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.
October is finally here! And with new months comes new things! I have finally decided on doing the long-requested Get to Know Me Tag: Blogger's version. Without any further delay, let's get to it! Here goes.
How Tall Are You?
Which Country Have You Never Been To Before But Would Really Like To Visit?
There’s quite a number. Madagascar, Seychelles, Mauritius, New Zealand, Niue, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Costa Rica, Colombia, South Korea, Japan…the list goes on.
What’s Your Favourite Holiday?
Christmas and New Years’. I just don’t like how close they are to my birthday (#JanuaryBabies) because everyone is usually in holiday burnout and/or hangover mode by the time my birthday comes around. Everyone's also usually broke. Bonus fun fact: I was born on Epiphany/Three Kings’ Day.
Were You Named After Someone?
Yes. My mum named me after one of her favourite musicians, Yvonne Chaka Chaka.
What’s Your Favourite Song?
I’ve got several favourite songs, and right now Jay Z’s The Story of O.J currently sits at the top of the list. If you haven't watched the video, watch it now.
What’s Your Favourite Social Media Website?
Definitely Instagram and Pinterest.
What’s Your Favourite Way To Spend Your Free Time?
Reading, day dreaming, browsing the internet, and sleeping. Not in that order.
What’s Your Favourite Junk Food?
Anything I set my eyes on, depending on how hungry I am and how much money I have. It could be a burger, it could be a pizza, it could be a pie, it could be some fries.
Do You Have A Pet Or Pets? If So, What Kind And What Are Their Names?
I used to have pets, but they died. First, I had a pet rabbit that we ended up eating (#RIP), and then I had a kitten whose custody I shared with my siblings but it died (fell off a balcony?). I'm also allergic to fur, feathers, and animal dander, making having pets quite risky for me.
What’s Your Favourite Fiction And Non Fiction Books?
A Series Of Unfortunate Events, 1984, Animal Farm, and the Harry Potter Series for fiction. For non-fiction, How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci by Michael J. Gelb, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
If You Could Only Drink One Beverage (Besides Water) For The Rest Of Your Life, What Would It Be?
Herbal tonics. They’re good for you, but don’t go wild on them. It’s also best to consult with your doctor first. Someone I know once took a herbal tonic that ended up not being good for them, judging from the bout of diarrhoea over the following days. Just because it's 'natural' or 'organic', doesn't mean it's good for you.
What’s Your Favourite Movie?
I couldn’t possibly choose one. My favourites are all the Harry Potter films, Hidden Figures, Mrs. Doubtfire, Divergent, Eye in the Sky, Sarafina, Kirikou, Moana, Jackie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
What Was Your Favourite Lesson/Class In School And Why?
Maths was definitely my favourite because I did extremely well in it. I also loved Physics, Chemistry, and Biology because I did well in those subjects too. Although I didn’t do too well in Art, I definitely enjoyed it. I loathed C.R.E.
If You Could Live Anywhere In The World, Where Would You Live?
Iceland! They have universal healthcare and free tertiary education for Icelandic citizens, the country ranks high in economic, political, social stability and equality indices, it’s number one on the Global Peace Index, it runs almost completely on renewable energy, and, most importantly, when they had a financial crisis, they jailed those responsible. In most countries, that simply doesn’t happen. Iceland also has relatively low taxes compared to other OECD countries.
Do You Have A Hidden Talent? If So, What?
I had to Google what a ‘hidden talent’ is (oops!). I never really understood the concept behind it. From shooting arrows with your toes to being able to make friends rather quickly, turns out anything can be a hidden talent. I would say mine would be sleeping while awake. Yep. I can do that. I do that in classes I don’t really enjoy. Con – it takes both a mental and a physical toll on you. Pro – you get to subconsciously absorb information.
What’s Your Biggest Blog-Related Pet Peeve?
‘Selling your soul’ to create traffic for your work. Bloggers will do all types of shady shit to be ‘popular’. It happens in other fields too, not just with blogging.
What’s Your Biggest Non-Blog Related Pet Peeve?
Ignorance. Ignorant people are everywhere. They don’t know, and they don’t care. They couldn’t possibly be bothered to know things unless they have a selfish agenda to it. Obviously, no one person can know everything, but that doesn’t mean you relish in your not-knowing. Learn something new every day, no matter how insignificant and inconsequential you think it is.
Yara Shahidi, Zendaya, Rowan Blanchard, and Skai Jackson. I really love those girls. They’re smart and inspirational.
When Were You Last Embarrassed? What Happened?
I like to forget these moments, so I erase them from my memory as soon as I can; which is why I can confidently say that I honestly don’t remember.
What Blogger Do You Secretly Want To Be Best Friends With?
I immediately thought of FroGirl Ginny when I read this question. Also Megan Jayne Crabbe and Stefani Roma.
What Is Your Favourite Blog To Read?
I don’t really know if it would be classified as a blog, but I really love reading Pottermore.
What Is Your Eye Colour?
Do You Use Sarcasm A Lot?
More than I probably should. In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but the highest form of intelligence.”
Are You In Education Or Do You Work?
I’m still in school. I'm basically what you would call a 'full-time student'.
If You Were Another Person, Would You Be A Friend Of Yourself?
I would like to think that I would.
Are You An Introvert Or An Extrovert?
I am highly introverted. I am also socially awkward.
What’s One Thing People Don’t Know About You That You’d Like Them To?
I don’t like being photographed/videographed. I absolutely hate it. I just don’t like seeing myself in photos or in videos, which is why you won’t find any photos/videos of me in any of my pages. Of course, I do make exceptions for family, because they’re…well, family.
How Would You Describe Your Fashion Sense?
Practical. Three words: t-shirt, jeans, sneakers.
Who Is Your Biggest Inspiration?
Right now, I would have to say FroGirl Ginny. She’s living the kind of life I want to live. She found a way to use what started as a hobby as a means to travel all over the world. J. K. Rowling is also one of my inspirations, alongside Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
One Thing You Are Proud Of.
I finally went into the city by myself. Those who know me know that this is an achievement of momentous proportions. Will I do it again soon? I hope not. No thank you, I'd rather not.
Thanks so much to those that submitted questions. Great thanks to those that give me their feedback too; I appreciate it. If you have any question you'd like me to answer, or any concern/topics you'd like me to address, or something you'd like to tell me, email me (email@example.com) or DM me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Keep it PG though. Let's get to know each other!