Happy New Year! Our journey of sharing voices of women who have undertaken the African Women's Leadership Institute and how it has continued to transform their lives and communities continues...This Month we bring you a story of one very courageous young woman from the informal settlements of Kenya who firmly believes in the rights of human beings with out "IFs" or "BUTs". I trust that her leadership journey will also inspire and encourage us to continue the fight for human rights. Below is what she shared with us in her own words...
Tell us about your self
My name is Ruth Mumbi a Community Organizer, Human and Women Rights Defender in the informal settlements in Kenya. I was born and brought up in the informal settlement of Mathare Kiamaiko Village where I still live to date. I am the Coordinator and the Founder Member of BUNGE LA WAMAMA MASHINANI (WOMEN PARLIAMENT), which is a movement of grassroots women, organized in form of caucuses whose main objective is to amplify the voice of the women and give them a voice through documentation.
I am an alumnus of the African Women Leadership Institute (AWLI) 2010, and an initiator of WAREMBO NI YES a movement of young women in Kenya and that was led by young women to drum up support for the new Kenyan Constitution. As a movement we educated young women on their rights hence making them to vote yes. This movement was conceived shortly after the AWLI training. Although WAREMBO had its challenges like any other movement it was also a success story and has remained to be an inspiration to many.
In 2013 I was nominated and became a finalist of the Frontline Defenders International Human Rights Award which was hotly contested by participants from over 100 countries across the globe. The Frontline Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk was established 2005 to honor the work of human rights defenders or a group of human rights defenders who through nonviolent work are courageously making an outstanding contribution to the promotion and the protection of the human rights of others often at great personal risk to themselves. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRb6ybvdgrA
Currently I also serve on the Advisory Board of Bridge International Group based in the UK a global group of likeminded enthusiastic and committed people working on gender and social movements in a variety of areas and regions and in many different languages, we support Bridge on various issues including strategic directions, thematic areas to focus upon, regional content and influence marketing/dissemination, networking and impact.
What are some of your unique qualities that define your personality as an African woman of strength?
I am confident, informed, consistent, a good listener ready to learn and out-going.
What was your AWLI experience like? How has it impacted on your personal life and career development?
Through the contacts that I made during the AWLI we managed as the Kenyan delegation to initiate a movement of young women to rally and campaign dubbed WAREMBO NI YES, the movement mobilized the voices of young women to understand rights and the need for a constitution that upholds human rights for the then new constitution which became law.
What were the unique aspects of the AWLI training? Are there some lessons you got from AWLI that have proved particularly effective on improving your work with women?
Some of the unique aspects of the AWLI training that vividly stand out for me to date were the sites of feminist leadership and locating where they occur, such as the family, clan, tribe or community and where feminist transformative leadership is practiced especially by women and their grassroots movements seeking transformation at the community level where majority of women are based and must negotiate their lives and their rights.
The lesson of documentation of the struggle of women at the community level has really worked for me as an individual and as an organization.
Through the AWLI I also learnt the importance of identifying an issue that is affecting a community and rallying behind it would make people who are affected by it to relate with it in a much deeper sense. I also learnt how to fundraise through the contacts I met who were a diverse group.
Would you recommend any young woman to undertake the AWLI training?
Yes! I would strongly recommend any young lady to this training as this is a space that will build your capacity and create networking opportunities with different young women from different background and of diverse background.
What do you think has supported the women's movement through the years and how have they been able to deal with the challenges they continually face as they advocate for women's rights?
Women face similar problems. Women's determination in wanting to see good for everyone in the society; they're living in unequal situations with male gender driving them to fight for equality and equalization has been a motivation. The fullness of women's own potential, the strength of women and common self-interest with each other and common oppression bonds women together hence making women to realise the importance of each other in the movement as they fight for liberation.
What are some of the new challenges and new opportunities facing African women's organising today and how best can we seize these opportunities.
The biggest challenge is the institutionalized system of oppression based on the domination of men over women that is based on hostile social relations. On the brighter side of things through these challenges women have realized and learned their fullness of potential as women of strength and are working through these issues to see that all human beings regardless of their sex are accorded the same human dignity.
Elitism; the movement seems to be overshadowed by the highly educated who purport to represent the marginalized and local woman.
The question of generational gaps cannot be ignored here, older women refuse to give up the space to young women and hardly mentor /nurture due to fear of being overtaken.
What is your message for any young women interested in political leadership in Africa?
It is not an easy road. However our predecessors have made footpaths. What is remaining is ours as young women to tarmac those foot paths.
Which one thing would you want the world to remember you for?
I want to be remembered as Socialist feminist who believes in the reaffirmation of human values, ideals of sisterhood: taking care of people, being sensitive to people's needs and developing potential.