Written by Victorine Ndinda
Just the other day, I met a friend from way back in high school. The last time we saw each other was on a sunny afternoon, 7 years ago, outside the gates of Kahuhia Girls High School, after having completed our secondary school. Like all normal girls, we shrieked, threw our hands around like we had touched poop with our bare hands and were now trying to get it off, jumped up and down and finally hugged each other. After this ritual, we sat down to catch up on where we last left, a week ago, over the phone. It was great to know that she is now a practicing advocate with the High Court of Kenya, something that had been my dream career until I realized that my mastery of the Queen’s language wasn’t good enough to allow me to pursue Law, blame that on the cut-off points required by the Joint Admissions Body. But my friend Anne had made it and I was happy and proud of her.
This is not about my meeting with Ann however. That, I could post on twitter. This is about Selina. Well, before you get confused here, let me introduce Selina to you. Selina is another girl we schooled with in high school and what a bright young girl she was! She was always amongst the Top 10 for the 4 years we spent in high school. Her mother must have been lucky; she didn’t need to struggle every time she came for the Parents meeting to look for her daughter’s name on the notice board. I remember one time while mum was trying to locate my name among the Top 20(I wasn’t badly off either), there were two women looking for their daughters, names too. One said to the other “look from the top as I look from the bottom, tupatanie katikati”. Mothers, don’t you just love them!
Selina is a practicing advocate too. In fact she is doing so well because she is also working already, for a prestigious organization as a legal advisor. Now, what shocked me is that she had declined to vie for a Youth Representative seat in her constituency because she wants to get married! Fine, that may or may not shock you, nothing shocking about a woman getting married really, after all, which woman doesn’t want to get married anyway? What shocked me, and made me really think hard about the dilemmas women find themselves in, is that she was so sure that she would get the seat (Reasons: 1. No one was contesting for the seat 2. She had been approached by various people telling her to go for it. 3. She was the only well-learned girl from that region. 4. Her parents had some fairly good influence within the region, something that would really work for her). These, I agree, are not reasons enough to give her the seat, given the shaky nature of Kenya’s politics, but still, she had quite a lot working for her.
I was therefore amazed that she instead decided to let it go, because she wants to get married first and have kids. Getting into politics would make it almost hard for her to achieve this, because ‘men are afraid of vocal women, especially those involved in politics’, her words, I was told. Well, I wish I could know how young Charity Ngilu, Nyiva Mwenwa, Orie Rego Manduli, the late Wangari Maathai and many more other women leaders in Kenya were when they got into politics and if they had been married already before they got into politics. I have given Kenyan examples because I believe this has more to do with our African culture than anything else. Most people (read most Kenyan men) are afraid and skeptical of women who engage in in politics. Politics is largely viewed as a no-woman zone. Am sure I don’t need to defend that.
What would I do if I was in her shoes? To be quite honest, am not sure also. And that is my problem right there-that as a woman, you can forego some choices, important in your life, for the sake of getting married, and having children because there is fear of a ticking clock in our ovaries (not as loud as our family members though) that keeps telling us that we have a limited time to procreate before our eggs age and shrink. Sometimes I wonder-is it a curse, this want to have children? Does it happen to every woman? Can’t I just enjoy my life; achieve my dreams, before I start thinking about getting babies? Is it a societal thing or it is biological after all, the ticking clock? And if there is indeed a clock, who sets it? Me, the society or my body?
I want to live! I want to go to Lamu, Zanzibar, Paris and Switzerland. I want to travel, to all these places, at my own timing. I don’t want to be in a rush, I want to cherish every moment in my life. But that is just a dream, a fantasy. Because with all honesty, am told that I need to have a child by latest 28 years. “If you can’t get a good man Ndinda, at least get a baby”, I have been told, and sadly, told my friends too. But today I ask myself-really? Really Ndinda? Is this the only thing that makes you feel that you have achieved in life, having children and a husband? Is that all?
I have answers to some of the questions, not all. I have never had a baby, so I would be lying if I said that it gives you the greatest joy in the world. I have read about a woman who killed her 5 babies, all toddlers, by suffocating them because ‘their cries drove me crazy’. If you have been in Kenya in the past months, I am sure you read about a man who killed his 5 children, or the woman who drowned herself with a 5 month-old baby strapped to her back and a sibling. Or the woman who castrated her son. I don’t know much about love and children but I know I wouldn’t do any of this to my child, to something that should bring me the greatest joy in the world.
And so, I come to a conclusion-if that is what will make you happy, what will ultimately bring you the greatest joy in the world, go for it. No matter what anyone else or society thinks, because at the end of the day, it is YOU that matters, your joy. If you feel that you must have a child before you clock 28, or not, go ahead, have one. But be true to yourself, do it from your heart, because it is what you want, not because you have been rushed into it. Because again, life it too short to live with ‘What Ifs’. So, to my friend Selina, if you ever get to read this, I hope that one day, after you get those children and husband your heart so yearns for, that you will be a Youth Representative because you can make a damn good one!