My friend Mueni once wrote an enlightening Facebook post. Her post was in reaction to a debate about a househelp who was caught on camera battering a baby. The video circulated widely on the internet.

This video came just after yet another one showing a girl being undressed by rowdy men in Nairobi. They humiliated her and forced to walk around naked. The men claimed that she’d dressed indecently and so they were ‘teaching her a lesson’.

Both videos brought a wave of discussion online and offline and some people demonstrated for the rights of women to dress as they wish.

As if this wasn’t enough, next came a terrorist attack in Mandera that heightened fears about insecurity in our country.

I chose not to watch, share, or go into details about these videos or terror attack. Instead, I chose to look a bit deeper into events that we’ve chosen to ignore.

Such events have led to people turning out like the househelp who abused that baby, the men who attacked and undressed the lady, and the people lured into terrorism.

My response

To date, I choose to talk about things that we as a community continue to hide under the carpet. And yet this elephant under our carpet is getting bigger and bigger. It’s now threatening to take over our country if we don’t take action against it.

Here’s an edited version of my response to Mueni’s post:

“There’s so much happening on the ground in Kenya and it all comes down to a breakdown of the family and lack of proper upbringing of our children to the extent that they turn out like that housegirl.

  • We watch as kids in high school burn their schools, attack each other and their teachers…and we talk about it and go back to our comfortable houses…thankful that our kids are safe.
  • We watch as people get killed in the name of ethnic cleansing…cry about it for a few months or years….and thank God that it wasn’t us or our loved ones.
  • We watch men strip a girl and basically dehumanize her in a city we call civilized…and we have rallies then go back home…and thank God that it wasn’t us or our female relatives.
  • We watch the nanny batter the baby…talk about it, install cameras in our homes…and thank God that we can keep track of our homes while at work.
  • We watch our fellow citizens being killed in attacks by terrorists…and again…it’s not me or mine.

In the meantime, as we’re busy with our lives, jobs, businesses, investments, continuing education, etc, our children are turning into school terrors, school burners, murderers, carjackers, drug addicts (and sellers), rapists, househelps without hearts, etc.

Sad as it is, these people are our children. They belong to ‘us’ and not ‘them’. We cannot point fingers anymore and think that it will not happen to us.

The change we are seeking has to start at home. As parents, we need to become more visible in the home, more vigilant about what we expose our children to, and more loving towards one another and everyone in the home and community.

Is anyone else seeing how badly our society is doing at the family level or am I the only one?”

I asked these questions in 2013, and I ask them again today.

Can you see how easy it is for us to allow the country to go to ruin as we turn a blind eye to events that are happening around us?

Is there something you can do, just as you are, for yourself, family, relatives, househelp and other employees, estate, neighbourhood, community, town, county, country and the world?

Back to community basics

You see, the change that we’re seeking, the kind of people we want our children to be, cannot happen without a lot of input from ourselves. It starts with me and I extend it to the people living with me before I can extend it to the rest of the community and the world at large.

I believe that we can change our country for the better and for the long-term if we do it one person and one family at a time. It’s not easy but it’s doable.

This calls for:

  • Parents being more vigilant about the information their children are ingesting (from the parents themselves, television, friends, the internet, social media, etc).
  • We, the grown-ups, being more careful with our language and behaviour because our children learn both positive and negative behaviours from us.
  • Each person loving and nurturing himself or herself first so that we’re able to do the same for other people.
  • A realization that what is happening to other people could happen to us. And that it will happen to us if we don’t take action today. As the Swahili proverb says, “Ukiona mwenzako ananyolewa, nawe tia lako maji” (literal translation: “When you see your friend’s head being shaved, then wet yours too”), because you will be next…

We have seen other people in our localities suffering and maybe talked about it. Yes, we have to continue talking about it and make sure that our voices are heard. More importantly, is that we take action from the home to the highest level that we can.

Is there hope?

It’s time for us to take Og Mandino’s words to heart and say that we too will plant good seeds today so that we have a good harvest tomorrow.

What seeds have you planted today?

Kenya ni yetu. Hakuna ‘sisi’ na ‘wale’; ni sisi sote pamoja.

We cannot wait for politicians to change the country. Rather, we can start implementing positive change on the ground in our own unique ways.

Let’s work together to make our country one that we’re all proud of and to bring up a new generation of people who have a positive focus.

Let us use the opportunities we have to sow seeds of peace, love, joy, happiness and togetherness.

And, that is when we’ll be able to say, “Najivunia kuwa Mkenya” and mean it from the heart.

“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And, the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility”. Eleanor Roosevelt 1884-1962, American First Lady, Columnist and Lecturer

(Image courtesy of xedos4 at Free Digital Photos)

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    4 replies to "Going Back to the Basics"

    • Anne

      Thanks Caroline for the lovely article. As I read it I thought about Dr. Matiangi who’s become our local hero. Wherever he goes he makes a change in ways that were thought to be impossible. It reminds me that change starts with us and the choices we make, our choices got us here but we can turn around our country if we change our choices; at work and as you said at home and teach our kids to do right through our words and actions.
      Thanks for that timely reminder.

      • Caroline Gikonyo

        You’re right, Anne. Dr. Matiang’i is taking leadership to another level in Kenya. It takes guts and a strong belief in positive change to make different choices and take different actions. But the results are well worth it now and for future generations. Thanks for your comment.

    • Pauline Murage

      I totally agree. Our society is a reflection of who we are at home. A child who is raised in an ideal environment where virtues are instilled early in life will rarely become a rebel. I believe it’s true that choices have consequences. If we turn a blind eye to what is happening around us, and especially to our children, then we will have no one to blame when things turn out ugly.
      Thanks Caroline for this article. It is an eye opener.

      • Caroline Gikonyo

        You’ve echoed my thoughts on parenting Pauline. Thanks for stopping by and for the challenge to all parents.

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