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Education to Free Women


Education to Free Women

Kenya - Education Is the Husband That Will Never Let Me Down. Dr. Karambu Ringera, “One of the most important things I learned was that the assumptions I carry about people when I meet them will either enhance a positive relationship, an enabling relationship, with them, or dehumanize them.”  I work with an organization I founded called International Peace Initiatives. International Peace Initiatives (IPI) is a network of people interested in working to mitigate the impact of HIV and AIDS, poverty and violence, as these affect the lives of women, especially women living with AIDS, and children, especially children who’ve lost their parents because of HIV and AIDS.

Dr. Karambu RingeraDr. Karambu RingeraAt IPI, we believe that peace is not merely the absence of war. Peace is when people have resources to meet their basic needs: education, health, infrastructure, water, and not experiencing violence in their lives. At IPI, we teach women living with AIDS and children who have no parents that they dare dream, they dare do, they dare trust; that they can change the circumstances in their lives.

I am here today because of Beatrice. When I met Beatrice in 2004, she had been looking for me for two years because I had organized a group of women living with AIDS to support each other and registered their organization, so the government could recognize them and support them even though at that time in my country the government was still burying its head under the sand with regard to HIV and AIDS. If today only 300,000 out of 2.4 million Kenyans who are living with AIDS have access to medication, then figure how it was in 2004.

Sandra Thurman (on left), who is the former Director, White House Office of National AIDS Policy, and Dr. Karambu Ringera, the President of International Peace Initiatives, Kenya Sandra Thurman (on left), who is the former Director, White House Office of National AIDS Policy, and Dr. Karambu Ringera, the President of International Peace Initiatives, KenyaAnd so when I went to see Beatrice she said to me, “Please make sure my son goes to school.” At that time I hadn’t met a woman who was so badly ill with HIV and AIDS she could hardly talk. She could hardly lift up her head, but I sat there holding her hand not able to talk myself. And when she said, Make sure my son goes to school, Vincent her son was outside this little hut where Beatrice lay, dieing, 10 years old and not going to school because his mom lay on that bed. I’m here today because of Beatrice to keep the promise.

HIV/AIDS, poverty, children in crisis, violence and when people here hear of these things, they wonder where is the future? Where is the hope? Thinking in the old way, I had grown to look at people living with AIDS as the other, orphans as the other, street children as the other, not even really bothering to find out why are they there. But in me there was this feeling of pity, and then I came to Denver University, and one of the most important things I learned was that the assumptions I carry about people when I meet them will either enhance a positive relationship, an enabling relationship, with them, or dehumanize them.

And so when I met Beatrice, and the other women who were living with AIDS and all their children, I had to sit down and figure out what kind of human being I wanted to be with them, as I stood with them to battle these challenges. Who did I want to be? And so I had really to figure my own marginalization through the assumptions that I carry about others and myself. Truly, as a woman growing up in Kenya, I tell you, you have to figure out yourself very quickly because culture, the way we are socialized, patriarchy, will catch up with you. And so I had to figure out who I was as a human being, as a woman, to be able to work with these women to fight or to overcome these challenges. And for me, education was the one thing. I tell these women and I tell myself: Education is the one vaccine that we need to free women from all the things that bind them. Education for me is the husband who will never let me down. Thank you, Beatrice. Thank you.

This is the first part of a speech Dr. Ringera presented at TEDxDU in Denver at University of Denver, on May 13, 2010. You can see and hear her delivering the full speech at this link.

Source: Peace X Peace
 

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