By: Stephen Muthoka Mutie, Ph.D. (Kenyatta University)
Growing up, my mother was, and still is, a powerful, caring woman and a provider. Mine was not a single-parent family, but we knew it was my mother, through hard manual work, who placed food on our table, saw us to school, and instilled in us, all six boys, the value of respect, especially to women. According to her, any society that disrespects its women is doomed. I saw her, on several occasions, defiantly fight for the rights of peasant women in my locality. I saw her stand up against wily male politicians and lazy government functionaries who did not respect women. I saw her single-handedly do menial demeaning jobs to pay for our fees. This image of my mother has never left my mind. It has been the drive in my career, mentorship, and writings.
Through her, I realized that inside every African woman, there is untapped potential that needs to be nurtured; there is magic. I endeavor to spot, ignite, and nurture this magic in my teaching, mentorship, and writing. This passion has given me direction and focus and firmly rooted me as an activist-scholar and staunch supporter of women’s rights as enshrined in the Kenyan 2010 constitution.
My budding activist-scholar demeanor received a big boost when I was selected as a laureate and attended the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) 2018 Gender Institute in Dakar, Senegal. In this workshop, themed Feminist Scholarship, Universities and Social Transformation, I learned that the academy could play either a significant role in erecting and installing structures that stifle women’s growth or provide a space for dismantling hierarchies of privilege that act as gatekeepers thwarting women’s empowerment. After the two weeks at CODESRIA, I came out as a deliberate, articulate, and non-apologetic intersectional scholar. CODESRIA allowed me to see how women’s oppression impact