She is pursuing a post graduate degree in Refugee Studies and Forced Migration. She is in full-time employment in the humanitarian sector and is a voracious reader. And she is tired of the ‘sponsor culture’ and the perception that young women are all about being kept by older men. She has had it up to ‘here’ about the negative press that her agemates are attracting. But talk is cheap.
Kesho Kioko, 25, is doing something about it through her initiative, #ConvoswithKesh. This is a monthly chat session where young people like her meet and discuss relationship matters.
What is #ConvoswithKesh about?
The idea came about from the numerous stories that portray young women as home wreckers, illegitimate lovers and seekers of older men to finance their lavish lifestyles. There is too much of media coverage of these stories that involve young women and also young men, caught up in scandalous love affairs, some of which, as we have read, have tragic endings.
This constant focus on these sensational accounts of love triangles and sponsored lifestyles is depriving generations of people of a healthy and positive outlook on love, dating and relating with members of the opposite sex.
Our first chat session, dubbed Girl-Child Boy-Child Intervention, paved way for young people to express their views on relationships between the sexes. It also attracted the older people who had a lot to share about what they thought of the young people’s view of male – female relationships.
How does Girl-Child Boy-Child Intervention address this problem?
It all started as general conversations which became heated debates between my agemates and some older people in our circles. There seems to be an ingrained perception that men are incapable of being faithful in a relationship and that they can use their money and power to get any woman they want. There is also the notion that all young women are easy. It is not true. Many of us work hard to earn our own upkeep. ConvoswithKesh is a platform that gives us a voice to share, discuss and offer relationship advice to help us navigate the Kenyan dating scene.
Why do you think that the young women are making the wrong headlines when it comes to relationship choices?
Unfortunately, it is true that there are many young women who choose to have relationships with men as old as their fathers purely for financial gain. I think it all starts at home. What is it that this young woman has grown up observing from the home front? What idea of love do they see at home? The perception of what love is will be the one that they will carry into their public adult life. For example, you can have a young girl who did not have a father figure while growing up. This girl might gravitate towards an older man to fill the void of a father figure in her life who can take care of her. Girls also tend to be overly protected at home – to an unhealthy degree in some cases. When they are released into the world, they cannot survive on their own as they have grown up being shown that they need to depend on someone for support and that they will always be taken care of. They unfortunately find that the world is not as kind as mum and dad. But since they were not raised to become independent, they end up seeking an older person to take care of them.
We also cannot dispute the moral decay in our country. The older people, instead of guiding and advising the young people, are taking advantage of us and our situations. We have blurred the line between what is wrong and what is right.
You are a bold young woman to start such a platform that brings together older and younger people to discussion such emotive topics…
It is important to give media play to the people who are engaged in normal healthy man–woman relationships. For example, the Girl-Child Boy-Child talk show invites older married people to share what makes a healthy relationship work, what has made theirs work. It is an open mic event, so there is a lot of engagement by everyone. The first open mic event was held in Lavington, at the Kioko Art Gallery. It bothers me when, in my line of work, I met foreigners who say that they are wary of dating a Kenyan girl. This is because we young women are perceived to be all about clubbing and alcohol consumption, that we are incapable of having intelligent conversations.
What motivated you to start ConvoswithKesh?
I was fed up with seeing headline after headline of stories that disparage young women, stories that feed into the myth that girls are not hard-working and need to be kept. I believe that one should be the change that they want to see. While these conversations started in a cafeteria with my colleagues and friends, I felt that it was important to have a platform that allows us to honestly open up and tackle these issues.
How can those reading this engage in these conversations?
By joining our monthly talk show, which we hold at the Kioko Art Gallery in Lavington. The next event will be on May 25. We’re on social media too, #ConvoswithKesh on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
What next for this platform?
ConvoswithKesh is an initiative that I am passionate about. It is my way of making a positive contribution in the society. It is driven by the understanding that a society is only a reflection of its people. I am determined to do my bit to bring about the change I want to see.