Along Ngong Road there are many cars, big cars – brand new cars. I mean showroom brand new cars. If you have been keen, most of these cars are driven by women. Wierd? Once upon a time I took a cab from Nairobi CBD to Westlands then we got stuck in traffic. All around us were these types of big brand new showroom cars and over 70% of the time the driver was a woman.
“It’s not good for women to drive these cars”, the cab driver remarked. I remained mum. It reminded me of two debates I have heard with two friends long before I grew up. In one debate, my friend was of the opinion that most of the women (there were very few women drivers those days) that were lucky to own businesses, mansions and cars had what today we call sponsors. A few years later another friend told me that he doesn’t sympathise with women who choose to remain poor – especially if at the same time they have that one important asset – beautifully hot. You know, like pepper hot.
That’s why the successful women like Caroline Mutuku will always receive insults back whenever they express strong independent opinions that touch hearts. They will be told how they bought, in kind, their way up. The number of men they must have slept with will be counted, the streets they must have paraded their goodies will be mentioned, their inability to be in marriages will be questioned, and their performance or lack thereof in the kitchen will be brought to the table.
To most men, and to some women, a woman’s success is not and cannot be in any professional field, and indeed not in business or entrepreneurship. Women aren’t supposed to perform in STEM fields either in class or at work place. Silicon Valley, the most tech advanced society, still has this heavy stereotypical belief weighing over its shoulder, and the few women who have managed to show a case for themselves, most believe, must have had some sort of sponsorship.
A woman can’t be successful unless she has a sponsor is the reigning truth, not because it has any absolutes in it but because it’s a lie that has been told over and again – and as we know, a lie told many times becomes the truth. Predominant political truths e.g. capitalism and democracy including mainstream religious truths are nothing but lies that have been told for tens of hundreds of thousands of years that by today’s standards are indistinguishable from absolute truths.
Despite the lies, half truths and stereotypical beliefs that surround women and success, the Daily Nation is not short of stories that show how hard work, smart thinking, persistence, support, wise investment decisions, and at times “prayers” that you would allow me to refer to as “hope” have allowed many women to rise from sorry to glory. Business Daily for instance, has supported these stories by running an annual fair for top 40 under 40 women – a fair that gave birth to top 40 under 40 men in the same Business Paper.
As an example of successful women that have made it on Entrepreneurship, the Daily Nation ran a story of Helen Wanjiru who was lucky to have secured a job as an assistant administrator at a local security firm earning Sh15, 000 even before she graduated from Moi University, Eldoret. In July 2012, Helen Wanjiru became the personal assistant to Joanne Mwangi who is the group CEO at Professional Marketing Service (PMS) from where she learnt how to be a CEO. According to the story in Daily Nation titled WOMAN OF PASSION: Helping Kenyans find tenders and published on Feb 19, 2016, being a personal assistant of Joanne Mwangi helped Helen to see first-hand how a business is run; that hard work and dedication pays. “I learnt things that I could never learn in class. I learnt self-confidence, how to speak with clients as well as business etiquette,” Helen explained.
After gaining the much needed entrepreneurial mindset, Helen was able to come up with an idea of helping the youth, women and persons with disability to secure the now infamous 30% government tenders by setting up the website www.TendersKenya.com, a website that received overwhelming traffic leading to its crash a few months after it was set up, but she brought it back up – although as at the time of writing this article, the latest tender posted on the site was published on September 6, 2015.
How did Helen come up with the tenderskenya.com idea? She reasoned simply – not every youth, woman and persons with disability can afford, on a daily basis, a news paper. The few who can afford will likely not have the time and the dedication to go through every advertisement on tenders in order to apply for them. To help those unable to purchase the newspapers and/or unable to read the tender ads, Helen set up the website and within months the website was able to clock over 15,000 subscribers who pay either monthly or annual subscription fees.
The story of Helen Wanjiru is not the only one in Daily Nation that prove how both men and women rise to success, without the need to sell oneself or bribe their way up. Although stereotypical beliefs come from the fact that a significant members of the stereotyped groups portray the stereotypical characteristics e.g. there is a significant number of women whose success come from sponsorship, Daily Nation strives to tell stories that reveal how the stereotypes are wrong in believing a lie that has been told upteenth time as absolute truths under the slogan “Believe the Truth” – stories like that of Helen Wanjiru that show clearly how the statement “a woman can’t be successful without a sponsor” is an absolute lie.