Is there something wrong with Bi Mswafari’s counsel?

As we grow up, we have these ideals about life. We swear “I would never do that”. Well, life, and God or whatever super power you believe in, has a sense of humour that will make you eat your words. We usually have everything planned out including how we will handle disappointments in relationships, marriages and all that. I have learnt in my two and half decades of living that it is good to be flexible and fluid.

I put up a post on my Facebook page about the pressure that Bi Mswafari puts on both genders. The response, as expected, was amazing. The commenters on my post, mostly men, shied away from the topic at hand and resorted to personal attacks. Some thought my having dreadlocks was a sign of rebellion. One commenter said that women who disagree with Bi Mswafari are the ones “who are used and dumped thoroughly”. You know the saddest thing about that statement is that the commenter is going to be, or already is, someone’s father or husband.

Bi Mswafari. PHOTO/Internet

Before we go on, let me introduce my readers from the diaspora to Bi Mswafari. Bi (that is a very respectful Swahili term for Miss or Ma’am) Mswafari graces our screens over the weekends and offers sound pieces of advice on being proper wives to our husbands. Occasionally, she will mention in passing what it means to be a proper husband. You can watch some of her teachings here.

I want to let you in my beliefs on family a little bit…
My mother –may her soul rest in peace—was a nurse and a business woman. She was a woman way ahead of her time. My dad was a tall kind and gentle class three drop out, whose first job was being a watchman in the flower farms where we grew up. In her very old truck, mama left her clinics every evening to come see to it that she was the one to serve my daddy his meals. She was the type of woman who removed her husband’s shoes whenever he came home and asked him to tell her about what interesting thing happened in the farm that day. Originally from Tanzania, it was naturally for her to respond to my father’s call with “Naam Mume wangu” (Yes, my husband). I cannot remember a single day our very large family had tea with bread. It was always mama’s pancakes, donuts, boiled cassavas or some homemade meals. My mother also sew all of our clothes, her curtains, bedding and mats. Every end of the month, I would see her and daddy sit on the table, calculating how they would divide the responsibilities at hand. The two would ask us “Verah what is your fee this term? Your dad will shop for you and your sister, I will pay the fee. Allan, I will shop for you and daddy will pay your fees”. Yes, that is how I, and my late sister, was brought up to treat men and run a home.

Yet Rosemary Akinyi Okeyo, just as the women she brought up, suffered no fools. She did not tolerate being stepped on just because she was a woman. Anybody that dared was rightfully, and effectively, put in his/her place.
With that background, I will tell you why I have a problem with Bi Mswafari’s teaching. She does not lay the responsibility on either of the genders  for the wrong things they do to their families.

Unfair to women…
I remember one day, Bi Mswafari told us that when little girls dress provocatively in the house, they tempt the man in that house to rape. And I wondered, don’t men have some  restraint for themselves? Can’t they have this sort of inner dialogue: “this is a challenge that I need to work through, and decide what will be good for me and those around me?” How does raping an improperly dressed daughter, or beating a loud mouthed wife, or leaving a fat woman who has borne you children to move to a younger one going to solve the problem? She allows men to get away with so much evil because she reinforces the silly cowardly excuses those men hide behind. In this day and age, you cannot tell me that my husband will gamble away all the money we have toiled for to educate our children and then when he comes home I “Lainisha sauti yangu nyororo ili nitoe nyoka pangoni” (make my voice tender that it can call the snake out of the hole). My love, you will join the snake in that hole.

She makes women look like servants to the men they married. It is not her fault she is being abused and neglected. Haven’t we seen men who are married to Mother Teresa with bodies looking like Halle Berry and still go out to look for stinking disorderly losers who only care about how much he has made for the day and wouldn’t give a damn whether he dropped dead? Did you know studies have shown that some people just because they want to? Read this book by clinical psychologist Janis Spring. There are people who are happy at home, their wives are amazing, they just want to be assholes. Then when they are caught, being the cowards that they are, they hide behind blame games. Then the women in their lives always have to walk on eggshells, trying so hard to be the perfect human being whose mistakes can cause her to be abandoned, ridiculed, infected with some weird disease or even be killed. I am not an expert on relationships as I have failed in many myself, but I suppose the success of any marriage will require a loyalty and some sort of understanding of what the reality is.

As your wife, I work to supplement your income. The job I have may be so draining. When I come home, I have to attend to the children, make sure you are fed and your clothes are ready for tomorrow. Then maybe I am the type who worries that your mother is diabetic and cannot miss her treatments, so I have to make those phone calls and visits… where do I, pray do tell, get the extra strength to dress sexy, pole dance and sing Kumbayah for you? It therefore becomes such an unfair treatment that a man stepped out because “my wife had not time for me”
Unfair to men…
The partiachy that Bi Mswafari propagates is going to be the the downfall of men in Kenya. In fact, I feel so sorry for them when I see them nodding in agreement with her and giggling like green geckos. There is nothing wrong with a man being the head of the house. God designed it that way. However, there is everything wrong when this position is brutally rammed down our throats, demanding that a man becomes Super man when the society does not even have kryptonite. Why should a man just be an ATM machine? He cannot cry. He cannot say he is tired. He cannot express his hurts and pains.

Now there is a breed of women her in Kenya who will never work. She knows women make half of this country’s population and she sees nothing wrong with seating her ass down, to be fed, clothed, dined and wined. So the man will break her back to take care of her outragous needs and when he is not able to give to her, she will call him a dog. This woman is nice, only when there is money. For money, she will go to outrageous lengths. She will get pregnant for unavailable married or committed men and then run to the courts seeking child support. So what happens to the hustler male? You tell me. I have written those stories, where a man wakes up one day and he cannot take the pressure any more and kills all his family members. I got two brothers and two nephews who I don’t want to see go through this you-are-a-man bullshit.

Bi Mswafari has to teach women that the world has changed. Resources are scarce and they cannot dedicate their energies to reminding a grown ass man that he is super man so that they have their needs met. Men cannot also work their ass all day to take care of a grown woman with a degree sometimes. That is such an unhealthy balance. God did not create these roles so that a man abuses the woman or a woman misuses the man. Let us just see each other as a human being. This “as a wo(man)” is the cause of all these marriages breaking down all the time.



A man broke my heart, I almost gave up on life… How I overcame it

Thank you all for the congratulatory messages that flooded my Facebook wall, Twitter and Instagram for my journalism award. It was presented to me by the president of Mauritius! Don’t be mean, dear reader. Raise your glass of wine, water, porridge or whatever and toast to me. You know the first day I walked into my first foster family, in 2006, I had just lost my parents two years before that, and my godmother told me “You are going to be so international you will be so surprised and that is what I tell God whenever I pray for you”. I looked at her and thought “Woman, you are insane. Here I am homeless and you are talking about international”. Nine years later, my godmother Mary Wainaina is still making her prophetic declarations, and she will make a point of reminding you when her prophecies come to pass no matter how little they are!

So in today’s post, let me stop being every title that I have acquired along the way—journalist, writer, tailor—and talk about the fact that I am a woman, a very sensitive one for that matter. Sometimes I hate the heart God gave me. It takes me forever to trust, but once you climb the million and one walls that I have around me, you have my undivided attention, and that is when a betrayal would disorient me.

I am a special woman, very difficult to love

I am an introvert—always masquerading as an extrovert— so the places where I would have opportunities to agree to have coffee with members of the opposite sex are almost nonexistent. I find so much joy creating something out of nothing, alone: am most expressive as musician; I unwind from sewing myself dresses and make sense of the world through reading and writing. These are gifts I perfected in a brief stint of spending my teenage years in a convent, but had learnt from a young age to use to stay sane in a very abusive childhood.

guitar lady
I find so much joy creating something out of nothing: am mot expressive as musician. This is me in 2014, Ageless Music owned by producer genius and musician Dominic Khaemba who was my lecturer and produced my first-and only-album PHOTO/SAM ABARA
I find so much joy creating something out of nothing: I unwind from sewing myself dresses. Here is one of my own, although modelling is not my cup of tea PHOTO/MAKE UP SANDRA RUONG’O

As a music student in campus, I toured with the school band to perform at secular events singing Mbili A bel songs, but my brain usually got so stimulated by gatherings I couldn’t wait to get back to my hotel and collapse on the chair. Then I became a worship leader Maseno University’s very vibrant Christian Union and my music was contained on that pulpit, and even my first album was launched there. So I turned 28 in August and I thought “F*** ! I have never even gone out, or agreed for a man to take me out on a date!” I was not thinking about it as a loss, but more like “what stories will I tell my kids about my dating life or what else do I know about life apart from the books and my work?”

Oh I just stumbled on this poster of my music launch in 2011
Oh I just stumbled on this poster of my music launch in 2011 PHOTO/From my archives

I did not see any need for having those dates anyway. I had met a man in 2008, in my first year in Campus. In the supermarket, I had run out of every cent after shopping for my little brother. It was the beginning of the semester, and I did not even have a shilling to take me back to school. There, in the mall, I sat down to cry. He came to me. Teary eyed, I told him “this is my list of shopping of what I need and I have not a cent”. He picked the trolley, bought everything and gave me the bag and my fare to school.

I never saw him for a year, I didn’t even know his name. In 2009 June, in that very mall, I was looking at radios and he comes to me and says “Here is my wife, I have been thinking about you for a whole year. My name is Eric, what is yours Mrs Eric?” Since then, he became my best friend, greatest supporter, the first man I had ever known that intimately and the only one. I was amazed at the lengths he would go, in small ways, to make me comfortable and assured me of my position in his life and the destiny I had ahead of me. He announced to everyone, his colleagues and friends even when the smallest story I wrote was published. When I had my first journalism award, he was happier than I was.

If you have lived my life , in this part of the world, you are accustomed to defending yourself. You learn to fight when you have to, to stop people from taking advantage of you.Around Eric, I think I was a kitten I dropped my claws. I only became confrontational when I felt he was being taken advantage of and as he did not have a violent bone in him, he would forgive too much. I even tattooed his the pet name I gave him (Bunny) on my arm, wrote songs that I have never recorded about him. He had a bakery and he gave it a pet name we shared. Behold! Someone who was not appalled that I am those old school girls who listen to Celine Dion over the weekends and find pleasure in sewing. He was never repulsed by my anger. I would be laughing at a joke, in Nairobi, and he would be in Kakamega and he would call to say “I was just thinking about that drunkard we saw in 2010” and I would tell him I was laughing about that same man now too. One day interviewed by a local radio about the tattoo, I told the presenter “I love my fiancée what can I say?”

The heartbreak

Then this year, a chain of events triggered by a little lie ended what had been the fan beneath my wings. Each of us was so hurt that for a month all we could text “what’s happening to us?” I have always been one that does not suffer much in people. When you walk out of my life , I forget you faster than I blink my eye because I channel all my energy in deleting you off my memory and as an introvert, I do not need to explain how in sync I am with my inner self enough to command it to forget people completely. But when Eric left, I was a zombie for two weeks, then I would cry all night, missing the silly conversations we would have that time. I would not meet my work deadlines and I told my boss “Sir, my heart has just been plucked out of my chest I cannot work”. I lost so much weight in three weeks I was shocked.

Being the tantrums-thrower, I stopped calling him names after a month after which I told Eric “You have hurt me, badly and you do not deserve a pinch of clemency from me but I will love you enough to take us through this if you came back here where I am, because where I am is where your home is”. I reminded him of what we has overcome, what we had seen each other through. We both came from very humble backgrounds and had worked so hard. I stood there, and I watched the man I had loved for six years, the first man whose house I had ever even visited, whose embrace I felt so secure in cry. Amidst sobs, he said “I am sorry, baby, I love you”, over and over again for like half an hour. I told him “It’s okay, and you had my forgiveness even before you asked for it”. I asked him what he wanted and he said a hug. I rose from the chair and hugged him, and he held on longer, tighter, sobbing and I did not know what to say to make him calm down.Let us just say I tried everything in my power to get my baby back and then I realised that there are seasons people have in our lives and when that time comes, there is nothing you can do to stop the change of events.

The heartbreak made me realise that I am strong, much more than I thought. I understand that you cannot talk about love, until you have loved someone so deeply and they would not give that love back or do not deserve it. You cannot talk about love until you have forgiven the impossible, the most repulsive sins committed against you. But you know man kneels down every day to ask for mercy from God- or whatever supernatural being that you know exists up there- and am certain it is granted.So when you have the chance to practice that patience on a fellow human being, you realise just how small you are standing beside the ocean or underneath the sky.