Is Black Beautiful in Africa ? (by David R.)

| New Internationalist | by David Rausch |

While studies are showing a growing trend in African American women “going natural” it seems that the same is not true for the African continent.

In  2014, the World Health Organization released findings showing that 77% of Nigerian women used skin bleaching products on a regular basis, while a recent study by the University of Cape Town suggests that  a third of  black South African women bleach their skin frequently. This trend is one that local doctors are calling an “epidemic” as the creams that African women use to lighten their skin often contain dangerous chemicals such as mercury that can lead to cancer, liver failure as well as skin pigmentation and diseases such as eczema.

Mounting evidence in the form of confessions by skin bleaching cream users suggest that the practice is fundamentally linked to an individual’s lack of self confidence, as women with lighter skin tones are…

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Rosslyn Academy’s Spiritual Emphasis Week (by David R.)

| New Internationalist | by David Rausch |

Every year, Rosslyn Academy dedicates a week to furthering its students spiritual lives, and while the majority of the student body have cited Spiritual Emphasis Week to be a positive force, there are some who believe that changes are in order.

A typical day in Spiritual Emphasis week entails four classes in the morning, followed by activities, a chapel service and a small group discussion between members of the same grade. The speaker in charge of the week-long daily chapel services this year was Jacob Jester, with whom I sat down with to understand the purpose of Spiritual Emphasis week.

What he told me was simple; Spiritual Emphasis Week existed to foster students’ spiritual lives from the perspective of Christianity (as Rosslyn Academy is a Christian school) and aimed to encourage pupils to have intensely spiritual experiences even after Spiritual Emphasis Week had ended. However, when I asked Jacob about…

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Four Finger Rule (by Lule K.)


There are noticeable asymmetries when it comes to dress code implemented among males and females. To many of the male students attending Rosslyn Academy, dress code isn’t even something that crosses their mind. As for the girls that do get called out, are there certain aspects to personality, relationships, or even appearance that may determine whether or not they were forced to cover their clothing with Kangas?

“I started noticing that my white friends weren’t complaining about dress code as much as my black friends were. I’m not sure if the two are related, but I did notice it,” said Angel Thairo, a 16 year old girl that attends Rosslyn Academy. For many women, dress code is, and will continue to be a factor of everyday life. Especially if you spend the majority of your time in a professional setting. The dress code at Rosslyn is seemingly simple. Most of the…

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A Trip of Expectations (by Angel T.)

A Culture of Us

Every year at Rosslyn Academy, the senior class goes on a trip to the beach for a week in March. The trip is meant to be a time of relaxation and debriefing from a busy year. However, it is often the case that feelings of excitement for the trip are overshadowed by great anxiety in having to meet social expectations and pressures that are present throughout the trip.

“I hear students talk about getting ready for senior trip all the time, saying things like, “I’m going on a diet because I want to look good for Senior Trip”and other comments like that,” remarks English teacher John Leonard, who has accompanied students on previous trips.

In talking with students, it is obvious that the expectations are clear to many. “There’s definitely expectations of how your body should look and what you’re going to wear,” says Njeri Thuo, a current senior. Junior students Jackie Lee and Kafura Thairo state that they are aware of…

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Still Inside the Gates (by Angel T.)

A Culture of Us

As the clock strikes 3:30 p.m., the final bell sounds. A throng of students flood the hallways, eager to escape from the authority that school has over them. Excitedly, they discuss where to meet up over the weekend, all the while unaware that they haven’t fully escaped the grasp of school.

“Wait, what? The school can really do that?” asks senior Gabby Opagi in surprise after being informed of Rosslyn Academy’s  policy on student life outside of school. The policy states that the school can intervene in students’ out-of-school activities if they pose a threat to an individual’s learning process. When students join Rosslyn, their parents sign a basic tenant form declaring that while attending the school, students must uphold Rosslyn’s values and abide by certain standards both in and out of school. If this is not followed, the school can address the situation.

The most common cases in which…

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Why the Gender Wage Gap is Even Worse for African American Women (by Lule K.)


The debate on the wage gap is not a secret. Everyone’s heard the whole “a woman makes 77 cents to every dollar the man makes” issue.  However, when the pay system is further analysed and dissected, one will find that this isn’t true for every woman, or every man. It is no surprise that white women have significantly more privilege than black woman, and black men less than white. For both men and women of color, the “77 cents” deal is unfortunately not the case. According to AAUW, for every dollar a man makes, the black woman makes 63 cents. That’s 37 percent less than a non-hispanic white man. Think about it this way: a black woman has to work for an extra eight months to be paid what said white man was paid at the end of December. So what exactly is the cause of this?

Well, statistically…

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Fixing Crazy

I recently saw a crazy woman. She was standing beside the road in a shanty town called Banana Hill, jerking sporadically while frantically arguing with the frigid morning air. At least, I assume that she was arguing. From behind windows of a passing car, I could barely hear the cold, damp world outside.

Mental health is a serious issue in Kenya. When humans don’t show extreme signs of starvation, it is easier to believe that poverty or lifestyle hasn’t impacted them in a major, life-threatening way. Depending on one’s personal opinions, he or she credits Kenyans who live in destitute conditions with either intense tolerance or ingrained ignorance. However, every human has a breaking point, especially a mental one. In Kenya, no one wants to validate that mental breaking point.

According to Basic Needs, Basic Rights, a global NGO that supports those with mental health problems, “only a third of the 75 psychiatrists in the country for a population of 38 million work in the public sector.” The average Kenyan with mental health problems, like the woman I saw on the side of the street, cannot afford to pay the almost one-hundred-dollar fee for a session with a private psychiatrist.  Within Kenya, there are only fourteen mental health hospitals with a fifteen to twenty-five bed capacity for each hospital. Kenya only has thirty-three psychiatrists and four hundred twenty-seven nurses that are qualified to take care of the mentally impaired. This shows the lack of specialty in the mental health area.

Kenya is in the top global percentile for suicide rates, a fact which is little known in comparison to the country’s other problems. Kenya has a higher suicide rate than the USA, which often garners attention for suicide due to the highly publicized nature of mental illness on sites such as Tumblr. Growing up in a Western community, mental illness, while a sensitive topic, is definitely validated.

Kenyan men that have taken to living on the streets are often suffering from substance abuse disorder especially in the form of alcohol. Drinking is a major form of “entertainment” for many Kenyans. Women in this country, if they are on the edge of mental instability, usually suffer from depression due to poverty and stress placed on them by responsibilities and family.

As Kenya develops, the crisis of mental health slowly emerges from the water. On 17 May 2016, Kenya launched its first mental health policy, which its dedicated toward developing more specialists and hospitals in treating mental illnesses. Mr. Cleopa Mailu, the Health Cabinet’s Secretary of Kenya said, “We have not been in a vacuum, but the policy was necessary to guide how laws are enacted as well identifying gaps in the sector.” With this policy enacted, the mental health care of the average Kenyan will definitely improve.

The policy is definitely a good start in the metal health care ministry. Now – maybe –  the woman beside the street will no longer be arguing with the air, but talking to a person trained to help her. Maybe she won’t be wandering beside the road, but laying on a bed in a hospital, safe in the care of nurses and doctors.

Shaming Nature

This article is about period shaming, and why we shouldn’t be ashamed of something so natural. The irony is that while writing this article, I felt cautious and tentative, as if I shouldn’t be writing about this because the chances are high that someone (of the male persuasion) will read this. Menstruation is a natural and necessary biological function. It is not something we can change, and despite all the symptoms and physical discomfort, it is not something we would want to change. Menstruation is healthy; a woman’s cycle can indicate health problems such as hormone imbalance, bones thyroid and metabolic wellness, fertility, and emotional wellness. It is part of living a healthy natural life.

Despite the health benefits of menstruation and its necessary existence in order to cleanse our bodies of waste, girls are often taught to not talk about their periods. We are taught that it is something to hide, something shameful. We are taught to carry our tampons and pads in small bags so they will not be seen. We learn to never talk about something so natural with any man or boy. We learn to try our best to not let the symptoms show (like we can control the pain). And the worst thing we can possibly do is have that stain of blood on our clothes because we forgot, or the cycle is irregular. When we sit in class, and Aunty Flo comes for a surprise visit, we ask our male teacher if we can go to the bathroom; he says no. So, we have a choice: we can wait and stain our clothes and feel uncomfortable until class ends, or we can tell our male teacher what’s going on, and how we actually can’t wait. More often than not, we pick the first option, because it’s more embarrassing to tell the truth, and because it’s awkward to see that super uncomfortable look on his face. What’s wrong with this picture?

In some cultures, the women of the community are banished to a cowshed (or another animal dwelling) during their periods, simply because for three to five days they are considered impure, dirty, and unlucky. Why? Because they were born female, and consequently go through menstruation.

All of this shaming occurs because men are uncomfortable with menstruation. Somehow the world assumes that because men don’t have periods, it is unnecessary to educate them on how periods work, and why women have them. But men need to know because the world is not only made up of men. And we need men to understand periods so that we do not have to walk around on eggshells trying not to show, or talk about something so natural.

Women cannot prevent, or stop menstruation from happening – if it happens, it happens. And, it’s not going to stop happening until menopause. Children- both male and female – need to be taught about menstruation, because regardless of your sex, menstruation will affect either yourself, someone you care about, or someone you are around on a regular basis. Menstruation is a natural bodily function for women. Why are we shaming nature? 

The African Dream:Tradition, Federation and Independence

Pan-Africanism is an ideology that encourages solidarity between African people. This mindset encourages the unification of all Africans – this is a very powerful idea. We, as African people, are called to stand together and build one another up for the mutual benefit of the entire continent.

Africa has been globally labelled as the world’s poorest continent; in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, more than 218 million people live in extreme poverty.  Africa is also known to be the wealthiest continent, full of natural resources. This creates a paradox between extreme potential and extreme poverty. The continent also boasts the highest birthrate, and has the fastest growing economies and one of the best mobile phone markets in the world, second only to Asia.

Africa’s modern history has been defined by oppression from colonial powers that fragmented various communities and social groups. This caused incredibly weak infrastructures, resulting in an enormous dependence on foreign aid from the West, despite each country’s claim of independence. Why are the countries of Africa still in isolation and still reliant on the West after several decades of independence? According to Pan-African theory, it’s because we are trying to run on a non-African model. Under this model, each fragment of Africa is attempting to survive, while facing very high odds, alone. A Pan-African state would not only stand together politically, but share militaristic and economic goals. “If we were able to work together as a continent we wouldn’t have to rely on the West to help us process our resources”, Njeri Thuo – a high school student in Nairobi – stated when asked about the idea of Pan-Africanism.

With all things considered, a “United States of Africa” is an amazing idea that can only become a reality if we adopt a new model of state firmly rooted in African traditions and ways. Many Pan-Africans blame Western government transplanted to Africa as the root of some of the major problems on the continent. Mwayila Tshiyembe, a firm believer of inventing a multinational Africa, states that the failure of the post-colonial state reflects a questioning of the will to coexist, and a loss of purpose and direction. The nations (or ethnic groups) are in fundamental disagreement about the community’s basic values. How are we to define a free society, authority that is properly conferred and shared, and law that seems to come naturally? State and society seem to have been in conflict ever since Africa’s plurinational societies saw their own model destroyed to make way for an enforced Western caricature.”

If the various nations in Africa could see one another as comrades rather than competitors, and help each other destroy problems such as corruption, we could stomp out poverty and civil unrest. We shouldn’t look to the West to solve problems that are specific to us. We shouldn’t look to adopt forms of government from other civilizations, but rather create various forms of government that work for us – and perhaps only us. As different African countries, we shouldn’t accept the hiring of other nations to build our countries up to their standards. We should understand that we are different, and that because we are different, we need to do something different. 


Uber in Nairobi: The Death of the Taxi?

Uber launched in Kenya in late January. Its efficiency and convenience has quickly made the Uber concept popular across the world. But, for Nairobi, is Uber truly better than getting a taxi?

Most people would argue that Uber, compared to regular taxi services, is safer and more secure to ride. According to Alude, an Uber driver, “If an Uber driver decides to do something bad to a client, he can easily be traced through the system, so if you complain they will go through the record and find out who picked the personage and catch him.” Therefore, with the existence of a system, personal safety is almost guaranteed. Taxi drivers, on the other hand, don’t have a system that monitors their actions. The only thing that control them is morality. This doesn’t imply that all taxi drivers will take advantage of these lax roles. but most people are afraid of uncertainty, especially since Africa is often seen by the outside world as “unsafe”.

Another argument that people propose in favour of Uber is that it is more affordable than taking a taxi. However, experiences may call this idea into question. If an individual lives in Kileleshwa, next to Valley-Arcade in Nairobi, it will cost about 1,250 Kenya Shilling, or $12.50 to travel to the Gigiri area. This is around 250 shilling (or $2.50) more expensive than travelling by taxi. Uber’s price is determined by distance, and therefore if an Uber car gets stuck in a traffic jam it cam become unprofitable for the driver; as a result, often the criver will opt to take the longer route. This will increase the cost to the rider. However, since the route is ultimately up to the driver, the price does fluctuate. Because Uber uses shilling per kilometer, it becomes hard for passengers to correctly analyze how much the ride should cost. Most passengers don’t have a clear idea how far away their destination is, or how long it will take.

Having this in mind, Taxi’s are a different story. Since Uber uses a phone app to decide the final price, it’s very hard for passenger to bargain over the cost. In the case of a taxi, everything is negotiable. When the passenger arrives at the destination he or she can usually negotiate the price of the ride. Thus the decision is in the hands of the passenger as well as the driver. It can result in a good bargain for the rider.

Convenience is another factor. Uber is very convenient within Nairobi, but it only operates in Nairobi proper. So if a passenger wants to travel to Naivasha (a city outside Nairobi city limits), it would be difficult with Uber. This said, a taxi driver can drive a passenger to areas outside Nairobi such as Naivasha and Kisumu without any issue.

In general, the decision that a client needs to make between Uber or traditional taxis depends on the situation. The two main factors to consider are distance and how familiar you are with Nairobi. If you just want to travel within Nairobi and you are not familiar with any taxi driver, Uber is safer. But if you have lived in Nairobi for some time and are acquainted with a few taxi drivers, then taxis are the better choice. And, if you want to travel outside Nairobi, taxi are the only viable option.

Is Nairobi ready for the Uber movement? Most definitely! But does it mark the end of the taxi business? In my opinion, absolutely not. What do you think Nairobians?