The Lamu Cultural Festival flooded this island with energy, color, music and thick crowds of visitors. On Friday I was able to talk to Muhammad for a long time when I worked with Kikozi at their small table in town to educate people about what they are doing. Kikozi is the non-profit working to empower women and i have been working with them while I have been here. And Muhammad is the manager of the group. He is also one of the most humble, selfless people I have met during my whole time in Kenya. The way that he works with these women is truly amazing. He has a quite way of leading them, laughing with them and giving them direction and guidance in the work that they are doing within their local communities. Each of the women (there are about 47 peer educators) have their own women’s group in the areas that they are from. Thus he gives them the structure from which to work abut how they should be educating these women abut HIV/AIDS. His eyes are soft and his tone is like that of a child in a primary class who is quiet but brilliant: the kid who may wear glasses and sit in the back of the classroom most of the time. But, when that kid gets to the front of the classroom to solve a math problem on the board a powerful force attracts everyone’s attention. Side conversations are quelled. Other students stop bounding their pens on their desks. Everyone knows that this kid, the quiet smarty-pants, is going to solve the problem correctly so they want to watch. Closely. And, sure enough, seconds later the problem is solved flawlessly. This is exactly how Mohammad works. He is truly a source of stability for the Kikozi group as a whole. They watch him and learn from him. Now this is kid of odd or ironic because he is a male and this is a women’s’ group. But I think it is very cool because is shows that gender relations are not always what we think they are: men over here and women over there, men leading women with force, women being speechless.
Mohammad and I escape for a bit sit together at a local joint on Saturday morning when I am helping with the Kikozi stand. Flies covering the table. Almost all men around us. The smell of fried food emanates from the kitchen. The plastic chairs rub hard against the cement floor as we take a seat. We each get a Madafu. A Madafu is a coconut cut open so that you can drink the juice out of it. Refreshing. As we sit there are moments of silence. The sounds of the wild streets are still present but we have escaped their crazyness for a while. And there are moments of silence over our Madafus. But we know each other well enough that the silence is okay it is not that awkward silence that you feel with someone you don’t know. Then, I ask his what his plans are I the years to come. I want to know if he will stay with Kikozi. “I have no plans of going anywhere,” he responds. I almost feel bad for asking the question. But I needed to know because I Think that strong leadership can truly make or break and organization – and, right now, his strong leadership is making Kikozi great. Thus, the success of Kikozi rests in Muhammad’s hands. That was good Madafu chat.
I hope that when I go home I can find a way to educate people about Kikozi and the great work they are doing. I would love to do a fundraiser to get more money for them because I feel passionately about the positive influence the organization is having on the Kenyan coast. Next week I am going to brainstorm ideas for a fundraiser and talk to Mohammad about how I could get the funds I raise here to Lamu and into the hands of these amazing women who so selflessly volunteer their time to better the community.