being ironed out). Clearly, Maggie is not your average model/youth. Here she is, in her own words.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Margaret Muchemi, I grew up in Kajiado, studied at the Trinity School in Maragua and later at Kenya High School and I'm now at JKUAT in my final year studying financial engineering.
One could say that your modelling career started when you participated in several modelling events while still in high school. What piqued your interest in modelling?
I honestly did not believe that I could be a model but I realized that I loved to catwalk after having to participate in several mandatory competitions we had in high school. I remember taking part in Junior Entertainment, an event in which form ones entertained the rest of the students through dancing, singing and modelling, and I won the catwalk event. Afterwards, my desk mate, Sarah, pushed me to audition to represent my house in Miss Boma. I ended up winning the actual title of Miss Boma.
You won the title of Miss Kenya Kajiado County in 2015. What motivated you to compete for the title of Miss Kenya Kajiado County?
After my modelling succes in high school, I wanted to join the Miss Kenya competition. Since we had to start from county level, what better county could I represent than the one I have lived in for almost 20 years now! I love Kajiado and I wanted to showcase what my county has to offer.
You competed in both Miss Kenya and Miss Supranational pageants while still in university. How did you balance between pageant work and school work?
People think competing in pageants is easy but, honestly, it's hard work and it's very time-consuming. I actually had to take a break from school to focus on Miss Kenya and Miss Supranational because they both involve boot camps. Seeing as competing in these pageants got me recognition from Harvard, I would say it paid off.
Models are stereotyped to be dumb and superficial, even though most models are actually the opposite. As a model, have you met people who had this perception of you? If you did, how did you deal with it?
Yes. Honestly, it happens all the time. It can get really hard, especially when you're applying for something that needs you to be taken seriously, like a 'formal' job. Some people are also shocked when they find out that I'm studying financial engineering. I think judging people based off of how they look is shallow and uninformed. Get to know the person first then make an unbiased judgement. Besides, are we really still judging people on looks? In 2017? That women can either be pretty or be brainy is an archaic concept rooted in misogyny.
What made you gravitate towards financial engineering?
Well, I grew up knowing that having success, career-wise, is having a 'big job'. And because I went to one of the big schools in the country, as far as 8-4-4 public schooling in Kenya is concerned, there was so much pressure to choose a 'serious' thing to study in university. Since I loved maths and always scored straight As in the subject, I decided to choose something mathematical, and that's how I landed on financial engineering. For those who don't know much about the course, it's like the sister to acturial science. I love this course, and I'm glad that I will be graduating soon. One thing that I have learnt while studying is that in our society, people won't respect you if you haven't completed your studies all the way to university, and I don't think that's fair. If you didn't get the chance to finish school, just know that you can still achieve your dreams. And for those in school, know that formal learning is beneficial and it gives you something to fall back on.
You ended up being amongst the top 20 in Miss Supranational 2015, 16th to be exact, with a total of 82 countries competing. How did it feel to achieve such a feat, especially since Kenya was very new to the Miss Supranational scene?
This was one of the most difficult periods in my life. It was a last minute decision to send me to the competition, and I almost gave up due to the lack of support. The other competitors were coming from well funded agencies and I was not, and that brought about some challenges. Despite the difficulties, I held my head high. I did the best I could with what I had. Thankfully, my friends and family were always cheering me on. Placing that high despite all I went through made me believe that I could really achieve anything if I put my mind to it.
You were to attend Harvard after graduating from JKUAT. Will you still be doing that? If so, what will you be studying at Harvard?
I'm still working out the details of this. Hopefully everything works out.
Since you blew up in the pageant scene, you have been a little quiet. Why is this? Have you been undertaking projects on the down-low or did you take some time off?
I have been in school. This is my final year, and final year is always the busiest. I don't really have time for much else. Right now, it's just school, my make-up business, and a few modelling gigs. But school is the primary focus.
You won the 2015 Best Female Model Award when you represented Kenya at the Diaspora Entertainment Awards and Recognition (DEAR). How did it feel to be recognized by the Kenyan diaspora community? Do you think that DEAR is doing a good job at bringing Africans in the diaspora and in the continent together?
Yes, DEAR is doing a job job. The award shines a spotlight on Kenyan works and brings Kenyans together. I was very happy and humbled to win the award. The DEAR family is run by very strong and supportive women who are very passionate about Kenya and Kenyans. I'd like to thank to thank Pam Moraka, Lydia Komungo, and Lydia Akum for believing in me and continuing to support me.
You have worked on several campaigns such as the anti-jigger campaign with Ahadi Kenya and you’ve also worked with the NGO Smile Train. What lessons did you learn from taking part in these projects?
The most satisfying kind of joy you can get is from making an impact on people's lives. I am thankful to have been able to help out in making a positive change in the world. I learnt that there is always someone who needs your help, however big or small, and that if we work together we can accomplish great things. I know that's a cliché, but it's true.
In your opinion, is there colourism in the Kenyan modelling industry?
Yes. Unfortunately, the lighter your skin colour, the more jobs you'll book. It's an unfortunate and ugly truth that many people worldwide have to deal with. However, I have to say that I have noticed a positive change. The industry is growing and there has been a shift. Most runways are now focusing on showcasing all the different shapes, shades and sizes we come in, which is good.
Being a model exposes one to extreme scrutiny of their body. Have you had any such experiences? If so, how did you deal with them?
Yes, I have had these experiences. Everyday, during casting calls, our measurements are taken and some agents will berate you for any changes they deem unacceptable. The current gold standard in modelling is thin, and we are required to fit very narrow standards of beauty, which can drive people into eating disorders. I've actually noted that models are the most insecure people when it comes to body image. You can do your best to eat right and hit the gym, but even that will not be enough for some people. In my part, I try to maintain a healthy diet and to workout whenever I can. I also remind myself that I am enough and that my health matters more than any job.
You recently ventured out as a make-up artist. How is this going? Many make-up brands have been criticized for not catering for darker shades. Have you come across this as a make-up artist? How do you find the Kenyan make-up brands?
I love to do makeup, it’s fun and I just love how much it transforms a person. Yes, there is a void in make-up for darker-skinned people, and I hope that that changes soon. We have seen brands like Fenty Beauty that have come out with wide shade ranges to accommodate people of all colours, and that's the direction we should be headed in. Kenyan make-up brands have also been making waves. Brands such as Suzie Beauty and Huddah Cosmetics have been doing really well. If anyone is going to create shades for us Kenyan skin tones, it's going to be one of us, right? Who else knows our skin like we do? Who knows African skin like Africans? We have to support our own. I'm thankful to all the brands and entrepreneurs out there who are working towards making sure that every colour, every shade, and every skin tone is represented and catered for and I hope that the other brands join the bandwagon.
What advice do you have for young (Kenyan) women venturing into the modelling industry?
Keep your goals in mind and remain focused. Modelling isn't easy.
What is the toughest challenge you’ve met so far?
As a model, the toughest challenge has been sexual harassment. When trying to make it in the modelling scene there are people who try to take advantage of you, and, modelling aside, sexual harassment is a problem that women go through day after day. I mean, the statistics for this are staggering! Women all over the world, irregardless of what they do in life, are going through this. It is definitely an issue that needs immediate fixing. Women are not objects of pleasure, and men need to learn that. Men need to respect women. We need to have these conversations and we need to have them now.
What advice do you have for young Kenyans and Kenyans in general during this political crisis?
Kenya is our home. We are all responsible for taking care of our country. We should all bear that in mind, whether we are pro-Jubilee or pro-NASA. As Kenyan citizens, we need to familiarize ourselves with our rights. When you see someone else's rights being abused, don't be quiet, speak up! We need to protect ourselves and each other.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
Definitely as a successful woman with a positive impact on society.
Magline Jeruto, 24, is Miss World Kenya 2017. She is currently in Sanya, China, representing Kenya on the Miss World stage. Before winning the title of Miss World Kenya 2017, she worked as a travelling consultant in a private company in Nairobi. She plans to focus her charity on children with autism because they're are often left out in our society. And while she was elated to go to China, the road there hasn't been easy.
The Ministry of Sports, Culture and Arts was supposed to disburse funds for the Miss World Kenya team to be used in preparation for the competition, as well as in paying for airfare and other costs incurred. However, the ministry failed to do so, and this has taken a toll on the Miss World Kenya team, as well as on Magline's performance. In Terry Mungai's words, “…expenses such as airline tickets, wardrobe, accommodation, and participation expenses have to be facilitated to create a conducive and equal environment for all contestants." The Miss World Kenya team made an emotional plea to president Uhuru Kenyatta but it is unclear if any action has been taken.
Despite the monetary problems, Magline's performance has been commendable. She emerged amongst the top 30 in the top model challenge which was won by Nigeria. The way Miss World is operating this year, the winners of the head-to-head challenges and the winners of the 5 fast track events - 4 of them being top model, sports, talent, and beauty with a purpose - advance directly into the top 40. Altogether, that's 25 spots in the top 40. The remaining 15 will be chosen by the judges. Magline's chances of advancing into the top 40 remain with the judges. Our votes for her also count. She needs our support and we need to show her that we believe in her. We need to vote for her and show our support on her social media pages.
Voting can be done in 3 simple ways:
1. Like Miss World Kenya's Facebook account and invite as many friends as possible to do the same.
2. Voting for her on the official Miss World website. You need to login to vote, which means you need to create a profile on the website, but worry not! It's all easy to do.
3. Vote for her and follow her on her Mobstar account.
Kenya has never won the title of Miss World. Winning the Miss World title will bring good PR to Kenya, which is especially good for us in the recent turmoil and political uncertainty. Let's help Magline bring home the crown.
Today, Kenya has been rocked with the news that Trans Nzoia county is on alert over a suspected Marburg case. Ebola has been thrown around, and people have been asked not to panic. Already, a quarantine has been enforced in the affected area as we await results from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI). But what really is Marburg and why should we be concerned? Here are 3 reasons why.
1. Marburg is Ebola's cousin.
We all remember the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis in West Africa. Who can forget the pictures of doom, of people wasting away from a strange disease with no cure at hand? Well, Marburg is Ebola's cousin and is just as dangerous. The Marburg virus, shortly referred to as Marburg, is one of the 8 deadliest viruses in the world. The virus was so named after the town in Germany by the same name where it was first described - in 1967. It belongs to the Filoviridae family of viruses, just like Ebola. In fact, Marburg and Ebola share a common ancestor, and their existence predates human existence. Viruses of the Filoviridae family cause severe diseases in humans and primates in the form of viral hemorrhagic fevers, which, in simple terms, means that the viruses cause high bodily temperature and leakage of blood from blood vessels. Additionally, this means that symptoms of infection by these viruses are similar. These viruses are so dangerous that they are designated the highest level of containment, Biosafety Level 4.
2. Marburg is highly transmissible.
Marburg easily spreads from person to person. In recorded cases of Marburg, patient zero is usually someone who contracted it from fruit bats or primates such as monkeys. Fruit bats are the host of the virus, and humans can get it directly from fruit bats or from infected primates. In our case, Marburg came to Kenya from neighbouring Uganda, where patient zero contracted it from laboratory work involving African green monkeys. Once it has infected a person, the virus catches on like wild fire. It spreads through bodily fluids i.e. blood, saliva, tears, semen, vaginal fluids, sweat, mucus, breast milk, urine, pus, and so many more. What this means is that if someone with Marburg sneezes around you, there's a very good chance that you will be infected from breathing in the bodily fluids of the infected person in their sneeze. Think of it like TB, but so much worse. Unprotected sex with someone with Marburg, you get Marburg too. Like AIDS, but so much worse. Touch someone with Marburg, be in the same vicinity as someone with Marburg, ding ding ding! Even touching clothing and bedding of an infected person may lead to infection. This is why the first step of action in a suspected Marburg case is quarantine. The entire area is cordoned off. No one leaves, and no one goes in except authorized essential health personnel. It is also why health personnel dealing with Marburg dress the way they do: respirators, face shields, full body suits, goggles, shoe coverings, two pairs of gloves, apron, and a hood. They're dressed like that to prevent infection, and anyone going into the affected area must to be dressed like that too. Even though the outbreak has not been confirmed to be Marburg as we are still awaiting results from KEMRI, containment steps at the highest level must be taken immediately the virus is suspected. It is important to note that the virus can be in incubation mode for up to 21 days, meaning that someone may be infected but not show signs of infection for those 21 days. This is why quarantine of ALL people in the affected area is important. Different areas should be designated for the diagnosed people, the suspected cases, the people who may have been infected, and the rest of the population in the area.
3. No cure and high mortality rate.
Marburg fever is a severe and highly fatal disease. Symptoms include hemorrhage, high fever, severe watery diarrhoea, vomiting, severe headaches, severe malaise, abdominal pain, cramping, and extreme lethargy. Patients may appear 'ghost-like' i.e. pale with deep-set eyes and expressionless faces. Death may occur 8-9 days after onset of disease, and it is preceded by severe blood loss and shock. Fatalities of recorded outbreak cases have gone as high as 88%. There is no known cure for the virus. People infected with Marburg remain infectious as long as the virus is in their body.However, a possible vaccine and possible cures for both Ebola and Marburg is being investigated.
How can we stay safe?
1. Do not panic. Remaining calm and level-headed is very important. The area affected has already been quarantined and border patrol is on high alert.
2. Read extensively about the virus and how to spot an infected person.
3. If you suspect that you and/or someone else is infected by the virus, seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY. Keep away from people as much as possible to not infect anyone else, and inform health officials of your suspicions from the start so that they can protect themselves too. If Marburg is confirmed, a special team - with a hotline, I suppose, will be put in place to handle the disease so as to lower transmission rates. Guidelines on handling a Marburg victim can be found here. DO NOT go to a herbal specialist or a traditional doctor. While herbal specialists and traditional doctors are very important people in the society, they are simply not equipped to deal with this class of viruses. In fact, the first suspected case of Marburg here in Kenya is that of a herbal specialist suspected to have been infected by a patient from Uganda who crossed the border seeking herbal treatment. I repeat. DO NOT go to a herbal specialist or a traditional doctor. While herbal specialists and traditional doctors are very important people in the society, they are simply not equipped to deal with this class of viruses.
4. Stay alert. Marburg is dangerous, but, with the proper surveillance and protection, the situation is far from hopeless.
5. Stay away from bats and primates. If your work involves these animals e.g. laboratory work involving African green monkeys like in this case, observe good laboratory practices and biosafety protocols. Do not eat these animals, that's how Ebola broke out in West Africa.
6. Examine your burial practices. Burial practices have a lot to do with disease. Before modern burial was embraced by Kenyan communities, the most common method of burial was feeding the corpse to dogs or wild animals and this led to a high prevalence of hydatid cysts (tapeworms) in humans because the human remains were somehow making their way back to food and water due to improper disposal. In New Guinea, an entire population was almost wiped out by a prion disease known as Kuru because they cannibalized the brains of the dead person as part of their burial rites. In Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, the spread of Ebola was especially fueled by their burial rites. Bodies of people with Marburg must be handled and buried by the personnel handling the containment of the virus. This is because the virus is still contagious in the dead person.
7. Raise awareness. Educate your friends and family. Do not forget about those in rural areas. Reach them too. Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks.
Studying abroad is a highly coveted opportunity. A Survey by Synovate carried out in 2011 determined that about 57% of Kenyans prefer send their children abroad for their higher studies while the remaining 43% prefer to study in Kenyan universities. Kenya is just one of the many countries whose population has a strong desire to study abroad. Foreign universities are seen as attractive as a result of a perception of prestige and high quality education due to better funding. However, that is not to say that it is all smooth sailing for those who get the chance to study abroad. Due to the cultural differences and the high costs of living in most foreign countries, not to mention unfavourable currency exchange rates, most students may find themselves having a difficult time adjusting to their new lives, especially if they are all by themselves in the new country. Nevertheless, studying abroad is a beneficial experience. My friend, the wonderful Elma Ooro, is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Acoustic Engineering from the University of Salford, Manchester, U.K. and was kind enough to let us know of some of the challenges one may face as an international student in the U.K.
Farhana Oberson is a 23-year old Kenyan YouTuber based in Mombasa. She is a travel vlogger, and she uses her YouTube channel to showcase places she has travelled to, both within and without Kenya. Her channel boasts of over 15,000 subscribers and over 1 million views. Her captivating videos have won her recognition such as the 2017 OLX Soma award in the YouTube channel category, and her fan base - the Rafiki Squad - has been growing drastically. Last week, I got the chance to interview Farhana and I can tell you that she is one of the kindest people you will ever meet.
Randomly Creative: Tell us about yourself.
Farhana: Well, my name is Farhana Oberson. I was born and raised in Kenya. I spent the first ten years of my life in the beautiful Shela, Lamu, where I was home-schooled. Thereafter, I moved to Mombasa and completed my primary and secondary in Mombasa Academy. In 2014, I went to Malaysia for further studies where I completed my Bachelors in Business administration.
RC: What does the name ‘Farhana’ mean?
Farhana: It means happiness.
RC: What made you want to be a YouTuber?
Farhana: I was going through a difficult time while in university and YouTube offered a welcome distraction.
RC: You currently have over 15K YouTube subscribers. How did you grow your YouTube community?
Farhana: Consistency, determination, and drive. You have to have a vision for your channel, create great content, and upload regularly.
RC: What advice do you have for YouTubers who are starting out?
Farhana: If it’s your passion, do it wholeheartedly, and be yourself.
RC: Many young Kenyans have big dreams, and there are so many opportunities out there for young Kenyans, but many of us are unable to find and/or pursue them. What advice do you have for young Kenyans on chasing their dreams?
Farhana: Go big or go home. Don't be scared. If your dream is to solo travel, it may seem frightening at first, but take that leap of faith, you will be so surprised by the things you learn on your journey. And take it slow, one day at a time. You most certainly don’t have to follow other people's trails, you’re allowed to pave your own path and explore our beautiful world we call earth.
RC: Being a hijabi can be tough, especially in a world that does not take kindly to hijabis. What advice do you have for your fellow hijabis?
Farhana: You can be and do anything you want and still rock your hijab. Don’t let society control you.
RC: What would you say is the best place you’ve travelled to in Kenya?
Farhana: Within Kenya, I have to say Lamu. I love the island with a passion. There’s just something so special about Lamu. Life is simple and hassle free there, No cars, no traffic, no noise. Just the beach and beautiful welcoming people.
RC: What would you say is the best place you’ve travelled to outside Kenya?
Farhana: Italy. I could visit Italy over and over again and not get tired of it. Their food is delicious, and the people are lovely. Italians are full of life, always smiling and happy. I love it.
RC: What do you consider when choosing where to travel?
Farhana: Mostly the activities to do and experiences that I will gain from the place. That's what attracts me. It's all about learning; what the place can teach me, what new things can I see.
RC: Do you make money from your YouTube channel? If you do, how would you advise other young YouTubers on doing the same?
Farhana: Yes, though the money is extremely low. On average, it's about 300-400 shillings per video. Earning money from YouTube is a little bit tricky because it's based off of YouTube ads and views. You can also partner with brands and advertise their products and your channel for which the brands themselves will pay you.
RC: You have a budding social media following. How has social media helped you grow your Rafiki squad?
Farhana: Instagram! I love Instagram because you can share so many memories through photos. The ability to tag the places you are/were at, and pin point locations makes it all the more fun because you get grouped into a society of sorts who have been there and done that just like you. Social media also gives people a glimpse into your life and makes you relatable. That has helped me grow my Rafiki squad immensely.
RC: What do you consider when coming up with a topic/content for your videos?
Farhana: I ask myself if it makes me happy, and if it does I just do it.
RC: What are some of the challenges you face in making videos and maintaining your YouTube channel and how do you overcome them?
Farhana: I feel that a great challenge is juggling between wanting to vlog every minute of every experience for my viewers, at the same time wanting to let go and just enjoy the moment and indulge myself into my surrounding. I had to learn how to balance between living in the moment and vlogging.
RC: You have earned a couple of accolades thus far, such as the 2017 OLX Soma Award in the YouTube channel category and you’ve been featured in several local newspapers. What are your plans going forward? What can we expect to see from you?
Farhana: Expect lots more travel and fun videos. Hope you guys will enjoy them.
RC: What would you say is the best thing about Kenya?
Farhana: Its people and food. One of a kind hospitality in Kenya to be honest. Something so warm and welcoming about the people in this country.
Black & white
Number 1 country on your travel bucket list and why.
Maldives & Santorini (too beautiful)
Number of siblings?
Jeans, comfortable long arm top, scarf.
Changes every day. Currently obsessing over Pretty Girl.
Today, women are better off than they were a couple of decades back when their roles and rights were limited. Before women could not vote, could not participate in the corporate world, and could not own property. Although a few countries like Saudi Arabia are lagging behind on women's rights, women are better off now than they were before. Today women rule states, lead the corporate world, and excel in their chosen professional fields. However, we still have a long way to go as acts of violence such as rape, child marriage, and domestic abuse persist in our society. These are overt acts of violence that must be resisted and fought off by all means necessary. Still there is a silent type of oppression that women face in the form of modern patriarchy. This blog post is inspired by a reading from one of my classes: Focault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power by Sandra Bartky. Any italicized words in this article are direct quotations from her article.
We are born male and female, not masculine and feminine. Femininity is an artifice, an achievement, "a mode of enacting and reenacting received gender norms. There are certain things that have been systematically enforced as being feminine, and for a female to achieve femininity she must check these boxes.
Let's explore each of these points in reference to the world that we live in today.
Configuration of the body
Women are expected by society to have a certain body shape. If you disagree with that statement check your Instagram feed. Big buts, big boobs, small waist is the look that is in right now. It wasn't always like this, I remember watching American shows when I was younger, and a lady would ask her man, "Does my but look big?", and the appropriate answer would be, "No honey!" These trends differ across cultures; in African society a fuller figure has always been in fashion. However, whether a certain body type is in fashion is not the point, the point is that there exists this standard of body goals that is imposed upon women. Have men ever had a certain standard imposed on them on how their bodies should like? Are they ostracized by society based on their looks? Men with ripped body's are deemed better looking, but is there as much pressure placed on a man's body to look a certain way as there is for a female's body? Definitely not! There is an unhealthy obsession of the female's body. More women than men go into diets, more women suffer from eating disorders, the plastic surgery industry is thriving because of women, and if you can't afford plastic surgery, don't stress because bust and butt enhancers are there for you. Women have gone to extreme measures to ‘enhance’ their body even to the point of consuming chicken feed! A woman must maintain a balance of being thick but not too thick or else she is deemed "fat,” she must have a small waist but not ripped like a body builder, because power in a woman's body is met with resistance. She must have a great bust; big but not saggy, perky but not small. Come on! These standards are ridiculous! Yet they persist.
Configuration of body gestures, movement, and expression
Women are far more restricted than men in their manner of movement and in their spatiality. Feminine movements must exhibit a certain delicateness and fragility. Women have been socialized to cross their legs while men spread them out as an implicit show of dominance of the space. Women, isn't it annoying when God-forbid you have to seat in the back seats of a matatu sandwiched between two guys who have spread their legs, having forgotten that you too need to sit comfortably. Women are trained to smile more, even when they don’t feel like it. By training I don't mean women go to class to be taught how to smile; we are all socialized in the roles we are supposed to play based on our identity. Women are socialized to be gracious, accommodating, and polite. This is why female leaders are described as unapproachable, bossy, and bitchy when they exercise their authority as leaders whereas men who do the same exact thing are called authoritative, firm, and decisive. How a woman walks is even an issue. A woman must walk in the confined fashion appropriate to women, at the same time be confined by a subtle but provocative hip roll. For the longest time I was made fun of my walking style apparently I had a “stiff walk,” and I had to swing my hips a bit. Why do I have to swing my hips though?
Women, how many times have you found yourself apologizing for nothing. A stranger bumps into you, and YOU are the one apologizing! Often female students ask questions in class by starting off with that vile word ‘sorry’. Ladies, I challenge you to note how many times you say sorry, and of those times, how many had legitimate reasons? Then ban the word 'sorry' from your mouth till you can use it appropriately. Under male scrutiny, women will avert their eyes or cast them downward; the female gaze is trained to abandon its claim to the sovereign status of steer. These small things add up to form a sense of inferiority. The “loose woman” violates these norms: her looseness is manifest not only in her morals, but in the manner of speech and quite literally in the free and easy way she moves. I dare you to go ahead and be a ‘loose woman’.
A woman's body as an ornamented surface
A woman's skin must be soft, supple, hairless, and smooth; ideally it should betray no sign of wear, experience, age or deep thought. The beauty industry is a multi-billion dollar business. Shelves upon shelves are stocked with beauty products that promise you they contain the secret ingredient to eternal beauty and youth. For man soap, water and Vaseline is enough. However, a woman “needs” a cleanser, toner, masks, moisturizer, night cream, day cream, anti wrinkle cream, and don’t forget the makeup; foundation, concealer, bronzer, the list goes on and on. I am personally not against makeup or having a specialized skin routine. However, I am against the consuming nature that these practices can develop into. When one feels the constant need to apply makeup, and cannot step outside her door without it, makeup stops being a tool to enhance beauty and transforms into the woman's master. There also exists this double standard when one wears a lot of make-up they are deemed “fake,” and ostracized for caring too much on such “trivial” things as clothes and makeup. If you were no makeup you are told that “you look like a kid.” There is no way of winning!
These practices described above are part of the process by which the ideal body of femininity is achieved. These practices are structured by the invisible hands of patriarchy. Before, patriarchy was centralized; a father, a husband, or a religious figure could tell a woman what she could or could not do. Now, power has now become anonymous. No one is telling women to act or dress a certain way. Now disciplinary power that is increasingly charged with the production of a properly embodied femininity is dispersed and anonymous. This is not a feminist rant blaming men for everything. This is a call for women to analyze how much of their being is influenced by the existence of the man. Resist anything that makes you think and feel like you are not good enough as you are; skinny, plus size, makeup, no makeup, small boobs, saggy boobs; you are good enough. Resist anything that makes you think and feel that you have to dress a certain way, or act a certain way for you to be desired or respected. You are a full human being. That is enough. RESIST.
Shannon Makenna is a brilliant young Kenyan studying Computer Science at Villanova University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. She is a feminist and an Afro-optimist. Her dream is to live in a world in which all persons, regardless of their gender, race or nationality, have equal opportunity to succeed.