CITY GIRL: Women’s achievements are conveniently ignored - Nairobi News
9 months ago, 9 Mar 18:29
When, in 1971, Wangari Maathai received her PhD from the University College of Nairobi (now University of Nairobi), she became the first woman in East and Central Africa to receive a doctorate. In her book, Unbowed: A memoir, Prof Maathai says at the time, nobody cared about her achievement. “I was the first woman in East and Central Africa to receiver a doctoral degree – a significant achievement that went largely unnoticed. It didn’t even make the media headlines, probably because I was not the president, or his daughter, and my husband wasn’t famous. It is funny how such things can be conveniently ignored,” she says. Prof Maathai’s significant achievement might have been ignored 47 years ago, but I can confidently say things have not yet changed, particularly in this country. Actually, I also need to mention that even after Prof Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, it didn’t occur to the administration that she deserved the promotion from an assistant minister to a “full Cabinet minister”. But then again, since when did we recognise women for their work? Kenyan women – and women in general – and their achievements are still conveniently ignored by a society that still has a problem with fully embracing high-achieving women. DOWNPLAY ACHIEVEMENTS The reductionist approach with which we still treat women today is not just appalling but quite sad, given how hard women work to get to the top or achieve anything worthwhile. Women generally work twice as hard to get half of what men have, yet our society has been conditioned to reduce the achievements of women to mere footnotes in history. We have this philosophy to thank for women downplaying their achievements and keeping quiet about their accomplishments so that they are not seen to be “bragging”, yet we encourage boys from a tender age to speak out about their achievements as we punish girls for the same. As I was conducting research for a feature story, I stumbled on a TV story about Kenya’s first female architect, Ms Aida Njeri Munano, now the Principal Secretary for Urban Planning and Housing. I am sure only a few of you know this great woman who opened the door for many other great female architects. As she was listing her accolades on TV, she stopped midway and said: “I am sounding like I am blowing my own trumpet…” after which she went on to say something else. Now, when you are in a room full of men, you will not lack one or two egotistical, self-aggrandising ones blowing their own trumpets; listing their accolades and exaggerating their capabilities. There will always be that braggart who talks about how company X cannot do without him and his fantastic ideas, and how valued he is in company Y. GREAT AND SUCCESSFUL Men will rarely allow you to forget their achievements and successful projects (which earned millions, by the way) and if a man happens to be the first-ever person to accomplish something, ...
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