Luna Liu

Luna Liu (Vital Voices in Kenya): Luna obtained her BA from School of Law, Tsinghua University in Beijing. She continued her legal studies at the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, where she also interned in the Xinhua News Agency, the Phoenix TV Station, and the Omnicom International PR Company. During college, she volunteered for an international education program in Turkey and worked as an art dealer in 798 Modern Art Center in Beijing. At the time of her fellowship, Luna was studying for a Masters degree at the University of Maryland specializing in International Development. She also interns as a Research Assistant at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.



Kenyan Women and Kenyan Men (肯尼亚的女人们和男人们)

02 Jul

After living in a developed country (U.S.) for a year, I, who was born in a developing country (China) and had been travelling in developing countries mainly in South and East Asia, still could not stop feeling “fresh” about the tough local environment when I finally landed in the Africa continent after 18 hours’ flight.

Sunset on the road to Nanyuki

I waited in the “relatively” humid, dark and dirty Nairobi airport for about 45 minutes to get my luggage and then I found my friend’s cousin, Maggie, who had been outside of the arrival gate holding a white board written with my name for more than half an hour.

When we walked towards her car, however, I found she was not the only person waiting for me in this remote country –there were another two policemen.

“Come with us”, after arguing with Maggie for a few minutes in front of the car, the policemen said to her and led her towards a dark corner of the parking lot, while trying to avoid my curious staring. Five minutes later, Maggie came back with her “slimmer” wallet. When I asked her how much the fine was, (the issue seemed about parking), she gave me a smile with bitterness, “I just paid the police for their pocket money ha, it was not the fine.”

“Ayayayaya…Don’t worry, hah?” After finding the upsets on my face, she laughed out, “Hakunamatata! Welcome to Kenya.”

That is Maggie, a 35 year-old Kenyan women, who always says “no problem” to me when I, as a 99% stranger, found myself making so many troubles to her busy daily life.

Maggie’s husband died last year, leaving three kids with her. The oldest is 10 year old and the youngest is 5. For securing her children to have good education, in her official profession within the government, she works overtime in order to save the rest working days for her private business of handicraft.

On Thursday evening 8 pm, she picked me up from the airport after getting off from the work around 7 pm and did not eat dinner until 9:30. During the night, she had been packing a huge parcel of handicrafts to prepare her business trip to Burundi on the next evening with her sister. With little sleep, on the daybreak of Friday she drove me to the US embassy to help me renew my US student visa when the traffic in Nairobi already started. On Friday afternoon, she took her youngest daughter who had a cough to the hospital and then left the country.

Maggie, therefore, left me a great first impression about Kenyan women: hardworking, kind, smart and positive. On the contrary, my first feeling about Kenyan men was…well, even except from the two policemen, not as good as their women.

The men on the street yelled to me “munzogo” (white person) even the fact is so obvious that I am not white but yellow. If I replied to them by waving hands or smiling as trying to be polite, Wowhoho -______-, I was therefore making troubles to myself. Those men could run to me and try to speak with me along my way.

Moreover, during the thirty minutes sitting in the gas station waiting for Abby, the director of our host NGO named as Ripe for Harvest, there were about three local men coming to me and my partner from the Advocacy Project, Kate. The first one was about to promote some products to us. The second one seemed in high and begged us for something until some one used a stick to chase him away. The third one asked us whether we could break a bill of 1000 shilling. (The bill looked a bit suspicious though)

I am a foreigner. But still, I can feel in Nairobi, women are empowering themselves, materially and mentally. Maggie said, “It is hard, but we are trying.” Compared with them, men in this city more tends to earn “easy” money. Same situation happened in the rural area of Kenya.

My partner Kate went to the Village Umaja Uaso that is only consisted by women and their children. The women escaped from their husbands to avoid abuse (either sexually, mentally, or physically) and mainly live their life based on selling the handicraft. However, the ex-husbands’ jealousness rose along with Umaja Uaso’s gradual prosperousness and they began to steal women’s cows (as property) and spread out the rumours to foreign visitors that the village did not exist anymore.
(For more information: See Kate Cumming’s blog)

Hmmm, Thinking about empowering women? Educate men.

Below: Chinese version

在发达国家生活过一年,16个小时后一下被空投到内罗毕那潮湿闷热昏暗的机场,45分钟才等到转出的行李,出了机场见到肯尼亚朋友的表姐Margaret前来
接机,因错停车,被两个警察叫到角落强迫地付了行贿金(注:并非官方罚单),后再在机场高速路出口一路堵车后开上了蹦蹦跳跳灰飞烟漠的城市道路。

愕然中,Maggie笑着说了一句:
“Welcome to Kenya.Hakunamatata.”

而面对我远道而来的叨扰,她也一直笑着说:“No problem.”

Maggie今年三十五岁,有三个孩子,最大的十岁最小的五岁。丈夫在去年不幸去世。为了三个孩子都能上好的学校以获得好的教育,她一个人身兼两份工作,在政府的ICT部门作为一名总管,每周加班,以致得以有多出来的几天时间做手工制品私人生意。在星期四晚上下了班后去机场接我,回到家9点半吃上晚饭,之后便开始和她的表姐妹们收拾第二天晚上6点去往Burundi商旅的包裹。包裹之大,大约有我行李的4倍。她大约一夜未睡,早上5点钟叫醒我,在黎明已开始的交通堵塞中载我到美国大使馆,以便我续签学生签证得以在这次短期工作后返往美国继续学习。而后又带着生病的小女儿去了医院。

相比之下,肯尼亚的男人似乎并非如他们的女人那样让人敬仰。我和一起工作的同伴会合后等待接待我们的NGO工作人员,坐在加油站的三十分钟,大约有三个男人前来搭讪,或要换1000肯尼亚先令零钱,或推销不知是什么的产品,或疯癫地索要钱物直到被当地人用棍子赶跑。比起女人们的努力,这些人更像在用(看起来有钱又好骗的)游客来投机取巧。

我的同伴Kate,在我到达之前帮助Umaja Uaso村落进行一个手工艺品记录的项目。这个村落基本上全部由samburu族裔的女人组成,因被丈夫虐待而带着孩子聚集到一起,主要依靠制作手工首饰为生。这样的生活本已经很艰难,而周围村落的男人以及原来舍弃她们的丈夫们,因嫉妒她们村落逐日增加的游客和随之而来的收入,开始用暴力抢夺Umaja Uaso村落的牛群。而承载游客的司机们,则对外国游客声称这个村落已不存在了而拒绝带游客前往。

一个社会中的女性即使在物质上更为独立,而整个社会(尤其是社会中的男人们)仍处在思想意识形态由大男子主义转型的时期(特别是在农村中),女性即使再任劳任怨,到头来也不过是为那些嚼着大麻叶整天无所事事的男人们服务。男人们中更有甚者,自己不工作看到妻子赚钱自觉丢脸,于是虐待妻子借以发泄,或是用孩子威胁妻子以避免离婚。

如此看来,想要使女性更为坚强独立,同时需要实行对男性的教育。

Posted By Luna Liu

Posted Jul 2nd, 2009

5 Comments

  • Carl-Henri

    July 3, 2009

     

    Hakunamatata Luna ! Keep doing the good work !

  • Nani

    July 3, 2009

     

    haha英语中是18小时,为啥中文就16了~~嘿嘿

    • Luna Liu

      July 9, 2009

       

      写昏了头了。。。每天白天也工作晚上也工作……哪尼最近在干什么呢?~你要Subscribe 我的blog呀~~为了扩大发展力,介绍给你朋友罢……只要使能读英文的~

  • Melysa

    July 6, 2009

     

    It is wonderful to hear your first impressions of Kenya. I am confident you will meet some strong and progressive Kenyan men who will demonstrate the potential for how men can be critical players in the movement for women’s empowerment.

    Keep up the good work. You’re making an invaluable contribution to the betterment of young women’s leadership potential.

    • Luna Liu

      July 9, 2009

       

      Melysa, lol don’t worry about my impression about Kenyan men. It is changing:)
      Interestingly, your comment is similiar as one of the vice deans from my school:
      “What a fascinating experience you seem to be having in Kenya. I hope you are not finding all Kenyan men – even most Kenyan men – to be similar to the ones you met at the airport. My experience in multiple countries around the world (though there are of course large parts of the world I haven’t been to yet), is that people are varied everywhere. In every country, there are wonderful men and women and men and women who take advantage of others. But if you find that most Kenyan men are indeed disappointing, I hope you can figure out the reasons for that and can recommend ways to not only empower the women but to ennoble the men – to the mutual benefit of both.”

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