Friday, July 1, 2016

Honoré Kahi : breaking down the barriers that strangle education for African women

He was shorter than I had imagined.  And a bit frail too.  He is nearing retirement.  But Dr Honoré Kahi is a rebel.  Age has not done anything to  soften him. He is shy.. until it comes to speaking values.  He is quiet until it comes to defending  his beliefs.  He is unassuming, until it gets to standing for rights..

  He is my #HeroOfTheWeek.

His photos have gone viral.  A University Professor, who is carrying the baby of  one of his female students on his back. Hushing the crying baby, so the mother can concentrate and write her exams.. which he is supervising!

Many questions have been asked. What is the baby doing in class?  Why will a woman be allowed into an exam hall with a baby? Someone has even suggested he did that just for media buzz!!

Across many African  landscapes, pregnancy is a problem, an illness that only women get. It is the woman’s problem. When she is pregnant, it is her issue. Right from youth, we are educated that way. Unfortunately, many Africans do not question such suppositions:

  •  What is wrong in being pregnant? Is there a human born  without there being  a pregnancy? 
  • Why is it a woman’s problem? 
  •  Why do we see pregnancy and motherhood as incompatible with academic and professional pursuits
  • Why do we tend to marginalize nursing mothers?
  • Why is the image of a breastfeeding mother now an embarrassment?

It is sad, very sad, that women are being forced to hide, lie, and cheat around maternity.. to keep up with a pseudo-image that the African societal tradition wants to maintain.

My mother spent 30 years of her adult life having children.  Her life revolved around maternity. Her education made her believe that professional and academic ambitions should not be tops on a woman’s mind. Leave that to your husband, his ambitions are valid for you!

No.  I do not agree. I do not subscribe.  An African woman can be equally efficient as a mother and a top professional. She should not be bulldozed into choosing one at the expense of the other.  There is NOTHING wrong with bringing a baby (and babies cry, pee and poo) along to classes. We respect the “learning environment” principles, but humanity supersedes academics.

People first.

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