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Dear sister, religion, culture and feminism can go hand in hand

by kenya-tribune

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Happy women’s month. I hope you were able to celebrate March 8 in a manner that suited you best. I was invited to an event that was fantastic, because it focused on action after we had done the important work of sharing. And that is why I refuse to be called an activist: the word has been polluted and watered down, associated with people who jump on a hot trend and become talking heads. I am a feminist; this work is part of my life.

I was fortunate during tea time to find myself in the company of a woman who is on her feminist journey, at the intersection of faith, culture and self that we must all grapple with.

Feminism is very tough that way: confronting the patriarchy has to come from within. It is personal in a way that even socialism is not, for me. I can “afford” to be a socialist because of ethical, philosophical and other reasons. However, I did not choose feminism, it compels me. Born a woman, I need to survive and thrive in this world. It is that simple.

Thus it was a privilege to bear witness and listen to my fellow woman as she spoke about the challenges facing her. As a woman of deep faith, there are contradictions and restrictions that are starting to chafe.

For example, while in her family all children have been given equal opportunities for education irrespective of gender, she knows that upon her (supportive) father’s death his wealth will be unequally distributed among her brothers and herself. She has questions to answer, and deep thinking to do. How can she remain a faithful servant of God according to the tenets of her religion when this feminism thing is raising difficult questions and feelings?

I do not know. I am of a different faith, one with a well recorded history and a tradition of theology and debate that helps me sometimes to navigate these kinds of questions. Likewise, I am of a culture whose mores and history my elders have done their best to teach me about.


However, shallow my immersion in Haya culture may be, at least there is something there to nurture and grow and keep studying. The combination of the Catholic upbringing, the Haya traditions being explained to me and the efforts of my parents to provide a certain kind of education, have provided me tools that help me navigate this crossroads. What decisions I make in my life and feminist practice can be informed by these tools.

If you do not have doubts about your faith, about your culture, about society and about what to do with it all, then are you really living? Are you living to the fullness as your faith demands of you? After all, we both come from the Book and we say to each other: Peace be upon you, shalom, our God is one. Trust in Him and travel your path. May all His blessings be upon you and may clarity come with time. Salaam Aleykum, and Shukran.

Elsie Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report: E-mail: [email protected]

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