To be a woman in my country


By Jael Ikinya


To be a woman in my country Kenya means always keeping an eye on who’s behind you as you weave through the busy streets. The cities and neighborhoods might be alive with colors, but they also carry the weight of femicide and violence against women. It’s like wearing an invisible shield, navigating crowded places with your heart pounding, wondering if every footstep could be a threat.

In my country, being a woman often feels like walking a tightrope. You’ve got to follow unspoken rules, where the choice of your clothes can feel like a high-stakes game. A skirt might be seen as an invitation for trouble or more so a thirsty summon, and the color of your top can attract unwanted attention. Oh! and do not dare show your shoulders, men like that and it is important that they do not, otherwise you are asking for it. Please do not wear tight pants, they can see through them, it will be your fault if they like what they see.

In my country, being a woman is a dance of caution, where men generally are a source of anxiety, and you’ve got to be your own protector. Did you hear that carefree whistle? With that undertone of possessiveness? They do that when they spot prey. Unlike in the wild, do not run from the predators, the worst you can do is wound their pride and provoke their indignation. They have a perceived notion of entitlement. To navigate walking on this thin ice, force a smile and feign friendliness, but not too much, you are prey, always remember that.

To be a woman in my country means carrying stories—your own and those of others. It’s about sharing the spoken and unspoken experiences of sisters, friends, and strangers who understand the same fears, the same uneasy glances and silent violence. They give us accusatory glares while they tell us we are the problem, we are the reason we get killed, we should not ask for it by going outside at “peculiar” hours. They heavily perpetuate distorted and prejudiced perspectives where they say that our deaths are warranted because of our supposed attraction to wealthier men.

In my country, being a woman is like juggling between standing up for yourself and being careful not to provoke trouble. It’s a constant tug of war between claiming your space in public and retreating into caution. It’s a challenge, a mix of moving forward and dealing with old-fashioned ideas that still hold women back.

As I age, the harsh reality dawns upon me that true freedom as a woman remains elusive. Always lingering on the edge of the looming threats of rape, domestic violence—both alarmingly prevalent in my country—and, even more chillingly, femicide. Each day bears the weight of a relentless reminder from my mother that, by virtue of being a woman, I’ve seemingly signed an unspoken pact with danger, a depressing harsh covenant that I must vigilantly ensure never materializes into a tragic reality.

To the women’s rights vanguard, I wish I could offer a more optimistic update. Regrettably, as your descendant, I find myself entrenched in the same battles you valiantly fought. The uncertainty of change remains, yet we must persist in our efforts, just as you once did, for the hope that someday, the narrative will shift.

To our departed soldiers, rest in peace, we will continue to fight in your honor.




Jael is a spirited International Relations master’s student, a thinker, and scholar. She is driven by a profound love for the intricacies of global affairs and politics which is only rivaled by her love for history and philosophy. Beyond the academic realms, she is an avid reader, always fueled by an insatiable curiosity to explore the depths of knowledge. She is passionate about women empowerment and women in leadership. Her ability to question and assess things critically not only defines her academic pursuits but also makes her a vibrant presence in academia and beyond.