Dr. Auma Obama is mostly known for her colourful family background. She is the half-sister of the President of the United States- Barrack Obama. When I went into the Louise Leakey Auditorium, I must admit that I expected her to ride on that high horse for most of her presentation. Surprisingly, it was the moderator of the session who pointed it out. She seemed not to want to allude to that fact, despite the common rumour in town that she wears her surname like a kipande on her neck.
In effect, she told the girls in the audience who look up to her to read her book And Then Life Happens and learn from her life experiences, rather than focus on the fact that her brother is Barack. Because that would make them live hoping that one day they would become the sisters to the US CEO- which is a very long shot.
However, don’t you just love the hypocrisy in people? If I was the neighbour to the Minister for Shoelace Development, nobody would ever get enough of it. I mean, who wouldn’t brag of being the sister to the leader of the most powerful country in the universe? Don’t act like you would just sweep it under the mat. That fact is a life-changer. But Dr. Auma couldn’t care less what people think.
Instead, she spoke about Sauti Kuu. This is the Swahili translation of “Powerful Voices”, as well as the name of her foundation that she started a little while ago. She says that the main goal for this initiative is youth empowerment resulting into poverty alleviation. It targets youth ranging between 10-21 years of age, mostly in the rural areas where support NGOs are few. Auma is imagines of a world in which every young person currently living in her rural home are in Nyangoma, Siaya has a positive mind set of his/her own.
She uses sports as the vehicle that drives social change. Sauti Kuu takes part in a myriad of activities for you empowerment, but sports stands out most. Sports, she says, teach life lessons. It inculcates the essence of teamwork and gives children security in the knowledge that; in whatever they do, their friends will always have their back. It’s not just about kicking the ball; it’s more about the camaraderie, the purpose. Friendships forged in playgrounds last longer than those made elsewhere.
Dr. Auma’s foundation also advocates for gender equity rather than gender quality. Her objective is not to make boys out of girls, but rather to give them a fair chance life. Emphasis is made on the girl child because when boys and girls are put on the same starting line, the latter are socialized to step back and let the former take over. Thus they require an extra push.
I met her after her session was over. I was curious to know why she concentrated more in rural areas rather than the cities. In the major cities across Kenya, there is a plague of young people who have had education but cannot access employment opportunities. They therefore have nothing but time to spend. Out of frustration and in need to fend for themselves, they resort to social ills as a means to make a living. That is why crime is not always a decision. After all they have nothing to lose and everything to prove. The unlucky ones get caught, and then left to prove themselves in court before a world and a God they never thought loved them. The most unfortunate ones end up either dead or leaving meaningless lives on the streets.
Her response was simple- “I can only do so much.”
What Dr Auma Obama does is no child’s play. But the raging terror of where you are headed is the sure evidence that you are walking in the right direction. When as she left, I don’t remember seeing the half-sister to the leader of the free world walk away, no- I saw a woman who takes pride in being her brother’s keeper.