Highlights of Dr. Mumbi Mwangi’s Speech at Light House Ministries Fundraiser

Dr. Mumbi MWangi
Dr. Mumbi Mwangi of St. Cloud State University speaking at the Light House Ministries International event. Photo: Susan Budig/Mshale

Dr. Mumbi Mwangi speaks of domesticity in Kenya as both encompassing motherhood as well as defining a woman’s place in the home.  She doesn’t have a problem with that.  The trouble begins, says Mwangi, with the idea that domesticity and motherhood are incompatible with education.

Even more dire, Mwangi inveighs the mind-set of African culture, which implies that one cannot be a woman without being a mother.  Girls don’t have a way of aspiring to be anything different, that is, to be something other than a mother.  Those few women who do reach for more are severely ostracized and punished, Mwangi tell her audience.

Mwangi provides us with a brief history of the image of women in post-colonial Africa.  The prototype of the African woman remains strong today as in the past when girls dropped out of school and married young in order to begin a family.  These girls performed domestic chores at the expense of education and self-betterment.  Not much is different today, Mwangi laments.  In fact, in Kenya, along with 22 other African countries, 45% of girls do not continue their education beyond primary school.

Change, the professor believes, would strike more rapidly if women’s issues became national issues for all of Africa.  As it is now, women’s issues are not part of the national problem; they are insignificant.  “The government does not consider women’s issues despite that the government is suppose to take care of all of it’s citizens,” Mwangi says.  “Girls are considered not much more than property,” Mwangi bemoans.

Dr. Mumbi Mwangi emigrated to the United States in 1998, finishing her doctorate at Iowa State University in 2002.  She currently serves as assistant professor at St. Cloud State University in the Women’s Studies Program.

She ends her keynote address with a poignant poem written by a young African girl.


Father I’m not a toy

Just because I’m not a boy
Brother I’m not a toy
Just because I’m not a boy
Mama I’m not a toy
Let me to be your joy

Father I’m your child

Trying to do my best
But heart heaves with pain
When I hear the clans’ cry
That nothing from me
Will they gain

Clouds swell with rain

But the future at my feet is slain
Why can’t I school with you?
Can’t I number woo?
Can’t I drive a trailer too?
Can’t I drive a Mercedes too?
To train a woman
You train a nation

A girl child is a GEM in waiting

To train a girl is not an option
To train a girl is an obligation

People listen to me

I want to see my dreams come true
To make decisions too
I desire to make a choice
Give me the chance to choose

Egerton University, issue #3, March, 2002  Coffee Connection publication

Read main story here.

About Susan Budig

Susan is based in Minneapolis and reports on general assignments for Mshale with a focus on entertainment. In addition to reporting, she is also a writer, poet, teacher and coach.

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