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KENYA’S MOST MODERN MAN

By Ilhan Yassin Harley

It is a great thing that young women in Kenya, like Kenyan men, have guaranteed primary education until the age of 14, something we can be really proud of.

Reading and writing in English and Swahili, numeracy, history and geography, biology (that was called Home Science in my time)… Everyone gets a sound educational basis for life, boy or girl, in the city and in the countryside, regardless.

Except they don’t. It’s a sad fact that, in rural areas, many girls from the many different cultural traditions that make up the mosaic that is Kenya are plucked from school and don’t get that sound educational basis. Why not? Pregnancy. Teenage pregnancy.

FATHER AND HERO
Wait, man! Yes, you! You’re about to stop reading because you think I’m about to launch into a feminist rant. But I’m not. Me (a woman) is going to tell you (a man) about a man. A man who is a father. A man who is a hero.

(By the way, if you’re a woman, like me, then you can also keep reading. It’s also a bit of a guide to making your man a hero too.)

Sadly this isn’t, like so many of my stories, about me. It’s about my cousin. We’re from one of those families that is part country and part city. I’m from the city part, my cousin is from the country part. That’s why I write articles for newspapers.

She doesn’t write articles for newspapers. But she did get the benefit of primary education and she didn’t go through the country stereotype of ‘You need to leave school early to work so your brothers can continue their education’ (still happens, sadly) or ‘We have found you a husband’ (still happens, sadly) or ‘You’re pregnant? That’s your problem, I’ve had my fun – bye!’ (not exclusive to the country, that one).

BABY NUMBER 2

My cousin from the country got a job in the city. So far so good. Met a good man. Good man has a good job. Cousin and Good Man got married. Had a baby. Baby was well because cousin had been well educated and knew how to look after the baby. Cousin and Good Man (now known as Husband) think, time for baby number two.

COVID-19. Husband loses job

Now, COVID-19 is putting a strain on everyone’s relationships. Jobs that were safe aren’t safe any more are suddenly shaky or just don’t exist any more. Everyone’s afraid. Happy, safe, secure marriages suddenly don’t seem so sure any more.

HAPPY ENDING?

End Teenage Pregnancies Kenya

So how do you think the story goes? Sadly, a lot of the time this story would be about a descent into tragedy. Tension, you’ve got the job, steal for me, baby, the police, jail. Arguments, violence, a kitchen knife, a death. Select your own ending. Or let me select the ending for you. A happy ending. The true ending.

So Cousin has a good job and the job is one that endures through COVID-19 lockdown (she is a nanny for an international family, the kind who wore face masks before COVID-19). But it is residential in Nairobi and Husband (and Child Number One – of one, for the moment, despite plans to the contrary) is in the country.

I’ll stop you there before you speculate on Husband’s response. Here is Husband’s response: ‘You have the job and you are earning the money. You stay there and stay safe, and I will be both mother and father to our child until this is over.’ And that’s what they are doing. Husband admits to enjoying being ‘Stay at Home Dad’, although he also admits that running a house is deceptively time-consuming (‘After COVID…’). But he loves being a full-time Dad. How terribly modern!

Cousin obviously misses Child Number One and wants to get around to Child Number Two whenever this all ends but with the right family planning no doubt this happy event will come along at a time suitable to the equally happy couple.

But she has one major worry. Husband seems to enjoy being Stay at Home Dad a bit too much…

Ilhan Yassin Harley is a Kenyan Somali gender activist

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