Rose from Kenya
Meet Rose. She’s in the Presidency for the Global Young Greens Dakar 2012 Congress.
Rose is one powerful young woman. She will argue and expound her point until you agree or put up a satisfactory argument as to why you don’t. She sees this personality trait, of being a strong woman, as very Kenyan.
But while women are strong in Kenya it appears that the political system doesn’t support them and the history books books do not document the origin of the women empowerment movement in Kenya. I think, though, after meeting Rose and doing this interview that the political system will either have to bend enough to support her and other Kenyan women keen on impacting and bringing change in Kenya or be broken.
Rose found the Green movement, or the movement found her, because she got into a debate with Hezron Gikang’a, the former Head of Ecology at the Heinrich Boll Foundation-East and Horn of Africa and he suggested that her ideas and sharp mind would find fertile ground with the Kenyan Greens Party.
Hezron was right. Rose went from joining the Kenyan Greens to participating as a delegate in the 2nd GYG Congress in Berlin 2010 to being on the Presidency for GYG Dakar 2012. Rose explains why she joined the Greens and has since been a very active member:
“The Green Principles are those that you would want in a growing democracy, in any democracy actually, because they represent political inclusiveness, democracy, ecological sustainability and peace not violence.”
Rose eventually wants to join active politics in Kenya and believes that the Green Party is the one that she will want to represent because it has a clear ideology which differentiates it from most of the political parties in Kenya:
“In Kenya, we do not have a political ideology, we have political parties. These political parties change every election year. The elections are determined by the political party is popular instead of being influenced by the ideology direly needed to progress Kenya as a country.”
“It’s not like in the US where you can be a Republican or a Democrat. It is important for Kenyans to identify with some sort of political ideology if we are voting for a political party it had better have total respect for human rights, pay regard to the environment and expand the democratic space.”
Professor Wangaari Maathi was an inspirational mentor for Rose. She had been a key figure for Green Politics in Kenya and in 2007 she co-founded and hosted the Global Young Green network.
“She was not your ordinary person. She was extraordinary.”
The GYG Berlin Congress in 2010 was the first time out of Africa for Rose.
“The experience of being out of Africa was really, really good… I thought, after I came back to Kenya, wow, ‘I have met the world.’”
“All these people from all around the world converging in one place is so unique and it is a chance to get to know the world. It’s like, when I meet someone from China at GYG, I feel like I have travelled to China. When I meet someone from Sri Lanka, I feel like I have been to Sri Lanka.”
“What I value the most is the chance to meet and the chance to discuss issues that will advance the world.”
“The GYG is a family, it’s another family, and this is the place that I come to discover issues that are happening in the world.”
After participating in Berlin, Rose took an active role in strengthening the Gender Working Group for GYG.
Rose explains that the women’s movement in Kenya happened way before it was documented.
Rose is lucky enough to come from a family where her father values her decisions just as much as those of her four brothers. She knows that it was this faith in her and her capacity that has empowered her to be the outspoken, successful young woman that she is today.
Knowing this, she also knows that women only have to be empowered. To have it confirmed to them that their opinions are just as important as men’s and that they can make decisions on a political, corporate and social level.
After the Berlin Conference, Rose went back to her old high school. She wanted to talk to the girls and help them overcome the limitations that have been imposed upon them by society because they are women.
“When I get a chance to mentor somebody or speak to a woman or a girl-child about believing themselves and overcoming the societal limitations, I do it. I do it every day: I do it in the bus, i do it at Church, I do it everywhere.”
Participating in the Berlin Conference and speaking to the women there, Rose explains that she gets to “borrow their experiences and using them back at home” to share with Kenyan women the possibilities and importance of their role in shaping Kenya’s politics and future.
“If we want to change the world and we want to change the communities in which we’re living and passing on the Green elements to other people then we have to take active participation in politics.”
“We shouldn’t just criticise the politics of other people but we should take action and be part of the politics in our countries.”
“If young Green people are interested in politics in their country then the GYG should support them because this is how we bring change and this is how we can influence all the people in the world.”
“Most of the people that participate in GYG have a very clear understanding of the governance processes in their countries and I believe that if they are motivated and have the support to get into the political processes and get elected then there would be a difference, a significance difference. Because (once elected) you would be able to do business with other countries and other people that you’ve met.”
“I think that this (GYG) is a really good preparation stage or process when you’re able to get exposure to the political process through GYG when you are young and then you can get into the political processes and get into power.”
“GYG teaches you how to manage that power in a way that respects human rights, democratic way, in an inclusive way, in a way that respects human and women’s rights, in a way that is tolerant to people from all races, colours and all social sectors.”
Rose finished the interview by acknowledging the global support that she has, particularly from EU members of parliament.
“Having no travel resources or money but just ideas and the passion to really progress the works that the GYG are doing, I’m really honoured that EU members of parliament believe in what i can do.”