Friday, September 13, 2013

Luis Franceschi is wrong.

Luis Franceschi is wrong. It is that simple. The solution to the slap heard around the country - indeed, the world - is not to talk it out between the slapper and the slapped. The Governor of Nairobi City County committed an offence - Ahmednasir Abdullahi, a member of the Judicial Service Commission called it a strict-liability offence - by striking another person who just happened to be the Woman Representative of Nairobi City County and a woman known for her sharp tongue, sharper elbows and general aggression in a cause dear to her.

In the Friday Nation, Mr Franceschi begins promisingly enough (Slapping the Constitution, 13/09/13). He states, correctly, that slapping a woman is totally out of place, no matter the circumstances. Then he goes all woolly. Instead of demonstrating that he understands the effect of the Governor's assault of the Woman Representative on the millions of women who suffer silently at the assaulting hands of men, he first proceeds to suggest that the Woman Representative contributed to being assaulted, and that rather than have the police investigate, that the two, perpetrator and victim, should sit and talk. Talk about what?! Even if the Governor apologises, this does not wipe away the fact that he committed a crime.

In Kenya, men run everything. The President and Deputy President are men. The forty-seven governors are men. The Speakers of Parliament are men. I believe only one county elected a woman as its speaker. The Cabinet is dominated by men. In only two influential ministries are women in charge: Defence and Foreign Affairs. But neither has much to do with domestic policy, not directly anyway. It is not just in the public sector.

A majority of management positions in faith-based organisations are held by men. The main Christian churches in Kenya - Roman Catholic, Anglican, Pentecostal and Presbyterian - are managed by men. Islam in Kenya is under the direct and exclusive control of men. In business, I think only the DTB bank has a woman CEO. The remaining major banks - Equity, KCB, Barclays, Standard Chartered and CFC Stanbic - are managed by male CEOs. In media, again, it is probably only Inooro FM that has a woman CEO. KBC, the Nation Media Group, the Standard Group, Royal Media Services...you name it, are under the direct control of male CEOs. It is not a stretch to suggest that the place of men in the power dynamics of the institutions that make and mould opinions in Kenya is a primary one. Women, play secondary roles and are to be "managed" by the men in charge.

This is why it is shocking that men who should know better would suggest that it is normal for Mr Kidero, or the Senator of Nairobi, to carry on in their positions for what they did in the past week. Both acted in a manner that confirmed for the world to see that in Kenya, at least, women are to be seen and not be heard. If they were to suffer violence, verbal or otherwise, at the hands of men, they were to deploy their mediation and negotiation skills and "talk it out." They are not to demand satisfaction in the halls of justice. In Mr Kidero's case, Mr Franceschi suggests that if Mr Kidero is punished for his violence, Nairobi will suffer because his managerial hand will otherwise be occupied. If I remember correctly, Mr Kidero was not the only experienced manager contesting the Nairobi City Governor's seat. Mr Jimnah Mbaru, a billionaire investment banker, readily comes to mind. Nairobi City will not miss a step simply because Mr Kidero is cooling his heels in gaol.

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