Claske DIJKEMA, Grenoble, May 2009
Kenya: the power of nakedness
The online course on gender and conflict transformation give opportunities to share experiences and tell stories of which others might learn.
Jane Wanjiru Ngugi tells the story of how women have been able to resist non-violently against the police in Kenya. There are little means to verify whether the account of the events is accurate, so its strength is rather in the story than in the facts.
“At the height of political oppression in Kenya detentions without trial were very common. The mother of one of the detainees, Koigi Wamwere mobilized women to a national park where they camped and went on hunger strike. When police tried to disperse them, the women stripped naked and the police beat a hasty retreat. It is a curse for a young man to see a woman who is old enough to be his mother naked.”
“Although the detainees were not released, the act of stripping was very powerful and the police did not disturb the women for the rest of the duration that they stayed at the park. The spot where they had camped is up to this day known as « freedom corner » and it is normally used whenever people want to protest against any form of injustice by the government. Another form of protest by the family of the same political detainee is the refusal to bury his father until he, Koigi, was released.”
The story of Koigi Wemwere and his mother has been told by Jane Wanjiru Ngugi during the online Course on Gender and Conflict Transformation which took place in July 2006. The objective of sharing these stories is to demonstrate the different forms of power which people dispose of in order to change an oppressive situation.