A bird’s eye view of Kenyan women - Daily Nation

A bird’s eye view of Kenyan women

Saturday January 18 2014

There has been endless debate regarding Kenyan women and their attitude towards men, love, and relationships, with Ugandan and Tanzanian women often being compared more favourably to us for their subservience and willingness to let men lead where a Kenyan woman would rather take charge.

There has been endless debate regarding Kenyan women and their attitude towards men, love, and relationships, with Ugandan and Tanzanian women often being compared more favourably to us for their subservience and willingness to let men lead where a Kenyan woman would rather take charge. 

There has been endless debate regarding Kenyan women and their attitude towards men, love, and relationships, with Ugandan and Tanzanian women often being compared more favourably to us for their subservience and willingness to let men lead where a Kenyan woman would rather take charge.

On the other hand, women like Emmy Kosgei, who recently married Nigerian pastor Anselm Madubuko, are proving that Kenyan women do not have to confine their search for love within Kenyan borders.

But are these just stereotypes or are Kenyan women really as aggressive as they have been described? Are we driven more by money and financial security than love and family? Do we make better business partners than wives? Are Kenyan men better off marrying our East African sisters? We asked a few foreign men who have dated, are dating, or are married to Kenyan women for their opinion on the subject.

Alexandros Konstantaras is from Greece and has lived in Kenya for seven years. During his stay in the country, and before he got married to a Kenyan, he dated a couple of Kenyan women of different ages.

“Kenyan women, especially in Nairobi, are quite independent,” he says. “In the beginning I did not own a car and my Kenyan date used to drive me home or to the clubs. Initially it felt weird because it is the man who usually does that but I got used to it.”

HARDWORKING CAREER WOMEN

He says he likes the fact that many Kenyan women are hard-working. “A Kenyan woman won’t wait for a man to buy her a car. She will work and get one. I know so many young Kenyan women who are single mothers, either by choice or by circumstance, who didn’t give up on their dreams in order to take care of their children.

“In Greece, a single mother will probably compromise on her dreams in order to raise her children. Here you find mothers who have raised children and have a career at the same time.

“Women in my country have more of a housewife mentality but my Kenyan wife can chase a career and also help in the house. She can balance both even though it is a challenge.”

Mike*, a Canadian, concurs. He says Kenyan women have a strong work ethic compared to Canadian women. That is partly because the Canadian government offers its citizens a generous safety net which may have stymied work performance and creativity.

His wife, a Kenyan, always looks forward to earning her pay and not being on the dole.

“She likes working and takes pride in her output, performance and reputation. This is in part because she feels compelled to work hard and earn money to support some of her family back home.”

FAMILY VALUES

John High, an American who has been living in Kenya for 18 years, says that Kenyan women are family-oriented and look out for extended family while in the US, extended families do not feature high on the list.

Holga* is from Germany and is living in Turkey with his Kenyan girlfriend. He says that although she is not different from other women in the world, the difference he sees between Kenyan and Turkish or German women is that the Kenyans are in general very much church-focused and have a “weird” understanding of the Bible. “They take the Bible as ‘God’s words’ and will not reflect or critically scrutinise the information given in this book.”

And Tresor, a Congolese Master’s student who has been living in Kenya for the past year, says that Kenyan women are straightforward, hardworking, and focused. “At first it was sort of annoying that my girlfriend would only find time for me over the weekend since she was busy with her studies and career during the week. But now I understand that it’s their nature,” he says.

All the men agree that dating a Kenyan woman has enriched their lives, thanks to the cultural differences. Holga says that dating a Kenyan woman has widened his mind and allowed him to “look outside the box”.

“It is always worth it getting new experiences and understanding that there are other viewpoints on the planet. Before we started dating, my girlfriend didn’t know much about European culture and literature, which we Europeans think are the basis of the world.

“I didn’t know that Kiswahili is the main language connecting East Africa. So in her daily life, European literature was irrelevant and so was Kiswahili for me. East Africans can also survive without having read the Iliad, which we think is impossible. She added positively to my general culture and knowledge.”

Alexandros, on the other hand, admits that dating in Kenya can be a challenge, especially when it comes to cultural habits, even if it does open up your mind. “You get to see how other people have grown up and appreciate the differences in our upbringings. I grew up listening to Greek rock and folk music, watching Greek and European television and cinema,” he says, adding that, “my wife was listening to rhythm and blues and Kenyan pop music and watching Hollywood movies I had never heard of! Thank God for Michael Jackson because we managed to find some common tunes in him!”

But then, not everything is perfect, as they have experienced both the good and bad qualities.

“Of course there are exceptions. There are women out there who have made it their job to seduce men in bars for material benefit, but these don’t represent the majority of Kenyan women,” Alexandros says.

Tresor agrees: “An observation that I’ve made on the negative side is, when you have money, they will flock around you and when you’re broke, you’re on your own.”

*Names have been changed.

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