Nairobi News

BlogCity Girl

CITY GIRL: Young women trailblazers steal the limelight

My original column this week was about Ms Ivy Wangechi, who was murdered in cold blood. I thought I had nailed it, then bam! Editor notifies me that a fellow columnist would be tackling the same issue this week and I would have to focus on another topic.

Now as an optimist, I am going to go with the assumption that the other columnist simply beat me to submitting the article — and perhaps the gods are making me pay for the many times I have missed a deadline.

I am giving you this explanation, my readers, because you deserve one. I am often at the forefront advocating against violence against women — and it would break my heart if my readers thought that I ignored the story of Ms Wangechi.

I might not be “allowed” to write about Ms Wangechi per se, but I will honour her memory by writing about other women who, like Wangechi, are doing their best, applying themselves and making a significant change in our world.

SUDAN UPRISING

This week, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, one of Africa’s long-serving strongmen, was toppled in a military coup. The exit of al-Bashir came after protests that went on for months across the country, which saw Sudanese citizens pour into the streets in a historic fashion. In the midst of the push and pull, one woman, Alaa Salah, became the symbol of the Sudanese protests that have sent a very strong message to despots across the world; their time is up.

Donning a crisp white toub — the traditional Sudanese dress — a pair of trendy brownish-gold sneakers, bedecked in gold hoop earrings, Ms Salah, pictured standing on a platform leading protest chants is now the face of the Sudanese revolution, buttressing the pivotal role that women play in the political process.

Salah may seem like the most unlikely candidate for a protestor — a 22-year-old architecture student living with her family in Khartoum — but she is a symbol of a new generation of leaders; young, fearless and female.

It was also this week that 20-year-old Anne Mwangi Mvurya made history as the first elected female chairperson of the University of Nairobi Students Association. Following a bruising and high-stakes battle, Ms Mvurya, I’d like to believe, has only just begun.

That this historic win will not be the first and the last, and perhaps, could we be looking at Kenya’s first female president?

BLACK HOLE

During the week we saw for the first time a picture of a black hole. Now, I would be kidding you to try and explain what exactly a black hole is, but I will attempt — by providing an explanation from the official Nasa website (not that Nasa, but the National Aeronautics and Space Administration — the US organisation in charge of aerospace research).

A black hole is, “…a great amount of matter packed into a very small area… a gravitational field so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape.”

Scientists, for decades, have been attempting to take a picture of the black hole, a task so difficult that it has been compared to taking a picture of an orange on the moon with your smart phone.

However, some ground-breaking progress was made this week by a team 200 scientists led by 29-year-old Dr Katie Bouman. She led the team to create an algorithm that helped them capture the first ever image of a black hole.

Dr Bouman represents the new and changing face of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

UPSETTING US POLITICS

Ilhan Omar, the 37-year-old freshman congresswoman who lived in Dadaab camp before migrating to the US, is busy upsetting the apple cart in US politics.

Known for taking on the establishment by the horns and speaking truth to power, Ms Omar is making moves on the legislative front.

This week, she joined fellow Democrats to put forward a bill — The No Ban Act — that will put an end to immigration policies that ban Muslims from some countries.

And 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also a freshman congresswoman, was a bartender last year but is now one of the most recognisable names in US politics.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez, like Ms Omar, has introduced the Green New Deal, a proposed resolution aimed at tackling climate change, which if effected, will compel the US government to cut down its use of oil, gas and coal.

Omar and Ocasio-Cortez, alongside their colleague Rashida Tlaib, have been collectively described by the New York Times as a “…coterie of outspoken, progressive women” who are shaking up the political establishment to the core.