Governments around the world struggle with equal representation when it comes to gender. Women often lack in the political scene. But this is not only visible in politics, we see it in technology and corporates.
I remember realising at the age of 15 just unbalanced the world was during a class called ‘Thinking Skills’ where we questioned things. I enjoyed the class, mainly because we never had homework. But most of all, it was always a surprise on what we were going to discuss.
One day we never knew what we were going to talk about, but a philosophy session made us leave the class with more questions than answers, and my interest in philosophy became even more apparent as I grew older.
On that particular bright sunny day, the teacher asked: “Why is it that most inventions are created by men?”
I remember this boy blurt out in confidence: “Well because men just know how to make things.” I was shocked and confused. Then I said loudly, “women centuries ago were not allowed to go to school, and they started voting in the early 1900s. How would women create anything openly? There was false scientific research that showed women had smaller brains.” I could not believe that this boy in my class didn’t know that.
Here we are, decades later and we still grapple with the same issues. Things have progressively changed with time, but systems continue to play a major role in holding us back without realising the impact that they make.
Tradition, culture, religion, ways of thinking from the past affect us today and the decisions that we make. So what about when it comes to the inclusion of young people?
Too many times, I have mentioned the ageism that exists in our country—especially in the political arena. But at what point did it become a disadvantage to be youthful?
In Greek mythology people believed and worshipped gods that were said to live on earth among human beings. There were different gods with different capabilities and strengths forming allies and fighting battles.
Whether one believes in their existence or not, the stories do have valuable lessons.
For example, take the Zeus and Cronus myth. Zeus became the god of the sky and lightning after he defeated his father Cronus.
Cronus would eat his children because he felt threatened by them, because of a prophecy that he had received, that one day, one of them would take over the throne. Cronus wife got tired of seeing her children being eaten and decided to save her last child.
So when Zeus was born, his mother covered a rock with a blanket and gave Cronus to eat while the baby was whisked away to a secret hiding place until he grew into adulthood. Zeus would be the one to defeat his father and rescue his siblings.
When Zeus won the war and became the ultimate god, he eventually became just like his father. A prophecy was received that his son would take over the throne and he swallowed his wife while she was pregnant. He thought he was wiser.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta recently appointed a few young people to cabinet positions, and there was mainly a sense of celebration, his move was welcomed.
Underneath of those celebrating, is a sense of worry and undue pressure on those appointed. Many hope that those appointed just do their job.
It is not coincidental that when a leader is considered youthful and they do something wrong, all of a sudden all youth are clumped under his bad decision of judgment.
These young people are viewed with a magnifying glass, they have to represent the hopes of millions in a space that they hardly have influence and many cave in from the pressure.
The crown is too heavy. To sit at a table that holds a feast and be left to starve is cruel.
This makes me think of another myth of Zeus, where a king was punished by being placed in a pool of water, every time he bent to quench his thirst, the water would recede and a tree with succulent fruit was so close, but he could never reach it.
The king eventually starved.
Nerima Wako-Ojiwa is executive director of Siasa Place. Twitter: @NerimaW