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LIFE BY LOUIS: Gender equality crisis is grounded in the grassroots

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By LOUIS MUIRURI
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The only way that people from my clan back in Matimbei can begin to understand the two thirds gender rule is if the rule is fried in onions, tomatoes, cabbages and carrots, and a bucketful of water to make a sumptuous meal. They should then be served with this meal three times a day for about five weeks in order to guarantee effectiveness.

Alternatively, a brain surgery—preferably done by an experienced neuro surgeon—can be done to replace the old conceptualisation of the two thirds gender rule with the new version being debated by the legislative assembly.

When I joined primary school at Karugo Group of Schools, we were simply classified as boys and girls. Although we studied in the same classroom, we were separated by an equivalent of Berlin Wall as far as school activities were concerned.

For instance, Friday was general cleaning day; boys carried jerry cans to fetch water from the nearby river while girls mopped the classroom floors.

It was unheard of for a boy to be spotted bended over with a rag mopping the floors. That was enough to make him the laughing stock of the entire school.

Similarly, it was unusual for girls to accompany the boys to the river to fetch water. Their presence was not welcomed and for a good reason too; whenever we went to fetch water, we would engage in a few mud skating stunts that ended in a quick skinny dipping. We did not need the girls peeping at our young and exposed dignities and making a big fuss of it.

When it came to leadership, prefects were chosen from a pool of street hardened boys. One of the criteria was having a breaking voice, wide goose feet and a wide nose that gave the prefect a severe look.

Girls were left to vie for the softer and less lucrative positions like the lead soloist in the traditional dance troupe, or reading the daily verse during school parade.

If we were required to help in the teachers’ canteen, girls peeled potatoes and stirred the carrot soup while the boys fetched water and split firewood.

During the weekly parade, boys and girls never mixed. The girls stood at the front while the boys huddled behind them making noise and getting into all kinds of mischief.

Unless forced to, boys never shared desks with the girls. When it happened under a lot of duress, the boy would sit at the edge of the desk almost tipping over from his seat.

The minute the teacher walked out of the classroom, the boys would sigh with relief and reconvene at the back of the classroom where they would recount their nightmarish experiences at the hands of their female desk mates.

I must also add that cases of girls being harassed and intimidated by the boys were not very uncommon. I will not give any details because I have no intention of having my accounts frozen and spending the rest of my life in a government sponsored correctional facility after helping police with investigations.

In short, we were brought up with a defectively warped concept of gender equality that may require a total apocalypse for it to change.

I am not surprised that the current debate on the rule is evoking a lot of excitement and exposing a rampant display of ignorance.

The root cause of the problem we are experiencing today is heavily grounded in the grassroots, and probably the only way to win this battle is to start the debate at lower primary school level where Brian would probably be acting Chief Whip.

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