POTUS IN KENYA; #OBAMAINKENYA, WHAT TO SPEAK ABOUT IT

The fever is over, POTUS came and left, a number of things stood out and various manifestations were seen. I will not attempt to summarize the proceedings but point out a few highlights.

As a young Kenyan and especially young woman, there are a lot of take aways to speak about. POTUS came bearing gifts for the state and for individuals. None of them might be monetary but the extension of visa from 1 year to 5 year is a highlight to speak about. I currently hold my second visa to the US, I am lucky to be among the few people who have been granted a US visa. Most Kenyans and Africans across the continent have gone through great lengths unsuccessfully to get Americans visas; this extension means a lot to those who often travel to the US for studies, tourism, business or conferences like me. The convenience of a 5 year visa allows swift movement and is a sign of deepened diplomatic relations between the USA and Kenya. During his address to the Kenyan nation, POTUS highlighted that Young Africans including young Kenyans do not have leave the continent to build a future for themselves. For young Kenyans, ‘you can build your future right here’ said POTUS. The future of Africa is upto Africans continued POTUS which is very well resonated with the previous remark.

POTUS’ visit was deeply tied to economic growth and entrepreneurship given that one of his main aims was to officially open the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES 2015). This was the first time the summit was held in Sub Saharan African and Kenya was honored to host the summit. The focus on women & youth was the highlight of the summit in an effort to open the entrepreneurship platform to accommodate more women, girls and youth. Systemic issues that edge women and youth out of the platform were highlighted especially their access to factors and drivers of production. A commitment of 1.8 billion US Dollars was set aside to advance enterprise by enabling youth and women from across the world access capital.

POTUS was consistent in one thing; the need for the Kenyan and other African governments to accommodate civil society. The need for building strong democratic pillars cannot be over emphasize and especially the need to allow peaceful organizing even when the aim is to criticize the government. Civil society plays an important role in demanding accountability from governments and equipping people with information on various important issues. My invitation to the civil society dialogue for me was a highlight that sort of validates my work at the grassroots with women and girls. Hard choices have to be made and the country has to advance development that offers opportunity to all. Civil society plays role in making this possible said POTUS.

The topic of women and girls, is one that POTUS addressed in depth, to quote POTUS ‘treating women and girls as second class citizens is backwards, we are in a gymnasium not allowing one team to play is STUPID’. This was the tone used by POTUS to address violations against women and girls mentioning the need to end Female Genital Mutilation(FGM), child marriage, sexual violence and general treatment of women. One of the opposition leaders he met with was Kenya’s Iron Lady Martha Karua, the only woman ran for president against 7 male candidates in the past elections. The aspect of addressing HIV/AIDS amongst adolescents girls was highlighted and POTUS committed the US support to enable build strong public health systems.PEPFAR did a good job and the new DREAMS initiative will propel this initiative to the next level

There are a host of other things POTUS mentioned but the crown jewel was various remarks during his speech. We live in a world we have borrowed from our children and we have to take care of it. Kenyan youth, arrest tomorrow and make it today, don’t postpone your ambition. The remarks revived Kenyans’ hope for tomorrow and for a better country including highlighting what needs to be done.

The visit bore something and we all hope that the sense of hope and deepened integrity will last longer than the 40 minutes speeches. We Africans should build upon the initiative and spirit set by the visit to accelerate economic growth and advance gender equality and women’s empowerment. We all move forward through learning from each other and especially if we take the lessons, contextualize them to our realities and perfect the strategies shared…

The Obama Weekend was all that and more!!!

Catherine is a Mandela Fellow 2016, Women Deliver Young Leader and member of Youth RISE International working group. Catherine is a passionate young African feminist activist with over 7 years of experience in advancing gender equality, youth development and sexual and reproductive health and rights in the context of sustainable development through movement building, digital and social media, policy advocacy and capacity building for young women and adolescents girls. Catherine is currently Deputy Director at Dandelion Kenya, and sits on the SDGs Kenya Forum coordination committee. Catherine has engaged with various global and regional policy processes such as ICPD Beyond 2014 review, Beijing +20 and the post 2015 development agenda. She co-authored the article ‘Leave No One Behind; Will African Women be left behind in the post 2015 development agenda ,an article published on the East African Business Monthly in February 2015. Catherine launched the #SRHRDialogues, an online advocacy and awareness raising platform on SRHR and #YAFDialogues, an online platform anticipated to be a permanent mobilizing platforms borne out of an African feminist dialogue 2015 in Accra. Follow her on Twitter: @catherinenyamb1