In this week’s episode on Relentless Minds Carolyne Sunte, an activist for women’s rights and female mentor in Kenya, Africa, speaks about the struggles that women face in her community. The limitation that her and other women in her Masaai community is that they are deprived of reaching a higher level of existence through education and decision making. Women do not have a voice, nor any form of power and are simply primed from childhood just to obey the men in the community and bear children. Carolyne’s mother wanted a different life for her and her sisters and made sacrifices of her own health and well-being to ensure that her daughters never underwent female genital mutilation (FGM) which would have automatically declared them suitable for marriage. Carolyne took this opportunity and paved a new path for herself by managing to go to school, start her own orange farm, and in doing so became a role model figure and mentor for thousands of women in her community.

 

Key Take-Aways: 

  • It reached a time in their family life where Carolyne’s father would come home drunk all the time and hit her mother and all of the kids. Carolyne had to work as a house help because her father had beaten her mom so badly that he paralyzed part of her arms, and her palms and fingers did not work so she could not work anymore. She had been the bread winner up until that point. 
  • The source of the quarrels between her father and mother was that her father wanted to marry off Carolyne and her sisters, but her mom did not want her daughters to have this fate. Her stance to block her daughters from receiving FGM led her to being ostracized by the community. 
  • Her dream was to change what was happening at home with her family, she wanted to change the problem. That was her focus.
  • A young girls bride price was a couple of cows and a few colorful dresses. Then she would be cast away from her family as early as 12 years old only to serve as a housewife to her husband. That was the price that was paid to lose the dream of education and dreams, a decision that these girls couldn’t make on their own.
  • The family she worked for would give her a stipend for her schooling, and the teachers at her school would put money together for her to cover her needs and this is how she got through her primary education. 
  • Through Asante Africa Organization she learned leadership and entrepreneurship skills and that is where she decided to start her orange farm, in order to support her family. 
  • She teaches women the value of their voice and encourages them to speak UP. “At first they may ignore you, but if you keep speaking up you’ll get attention at some point.” She said 
  • In the Masaii tribe women hold no power or significance. It is a male dominated community and women only exist to serve as child bearer and home-keeper. Carolyne is out to change these social norms by empowering women to raise their voices and teaching them the power in education. 
  • When a woman has her own things and her own land, men can’t oppress this kind of woman. She has the ability to make her own decisions. It comes with dignity, and it comes with empowerment. They also get their sexual rights, because many of the women look to the men to make decisions for them concerning their own bodies.