Mary Kinyanjui presents a morning show called ‘Inspire’, and Lydia Njeri presents a gospel show and is also a sportscaster. They are part of the trio that will spend six days inside the Glass House during the Serious Request event in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Both are active presenters on Ghetto Radio. They spoke to Kevin Mwachiro prior to going into the house.
KM: What do your family think of you going into the Glass House for six days?
MK: (laughs) Wow! They think this is farfetched. They look at me and wonder whether I will survive for six days without food! Though they know I like advocating for rights and they recognise and appreciate what I am doing.
KM: What will you miss most during your time in the Glass House?
MK: Food! Food! That is the thing I will miss the most. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day (laughs)! I will miss waking up and having a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. I will also miss my bed. My bed at home has two mattresses, the one we have here is a tiny thin one and I’ll also miss my television.
LN: We are a big family. I come from a family of nine and I’ll be alone out here so I will miss my family. I will also miss food. I love food. Food and I are inseparable (laughs)! I live alone, and so I will miss the times that I have alone.
KM: What are your expectations of the next six days?
MK: I want us to break the silence on rape, violence, making sure that girls can go to school without having to miss three-five days because they can’t afford sanitary pads. I expect to talk about how best to deal with these issues.
LN: I’m actually very excited. You know I present a gospel show on Sundays, and I tell my listeners that it is time we started talking about keeping up appearances. Many who go to church are too concerned about keeping up appearances even if they are going through difficulties. The church too many times wants people to keep silent. So I want people to speak up. I expect people to change their mindsets. I want women to break with tradition and take their rightful place in society because women are the backbone of society.
KM: What are the challenges facing women in Kenya?
MK: It’s not just young girls, but ladies of various ages who find themselves in abusive relationships; not just physically abusive, but emotionally abusive, and you know to us ladies, emotional well-being is important. So, when one abuses a lady or woman, that is serious – it affects her whole being. Some people don’t see this as a serious issue. Slapping a woman or insulting her is seen a light thing! The insults flung at young women will affect how they look at themselves eventually when they become wives or mothers.
KM: Why are Kenyan girls and women still facing challenges like rape and violence, and yet this seems to be a rather progressive and gender equal society?
LN: Despite having a Constitution that is pro-women, culture is still a major hindrance. We have cultures that give the men prominence over women. It is the generation of our dads who believes women should been seen and not heard. Though it is changing with the younger generation, and we are seeing change, the culture is still a problem.
MK: Indeed. Rape and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are still a problem. We are seeing more incidences being reported, though I am glad these atrocities are being reported more now and bring brought out into the public space. But the main problem is the law. It takes a long time for the law to take action against the perpetrators. We see victims going back and forth to the courts before anything is done. Victims get discouraged by this, so they give up on justice. The law is dragging its feet.
In terms of culture, we also see mothers who are powerless to fight for their children and encourage their daughters to accept the actions carried out against them as ‘normal’.
KM: Do you think Kenyan men have taken the issue of violence against women seriously?
MK: When the men start talking against gender-based violence, it will help the cause. We need to start seeing more men talking about these issues.
LN: Prior to the event, we were telling our male listeners that they need to speak out on violence against women. We kept on drumming it into them that they have wives, mothers, sisters, etc., so they need to support the cause and defend women. We believe that if more men speak up, they will see the severity of this problem.