Category Archives: Opinion

Workplace Emotional IQ

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Every once in a while, someone rubs us the wrong way. Whether it is rubbishing the work you have done or just  throwing an insensitive answer at you.

Now it depends on who has offended you and their position. If it is your senior, you can chose to let go of it quickly because it affects your work. If the individual is your colleague or teammate, the justification of an apology can sometimes be greater.

Truth is, in this life, we are bound to encounter people who do not agree with us. Some get their validation from demeaning others. You may even notice a pattern with these people. Yet, we all need to focus on the goal of getting a project done. It might be a deeper personality problem that the individual needs to deal with.

When such a situation happens- notice use of when and not if- because it will happen eventually, you need to have emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.

  1. Separate the individual from the project- the show must go on despite a bruised ego. Things must move and the faster you realize this, the better for your peace of mind as an individual.
  2. Know the battles to pick- some things are better ignored, because they end up consuming so much of your time and energy.
  3. Let the person know that they have offended you (after composing yourself). It helps to maintain a respectful working relationship. Nothing personal, this is work.
  4. Know when to let a matter rest and move on. Sometimes if you let issues drag too long, it results to pettiness.

A few months ago, someone rubbed me the wrong way. I have highlighted the lessons from this experience. (I started writing  this post on the day I was offended, but held on to it. I have edited most of it. I am learning that not  everything is worth the public’s scrutiny, even as I press the publish button.)

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Talking hair- I am not my hair

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Let’s talk hair. Lately I’ve been feeling so free and comfortable in my own hair, it actually scares me sometimes.

Few months ago I wouldn’t be caught dead walking in my natural hair (not blow dried or relaxed straight). It just didn’t feel tidy enough. Come to think of it, that thought must have come from a desire I had as a school girl- to have lovely hair. I even used to dream of myself in flawless weaves. (Experiments which I have tried out and looked good.)

You see, going to school, we had no choice of plaiting our hair. It was either books, or hair. Full stop. (Not a rule in our school, rather a rule at home.)  My father was a disciplinarian who did not like it when we spent a lot of time on our hair rather than concentrating on school.

Up to form four, I rocked a short Afro, which was easy to handle. Just comb-and-get-on-with-your-day kind of hair. Which explains my ID photo, the one they refused to let me change even after three replacements. I wanted them to change it to something better, like the awesome braids I usually rock. Plus I looked like a child on that photo, 18, and in school uniform.

(Back to talking hair). January this year, I had an overwhelming desire to cut my hair. I was just tired of going to the salon every month and constantly worrying about my unkempt hair. Now this had nothing to do with the “My unkempt hair debate“. I told a friend in the office of my plan and she quoted Coco Chanel:

“A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.”- Coco Chanel. I don’t know the change I’m about to make, but I’m flirting with the possibility that the scissors might bring. Should I or should I not?

Posted by Juliet Hephzibah on Tuesday, January 19, 2016

I did not cut my hair. Instead, I decided to walk with washed combed, oiled hair. Just not straightened. (Maybe my mom could have cut part of it because she helped me cut my braids before undoing them.)

I seem to like what I see on the mirror, and I wonder what happened to this girl. Perhaps it’s just freeing to try out something out of your own will. True beauty comes from within I must say. Though enhancements have their place, they cannot change your identity. What do you think?

This may be just a phase. I might go back to the salon anytime. For now, let’s just enjoy the freedom.

Wedding committee invitation

wedding-committee-kenya
Marvin reached out to her, she was a good listener, he felt safe to pour his heart to her. He wanted it! Wanted it so bad but couldn’t face what he wanted.

All he could say to her was “Please pray with me, if God tells you anything, do tell me”. It was quite confusing because in some way, she thought it was not in her place to put words in his mouth. Her policy was,

If a man wants to marry you, it should come out clearly. Playing charades trying to guess what this brother wanted was just too much work.

Months would pass then he would reach out to her. They would meet and discuss the same thing. A wife. Who do you want to marry? Anyone who is mature and born again. “Just pray, the Lord will guide you to your wife. You must face the person you want and tell them you want to marry them”, she advised him, evidently tired from carrying on with the mind games.

Four months later she tried calling him, to catch up, but a different voice spoke on the other end. I’m looking for Marvin. “Marvin speaking”, said a deep strange voice on the other end. “I am at the barber, talk to you later”, the voice said.

Oh, maybe something happened to him. She sent him a text to ask if he was OK, because some strange person answered his phone. The text was never replied. She got the hint and stopped bothering him.

A year later, she gets a text inviting her to Marvin’s wedding committee. Now wedding committees are made of friends, people who are involved in your life. Not people you deliberately shut off from your life like you had a bad fight.

After fishing for words to reply the text, she typed her congratulatory message and how she was happy for him. And why had he not communicated for such a long time? Let it be known that she bore no hard feelings. The reply text read “Thank you, God bless you”.

Wedding committees are like fund raisers.  Maybe Marvin sat down and came up with a perfect strategy. Just fish all contacts on my phone and let them come help me marry my wife. Smart, isn’t it?

That evening, she was added to a WhatsApp group for the wedding committee. She wondered when they became so close to each other. What part would she play in the committee?

Here’s what Marvin could have done better. He could have called her to catch up. Maybe even explained the reason for his silence. Maybe come up with an excuse for that strange Nigerian deep voice that answered his phone. Anything. Then, tell her the good news of his upcoming wedding. Maybe then, Molly would feel a part of the close friend circle. “Oh! Wow! Congratulations! I am so happy for you”.  Molly would say.

Then Marvin would ask, “We are putting up a list of people to help us organize the wedding. Would you be part of our wedding committee?” Nicely, the way a civilized person would ask. All these scenarios kept running through Molly’s mind.  People do not think alike. Molly thought resignedly.

Then, she was just feeling ambushed and taken for granted. How would you react if you were in Molly’s shoes?

(This is an improvement to the previous story for readers who were left hanging. All characters are fictional, the story is partly real from a friend’s experience and just a portrayal of the reality in today’s society.)

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Blindness is relative: inABLE’s IT Bootcamp

Thika Primary School for the blind signpost.
Thika Primary School for the blind signpost. Success is our major goal: Disability is not inability.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.- Helen Keller

Cocktail parties are places of filled with possibilities. This one introduced me to the great work of inABLE. That evening, Microsoft was awarding nonprofit organizations with monetary donation of $50,000 each. They had just been awarded the Microsoft #Upgradeyourworld prize, as one of the Kenyan NGOs that impact lives positively.

I was curious about their initiative because they work with visually impaired children. Catherine Wamwangi, their country representative was more than willing to let me tell their story. She introduced me to Peter Okeyo, their program manager who took it over.

November 29, 2015, I set out to Thika Primary School for the Blind to see how visually impaired people use computers. They had an IT boot camp for students from three schools. Thika, St. Oda and St. Lucy schools for the blind.

Those children challenged me to my core. They use desktop computers and iPads like real gurus. The camp aimed at equipping the students with Java programing skills.

Walking around the school compound, I was accompanied by Zackary Muasya, a totally blind trainer with inABLE. He knew his way around the school pretty well. At some point, I was torn between offering my help, to help him navigate the not so familiar way through the school. I know too well how it feels for a person living with a disability when everyone thinks you need their help. It has happened to me- from very well meaning people.

I ask how I may assist him. “Just hold my hand”, he says. All along the way, he is really aware of his surroundings. Greeting people, noticing a fire that’s burning rubbish, and even directing me on the way to go. Zack knows how to build rapport and keeps the conversation going until we reach the secondary school block. I learn that Zack recently graduated from the University of Nairobi. One of the achievements he left there was a body representing students living with disabilities.

We reach the class that has over 20 students, all busy on their talking iPads. I address them like many other visitors who have probably come to see them working in the past. Then, just then, I feel compelled to inform them that I am also physically challenged. “Today you have proven to me that disability is really not inability”, I tell them.

Part off the IT Boot Camp.
Part off the IT Boot Camp using iPads.

These children have great dreams of becoming great people in society. One girl wants to be a lawyer another a magistrate to fight for the rights of people with disability. Moses from St. Oda wants to be a teacher, because he appreciates the work teachers have put into their lives. One boy even types my blog address on an iPad.

There are totally blind, partially blind and students living with albinism. Georbert Athoo, one of the instructors tells me that people living with Albinism are classified as visually impaired. “We train them on braille because eventually, there is the possibility of losing their sight altogether”, he says.  “We train primary school children and the staff working in the schools”, he adds.

Walking back to the primary school block, Zack gives me a tip on typing using one hand. “Have you tried using the sticky keys?” he asks. “It helps when you have to type multiple keys on the keyboard concurrently”, he adds. I went in search for a story and ended up with more than one lessons, I silently tell myself.

As if to crown it all, Zack remarks, “I don’t worry of my Inability, Instead, I focus on what I can do”, he said. “I live a normal life, just like a visually able person”, he adds.

Zackary Muasya, an instructor at inABLE and Juliet.
Zackary Muasya, an instructor at inABLE and Juliet.

Peter tells me that they discovered some of these tricks when they were met with challenges. “We have grown from a few slow computers in 2009, now we have computer labs for the blind”, he says.

inABLE encourages corporates to develop easily accessible sites for visually impaired people. Keeping in line with their mission to provide accessibility to visually impaired persons, they offer their services to corporates, making websites more accessible. Some of the corporates they work closely with are Safaricom Ltd and Safaricom Foundation.

Asante Mwalimu! Huruma Girls teachers made me who I am.

I’ve always been a friend to my teachers, something that made me look weird during school days. Now, to clear the air, no! I’ve never been a snitch neither have I ever been a prefect. Just that all through my schooling life, I have had friendships with different teachers.

This is why when I thought of doing a post on Asante Mwalimu, I was hard pressed to pick one teacher I would give thanks to. After much thought, I have decided to pick my high school- Huruma Girls’ High School.

When I first joined the school, I didn’t like it. I went in with a promise to be transferred to a boarding school. Something which never happened, and I would cry over every beginning of term as my parents paid my school fees (when they still could pay). I guess God Knows what’s best for us, because maybe if I could have transferred, it could have been the end of my education.

Mrs. Henrietta Ikambili

Image Credit: Facebook
Image Credit: Facebook

She was my Head Teacher, considered to be very tough. She came to our school when I was in form three. She touched my life when she allowed me in class even though I had a lot of school fees arrears. I had been chased away from class enough times, sneaking back so that I don’t miss out. Sometimes I would stay away for as long as a whole month. She saw the potential in me to the extent of registering me for KCSE when I didn’t have the 3,000 shillings to register. The deadline was fast approaching and my parents could not raise this amount.

This great woman gave me my certificate four years after sitting for my exams, overlooking the 25000 shillings debt that I had. On top of that, she refunded me 500 shillings caution money. Now, she may have forgotten this act but it is permanently etched in my mind.

She let my younger sister learn without being chased from school based on the relationship we had. My mother had just to arrange a payment plan with the school.

Mrs. Agnes Obutu (Mwendwa Marete)

Image Credits: Facebook
Image Credits: Facebook

My perfectionist Home science teacher. You never wanted to be on her bad side. Everything had to be done right. From setting the table to the back stitch on our final project. You would undo your stitches as many times as possible and redo them to her specification. (My final project, a skirt and blouse emerged the best and was used to teach the next batch of form four Home science students).

Mama Ryan (Mrs. Obutu) welcomed me to live in her house in Buru Buru when I was doing my KCSE. This was because the slum environment that we were living in, was not conducive for studying. An action that resulted in my attaining a B- score in KCSE. Now picture someone opening the doors to her house and welcoming a stranger to live with her family. Her eldest son Ryan, then about seven years old, loved to sing me the song, “I’m your romeo, would you be my Juliet”.

When I discovered I was pregnant, I went MIA on her for two years. We had a reunion after I had had a stroke and she was still willing to help me find sponsors for my education. She even called a radio station once complaining of how I was being put on hold for months before I could get treatment, after I got the stroke.

She is more than a friend, she is one of my mentors. When I got the opportunity to go to Canada for the screening of Abstaining From Reality, she helped me prepare my speech. She even welcomed me to speak to the youth in her church when she was delivering the youth sermon.

Mama Ryan, words cannot express the gratitude I have for your continual contribution in my life.

Other teachers

This post will be long if I numbered every single teacher who contributed positively to my life. Nonetheless, it would not serve justice for me to leave out the generosity of those teachers.

After I got a stroke, the teachers contributed money and I was called back to collect it for my medical needs. It was an envelope with 5000 shillings in it. This was not all, Mrs. Benta Otsyeno, my other Home Science teacher arranged for me to have free consultation with her husband, a private doctor at Kenyatta National Hospital.

My English Grammar teacher, Mrs. Mbuvi, who used to call me the poetic girl is one of my inspirations for taking a writing career. She used to ask me, “Juliet, what are you doing with your A in English?” How can I forget my literature teacher who narrated to the class the story of Romeo and Juliet. I remember Mrs. Ang’ango by this phrase, “What is in a name? A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet”.

So here goes… Asante Walimu- Thank you Teachers.

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It is an undisputed fact that teachers play one of the most important roles in society. Without teachers, we cannot have an educated and successful country. In Kenya, very little recognition is given to the teachers which has resulted in a demotivated and even under performing teacher profile. Children do not want to become teachers as they view the job as difficult, unrewarding and unappreciated.

It is for this reason that Jacaranda Africa launched the ‘Asante Mwalimu’ initiative which is all about celebrating teachers for the important role they play in our society.

The story that motivated me to write

My Canadian friend Elaine and I in 2007
My Canadian friend Elaine and I in 2007

June 2007, I was in Canada at my friend Elaine’s house when suddenly I became famous. I had made it on the Calgary Herald. It was a good thing right? Not until I had a second opinion from a friend.“The journalist was brutal.” Only then did it hit me that how one is portrayed on the media affects their public image. 

During the interview, I didn’t give it much thought. Of course some facts had been embellished, such as the Simon Makonde story of being infected on the same night. Anyway, that being beside the point, this is one story that acted as a motivator to me.

Juliet’s HIV tale highlights Canada’s myopia on Africa

She lives the tragedy of being an African aid failure — and perhaps reflects Canada’s AIDS apathy as well. Juliet Awuor lost her virginity and went HIV-positive the same night in a Kenyan slum.

Her infected boyfriend wooed Juliet using the lame line that he’d forever be her Romeo. The 17-year-old, who had only been exposed to sex abstinence promotions, didn’t know how to use a condom — and the boyfriend wasn’t inclined to deliver a quickie bedroom education. Six months later, her Romeo gone, naive Juliet was diagnosed HIV-positive.

Now she’s 23 and on a mission to spread the educational emphasis beyond an international no-sex message to a more practical safe-sex emphasis.

“If I’d known how to protect myself, I would’ve made a much better choice,” she told me. “Abstinence is good and should be encouraged, but if they want to have real success, they should try to show us how to protect ourselves.”

Read the whole story here.

He was writing the story from his view. He also managed to get the intended message out there. A message which was far removed from Juliet. He was talking of the apathy of the Canadian legislators.

That story was among the reasons I decided to pursue a career in writing. Perhaps subconsciously to be empowered to write my own story. The article ends with a classic punchline.

Of course, it’s all too late to help Juliet. In a tragic case of modern life imitating Shakespearean art, her life will be shortened by a Romeo she should’ve avoided like the plague he was carrying.

Reading the story years later, I have this smile on. The smile that says, “Don Martin, if only you knew.” I am still alive and don’t think I have an appointment with death anytime soon. But hey! Let’s see the bright side- He motivated me to pursue a career in writing. Even the birth of this blog was inspired by that? Maybe not entirely.

Some relationships aren’t worth your time

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This life has taught me to be humble enough to accept my wrongs. It has also taught me how valuable I am. Truth is people will place as much value on you as much as you place on yourself.

Girl, you don’t have to beg to be loved, you are so damn beautiful for that. Take a look at the mirror. The girl staring back has some value. The amount of value is to be determined by that girl. Ooh! It frustrates me to have to squeeze information out of someone who calls me their ‘sweet wife’, ‘baby’, ‘darling’ and other sweet nothings during the chatty moments. If someone feels so sweet that they can’t spare some communication time, then it’s time to smell the coffee and stop wasting your life on them.

It seems some men just think of themselves as a gift from above to the womenfolk. As if being called a wife will solve all of your problems. No seriously, it’s as though that trophy written Mrs. So and so, would suddenly elevate you to a new level.

People in relationships disagree all the time. They also communicate and sort their issues out. What if someone decides to go silent when you’ve hardly had any disagreement? Even the most introverted of people communicate. And this should be even more if they are in love. I am the most terrible introvert that I’ve ever met, yet I try. They are just not that into you, the earlier you realize it and move on, the better. Not much collateral damage!

I don’t get this issue of someone snubbing all your conversations only to contact you when they think it suits them. Only when they need to make a booty call, that’s when you feature in their mind. Responding to them then, only feeds their dysfunction. It’s time to stop playing the wimp and Girl, run! He is a heart break waiting to happen.

Image Credits

 

Does our healthcare system value everyone?

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So yesterday I arrived home at about 7 pm, and found some neighbors looking at something that seemed like a framed photo.  I greeted them and walked on to start the journey to my new forth floor penthouse.

I churn out a few signature tunes  as I climb the fleet of uneven stairs. Those stairs seem like someone must have run out of cement just before finishing the top floor. So I stop the singing momentarily to catch my breath before going on. That tells me of the weight I have added since I graduated. I have always had these signature melodies that announce my arrival, and not once have I stopped to catch my breath.

So I reach my humble aboard, open my door still singing (I can’t recall which song). If you know me well, songs just come subconsciously and my vocals oblige. None of my neighbors have ever complained about it. I guess that’s why I have carried this habit. You see living alone can be a lonesome affair. You have to spice it up with something.

I open the door and right at my foot, I meet a white paper. Now who is this secret admirer? Imagine getting a love note dropped in your door. Just kidding. This was not a love note, this was a note informing the tenants of the demise of one of us.

He fell down about two months ago at work and injured his spine. Since the accident, he has been bleeding internally, so he was swollen. He had a clinic appointment every week being treated for the wrong thing. He was seeing the physiotherapist, yet he had internal  bleeding. Now that we have this background, let me begin my rant.

On Thursday last week, Kelvin Juma Wangila, went to Kenyatta National Hospital and stayed for two days waiting in line for admission. His family then took him to a smaller clinic because he was in so much pain. He died on the way. That is why my thoughtful neighbors organized for a meeting to contribute money so that we go condole with his family after the burial.

Now KNH has not been in the best of books. Earlier this month, an accident victim spent 18 hours in an ambulance because Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi claimed it did not have an ICU bed. Private hospitals would not admit him without a cash payment of Sh200,000.

I am outraged by this disregard of human life because I experienced the same treatment when my baby died. I was calling the nurse to come have a look at my crying baby who was obviously running out of breath. The male nurse very comfortably seated at the nurses station, was saying the same thing, “I am coming”. When my baby got worse, a doctor came to check on him. I remember her saying, “we can only wait for the morning, because the ICU is full”. She was talking to a colleague as they put drips on my baby.

Thirty minutes later, the situation got worse, and the male nurse instructed me to carry my baby and follow him. I removed my shoes, held the drip carefully and carried my baby to the room where he breathed his last. That was 13 years ago. This is 2015, and still the full ICU story exists.

My question, why the negligence? Does it mean that in our health care system, someone’s life is measured by the worth of his wallet? Just asking.

Image Credit

Men and women’s hair: Can’t please y’all

Credit: MAWE facebook
Credit: MAWE facebook

I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am not your expectations no….

Not my words but India Arie’s song. This will serve as the perfect intro to this story.

I think men should just chill out and give us a break, because lately they have been sending their missiles on women’s hair. First, there was the MAWE (Men Against Weaves) facebook page with all sorts of jokes about weave wearers. Some of the men in that group were lauding prominent women with natural hair. Some of these women are Kenyan first lady Margaret Kenyatta, Uganda’s first lady Mrs. Museveni, Graça Machel, Lupita Nyongo, and Emmy Kosgei .

Well, I respect those great women for choosing their distinct style. After all, everyone has to have a style that defines them. It should however not form a benchmark on which to judge all women. After all, who defines what is beautiful?

Then a famous Kenyan businessman decided to classify weaves as dead people’s hair. He said, “What I hate in this country for our ladies, is wearing dead people’s hair”. He shared his sentiments on national TV, and raised an uproar on social media among women folk.

Yesterday another man hit a raw nerve when  his opinion on women’s hair raised massive selfie protest on twitter under the hashtag #Myunkempthair

Here is the tweet.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsGranted, some ladies take very good care of the natural look but others are just using it as an excuse to walk around with unkempt hair. — CN ® (@crazynairobian) September 28, 2015

 

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Why did I decide to write this? On Saturday, I had my friend cut my braids because I felt like undoing them. After looking at the mirror, a light bulb hit my head. So I decided to come to work in my short running braids. Several people told me they liked what they saw when I went to church on Sunday. Then Monday, the unkempt hair conversation. My take in all this, is there is beauty in diversity, so respect the women’s style choices.

Ooh! Here are my unkempt braids.
My unkempt hair 2

Careful, it might get snatched

Matatu

Rush hour and the Matatu touts are not bothered about people entering the minibuses. People are flocking in after a long day of work. I look for one that looks serene.

I just want peace of mind. Most of them are loud! One even has a graffiti warning “if it’s loud, you’re old”. I oblige and enter the one that suits me.

Once inside, I scan around quickly to get my seat. They are all occupied save for one next to a man who judging from his posture, has just been paid. He has just come from Nakumatt, his shopping is right under his seat. He scrolls through his galaxy S6 phone, busy enjoying the internet experience.

I sit next to him on what is remaining of the chair. It’s uncomfortable but I endure because this is not my car. Thoughts rush through my mind to tell him to sit properly. Just before I open my mouth, I advise myself against it.

Why of all the days did traffic choose to stall today? I silently curse the painfully slow traffic. We have taken 30 minutes to reach OTC, on our way out of Nairobi’s CBD. These are the moments I admire those who choose to walk, and there are many who have opted to do that.

In a flush, someone from outside opens the window and the galaxy S6 is no more. I am jolted by the impulse my seatmate has, he steps on my foot as he is startled. Instead of complaining to him, a sudden empathetic feeling engulfs me. I have been in those shoes before.

We start talking. I tell him how this part of town is not a place to flush out phones and gadgets. There are professional pickpockets who have perfected the art of sliding open matatu windows and shopping for people’s phones. I know the advice is late in coming but I have to sustain the conversation, the tension has to be diffused in some way.

He then asks me for my phone, to call his brother. Reluctantly, I pass him my phone. I’m thinking, “Yours has been snatched, and what if mine is also…..Never mind”. He tries to dial the number but his fingers are shaking, so much that I offer to dial the number for him.

“Your phone has been stolen; do you have the IMEI number? Please call Safaricom to track it”. Wait, so it was not your phone? That’s water under the bridge.

Gadgets have brought us much convenience, since we now can work even in traffic. Professional snatchers are also aware of this, and they cash in on the unsuspecting road users. Be careful while enjoying your gadgets on Nairobi roads.