Fight for firstborn sons

Fatima’s life reads like an overcooked African movie. Twenty-nine summers ago when she was born, news of her beauty spread like a Sahel wind and within days, aunties from all over Mali queued around her bassinet to catch a glimpse of her heart-shaped face. But like any African movie, Fatima’s life is not without drama. She is eight months into her first pregnancy and she is troubled by a burden some muslim  women in Africa face – her first child must be a boy.

Fatima* was the honored guest at her very first baby shower, held at Creperie in the hub of uptown Toronto. Her pastel flowered dress fell lazily around her engorged belly. Heavily pregnant and burdened with the expectation of her in-laws to birth a son, she clasped her fingers at the base of her stomach and planted a plastic smile on her face. A bevy of beaming aunties and friends in their traditional bubus had come to enjoy the shower. As the aroma of freshly brewed tea wafted in the air her in-laws stood in one corner of the room and Fatima’s family stood protectively at the other end. Unable to bear the tension anymore, Fatima gently eased herself into a chair in the middle of the room. The women from both corners made a beeline for her.

“Are you okay, is the room temperature too hot? Drink some tea; it is good for the baby. Here, put your feet up it’s good for the baby.” Without her permission one of the buxom aunts lifted Fatima’s feet and placed them on a footstool. Reflexively, Fatima’s forehead furrowed in anger.

“Auntie…” she huffed. With great effort, she pushed herself up and out of the chair and walked into the kitchen. Ever since she announced her pregnancy, Fatima feels as if she does not exist. People ask about the baby before they ask about her well-being. Her in-laws, who have never liked her, now trek from the east end of Toronto to bring her homemade dishes. They are even the ones who have organized this lavish baby shower in an upscale tea parlor and decorated it with stuffed animals and balloons. All the fuss is in preparation for the birth of their first grandchild – a son they hope. If Fatima is able to fulfill this long time tradition, it would help them overlook the many ways that she falls short of the perfect Malian wife. She is career oriented, she talks back and she wears short skirts.

Abdul, Fatima’s husband, is the first-born son. His father is also a first-born son, so if the baby growing inside Fatima were a boy, it would mean the blessing that comes with having a son will continue to flow through this family. Fatima grimaces as her mother in-law fills the room with her shrill voice.

“Oh, I can’t wait to meet my grandson! Eight more weeks to go and I just can’t wait to meet him.” Fatima does not respond, but when her mother-in law was not in earshot, she confided to one of her friends that much as she respects tradition, there are elements of her culture that disturb her.

Fatima entered the life of this conservative Malian family when her parents agreed to an arranged marriage with a well-to-do family. A lavish society wedding ensued. However, once the festivities ended, the bickering began. Abdul’s family insisted that it was important for Fatima to live with them in their Toronto home, because that is how it is done back home. They demanded that she quit her job at the bank and stay at home to learn how to make traditional African food. Fatima admits she forced her husband to buy a house an hour away from his family so she could have her own space and order pizza for dinner if she wanted to. Yet, even with the distance between them, the pressure did not cease. Her in-laws could not understand why Fatima would want to wait three years after the wedding to get pregnant. Now that she is pregnant, they are hoping she will not return to work after the baby is born. Fatima intends to return to work. She also wishes her husband would stand up to his parents, but he prefers to remain silent as a demonstration of respect to his family.

“I can’t wait for this charade to be over” she muttered under her breath, throwing a disdainful eye at the dainty teacups and unwrapped presents. But the charade was in full swing. Guests streamed into the room carrying wrapped gifts with blue bows glued on the top. The aunties rubbed their henna-decorated hands on her protruding belly and spoke blessings to the cocooned baby.

“Okay, it is time to open the gifts.” They cooed.

Two women placed firm hands on Fatima’s shoulders and lead her to the middle of the room. Gently, they eased her into a red sofa.

“Okay, now open this gift.” A lady in a blue bubu ordered. Fatima’s acrylic nails tore through the gold wrapping paper. With a placid smile taped on her face, she opened the box and showed the curious crowd the basket of Aveeno bath set. Four ripped boxes later, she stopped to fan herself with a card. It was hard to tell whether it was from a hot flush or stress. Without invitation, her sister in-law rushed to her side.

“Are you okay? Is the tea too hot, should we open the windows?”

Fatima’s beady eyes suddenly bright with visible anger. “Can’t I just breathe?” She exclaimed.

The conflict between Fatima and her in-laws is being played out in immigrant homes across North America. Many newlyweds her age are having heated conversations about how to maintain their independence without disrespecting their culture. Most of the time, Fatima is acquiescent, but being pregnant has made her less tolerant. When an aunt once again lifted her feet and elevated it on a footstool, Fatima quickly removed her feet and placed them firmly on the parquetted floor. There is a stirring within her to take a stand for her unborn daughter.

*Names and identities have been changed.

Photo credit: Flickr Nature link Safaris

 

 

An attitude of gratitude: Maya Angelou

When the flash from the camera died, Maya Angelou was escorted backstage to make her grand appearance. The stage manager led me out of the green room and planted me in a seat so close to the stage that I was sure  her message  would bounce directly into my ears before it reached anyone else. I needed to hear her. 

6 hours prior

The day started on the wrong foot and seemed to deteriorate with each passing hour.  I was nervously waiting for an important call from Dr. Angelou’s assistant to tell me if I was going to be granted access to to see Dr. Angelou or not… I felt like my life depended on this call so every 5 seconds, I glared expectantly at my phone. The seconds rolled into minutes. The minutes became hours. My spirits sank lower and lower. Oh God, I am not going to meet her. I am really not going to see her. How can I come so far and miss another opportunity to meet Maya Angelou… I was hypertensively nervous.


That is the nature of this dream I am pursuing. The highs are great. I land a great interview, I don’t sleep until I edit the work, post it and then bask in the glory of Facebook likes (sad but true). The lows are abysmally lonely. I deal with soulless web developers who take money without producing the work. I send tons of emails to managers and PR agents and I do not get a reply. On a decent day, I wait outside a hotel for hours for a ‘get’. On a bad day, people promise me an interview and at the last minute, the rag is pulled from underneath my feet. I often sit alone in my living room and lick my wounds and ask myself why I do this. I was mulling over this very question in my cousin’s  Springfield apartment, staring at a phone that won’t ring. Admittedly, I was a bag of nerves and as I braced myself for disappointment I began to relive every setback I have ever experienced. I did this until I felt so sorry for myself  that pelts of tears hit the pacquet floor like a torrential rainstorm. When the last shred of hope evaporated from my body, I decided to break up with God 

” Dear God, 

you can’t possibly love me because if you did things would not be this difficult. Why must everything be so hard. Really Why? Why can’t things just come easily to me for once. A few years ago, I asked you align my path with my passion, instead, you put me on this bumpy road where the potholes are steep with disappointments, heartbreak and setbacks. As for today, I have reached my breaking  point. I am tired so please take away this dream and the passion that comes with it  because when you give us the desires of our heart, you match it with the courage to pursue them. I can’t find my courage and I am tired of trying, so just take it back. I don’t want it anymore.”


In between the sniffles I heard my ringtone. A text had come through. it read. “Dr. Angelou will c u. Go 2 venue ASAP .” I immediately dried my snort stained face and wondered why I had ever doubted God. 

———————————————————————————————————————————–

By now, you have read of my  euphoric meeting with Maya Angelou in the green room. However, even after the meeting, I knew I needed to hear more words of wisdom because as a child of Faith, I realised that I had lost sight of everything that mattered. 

 

The curtains parted and Dr. Angelou stood up to a thunderous ovation. When she reclined into her chair she told us that she was going to talk to about  about how to have an attitude of gratitude. 

My pores dilated and I soaked in her sagesse. Here are a few of the memorable things she shared:


Someone else was there before you. Lonely before you, passed over before you. And yet miraculously, somehow they survived and did better than that, they thrived. These words are now etched in my psyche. Whenever I think I am having a bad day, I remember that someone has been here before and yet they thrived.  

Make thank you fall of your lips all the time. You are not lessened by it, you are increased by it. 

With courage you can live a life with distinction. That moved me.

How brilliant you are to dare to live your life. 

Have an attitude of gratitude

She took the time to tell us about difficulties she has experienced and shared with us how writing her blessings on a yellow piece of paper changed her perspective about life. Have an attitude of gratitude she repeated. Then, she reminded us of all the people who were really having a bad day. Those dealing with cancer, death and real misfortune yet they still remembered to count their blessings. Have an attitude of gratitude, she repeated. 

The message was sealed in my heart. 

 

Gratitude used to be an after thought – something I felt once I achieved a goal.  After hearing Dr. Angelou speak, I decided that instead of breaking up with God when I hit my threshold, I was going to have an attitude of gratitude, irrespective of the outcome. I decided to go back on that bumpy road. I went online and booked a multi city trip around the horn of Africa.  I did not know a soul in these countries, but I surrendered all my goals to God and thanked him for providing. It is with a grateful heart that I say that because He is a forgiving God, a faithful God, and a loving God, in the scorching deserts of Sudan my thirst was quenched with water from springs that never ran dry. I met film makers and visionaries who want to take their country to new heights. In the mountains of Ethiopia I never stumbled. I was greeted with grace and kindness and I interviewed volunteers and entrepreneurs redefining the course of their country.  In the Savannahs of South Sudan where I had no money, I was sustained by the generosity of strangers and I met phenomenal people who are transforming this new nation. In Djibouti , they enveloped me with love. At every step of this journey, in the peaks and the valleys, I remembered the words of Dr. Angelou and I gave thanks. Everyday was a GREAT Day and I can’t wait to share the details with you.


Thank you

Sudan Speaks

A few weeks ago, I visited what used to be the largest country in Africa – Sudan. Inspite of the travel advisories and the pleas from loved ones not to go to the country, I flew into the capital of Sudan, Khartoum. This trip was immensely important to me because the mere mention of the name Sudan conjured images of suffering and oppression. I entered the country and found a nation filled with people with kind hearts and resilient spirits.

About a week after I left, the Sudanese people who generally avoid confrontation with its repressive government took to the streets. On the surface it seemed as if they were demonstrating against newly released austerity measures, but their message was deeper than that… The video attached is the first of a three part series which features the candid views of young, patriotic Sudanese.http://youtu.be/N3dCzg3kTD0

 

An evening with Maya Angelou

I am standing inside Hanover Theatre trying to tell the security man that Maya Angelou is expecting me. He does not seem to believe me. I cannot blame him, even I find it hard to believe that I am going to meet this living legend…

In my final year of high school, I discovered the poem Phenomenal Woman and it immediately elevated the way I viewed myself as a woman. I soon found out that the poet behind those edifying stanzas was a civil rights activist and the author of ground breaking books like “I know why the caged bird sings”. I wanted to meet Dr. Angelou. I have been nursing this dream secretly for many years but six months ago, it almost happened. She was supposed to be in Toronto and a kind friend who addresses her as ‘Auntie Maya’ made a few calls to see if she would meet me. She generously agreed. I took the day off work to meet my heroine. I got as close as her hotel only to find out that she had fallen ill so she had not made the trip. Disappointment rumbled through my body like hunger pangs. When would I ever get this opportunity again?? As fate would have it, a few weeks ago, I read that Dr. Angelou was going to be talking at the uniquelives.com conference in Worcester. With a nod from my kind friend, my feet raced as fast as my heart until I reached Hanover Theatre.

… Now I am in the foyer, gesticulating persuasively to security to send me backstage. Several verification phone calls later, I won my case. The stage manager comes out and leads me to a private entrance. Two students and an impeccably dressed woman ( I will tell you more about her later) are already waiting in a narrow hallway. After a few minutes, the stage manager beckons us to follow him into the green room.

The first thing I see is a silver platter filled with diced fruits and food that you only eat with two fingers. I am tempted to walk towards the feast but my eyes are being pulled to the centre of the room where a regal looking woman sits like an Ashanti Queen. Silvery locks have been neatly coiffed on her head like a crown. A string of freshwater pearls dazzle around her neck. The other people walk to her and they talk for a moment. I want to do the same but I am surprisingly shy. Then, she calls my name.

“Ms. Bonsu?” The room is instantly filled with the richness of her deep voice.

I approach her gingerly. I don’t know whether to courtesy or bow. I feel my knees buckle into a shaky bow.

“You don’t have to bow!” Her firm words halting me midway. “Come closer. No, don’t go behind me. Here, come in front of me so I can see you.” She directs. We exchange a few words in the Ghanaian dialect, Fante, before I step aside to give the others a chance. My palms are a bit sweaty but I am coming into myself. I want to get closer to her. No, more than that. I want to interview her. I turn boldly to her PA and asked if I could ask Dr. Angelou a few questions. “Yes, but quickly, the event starts in a few minutes.” Now, what do you do when you have a really tight window to interview a legend? Do you ask about her favourite lipstick or do you skip the frivolity and discuss current affairs? I take a deep long breath and straighten the creases in my dress. I fix my eyes on the resplendent woman before me. As I think of the great things she has achieved in life simply by following her passion, I decide to ask a personal question that has been burning a hole in my heart.

“Dr. Angelou, Thank you so much for this opportunity.”

“You are welcome Ms. Bonsu.”

“Dr. Angelou, I’ve started this initiative which highlights positive stories from Africa but after three years, I feel burnt out. I am so tired. What do you do when you feel discouraged?”

“Don’t get discouraged. If you have a ‘to do list’ do it.” She replied.

“But what if you want to give up because you don’t see the results of your hard work?”

“You just press on. There is nothing more to it. Just keep going and sooner or later, the people who rejected you will come begging. Don’t give up. Just do your to do list. Just do it.” At this point my heart is doing the listening. The impact of her words stir my soul because she is speaking directly to my fears. Does she know about my inbox which is flooded with rejection letters from literary agents? Does she know of my fantastic manuscript that publishers won’t touch? Does she know about the incomplete website, the travel plans and the personal matters ricocheting in my head? Whom I’m I kidding? Of course she can relate to my angst. Not long ago, she was also a thirty-something year old idealist. She traveled the world, wrote books, won Grammys, earned Doctorates and inspired a whole generation in the process. Through the dark tint of her glasses I could read the warmth in her eyes. I smile and ask my next question.

“Dr. Angelou, my favourite poem is “Phenomenal woman”. It was the first poem that told me how a woman should carry herself. What inspired you to write this poem?”

“My life, but really because we are ALL phenomenal.” She delivers this with a certain confidence that is lost to many of us. From the corner of my eye, I see the silhouette of the stage manager. It is my subtle cue that my time is up but I feel emboldened to ask for one more thing.

“Dr. Angelou, I would love to take a picture with you. Would that be alright?

“Yes.” She drawls. “Stand next to me. Here, you can hold my hand.” Really? Disbelief is washing over me. I uncross my fingers and plant them firmly in her palm. It feels soft and inviting. The ridges of her wisdom and experience rub smoothly against the naivete of my. Disbelief is coming over me again. I am actually a breath away from my heroine and I am really holding her hand. As if she sensed the awe overwhelming me, she speaks firmly to me.

“Ms. Bonsu, stand up straight. Lean on no one and Bow ONLY to God.”

The depth of those words resonate in me. For months, my head has been downcast with self-doubt and fear. Now I hear the truth in her words loud and clear. I push my shoulders back, unbuckle my knees and smile like an Ashanti princess. In a flash, the moment was sealed.

To be continued…

Obama comes out

For the past four years, President Obama has kept America guessing on his stand on same-sex marriage. When he was on the 2008 presidential campaign trail, he explained that he supports civil unions and promised to repeal DADT, but on the subject of including gay couples in the traditional definition of marriage he coiled back. He wasn’t quite there, he was ‘evolving’ he liked to say. It was a middle-of-the-road answer which appeased social conservatives and simultaneously gave hope to the gay community.

I believe the President was struggling with his views in the same way that someone who has not yet come to terms with their sexuality wrestles with the uncomfortable truth. So each time Obama was pressed on the issue, he would uncomfortably state that he was evolving. True to campaign promise, he broadened equality and benefits to gay couples and he repealed DADT. With these measures in place, the pressure for Obama to declare his stance on the contentious gay marriage issue waned. Then during an interview with Meet the Press, Vice President Joe Biden went off script and announced that he was comfortable with same-sex marriage. As this surprising announcement richocheted through different media channels, the spotlight was on Obama. Was he done evolving? If so, had he evolved into a traditionalist or a progressive?

Like a gay teenager being confronted about his sexuality, Obama was forced to come out when he was not yet ready. In a sit down interview with Robin Roberts, he declared that same-sex couples had the right to get married. The public’s response was polarizing. Whilst some tweeted their joy, others were convinced Obama was going to hell in a rainbow coloured loin cloth. The pundits want to know his motive for taking a stand on this contentious issue. The critics are certain this is a political ploy. And because it is an election year, the strategist wonder if he would be punished by this revelation. I personally don’t believe Obama did this for political gains. Think about it, in 2008 he had the overwhelming support of the gay community and after repealing DADT they are one demographic he does not need to worry about. It would have been far more convenient for him to reiterate his ‘evolving’ stand on same-sex marriage but he chose to come out with the truth. The fall out has already began. Some influential pastors in crucial states have said it will be hard for them to support Obama after this declaration. He has received some praise but for the most part, he is being skewered for wading into an issue that has rocked families and religious institutions.

It may not be a politically savvy move, but you’ve got to admit it is darn courageous.

Think like a man

I have never laughed so hard in a cinema as I did when I watched the movie Act like a lady, Think like a man. Initially, I resisted the urge to go and see the movie because I assumed it was going to be a low-budget, poorly-acted movie – boy was I wrong. Steve Harvey, the executive producer and author of the best selling book of the same title, spared no expense in the making of this movie.

The storyline follows the relationship challenges of 4 single women. Taraji Henson is the successful but lonely one, Gabrielle Union has been dating the same guy for 9 years, Meagan Good consistently attracts playas and Regina Hall is a single mother who can’t find a good man. When these women read Steve Harvey’s bestselling book, they decide to apply his dating rules to their love interests and the outcome is riveting.

The script is hilarious and the actors are convincing in their roles as the divorcee, the mama’s boy, the playa and the non-committer. It has a well developed plot with cameo appearances from several celebrities like Kelly Rowland and Chris Brown but, they don’t outweigh the stellar performance of Kevin Hart, Micheal Ealy and Jerry Ferrara.

So, if you have been dragging your feet, just go and see Think like a man. You will laugh for 2 hours straight. You may not get any ‘aha moments,’ – the movie is not a private moment with a Shrink but, it is a huge comic relief. Definitely the feel good movie of the year.

My date with Oprah

I reached for the bejewelled halter neck dress and held it against my chest – naah too much skin. Maybe I should wear my beautiful African print dress. I stripped and zipped myself into the outfit – naah too much colour. I threw the dress on my bedroom floor and flipped through my closet until my fingers landed on a satin green dress. That’s it! I slipped into the sheath dress, dabbed gold dust on my eyelids and tinted my lips with strawberry flavoured gloss. Now I felt ready for my date with Oprah – well, me and 9000 people from Toronto but who’s counting?

The show was supposed to start at 4:30pm but by 12 noon, CityTV was showing a very long queue of enthusiastic people waiting impatiently to see Oprah. Not to worry, my friend Christianne’s wonderful husband was holding a spot for me. I walked towards the Metro Convention Centre in downtown Toronto. A bubble of joy was pulsating in my heart, traveling through my veins and causing me to smile and wave at strangers. After 20 years, I was finally going to see Oprah – I could not stop smiling. I walked into the Convention centre in a euphoric state. As more people funneled through the doors, the cloud of anticipation that hang in the air intensified. People were giggling and squealing. One girl I walked past was trembling so much her friend had to remind her to breathe. Not me. I was as calm as a fed baby. Nothing, not even my emotions was going to come between me and my Oprah.

I planted myself in the front row and smiled generously at my neighbours. But as soon as I crossed my legs and leaned into my chair, I started to cough .At first it was the sputtering kind, then it became a full-blown, relentless cough. I don’t know if I was reacting to perfume, hair spray or dust, but my throat was severely irritated and I could not stop coughing. I tried to talk myself out of it. Ok Amma, you need to calm down. Oprah is going to come out any moment now, relax yourself. But I continued to cough until my beautifully dressed neighbours became as irritated as my throat. Some passed mints and Halls my way. “Breathe in.” I could hear someone saying but the simple act of inhaling air triggered a coughing fit so strong that it summoned tears into my eyes. I had to leave the room to find the washroom. By the time I made it to the lobby, I was retching and wheezing. I leaned over a table and coughed and retched and coughed. A lady in a blue blouse rushed to my side.

“Are you ok?”

“Cough, cough cough” I could not talk. My nose was running, my cheeks were streaked with tears and I felt a tightness in my throat.

” Are you choking? Can you breathe?” The lady asked.

“No- it is diffi–cough, cough, cough—cult to breathe. I think- cough cough-” Before I could finish the sentence, I dropped onto me knees and coughed until I could taste my lungs in my mouth. When I lifted my head, a woman in hospital overalls was standing over me.

” Hi my name is Wendy and I am a nurse. Are you ok?”

“Oh, I will be fine, I just- COUGH COUGH…”

“Ok you need to come with me right now!”

I followed her to a yellow room with hospital beds and First Aid instruments. Oh God, I am supposed to be listening to Oprah, how did I end up in the Emergency response unit of the Metro Convention centre? Before I could utter a word, two paramedics carrying debrillators entered the room.

” We were informed that someone is having difficulty breathing. Ma’am are you ok?”

I was trying to tell them that I was ok but they were not listening. They strapped my left arm with a blood pressure monitor and started pumping away. “I am ok, I am ok.” I croaked but they were really not listening. Out came the stethoscope.

“Oh lawd, sir, that will not be necessary. see Oprah is coming out in 2 minutes, I need to be in the convention centre to see her enter.”

” We understand ma’am but this is important.”

“No, I can’t miss Oprah. I can’t! I have waited 20 years for this.” I could hear the screams coming from the centre. They were chanting “Oprah, Oprah, Oprah.” He placed the sethoscope on my back.

“Breathe in? Out? In… good”

” See, I told you I am ok. Can I go now. Please?

” Ma’am we need you to sit for a few minutes so we can figure out what is going on. Did you eat something? Do you have allergies?” This man can’t be serious. The chanting had reached a frenzied pitch. Oprah must be walking on the stage and I was confined in a quasi ward with 3 medical attendants standing between me and my moment. I peeled the monitor from my arm and stood up. “Thank you guys but I gotta go” ” I rushed inside the centre, but no Oprah. Iyanla Vanzant was speaking. Anthony Robbins and TD Jakes were next in line. Thank God, at least I had time to calm my nerves and collect my thoughts before Oprah. TD Jakes wrapped up his sermon by rousing the crowd to an ecstatic state. We jumped on our feet and started chanting “Oprah, Oprah, Oprah, Oprah…” Then, the moment I had been waiting for arrived. Oprah strutted onto the stage. She was wearing green, just like me. “AHHHH!!! I screamed even louder. My neighbours were screaming, people in the back rows were screaming the entire convention centre was charged with excitement. In her metallic Loboutins, hair flowing with confidence, she walked to the front of the stage.

” Canadaaaaaaaaaa!!!!” She screamed. We went berserk! “Thank you, thank you. Sit down, sit down.” She pleaded. “I feel the love, I feel the love,” she kept saying. I sat down and soaked her in. The Life class lesson was on forgiveness and she brought in several speakers to help guests and audience members make peace with their past. My ears absorbed everything they were saying. But I had eyes only for Oprah. I could see her green eye shadow, her matted lip stick and turquoise earrings shimmering against her neck. I could see her. Like really, really see her. She was so calm, so herself. In between takes, she would make jokes and talk to the audience. I just watched and listened, completely mesmerized and in awe of this dream come true.

I will confess that I thought of pulling an ‘MTV moment’ where I would dash onto the stage and surprise her with a Koala-like hug. The opening was there, security was not paying attention. Quick Amma, do it, you are wearing the right shoes. Do it Now. Ready… Set… DON’T! A voice of reason yelped. “That would terrify her. Plus when you hug Oprah, you want her to hug you back, not flinch with fear.” So I stayed put and continued to admire her from my seat. She look comfortable and content. She was scanning the front row, appreciating each individual with her eyes. When her brown pupils rested into my, I lifted my head and mouthed “I-LOVE-U”. she smiled gently.

I love Oprah. You guys know that. She has taught me lessons about love, life and the importance of giving back, and for this day, the Lifeclass lessons she brought were just as impactful. When it was over, she thanked the crowd again and went back stage. I followed the crowd out of the convention centre, but I had a plan in mind. I can’t come this close to Oprah and watch her leave? I had to do something quickly. Unfortunately, my phone was ringing. It was my friend Christianne.

“Amma, where are you?” We can’t find you?”

” Don’t worry about me Chris I am fine.”

“Well do you want us to wait for you at the subway?”

“No, you guys go ahead”

“Ammaa? She drawled. ” You are up to something aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am” I whispered. “Yes I am….”

Kazuri beads

For over thirty years Kazuri has been a lifeline for economically disenfranchised women in Kenya. Nestled in a quiet suburb in Nairobi, this modest facility is the workplace for three hundred and forty women who have acquired the skill of molding clay into jewelry and various artifacts. Their handiwork is exported to different parts of the world and the proceeds are used to cover their salary and provide health care for their families.

This inspiring workshop was started in 1970 when Susan Wood, a Kenyan born British woman, invited a Kenyan woman from a neighbouring village to help her craft beads out of clay. This woman in turn invited other women she knew to join the initiative. In a few short years, this small-scale project blossomed into a reputable business and a hotspot for international tourists. During a 2011 visit to Kenya, I toured the facility and met women like Teresa who have been empowered economically and socially by her work at Kazuri. Listen to Teresa’s story http://youtu.be/hZDRC0S_1X0