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  • 04 Apr 2016
    A question was recently posed to all of us, how did we come to hear about PAUWES and what are we planning to do after graduation next year. As you can imagine the answers were as valid as the number we are. I believe that when we all received the email offering us a place at the institute we weighed our options before committing to accept the offer. I was working for an engineering firm before I joined PAUWES and as much as I loved my line of work in the environmental and social field I was ready for change and here I am. Months later I am glad I made that decision because I have seen my areas of interest take shape in ways I never imagined before. I can clearly see myself working with communities in empowering women and men in adapting and mitigating impacts of climate change which will only come from creation of awareness and capacity building and involvement of all stakeholders in policy formulation in regards to resource use and exploitation.   I am not here to patronize anyone. We all had different expectations when we said yes to that offer back in July last year and I will be the first to admit that some of my expectations have not been met but others have been met beyond what was offered. One of the things I can credit the institute for is the creation of networking opportunities for all students. In March this year we had a symposium on renewable energy that saw researchers from Africa and Europe come together and spend almost a week in Tlemcen. The icing on the cake is all of us were in one way or another involved in the planning and coordinating the symposium activities. Fast forward in late March and we travelled to Germany where we were not only able to interact with experts in our relevant fields but with students who have been successful in doing research and for some coming up with new inventions. The willingness for them to help or refer us to someone who could offer a better perspective was humbling and appreciated.   So where am I going with all of this? I have heard the question time and again about where our fate lies once we graduate next year. I recognize that the uncertain future is a cause for worry for some of us and I know the job market is very competitive and sometimes all you need is someone to give you a push or put in a good word for you. What I do not agree with is our approach to the above. We cannot continue to complain about the opportunities that are not available while we are not using the ones provided. I want to pose a question to all of us, how many of us approached the professors and students during the symposium and in Germany seeking to create new networks and connections? How many of us approached someone and they said no to your request without giving you an alternative? Some may argue that not all of us are able to approach new people and strike a conversation but we also have to be willing to step into unfamiliar waters and take risks. It is nerve wrecking for the first time but I promise it gets easier.   When we signed the contract no one promised to offer us a job after graduation, I doubt any scholarship program promises that anywhere else in the world. What we have instead is a safe environment to connect and interact with experts from different fields and a chance to build our confidence level without the pressure of getting it right the first time. I look at networking as a reward point system, where every connection made is a point gained and you can redeem later on in life. We have the Community of Practice (CoP) that allows follow up and chances to show case our abilities outside the classroom environment as individuals or in our respective groups. Soon enough different companies data base will be uploaded and new opportunities will arise. More professors and experts will join and the community will grow. You have the liberty to invite someone to CoP if you feel that their expertise could be of help to you as an individual or others. If you identify a connection worth exploring and you have no idea how to approach them you can ask for help, there is always someone willing to give a hand. The possibilities are endless but we have to make that first step or we will never realize how many people are willing to walk with us. What saddens me is that we have not realized the opportunities provided to us or have not been willing to invest time to exploit them fully. We have not taken time to upload our resume or at the very least a profile picture or write to a new connection and clearly articulate our areas of interest and the kind of push we need. In my opinion the field is set and we only have to be willing to play in it. It would be sad if after two years we looked back at our time here with regret, 24 months is way too much time to spend pointing out what has not been given to you. If you think life gave you lemons the minute you stepped in PAUWES please make some lemonade summer is coming!
    1301 Posted by Eva Kimonye
  • 02 May 2016
    I am a lover of elephants and I have been lucky enough to watch them in their natural habitat. They are the most majestic animals I have ever come across and the sheer size of an adult bull or cow always leaves me in wonder. Their sense of family and interaction is an honor to watch.  There are two species of elephant; African elephant weighing up to 6, 000kg and its Asian counterpart weighing at around 5,000kg. Every elephant herd is led by a matriarch which is the oldest female in the herd (it’s a female world out there). Her role is to offer guidance to the heard and teach the young ones how to behave. So intelligent are they that they extend their trunks in greetings when they meet each other and are known to perform funeral rituals for their dead. Let me assure you that I am not here to bore you with facts about elephants but to bring to your attention the threat that faces these gentle giants.   On 30th April 2016 Kenya burnt over 100 tones of ivory stock piles which is a representation of about 8,000 elephants that have been lost to poaching in the recent years. This ivory was not only confiscated from poachers in Kenya but from traffickers using Kenyan airports and ports to export the illegal goods. According to the African Wildlife Foundation there are around 470,000 African elephants roaming the wild. Some of us may think that this is a huge number but the picture on the ground is more tragic. Every 15 minutes an African elephant is killed by poachers for its tusks. That means that if this trend continues the elephants will be extinct in the next two decades. Boom! Gone!   The historical burn of over 100 tones of ivory at Nairobi National Park Most of you might argue that we live in a world where it is survival for the fittest and Charles Darwin would definitely back up your argument. However, this is not nature taking its course but human greed fuelling massive killings. The largest markets for ivory products are China and the United States. What disgusts me the most is that it is the elite that are buying the ivory trinkets and carvings to cement their standing in society. The icing on this madness is their belief that the trinkets or carvings are good luck charms, an aphrodisiac (really?) and are a sign of wealth. How low the human race has sunk is beyond my comprehension. The cycle of ivory trade is one of pain and loss of lives. Park rangers are killed daily in the line of duty and war lords like Joseph Kony from Uganda sell ivory to buy arms and continue reigning terror among the innocents. Do not get me started on the crimes his army has committed against women and children as he seeks to quench his power hungry soul.   That is why the action of Kenya to burn over 100 tones of ivory is very significant. It sends a message that Kenya will not tolerate illegal trade in wildlife. It is a cry to the world to pay attention before elephants and rhinos become a tale like the dinosaurs. Many people especially in Kenya have been of the opinion that the ivory should have been sold at an estimation of 172 million USD and the money used for conservation efforts. I choose to disagree; great strides have been made in banning ivory trade in some states in America and parts of China. Releasing such amount of ivory to the market will only refuel the trade and result to more poaching. On the other hand guarding ivory stock piles is an expensive affair and would require 24/7 surveillance. The danger with this is that we have some rotten corrupt individuals who would not blink an eye when sneaking the ivory to the black market. So what better way to stick it up their faces other than burning the stock piles to ashes! We are simply saying elephants are worth more alive, let me explain;   Tourism in Kenya is the second largest source of foreign exchange revenue following agriculture. The $1 billion a year industry is a source of livelihood for thousands of Kenyans while our South African counterparts earn more than $ 7 billion every year accounting for around 7.9% of its GDP. I could go on and on about the benefits we derive as a continent from live animals than dead. I recognize that this problem is not only unique to Africa but conservationists around the world are racing against time to save other endangered species like the white rhino, sea turtles, jaguar, panda, white sharks among many others. What has gotten us here is human greed. It is the lack of respect for any other creature that walks on the face of the earth. We have forgotten that man may be supposedly the most intelligent on the web but every species has a role to play in the functioning of the food web.   We are destroying our planet at an unprecedented rate. We have cleared forests to build cities and expand our suburban neighborhoods, we have polluted the same rivers that give us life and turned our ears deaf to the conservationists’ voices of reason among us. History however, will judge us. Generations to come will hold us responsible for not protecting that which was entrusted to us. We owe it to them therefore, to be stewards of this beautiful planet until we can pass the torch to them.
    953 Posted by Eva Kimonye
  • 01 Mar 2016
    If you are one to pay attention to job and scholarship adverts you have probably come across the phrase “women are encouraged to apply”. Some go as far as raising the age requirement for women or lowering their required years of experience for a job. Where I come from (Kenya) the constitution allows for the election of women representatives under a category that no man is allowed to compete under. The exodus of all these began in September 1995 during the Fourth World Conference on Women where participating governments came together and passed what is  now famously know as the Beijing declaration. Their aim was to advance the goals of equality, development and peace for all women everywhere in the interest of all humanity. Women and girls were to have equal opportunities in accessing resources, education, health care, leadership positions and participating in the decision making process. But just how did the participating governments hope to achieve this? If you go through the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action document I can bet you my stipend (the whole 750$) that you will come across the word equity. I believe this was done in good faith but its implementation has lost sight of what it really means to achieve gender equity. It does not mean that women have to be given special preference to match up to the skill level of men nor do they want to hold jobs simply because they are female. Creating special parliamentary seats for women does not equal to better service delivery or representation of their needs. I think our systems have failed in implementing the goals that were envisioned in the Beijing declaration. Our women and girls do not need special favors just because of their gender nor does it mean we forget the boy child. Forgetting the boy child simply means years from now we will have to launch a new declaration on the empowerment of men. What they all need is mentorship and skill building from a young age. If we provide all the necessary tools and skills for the development of our young girls and boys there will be no need whatsoever to favor one sex over the other when opportunities arise. I will own up to using the gender card to get my way sometimes, like getting to do a class presentation first over the guys in my class or getting a seat in the bus when I am well capable of standing through a trip(hopefully I will still get a seat after this). I will even play the vulnerable card because what man does not want to act as the prince charming to a damsel in distress. Yet I never want my gender to play a role in earning a position or favors that put my skills and abilities into question. Maybe I am being a tad bit hypocritical but I want to believe that I have earned enough skills to compete on the same level with the opposite sex. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a lady accused of using her wiles to get good grades or earn a promotion. Some of these accusations maybe true but who are we to think that they are incapable of earning their way up. It is true that women worldwide face indomitable challenges more so in Africa in areas of education, health care and resources allocation. Gender mainstreaming and equity may offer solutions to these challenges but it does not mean compromising on quality so that we can all pat our backs on how well our society is doing. It is not giving special preference to women over men. I believe it is the nurturing of the skills and capabilities of both men and women from a young age and harnessing what each of them can do best. 
    826 Posted by Eva Kimonye
  • 08 Mar 2016
    I wonder when ethnic groups realized they were different, not because of their culture or practices but because of the color of their skin. When did skin color become more important than the blood that flows in our veins and when did the inner spirit that truly defines a person become second class? The emergence of the word race dates back to 17th century and is mostly used to categorize people primarily by their physical differences. I wonder who coined the word. I can imagine them sitting down in a dark room, smoking their pipes and sipping their fine scotch as they decided that the color of the skin, hair texture and facial features defined a man and his superiority. They must have had a water tight strategy because the propaganda spread like wildfire. It is no wonder the cosmetics industry has capitalized on this; there are countless lightening products in the market today and the buyers are not lacking. Think of all man has done, found cure to deadly diseases, travelled out of space, survived wars and natural disasters and yet he is unable to reconcile himself to the fact that he is one species; the human race. Not white, yellow, red, black, brown or whatever other classification you want to use. He is one species and we are all members of it I trust we have all watched or read the news on racial hate attacks or profiling. I used to think it cannot be that bad. The victims could rise beyond the hate, develop a hard skin and move on. After all, sticks and stones can break your bones but words cannot hurt you. Oh how terribly wrong I was, because when I came to be on the receiving end of the racial slur all I wanted to do was to crawl in a hole and hide. I wondered how someone could look at me and see an inferior being, a la couleur or even worse use the N word. I dreaded going out because it felt like I was walking into a lion’s den, I could feel the stares, feel them get ready to pounce as I walked on the streets and as if not ones to disappoint the shouts and crude remarks would start. I cannot tell you how many times I felt defiled or like a lesser human being.   I remember calling my best friend and bemoaning of how miserable and lonely I felt and I will never forget the words she said to me because they redefined my outlook on life here. She told me it would be a shame to live in a new country for two years and not know a soul. Hate is everywhere she argued but taking the victim role did not make me the better person. I had to reach out and open my heart to the new environment and the people. I thought she was crazy but I gave it a try and I have found acceptance for who I am and that somehow drowns the hate.   I will admit that I have gotten better at ignoring the shouts and the crude remarks. Maybe I have developed a thicker skin or I have come to the acceptance that every society has its rotten eggs. There are times I want to shout at the top of my voice or hit something or someone but that would only reinforce their belief that I am crazy plus I do not want to break my hand. So I ignore every word and go my way as if it doesn’t matter. But I still have questions, what resides in a heart that spews such venom or don’t they know it hurts? I am human too, I hurt and I crave for acceptance regardless of my skin color or my kinky hair. I bleed red, I breath oxygenand I am vulnerable with a heart that breaks just as easily. Yet in all these hate, I have found hope in the welcoming faces of total strangers and formed new friendships and I have learnt to never apologize for who I am because there can never be a more beautiful me.  
    816 Posted by Eva Kimonye
472 views Feb 06, 2017
The Politics of Autochthony

Last year we all took a module in African history and it was very enlightening and bore very lively discussions ranging from pre and post colonial Africa. Our professor was German which made most of us wonder if there was no African professor available to tell the African story. However, those hang ups were quickly forgotten and I can honestly say it was one of my best classes by far. Among the class assignments was group discussions and my colleagues and I were to discuss the politics of autochthony. Now, do not get lost in the jargon that is the word autochthony. It simply means the right to belong.

According to Geschiere, 2009 autochthony seeks to establish an irrefutable primordial right to belong and is a tactic used by mostly politicians to exclude outsiders. The term was introduced to Africa by the French in the 1900’s in an effort to gain control over different groups and communities. They were therefore able to use it as a divide and rule tactic between the communities that confronted them in the territories they conquered. In recent past the politics of belonging have been used by authoritarian regimes to divide the opposition and neutralize the effects of multi-parties in the continent. Its manifestation is demonstrated through high levels of intolerance and hostility towards “strangers” who are seen as a threat or competition in access to limited resources.

The xenophobia cases in South Africa are a perfect example where the fear is manifested among the lower level workers and the wealthy groups. Cases in xenophobic violence escalated rapidly after the end of the apartheid regime despite the anti-discrimination passages in the post apartheid regime which tried to introduce the idea of multi culturalism and nationalism. Sadly, the xenophobic flare ups continue to happen so often in South Africa leading to loss of lives and property for those who are considered as outsiders. After Henri Konan took office in Cote d’ivoire in 1993 he began to question the citizenship of individuals from the North. During this period citizens became “foreigners” if they did not have one parent who was born in Cote d’ivoire. By 1998 the law prohibited the “foreigners” from owning land, voting or running for public office. His predecessor General Robert Guei continued the xenophobic policies that targeted the northern Muslim minority. They were subjected to large scale human rights violation, rape, killings and discriminated against based on the way they dressed.

Sadly, South Africa and Cote d’ivoire are not unique cases and the politics of belonging have been demonstrated across the continent for instance with the Nubians in Kenya and Bamileke in Cameroon to mention just a few. Curiously, the Greek meaning for autochthony means “springing from the land” which would explain why it’s politics is tied to land and the soil in the African context. The final ritual in the politics of autochthony is the burial where the dead have to be buried in their ancestral home. We may however feel far removed from these cases and yet we continue to drive the trend unknowingly. In my country, there is a popular phrase that politicians like to use whenever they are held accountable for  abuse of office. “My people are being attacked” is used to evade accountability for abuse of office and misuse of public funds. Yet this tactic continues to work in favour of the politicians by dividing the country in regions and along tribal lines.

In conclusion, the politics of autochthony continue to divide the continent along tribal lines. We have allowed ourselves to be manipulated and we continue to isolate people based on religion, tribe, clans and their country of origin. Yet what value does it add to us? We miss the opportunity to learn from other cultures and find a middle ground to work together for social and economic development and well being. The vacuum left is what the politicians have filled with the politics of belonging and we continue to buy into the ideology.  

 

 References

Legum, C. & Mmari G.R.V. (1995). Mwalimu: the influence of Nyerere

Geschiere, P. (2009). The perils of belonging: Autochthony, citizenship, and exclusion in Africa and Europe. University of Chicago Press

Jennings, M., & Mercer, C. (2011). Rehabilitating nationalisms: conviviality and national consciousness in postcolonial Tanzania. Politique Africaine, 121, 87-106.

Saha, Santosh C. The politics of ethnicity and national identity. Peter Lang, 2007.