Musings of a people: Part II

Meet Marion, (29 years old) proud owner and founder of Ros Hair School & Beauty Salon.

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I met Marion in the late afternoon on my way to 46 after having spoken to my three friends near the Congo stage (revert to part I). I was pleasantly surprised that she agreed to speak to me seeing as over 10 ladies had refused. I wasn’t quite sure on why but one thing was for sure, I was beginning to feel frustrated. Majority flatly said no with no reason while others smiled sheepishly without saying anything for about a minute or two. I prodded further but this was followed by more silence; awkward smiling and silence…That was my cue to move on.

At first Marion was a bit wary of my intentions, which is expected, but in no time she had gladly opened up and had even asked me to take several pictures of her up until she was satisfied I had captured her “good side.”

Marion opened her business in 2009 after having acquired training from La Belle Beauty School. She immediately knew that she wanted to open her own and luckily for her, had the capital to do so after having saved for months on end. At Ros School, Marion runs a salon and school concurrently. She charges 3000 Kenya Shillings a month and states that business is good but could be better.

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One of her challenges is tuition fees not being paid on time to which she waves off as a small hiccup. What came as a surprise was that her biggest challenge is witnessing girls dropping out of training in large numbers.

“Majority of them show a lot of interest and passion at the beginning but somehow it wavers along the way,” she informs me. “In fact pass by the bar across the street you will see them.” I look at my watch, its 3 p.m in the afternoon.

I then ask her to give some insight into this state of affairs and background history on how she was able to escape it. Did her family support her? Did she have a mentor to guide her along the way? What made her stick it through? Did she have any children?

‘My friend, no one got me here but Me, Myself and I.” ….”and God,” Marion says. “I would never ask any of these women to be mentors let alone mine; all they know how to do is sit idle gossiping and drinking,” as she points across the street.

This statement triggered the observation I had made earlier of the many children playing by the road, of which she affirms my train of thought. She informs me that boredom and reckless drinking is what brought about this, that these ladies did not see the need for being active mothers or developing themselves. Their greatest pride was in preparing their husbands (boyfriends) meals on time.

They say that women face the holy trinity of fear, fear of being a bad wife (girlfriend), a bad mother and lastly a bad professional. I say them in this particular order with reason; this is the order in which society has placed women’s priorities; 50 shades of submission.

Reality is that both men and women are not taking responsibility for their children. Majority of the fathers are between 15-35 years and the girls are of the same age, or even slightly younger. These are the same fathers and mothers who grew up with absent parents and mentors.

So if these girls and boys are in the bars not working who then is taking care of these children? Marion informs me that it is their mothers. I am perturbed; won’t these children born by these very young ones repeat the same cycle in a few years to come?

It doesn’t escape me that I had already begun on an unequal footing with the ladies. Apart from my host Eva, Marion alone had agreed to speak to me up until that moment. Nevertheless 85% of the men had agreed.

Marion has consciously decided to train any girl who shows potential, with or without charging a fee because to her, the numbers of women in the professional sphere are dwindling by the minute. I commend her on this because it’s individuals like her who are doing something to break this cycle.

Does Marion need a mentor as she does this? I believe so. She is currently mentoring others and as she progresses to new heights and greater achievements, she needs a person or people to guide her on it all. She will one day be a professional, a mother and a wife all at once as she states (this is in no particular order) with increasingly more young girls looking up to her and trying to emulate her. This is the ripple effect I believe mentor-ship has.

Warren Buffet once said that he accredits his wealth not to his skills but to the fact that he competed with only half of the population. The gender discussions that we are having, are they enough? Are we addressing pertinent issues? Are we doing anything in our own capacities to contribute to gender and development? Are we mentoring the girl child and the boy child? Are you mentoring anyone at the moment? So many questions to which I would love to hear your views below.

I celebrate the progress that we have made in increasing the number of spaces for women at the table; women issues and development have come a long way. Why then is society still regressing on these issues in the 21st century?

Sitting at the table in itself is not enough without having a voice. As a learned lady once put it, you may be seated at the table without realizing you are on the menu. I encourage you all to play your part in empowering that voice.

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