Friday, December 29, 2006

Kenyan Diaspora Investment Forum

I'm sure tons of people have blogged about this event, so I won't say much about how it went; except that it was very well run, for a Kenyan event! The last one I went to was four years ago - it put me off completely - and the food especially was a terrible scene. In this case the event was free and they still fed us, in a very well thought out fashion. They seriously want our money.

I'm a very well trained Kenyan woman. It wasn't until I was on the tube afterwards that I suddenly realised I never even thought to bring up the main reason why I'm not going to be making those Kenyan investments. I didn't even think to think it, in a public forum, but it will control my investment decisions in a big way. The only reason I would send my money home is if I hope to follow it one day. But if I'm going to face as practically standard the risk of being gang raped if I get car jacked, I have to think twice about going. I have to think four hundred and twenty times about going with my daughter. Never mind trying to explain to my partner (who is very keen on the idea of emigration, as many of the English are) why he should risk the safety of the females in his life by moving to a country where the police laugh when a woman turns up to report she's been raped. When I hear that in low income areas of Nairobi a woman can be gang raped in her own home twice in three weeks, and the social climate in which she lives is such that nobody says anything, how is that supposed to make me feel about my significance as a woman to Kenyan society?

The finance minister, Mr Kimunga, made a very impressive two hour presentation (he was only supposed to have 15 minutes, and he needs to learn self discipline and editing, it ruined everyone's day. I had to miss the breakout sessions at the end, as babies waiting at home for their mothers brook no such excuses) on the wonderful effects being seen in Kenya of good governance and serious fiscal management. He highlighted tax spending on health, saying one could now afford to get sick anywhere in the country as all dispensaries have medicines. Are there any effects of all this progress and good governance on the police? Five years ago if I turned up at Kileleshwa police station to report a rape I would be laughed at, and the same obtains today. What are they paid? When I left Kenya it was something laughable like Kshs 5,000 per month. Do they get any training on how to handle rape victims? Does anyone remind them occasionally of their duty of care?

This is a matter for Parliament to concern itself with in a big way, because these are crimes of disrespect. Nowadays we even hear of 'revenge rapes'. A culture is seriously ill when it can produce a man prepared to hire himself out for such depravity. It is only possible for men to leave their homes to do such things because they are aware that their victims do not matter, that the senior men of their society simply do not care. This is a matter that needs to be addressed from the top down, as corruption has been. Anyone looking for confirmation of the power of parliament to affect social behaviour has only to see the look at the amazing proliferation of the cases of gang rape since the perpetrators got a tacit message of tolerance in the throwing out of the anti rape bill.

All the progress and good governance in the world is of no moment if a society fails to make provision for its vulnerable members - if only because we're all going to be vulnerable at some point in our lives. So why the wait, for a categorical message of intolerance from the government? For a clear declaration that such behaviour is unmanly and unKenyan? If the problem is lack of exposure among MP's, can we please do something creative like requiring them to do a day of volunteer service at Nairobi women's hospital. Let them help handle emergency admissions, let them do bedside visits and meet some of the victims. Or are our MP's just big men who eat well, sit back and smile, expecting that this can never happen to them? Note that it's not just women getting raped. Perhaps they are waiting for someone to get really creative and hire a gang to gang rape some MP's.

Still, it remains mainly a female problem. On the day of the forum, there was a sad declaration from the podium. Someone stood up and admitted, to hearty laughter, that one of the hardest things for Kenyan men to adjust to when they move to the West, is not being able freely to beat their wives and children - to acknowledge that the abuse of women and children is wrong. Nobody shouted shame at him. People laughed. Kenyans think it's funny for a woman to suppose that she's fully human. Where is the message from Parliament to help start a sea change in this social attitude? To make it plain to all of Kenya that when a woman is raped (or beaten by her husband) the shame belongs only to the rapist (or wife beater), and the woman should be praised and respected for her resolute survival.

At present my investments are in the UK, and one pays tax on investment income. The UK has many faults, but in this country if an HIV positive man goes about having consensual sex with unwitting partners, he can be and is prosecuted for murder. In Kenya he can combine the sex with GBH and snigger at his victim on the street the following week. What's more, if she's fortunate enough to get the care she needs immediately, including surgery to restore her continence to some degree, and a course of anti retrovirals to protect her from HIV, employment law doesn't protect her from losing her job. Her company may freely choose to fire her for being off sick so long due to the effects of the ARVs. Human rights issues affect investment in many ways, and I can tell you they're affecting mine. You don't come asking for my money with one hand while withholding all respect and caring with the other.

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At Friday, February 23, 2007 , Blogger Acolyte said...

Some things have changed in Kenya but we still have a long way to go. When I was there cops were being paid 10,000 per month. There were pledges of training of policemen to deal with crimes like rape but the money and training is yet to materialise.
I have a mother who lives alone and I worry about her every single day since I am not there to take care of her and look out for her. As for the abuse of women, it still happens to some Kenyan women out here. So it seems some rotten habits are never left at home.
ps: There are channels ie stockbrokers for you to invest in Kenya without going there.

At Wednesday, September 10, 2008 , Blogger dispatch said...

I am a kenyan based in usa, before I left Kenya, my final weeks were not very good, I planned to make some little investmentfor my mother in the village because I knew i could be gone for some time. I used to work at night and the most fear I ever had was to come into contact with the police on the beat,

One day, I gave my brother 30,000 to go home and initiate the project I had for my parents, the police stopped him, searched found the money in an envelope and asked him why he had so mucih money, he said he was taking to my parents, they took half of the money and told him it was wrong to walt at night with money. well I always feared it might happen, and it did. I used to hide my fare in my socks and not in my pockets, and was always glad to meet chokoras who had come to know me well.

Having said that, Kenya is baba na mama, I could never give up citizenship for another country, we have our problems yes, but we do not solve them by hiding in foreign countries, NO we go back and talk about it.
If 10 % of the people go back to the communities where they grew up, this world becomes a better place by far. But we all tend to forget that the countries we presume to be perfect have been independent for over 200 years and were indeed our masters.

Still worse things happen, I deplore rape and abuse of women and children. anyone raping a woman should be castrated or sentenced to death, and victims should not be made to feel like culprits.

I will ask my friend to still remember home, we are a country in the works.

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