We're not educated on the serious harm we cause each other daily

Friday October 9 2015

By ABIGAIL ARUNGA
More by this Author

I hate those blinding traffic-speed sensor lights. They are such a nuisance. 

Every time, when you are driving in the dark, you are suddenly blinded by too-bright lights that, let's be honest, no one really feels are doing anything good (until someone gets arrested of course).

They are just as annoying as idiot drivers who drive with full lights, oblivious to how little they are contributing to sanity on the road.

I have taken to putting down my visor every time I see one coming from afar. The other day, my boda boda guy was complaining about them as well; about how hard it is to drive with them in your face.

For me, they are a vexatious hindrance. I hope they are actually helping and  I wish there was a better way to take pictures of speeding offenders.

For others, however, they are a very serious health risk. I have met Sitawa Wafula twice in the past two weeks; first, when we were both on different panels at the Social Good Summit held at Strathmore Business School, and the second time, when we were invited, as female bloggers, to attend and collaborate at an Intel #SheWillConnect campaign.

Just a quick summary: the Social Good Summit is held every year to talk about global goals and various important matters from sustainable energy to mental health to 20th century digital storytelling, which was what my panel discussed, alongside columnist Oyunga Pala and Daniel Muli of the revolutionary Just A Band. 

The Intel #SheWillConnect seminar was aimed at spreading information on how few women actually have proper computer literacy outside our WhatsApp groups. The numbers are actually surprising – there is a gender gap of 43 per cent in Kenya alone.

Intel noticed this and decided to start literacy camps all over Africa, as well as a USSD text service to held the girls find out the nearest camps all over Kenya. Now Kenyan girls are making apps that will transform their lives.

LIGHTS TRIGGER A FIT

No, this summit isn't just a 'guy' thing. Sitawa and I were there as a representation of the women who are actually connected, among others like Kitt Nyang'aya-Kiarie of Raising Kendi and Njeri Olang of House of Olang, to talk about what we can do across our separate fields to contribute to the movement.

Sitawa's field? Mental health.

Sitawa is a prolific mental health ambassador. She works tirelessly, when she can, to promote awareness on all types of mental health. Bipolar, and epilepsy, both of which she has, are particularly close to her heart.

So concerned is she at the state of mental health in Kenya, that, using money she won from a prize, she started a free mental health hotline, where people can text and get support for mental health issues. The hotline to call is 22214.

It is amazing to me that there are individuals doing so much for something that people care so little about. Sitawa's fight opened up my eyes to something that I had never thought about before.

I complain about the lights because they hurt my eyes and are difficult to drive by or ignore. People like Sitawa, with epilepsy, complain about those same lights because they get epileptic seizures.

Flashing lights can often trigger a fit. At the Intel meet, Sitawa told me that when she attends events, she has to tell photographers at the event to not take pictures of her with the flash directed towards her. And the lights pose a problem as well.

Now, I know people with epilepsy. Most people know someone with mental health problems; it isn't something that makes one an outlier anymore and people are slowly getting over the concept that it is simply 'kuenda wazimu'.

Yet, if someone had a fit right in front of me, short of holding a spoon to their tongue, I would have no idea what to do. Would you?

How many photographers think about epilepsy when they are taking pictures? Did whoever put up the cameras on our roads think about what illness they were triggering?

Probably not. Most people don't. And that needs to change. We need to educate ourselves on more than just our whining about traffic and taxes. We need to be more considerate of our fellow Kenyans.

You know the number to call.