My aunt is the very first feminist I knew as that’s what the names she was called could sum up to. She still is one and I thought her story should not go untold.
Growing up in a small village I had the privilege of growing up in a very well organized small community . Everyone seemed to be following the same rules and routine and everyone knew everyone. There wasn’t so much activity going on, weekdays were for school and farming with a two market days while Saturdays were for cleaning and Sundays were for church.
As a child I stayed at my grandmother home who together with my aunt raised me up. Now, my aunt was a teacher, a very good teacher and a well known English teacher. I still remember walking around the village and have every child stop us to great her in English. I also still remember all the extra curriculum English lessons she used to freely offer at our home. My aunt held all her students like her own children. I still remember how she will always buy uniforms for her students and even pay for their stationaries and even fees. She always knew which of her students was coming to school with a hungry stomach and which one had abusive parents. Every now and then she would summon some irresponsible parents at our home, make us save tea and snacks and disappear before she starts lecturing them about parenthood I was always ears dropping and had my ears pulled a bit in a few occasions when she caught me red-handed.
We always had picnics which she organized for the children and youths. As there were not a lot of fun activities around these picnics were always highly anticipated. Kids were always instructed to ask their parents to make them some snacks and of course at home we made even more. I can still smell the rosted chicken and maandazi and the cake she would bake for us to share. For the picnics we usually chose a spot at the river or up one of those beautiful hills. There she will talk to us about morals and ethics and one thing I remember is she told us all to always call each other rafiki meaning a friend which became a common name. She composed a song for us as youths to sing for solidarity, unity and respect and it is still in my head. I remember she also organised basic skills classes for her students at our home where she used to teach skills such as cloth making, stitching baking and other basics for girls such as cleanness and self respect. Every now and then a girl will be called at our house and she would speak to her in a low tone and give her something. Later on in realized she was talking to them about growing up, menstruation and she was giving them pads. She also had a group of girls come over on Sunday evenings and gave them lessons about self worth, self respect and staying away from sex before marriage. Once in a while she will only call one girl and I will know right there that this particular girl likes boys too much. When in primary school probably class two she called me and some of my classmates and told us to strictly not allow anyone to touch our private parts. Now, this was a bit dramatic to us but saved one of us later in life. She told us if someone tries to touch you tell them these are for me and no one else should see them and kick them and run and make sure we tell her. Now later in life I understood her better when I came to know that most girls are abused at a very young age and most of the abusers are people they trust including family.
My aunt was a very well respected woman and very outspoken . She wasn’t married but our house was always filled with people seeking marriage counseling and the house was also a sanctuary for a lot of widows and abused women and children. I have lost count of the number of women and kids I happened to stay with before I went off to boarding school. Most men didn’t like her especially the drunkards and irresponsible ones because she was “misleading” their wives to demand for better and to stand their grounds. Later in life when she was about to retire as a teacher she had built another home where she still host women and children who become homeless for different reasons and had no one.
She is a very charismatic, empathic and yet a very strict individual. She was also a representative of women in different political positions and a spokesman of so many women and men as well. There was an incident a community owned farm was about to be sold to one rich man and she fought so hard that she almost lost her life. She was so brave that when some people came to request her to stop risking her life she showed them the door. That day she sat me down and told me Anna, as you carry my name I would like you to carry the words I am telling you today, always seek truth and righteousness and you will always be courageous. Be bold, be confident and above all be humane.
She is a great leader and have the spirit of a teacher. I remember when she found out about the great benefits of the Moringa tree and she went house by house to teach people about it and planted one tree for each house. She planted some along the village pathways as well. She would also organize the villagers to clean the village pathways and keep the place safe for everyone. There are so many incidents where she pioneered for community development activities.
The most remarkable attribute she had was being a mother and a great one as well. My aunt is strict in a loving way and a great disciplinarian. Now as a mother of two I start to understand her methods of discipline. I remember the day I ate some ripe banana fruits from an old man and she told me to take back a whole load of grass and apologized. On another episode I misbehaved and I was punished to explain what I did and why I did it in English, I rewrote the Incident more than ten times and each time she would correct one line and tell me to go and rewrite it. She always emphasized on reading and she always made sure we had books to read, sometimes we will do it together.
She has one biological daughter but has raised hundreds of girls and boys. I remember naughty kids were always dropped at our home to learn discipline and respect, some for days, some for months and some for years. Ours was a home for everyone.
My aunt was a protector and a nurturer. She knew I loved to tell stories and she encouraged me. She always told me to stand for what I believe and not let anyone dim my light. One day I understood why she was called a feminist. One boy named Bernard did beat me up, first of all he used to call me names and I would cry and one day she pushed me to the ground and I ran home crying. My aunt was folding clothes and ooh my, I could cry for Africa. She just stopped half way and asked me why did I not confront Bernard and I told her because he was a boy. She gave me what I always call a girl power speech. She reminded me how I always came top in class,how I always stand out and this one Bernard was just a bully and I had to always be strong and hold my head high. As she held my hand walking to Bernard house I thought she was going to speak to him for me but on arrival she only told his grandfather of how Bernard has been bullying girls and I have something to say to him. Now, I wasn’t really prepared for that but having her by my side made me so confident. When Bernard was called by his angry grandfather I stared at him for a while and words just came out. Bernard you are a bully but you won’t bully me anymore, I am strong and intelligent and I am not scared of you. Then something in me told me go and slap him as well. This story was told for years and no bully could ever shatter my self esteem.
As one of the most prayerful women I know she was also very charitable. We were always encouraged to give sometimes some of the things we liked the most and to feel good about it. Prayer was never an option, she has always insisted when you know and respect God you can as well respect yourself and fellow human beings. There were a lot of old people at the village and some had lost their children. She would always schedule food deliveries and help with house chores. Most young people obeyed the instructions she gave about that.
People respect her, trust her, adore her and love her. There are a few who don’t like her that much which is okay. Some fear her and some don't understand her. Everyday I tell myself if being a feminist is being bold, strong courageous, disciplined, outspoken, always standing out for yourself and watching out for the less privileged and the less fortunate then I want to be a feminist too. Now a retired teacher, she leads a quieter life but still leads by example. Her mark is left in so many people she has helped to stay in school or just spoken life too. She is my truest she hero i know who deserves to be crowned.