2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,900 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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A Song in Seven Stanzas for Our Granddaughters

Picture of a grandmother

1.Tradition and the remembrance of things past,
Are a re-discovered country
Of things we struggle against;
Where as pygmy women we stand tall among the Bantu
And name ourselves Babongo.
We stand here, compassionate witnesses,
To witches who are just mothers, to mothers who are just loyal
To those who who wrestle snakes to feed their children,
And to grandmothers who keep faith enough with girls
To make god change his mind.

2.Young as we are,if we don’t tell our stories who will speak out for us, when
We claim our bodies for ourselves and weep no more, when
We write to each other and teach ourselves, not
To trade our bodies for security, wealth, power,
Or whatever price they can bring, when
We call out and claim a love that knows no name and has no place, when
We learn “it is not rape if …”
We still love our daddy as his bewildering passion penetrates us
Shocking us to learn the forbidden pathways of ourselves,
And the things we struggle for.

3.If we don’t tell our stories, hailstones will continue to fall on our heads,
Thrown by fathers for the children to see – for we are not good women,
Thrown by Imams, by a judge’s decree – for we are not good wives,
Thrown by other women in our husbands’ lives
As they come in the morning cradling his children
Calling us witch, barren, bitch
And we find something to tie the chest with;
Challenging words to hurl back in battle,
And partners to hold us anyway,
Through the things we struggle against.

4.If we don’t tell our stories who will know we did not comply:
We did not wish our lives away, but stayed focused,
And staunched the cut of virginal blood,
To stop our daughters being slaves;
We learned to sing survival songs,
Through violence and rape and war;
We did not tell each other lies, or taste slow poison all alone;
And stitched for our dead not effigies, but new dolls
So our artistry shows only prayer heals despair,
Through the things we struggle for.

5.When we share  strategy through story
We empower ourselves to take a standl
And bear witness through our words in blood and ink,
To wage peace as an act of faith,
To call out by name the things we fear,
Not just victim, or betrayed child soldiers-
liberated from the firs of oil, or greed, or power
We claim a collective love,
Plant trees or wage a campaign, sing songs or keep silence,
As agents of a just resistance now and as in the past.

6.Through bondage and through freedom we share our tactics,
And document. We write from every different place,
To reclaim our names, and inherited legacies we want to pass along.
We write to stay in places as we choose-
We who crossed the Atlantic all those yesterdays ago,
We who have come again today-
We who have stayed in place through generations,
We who will stay in place tomorrow-
Or move on: between generations, between cultures, between locations,
As we ourselves want, now, as in the future.

7.We envision new futures for ourselves
As we weep with each other in silence or laugh:
We network behind shop counters, and on factory floors,
We engage across industrial landscapes, and in mining villages,
We reach out from fishing boats and commercial farms
We meet in schools, churches, parliaments and slums
And from dance floors to prison cells we are Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the Liberian State House.
We are the tomorrow our grandmothers dreamed
We are grandmothers dreaming other tomorrows-
Our own compassionate witnesses standing at the edge of time.

The poem that has had a profound impact in my life as a young African woman by – Abena P.A. Busia.

 

A standing Ovation for all humanitarian workers.

hunger…

Redcross humanitarian workers. Photo credit(google)

A humanitarian doctor briefs journalists in Gaza.(credit google)

At any given time,there is a crisis around the world.Think about it.If it is not the Ebola outbreak,it is probably polio in war-tone countries,hunger in famine hit countries,hurricanes and storms or even malnutrition facing the children of South Sudan. We have heard of all this.We watch this things daily in our Tv”s and read about then in magazines and newspapers.

Forgotten actors….

In situation of humanitarian crisis,there are actors who are never appreciated.They save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain and protect human dignity. They prevent and strengthen preparedness for the occurrence of such situations.They are HUMANITARIAN WORKERS!A friend who is a humanitarian doctor describe his job  this way:“I dodge bullets, Cut people open, fix bandages, feed and treat malnourished kids and make a lot of noise to various ministries of health”

19th August 2014…

Every year on 19 August, the global humanitarian community commemorates World Humanitarian Day. It is a day to recognize all humanitarian aid workers who face danger and adversity in order to help others. It also commemorates all people who have lost their lives in humanitarian service.On 19 August 2003, 22 aid workers were killed in a bombing at the UN office in Baghdad.(source is relief web)

Does it matter…

More than 12 humanitarian workers were killed every month in 2013.They died in line of duty in order to alleviate the human suffering.

Who are they….

They are doctors,soldiers,cooks,journalists,activists,nutritionists,and by extension their families and friends who pray for them and wish them well even though in each day of their duty,they rub shoulders with death.

The ultimate sacrifice..

For those who have passed on..Rest in peace.For the Kenyan police who died protecting our country in Somalia,Rest in peace.For Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan who died of ebola,which he was protecting people from in sierra Leon,Rest in peace.For many others who may never be a news item,rest in peace.

Thankyou..

I may not thank-you enough.But you do a great job!To my friend Joe Maina,a humanitarian doctor,Paul Mugambi,the first humanitarian blind worker,CBM (Supporting disabled hit by Typhon Haiyan),Handicap International(Great Job in Dadaab Kenya),Kenya Defense Forces(Protecting Kenyans from aggression in Somalia) and each and every humanitarian worker in the world.And for your family and friends.A standing Ovation!!

Asante sana!

Wanja Maina blogs on Human interest stories.If you are a humanitarian worker and you wish her to feature your story in her blog,reach her on servantwanja@gmail.com

Disability is Inability

About a week ago the governor of my city commissioned a youth Advisory Board to offer him advise and concrete measures of how he can support the youth agenda.I was competitively appointed as a youth with a disability to represent the interests of youths who are marginalized and mostly left at the periphery of development. We are new in the office and still doing some in house planning but all I know is that the major problem facing my fellow problems are three.1.Jobs 2.Jobs 3.Jobs.

I have run out of fingers counting the number of youths in my city with college degrees, diplomas and polytechnic certificates. Some have qualified with very good grades but most are jobless and are finding it very hard to sustain their lives. Could this be a issue of unemployment or is there a systematic denial of jobs for youths with disabilities?

At any given day I obtain emails and messages to get fellow youths jobs. Others with desperation  undertones ask  for “any jobs available”..AnyJob. Last week I received a particular email that moved me to tears. It read:

Dear Wanja,

I hereby apply for the position of Accountant in your company, My Resume is attached for your consideration. Best Regards(I read through the c.v,and I was impressed. I was alarmed by the fact that the sender had indicated that she has a physical disability).

And I replied..

Hello?Received your c.v and I am more than willing to help you if need be and if and when I hear of something. I was wondering if it is necessary to put that you have a “physical disability”. Knowing our country, don’t you think that predisposes you to stereotype? Just asking. Good luck

The sender Replied..

Hey,Thanks for acknowledging receipt of my CV.Feel free to forward it to any potential employer should there be an opportunity.I was advised sometimes back that it is important to state that I have a physical disability in my CV.I agree that it increases the chances of stereotypes towards me,Personally I think it is better to be dismissed on that point rather than going for an interview and be dismissed upon discovering that I have a physical disability,it saves me the pain. All in all,your advice on that will be highly appreciated.

 That was the moving part. A young person, who is a Certified Public Accountant with a prestigious degree on top, knows very well that the way she walks is the reason why she is unemployed. Where did the word meritocracy go? Where one gets a job for what they can do rather than how they walk?

80% of world’s disabled people are found in developing countries. In most parts of the world including Kenya, they are denied basic amenities including education. For those who have attained higher level of academic knowledge, the story of their struggles is moving. From crawling to school, to being bullied in school and even being unable to play with rest. Going through all those barriers, it becomes very hurting when such a person undergoes discrimination even in a work place setting.

Our constitution together with the disability Act calls for 5% progressive employment of staff in a workforce. Very few employers have implemented this directive.There have been other initiatives like the Kenya Youth Employment Projects and many others where youths with disabilities are rarely featured.

Disabled people are not objects to benefit from charity as most people view them. They are human beings who are driven by very many things eg enabling environment, job satisfaction, career development and many more. That said it is therefore important for employers to understand that employees with a disability are assets to an organisation other than a liability. There should be will power as well to employ them and reward them competitively.

Until then disability will be inability to secure meaningful employment in My country Kenya, and more so in My city.

Why Disabled Bishop Jackson Kosgei Owes Fly 540 An Unequivocal Apology

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Bishop Kosgei

Kenyans on social media have been up in arms with outrage all directed towards fly 540,a low- cost local airline here in Kenya. The reasons for their rage being the alleged maltreatment of a disabled man in the airport who is also father to a popular gospel musician. The Bishop claims that they(fly 540) denied him support when he was disembarking from the plane at JKIA in Nairobi.

 The story mostly adopted by tabloids and sensational blogs was hijacked by emotions and no one really wanted to hear the narrative from the Fly 540 Team. His disability becoming the centre of the whole outrage people with personal vendetta towards Fly 540 got an opportune time to foul their name.

As a Kenyan of sound Mind, and a unyielding believer of fairness I also took the initiative to get the details of the trending chronicle. Reason being, It is easy to lay the blame on fly 540 for it was not given a chance to air its side of the story. I therefore wrote an email requesting for their side of the story. Before then, the concerns lingering my mind were:

1. Being a bishop who has been in the public eye in Kenya, he has had local and international travel familiarity. Having lived with a disability (polio), for a long time, and being a fairly old man, he is at a better position to chivalrously express his “need for assistance”. Therefore if as indicated there was a 40-minute standoff, he must have affronted and addressed the crew without respect and the dignity they deserve.

2. He has flew with Fly 540.Why would he be “forced to crawl” this time and not any other time in his travel history with the said airline.

3.As is the case with a person with a special need, it would have been  imperative for him and any other person in such a case to disclose so that the team is aware and they would have made arrangements as they had always made in his past travel experience.

4. Being a person of his position in society, he would have chosen another airline to travel with if he had past issues of discomfort with the air planes provided by fly 540.

5. While the law provides the right for accessible infrastructure, it limits this right by saying that it should not cause undue costs to the company. Therefore Fly 540 was within reasonable doubt, very concerned of its clients by indicating three times in its website that because of its young nature, the insurance policy it subscribes to does not cover a particular provision

6.Was he alone in the air plane from Eldoret? If not, Why was there no fellow passenger who has come up personal witness account of what befell a fellow passenger? Could  it be he was so insulting that no one could defend him in the whole plane?

I wrote to Fly 540 on this issue and this was their feedback:

Wanja,

 I have been asked to respond to you on behalf of the Company. Many thanks for your interest in the situation. More importantly, thank you for asking us to present the facts to you.Before we do, may I kindly point out that on our website you will note two pages http://www.fly540.com/CSR.phpand http://www.fly540.com/sponsorship.php that demonstrate the ethos of the Company. These are not empty words but actual deeds made possible through the dedication of our staff and customers alike. Today’s allegations are not just against the airline but its staff too and I want to assure you that we take the matter seriously.

 

To the matter in hand, we have released the second of our statements today following a through statement. It should be read in conjuction with the statement we issued earlier today. Below are both the statements issued today with the latest one first:

 

Following an investigation conducted today, the Company makes the following statement:

“Bishop Kosgei has travelled with 540 several times before. Our aircraft are small with no ability for passenger lifts and he knows this to be the case as he has been helped on and off the aircraft previously.

 

The company is still shocked over this issue. We are a socially aware and responsible company. Following the incident, the Bishop did not enter a formal complaint to the company or any members of senior staff. If there was  an issue of such importance, we do not understand why the good Bishop did not inform us but instead chose to air it publicly.

 

The facts are that our staff offered to help the good Bishop but he strenuously refused. On this occasion he asked for a passenger lift which he knew we are not equipped to do. We are at a loss as to why he turned down the offer of help.

 

Once he disembarked, he went off in a wheelchair  to collect his bags. 540 have a dedicated team who will move heaven and earth to help any passenger, less abled or not. We are saddened by the whole episode and the slur on our hardworking staff.”

 

Away from all this, it beats logic and even common sense on how a whole crew could tell off a disabled man just like that, and let him crawl. I refuse to believe that. There must have been a altercation where the bishop refused to get supported.

 

In such a situation it is quite easy to pass a guilty verdict on Fly 540 for the bishop is a disabled man and on matter disability people get emotional rather than rational and objective. The common adage goes that “disability is not inability”. Therefore the Bishop’s disability does not mean his inability to be uncouth, discourteous and taking advantage of his disability to intimidate fly 540.

 

As a business graduate, I know how bad media hype affects a business and with enough examples of companies that have gone down due to such. Therefore the service industry has unrelenting to ensure that they attract clientele and Fly 540 is no different. Knowing these basic market facts, it does not require rocket science for one to doubt the authority of the Bishop’s sequence of events.

 

With the court of public opinion already having decided to pass the verdict of FLY 540,It is my prayer that this upcoming low-cost travel airline will thrive and succeed in its endeavours and also to remind them that most successful business always pass through such low moments.

 

It is also my prayer that the bishop will issue unequivocal apology for the damage he has caused to the name of FLY 540 and the financial damage this will cause to the company. The apology should have be given the same dominance as the original damage.

 

 

Wanja Maina is an Equality&Non-discrimination analyst,who comments on an array of topical issues.She holds a Bsc In Management.Her email is servantwanja@gmail.com

 

 

The power of the human spirit; The incredible story of Harun Hassan.

This is Hassan’s story,in his own words,as told in his facebook.

23rd March, 2014; Reflections and down memory lane.

On Sunday 23rd March 2014 I will be exactly seven years as a person with physical disability who is a wheelchair user. This is the day I was involved in a bad road traffic accident where I suffered spinal cord injury near little town of Rhamu, Mandera County about 950KM northeast of Nairobi.

 Three of those years I was in denial, withdrawn and saw no value in life. I am blessed with wonderful family members and true friends who saw me through during this trial moments. I later on accepted graciously my new lifestyle, started wheeling into the future and immersed myself into the world of disability movement.  I am currently a team leader (and a founding member) of Northern Nomadic Disabled Persons Organization (NONDO). NONDO is a Public Benefits Organization (PBO) in Kenya that’s advocating for the rights, inclusion and participation of persons with disability from northern Kenya in all spheres of life.

 My wife and I will on this day share little gifts to mark this anniversary with patients of National Spinal Injury Hospital, Hurlinghum here in Nairobi . This is the third year we are doing it. It serves as a moment of reflections, appreciating our good health and living for a purpose; the purpose of social calling of touching life of others. Such little gestures –and indeed from my own experience- mean so much and it has a huge magical influence when we are at our lowest of deepest moments.

 I was a patient here for seven months before being referred from Nairobi Hospital. With deep anguish and pain I saw here my friends (patients) finding it stressful to hung on to the rope of life any longer and started dropping one by one. It’s also here I met friends who made lemonade out of the bitter lemon and became sources of inspiration to me and many others to date. For the last three years, unless I am out of Nairobi or unwell, every Saturday I made it a tradition to visit this Hospital to have some moments with these comrades. We talk, share experiences on life skills and independent living as wheelchair users.

 

Regardless the strength in human being is in having faith in God; it’s in your neck and above. The power to change anything in this world lies in you. There is nothing too hard to overcome and there is no place too high to reach. We only need to take little steps with courage and optimism to accelerate gently up the gradient. It doesn’t matter what happened and why or what bad thing they say about you in life. Just recognize happiness has nothing to do with your life’s circumstances; it’s based on your ability to accept the things you are experiencing. Salute the past and give thanks for the lessons and experience it gave. Welcome the future and be ready for new challenges.

 

I once read of Muhammad Ali Clay (born Cassius Marcellus Clay). Ali is perhaps one of the most recognized sporting figures of this century. A controversial and polarizing figure during his early career, he is today widely regarded for not only the skills he displayed in the ring but also the values he exemplified outside of it: religious freedom, racial justice and the triumph of principle over expedience. Ali was later in life diagnosed with a trauma in his head, a neurological condition called Parkinson’s syndrome that he lives with to date. When asked of his greatest lessons in life, Ali has this to say “I have learned to live my life one step, one breath, and one moment at a time, but it was a long road. I set out on a journey of love, seeking truth, peace and understanding. I am still learning.” And so in all these unfolding I am also still learning.

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Hassan and I when we attended a conference on the post-2015 development agenda.

 

An Open Letter To Mugo Wa Wairimu.

Dear Mugo,

I hope you are fine on this Thursday morning.I am fine,here in Nairobi Kenya.Allow me to introduce myself for we have never met and chances are we will never meet,but it is a small world.My name is Wanja.A Kenyan of sound mind.I am from miiri in Gatundu North but I live in the capital.I am a manager by profession but I have been practicing other things since i graduated from college.

I am also very privileged to know my constitution very well,among other policy frameworks.Should you Google my name,you will find more about me.How do I know you?I know you from Facebook and obviously from your follower ship not forgetting your strong position on the ICC and obvious hatred towards a particular community.But I will leave that for now.

I saw you post about Lady Justice Mumbi Ngugi.The Facebook account is yours but the striking word was the fact that you pejoratively referred to her as a (an) ALBINO.The very use of the word forms the basis of this letter.You immediately edited the post because your friends who very mature did not agree with your distasteful insult and obvious demeaning of Lady justice Mumbi Ngugi.

At this point in time I wish to make it clear that I do not hold brief for the lady justice,but I will still write.It is also evident that you have been writing sensational comments to attract comments and obviously some mileage which is okey but today your friends  did not agree with you and below are some of their random comments of disapproval.

Does albinism got anything to do with her unpopular rulings?this is insulting!

She’s an albino ……..who asked u this ???.style up !!

I agree with the rest part of the statement….kindly withdraw that albinism part

Remove albino.God gives us all Equally.You have Your tomorrow.You never know.withdraw that.

Huyu #Mugo ameshazaa? Uzazi ungalipo…waja kwa upesi.

@ Mugo, I agree with you in almost everything you post but the word Albino in you comment is a bit demeaning and unnecessary. Let’s show sensitivity to all the earthlings.

Are albinos predisposed to making questionable decisions? You are talking like her condition is what is influencing her rulings. You have reached a new low with this post especially the albino part

Shame on You Mugo!!!!!! This is a very insensitive post, SHAME ON YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!

You have children to give birth to or to bring up. Albino comment is demeaning. It can happpen to anyone. Pls withdraw

Nobody chooses to be born with albinism.

Didnt know yu are this unwise. Only fools ridicule people using their condition. And so if she is an albino? She has achieved what yu will never achieve.

Thank you.Now listen and listen good.I will give you some tips that you need to use both now and in future,and if need be pass down to your generations.I will start by defining what an “Albino” is.By the way,next time,the correct word is persons with albinism.Albinism-refers to a group of inherited conditions. People with albinism have little or no pigment in their eyes, skin, or hair. They have inherited altered genes that do not make the usual amounts of a pigment called melanin.I hope you have noted that it is inherited and therefore no child chooses what to inherit from their parents.I am also certain that you did not buy your “non-albino” pigmentation.

Albinism is a disability.1 billion+ people have a disability cross the world 80% being in the global south.Historically people with various disabilities have been marginalised and systemically excluded from development and even education.Mumbi Ngugi is a woman.Only 1% of women with disabilities have attained literally levels in developing countries.Mumbi is one them.She is exemplary and we look up to her very much.Mugo,I also acknowledge that you have a right to agree with her/disagree with her rulings with equal measure.It is allowed.But what does the fact that she is “albino” as you allude have to do with the rulings?

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You pride yourself with being very quantitative and factual in your posts.Accompanying your updates with numbers,percentages,dates and experiences.Congratulation.I also hope you have a constitution.Kindly open chapter 54 (1) (a)“A person with any disability is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect and to be adressed and referred to in a manner that is not demeaning”.Your status fell short of the very provision. I also wish to take you back to article 33(2)(ii) which limits the freedom of expression,if it is based on any ground of discrimination specified or contemplated.

Being a person with a disability,any disability, is not a easy task especially in a country where people have archaic stereotypes like your own.Living with it is a journey that can be humiliating and frustrating.One has to work twice as hard,put on a  tough skin,basically accept and move on.

Something else that is a bit obvious is that people with disabilities are here to stay.They have been there from ancient Greek.The reason why they are more visible is because the society is becoming more open and accepting that any society is diverse.The wave of emancipation is so heavy that soon many of the “albinos” will be your colleagues and even your bosses.Will you quit?

I also wish to give you some unsolicited advise.It will be in form of a story.

There once lived a king.He employed a man and his only job was to daily whisper to the king that “your are only a man”.That was a king mind you.He wanted to remain grounded amid the fame and the sycophancy from people.You are the said king.Enjoying wide followership in social media.Fantastic!But next time you post ask yourself,are you reaching out to spread the truth?Does it hurt other people?Basically think twice before posting.You might get away for you are behind a laptop and faceless,but remember,the internet never forgets.

There are many Mugo’s out there.Agree/disagree with  people with disabilities.That is okey and allowed.But do not start using their disabilities to humiliate them.By the way,for a  PWD,not walking is very normal.Walking is abnormal.For the said “albino”,being light is normal,the opposite is true.Refining normal,in a diverse society.

I have come to end of my letter mr Mugo.Did you apologise?I have to attend to other things that require my attention.

I remain,

Wanja.