#BREAK THE BIAS…Technical Education for the Coastal Girl -Child
Could you imagine a gender equal world, a world free of bias, stereotypes and discriminations?
A world that is diverse, equitable, inclusive and where difference is valued and celebrated?
Due to cultural beliefs such as religion and traditional customs, female inhabitants from Coast and other
marginalized areas have for a long time fallen victims of gender inequality where even the voice of the civic education and protests from the women’s rights movement against such vices have proved insufficient. Most of the women and the girl-child in the coastal region of Kenya have not gone to school because they have been made to believe that education is forbidden by culture and religion. There are a number of families who to date, would not allow their women and girls to partake courses that are deemed
to be for men only by their community. Technical courses in the field of Engineering, Planning and Architecture have been their worst rival.
The International Women’s Day is a global day celebrated annually on 8th March, to acknowledge and honor women’s cultural, political and socio- economic contributions and achievements. It is also a platform for women to voice up their rights and condemn any form of inequality and abuse against them.
In solidarity with the coastal girl child, Technical University of Mombasa organized a magnificent function to mark the International Women’s celebrations which was filled with pomp, glamour and style of coastal cultural paraphernalia to ratify the theme of the day. Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. Knowing that bias exists isn't enough. Action is needed to level the playing field. TUM thus adopted the theme and its’ symbolism to serve their local purpose and meaning, hence setting the agenda for the day: #Break the Bias, with Technical Education for The Coastal Girl-child.
The ladies were adorned in Mijikenda regalia known as ‘Kisutu’ significantly signifying justice, dignity, hope, purity, albeit a controversial concept.
Aside from TUM staff, Students and alumni, the event was graced by women from WITED, TVET, Bamburi Cement, Sanlam Kenya, Kericho Gold Tea, Ashton Apparel EPZ ltd, Kenya Association of women in Tourism and National Bank of Kenya. These companies collaborate with TUM as stakeholders and partners in a variety of events across the university; where together they engaged in fruitful discussion, to empower not only the girl-child but also elevate the boy-child to responsible men in the society.
With a presentation from 14 Coast TVET institutions, Women in Technical Education and Development (WITED) had a double celebration witnessing a major milestone in the history of the coastal girl-child technical education blossom. Under the mentorship of TUM and by extension Association of Technical Universities and Polytechnics in Africa (ATUPA), majority of girls now flock into those institutions with ease to undertake courses of their choice. Notably, some of the girls were picked and saved from early marriages, FGM, broken homes, child-labour, beach-hotel prostitution, teen pregnancies, rape, drug-trafficker couriers and other school dropout vices.
Ms. Rose Kebati from Bamburi Cement Company, who is the chairperson of the (TUM) TVET Board,
graced the event in style, with all her colleagues geared to impress, majority of them have ventured into male dominated careers by the gender. She advised young girls and women to unleash their potentials, share their skills and take initiative of joining the technical world. She further affirmed to them that there is no superiority in any career. She later challenged women to take up track driving opportunities and engineering which are largely dominated by men in their company.
Consenting to the day’s theme, #Break the Bias, the ladies from Bamburi Cement, dressed for the event in (PPE) personal protective equipment attire and safety boots. They take pride in what they do; their joy was evident as fellow women cheered at their boldness of working in an environment viewed as a male-dominated reserve. They shared their experiences by articulating their achievements and changes they brought in their firm in line with affirmative action. Referred to as the day’s ‘Big Girls/Sisters’, Bamburi Ladies pledged support and encouraged every lady who intend to pursue careers in the technical world and cleared doubt for those who are already in the field but a bit skeptical about the hospitality of the other gender in the said field. Shedding light on the available opportunities for girls and women, Ms. Grace Tunje, one of the champions from Bamburi had this to say “We are not any less smart than the other gender. As a matter of fact, we’ve been breaking records previously kept by men. Majority of us here head critical departments in the company where we do a great job. Be sure that we women are gaining the ground!”
This particular event was not only graced by ladies but also few men who would go to any extent to support women. One of these gentlemen was the institution’s Deputy Vice Chancellor – Academic, Research & Extension; who is a Gynecologist by profession – Prof. Peter G. Gichangi. In his speech, he called upon all men to care and support women and concurrently urged women to join the male dominated fields for there’s no competition between men and women but excellence. He further asserted that what a man can do, a woman can do it better. He proclaimed how lucky TUM is for being led by a super woman.
While launching the function, the ecstatic Vice Chancellor-Prof .Laila Abubakar appreciated the guests and sponsors of the event for the great effort made towards making the event successful. She remarked, “Indeed, behind every successful man there is a woman and behind every successful woman there is a woman.” She further stated the challenges girls face like school dropping out, cultural practices where boys are being educated and not girls, should be a thing of the past, as the gender mainstreaming committee and other arms of the university work towards making Tum a safe haven for all girls, irrespective of their personal or family background status. She advocated for mothers to motivate their daughters to venture into technical courses where girls perform even better than boys.
TUM as a center of excellence for TVET courses, has nurtured the coastal polytechnics and vocational institutions in offering the TVET programs. Prof. Laila highlighted that TUM under the Directorate of TVET in partnership GIZ has been able to train many girls in different competency based technical courses where majority have been able to secure employment, while others have opened their own businesses. She concluded by pledging her support for every girl-child to realize their dreams, as she welcomed the chief guest all the way from Gambia, Mrs. Jahou S. Faal – The Secretary General of Association of Technical Universities and Polytechnics in Africa (ATUPA).
The elated chief guest applauded TUM’s enormous contributions to the successes in the region’s TVET institutions terming it as the future of Kenya as its relevance to the market guarantees future jobs. She commended Prof. Laila and the organizers of the event, who managed to pull together such a huge crowd of young and mature ladies to attend and contribute to the purpose of womanhood and its future, not forgetting the inclusion of the boy-child. This event being one of a kind, marked and celebrated the women and girls of TUM, the achievements made professionally, and raising awareness about women's equality, lobbying for accelerated gender parity, fundraising for the coastal girl-child, bringing the industry to partner, share, mentor, collaborate and be the voice of the voiceless.
Three central beliefs underpin and guide the purpose and provisions for women:
Identifying, celebrating and increasing visibility of women's achievements. These beliefs can help forge equality, strategic collaborations based on a foundation of shared purpose, trust and appreciation which impact positive change for women.
Creating awareness in the coastal region, by raising meaningful narratives, resources and activity can also help combat gender bias and discrimination to accelerate gender parity.
Mdm. Jahou S. Faal further dared women to step up from their comfort zones and contribute immensely to developments of each and every sector of their workplace, community and country. In addition, she challenged women into being great mentors and role models in the society. “We have a big task in leadership and to find solutions to problems that contribute to stagnation.” She concluded.
The speech of Ms. President Mombasa, Resource Mobilizer and program coordinator of Association for the Physically Disabled in Kenya (APDK) Coast region, Ms. Jemimah Kutata, was one of those commanding the congregation for its interactive nature. She talked of barriers that hinder the participation of People with Disability (PWD), especially women and unjust treatments rooted in the misconception that disability entails inability which usually lead to PWD being relegated. She expounded that PWD are people with human condition of inherent worth, strength and determination to succeed just like any other person; therefore, should be treated equally to others. In support of the day’s theme, #Break the Bias, she addressed the role women with disability play in leadership, using herself as an example of women who have fought all odds to sit on the same table with men, further stating that when women partake in leadership the economy of a country rises. Mrs. Kutata advised parents to bring out children with disabilities and uplift them to change narratives and perceptions of the community. She concluded with a slogan of “We are loud, loyal and passionate” to encourage women and let them know that they’re capable of doing everything done by men.
Just as the TUM Gender mainstreaming Committee and the Corporate Communication team created a platform for every super woman and girl-child, regardless of their status; to meet and discuss issues that influence their lives. It’s a plea to every woman out there to note that, the world is for women to fix, nurture and uphold, not the other way round. Let all ladies be the Mekatilili wa Menza of their time and stand firm against any vices aimed at women or girl-child, for they are created for greatness.
Let’s make a difference, think globally and act locally!!
We should make every day International Women's Day at TUM.
Do your bit to ensure that the future for the coastal girl-child is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.
“Strong women; May we know them, May we be them, May we raise them…”
Toast to all the phenomenal women…!!