Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen
This has been a wonderful afternoon! It has been a time of learning, reflection, self-searching and remembrance. But allow me first to honour the woman we are all here to celebrate and learn from.
Mama Mukami Kimathi – Asante sana.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We all know that our country Kenya was conceived through the blood and sacrifices of those who fought for liberation — including the Mau Mau. Too often, however, the role of women in the liberation struggle is either unknown or unappreciated.
Too often, we are led to think women did not contribute, or contributed very little, or were primarily victims and obstacles to men marching towards freedom. Many times, history has failed to accord women their rightful place in its version of events. Women’s contributions in these historical events have been marginalized to the fringes of history, and excluded from curricula in our institutions of learning.
However, Mukami Kimathi’s life is a stark and irrefutable reminder that women do play a role. That they do take a stand, and that without them, the liberation movements around the world would have been, at best, a shell of what they became and perhaps they may not have succeeded at all!
So today, we will recognise what history sometimes will not: that women from all ethnic communities in Kenya drew upon their personal connections and leveraged their political capabilities to advance the goals of achieving the Kenyan Nation we have today. These brave women included Mekatilili wa Menza, Syotune Wa Kathuke, Moraa wa Ngiti and of course, Mukami Kimathi.
During the Mau Mau period in particular, women played a critical role: engaging in combat, providing hideouts and food, delivering messages, taking care of the wounded and rebuilding communities. They became warriors and breadwinners — heading up their households.
It is now widely recognized worldwide that conflict disproportionately affects, women and girls because of their gender and status in society. Mukami Kimathi’s life reminds us that this has always been true. It gives us insight into the enormous challenges and incredible sacrifices that women in the liberation movement endured. And they deserve to be honoured and recognised for those sacrifices.
So I want to thank everyone who has brought us here to do just that. I thank those of you who have spoken, particularly her family for highlighting the contributions and sacrifices of Mukami Kimathi towards the struggle for independence.
I also thank the academicians who have spoken here today for the critical work you are doing to raise awareness about the role of women in pre-independence struggles. Raising this kind widespread awareness is undoubtedly one of the ways we can contribute to implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1325; this is the first resolution to address the impact of war on women and women’s contribution to peace. So I thank all our academicians here for their scholastic efforts and urge them to continue putting our collective knowledge and history to practical use.
Finally I want to thank everyone present for your commitment to ensuring that women’s voices are not silenced in our history. Ultimately, these stories are our stories. Mukami Kimathi’s story—and the stories of others like her—speak of a country built on resilience and hope. They speak of Kenya, a country we all love.
We owe it to ourselves – to our freedom fighters – and to our children, to ensure that all those stories are told. And we owe it to the memory of those stories, to preserve the integrity of our nation, and the unity of our people — to pass on this country, intact, to our children. That, perhaps, is the greatest tribute we can pay to Mukami Kimathi and those like her.
So, as we celebrate this great woman, I hope that the same spirit will carry over to our daily lives.
God Bless you!