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MY STORY: Finding myself after being born intersex

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Born Mary Waithera, James Karanja has had a tough upbringing and faced stigma and humiliation which drove him to attempt suicide. The 27-year-old talks about his fight for identity.

“I was born at home in the early 1990s. I had an ambiguous genitalia and so my mother was confused.

She immediately called my grandmother who suggested that we see a medicine man. She had never seen anything like it.

Being Christians, they then thought to see a priest, who advised that I should be taken to a hospital.

I was admitted to Naivasha General Hospital for three weeks without being named or assigned a gender.

My mother was advised that because of the ambiguous genitalia, no surgery should be done until I was of age. I was a healthy baby.

There was a lot of conflict and tension within our family because of this. My father said I should not be named from his side of the family.

The marriage eventually broke and I had to be raised by my mother and grandmother.

I had a pretty normal childhood being raised as a girl. However, what stood out was my mannerisms, most notably how I carried water from the river.

I used my shoulders instead of my head. I was also the only girl in our village who could ride a bicycle or play football. People got confused and it infuriated my grandmother.

After my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE), I was admitted to Kambala Girls High School in Molo.

The Catholic Church sponsored my education – we were of humble background. I shaved my head bald ahead of the admission day.

On opening day, I had everything except sanitary towels. I had not yet started my menses, something my grandmother believed was because I had not been circumcised yet.

She believed in female circumcision. The matron was alarmed by this. After persuasion, she let me in. She said I would ‘grow up’ while in school.

The first telltale that I was different came soon after. “Look, a boy has been admitted to a girls’ school,” the girls laughed as they made a beeline around me.

Then it got slightly worse. It was at the morning shower time. I got a culture shock when everyone woke up at 5am, rushed to the bathrooms, most of them naked and unbothered, proceeded to shower.

I had to avoid eye contact. I grew up in conservative home. I had never seen a naked female. I had always thought my body was the normal female form, but what I saw was different.

From then on, I made a promise to myself that I would always wake up earlier and shower first. For the next four years, I kept this true.

It was in Form Four that the real trouble started for me. While in Form Three I was elected an assistant head girl and a year later a head girl. At first, it was an advantage.

No one could question me. I was aware that my voice was deepening and I was still flat-chested.

Then, girls started getting attracted to me. I started receiving anonymous love letters. They grew by the day. I was alarmed.

Then before I could process all this, a teacher saw one of the letters, and I found myself suspended for promoting lesbianism.

The good thing is, I had never responded to any of the letters. This spared me from expulsion.

I was out of school for the entire second and part of the third term.

That’s when I decided to ask my grandmother hard questions. ‘Who was I? Why was I was so different from my peers?’

She took me to the hospital where I was informed that I am male pseudohermaphroditism. I was given the option of surgery.

I decided not to as I wanted to complete my studies. To date, I have not seen the need for surgery.

At last, I knew what the issue with me was. I was relieved. I ditched my skirt on the last day of school.

I changed my name to James Karanja and decided to live as a man. This was in 2010. I was happy and free.

I was an adult now, and no one could question me on the gender I chose. Or at least that’s what I thought.

I was wrong. Villagers got concerned that I was now male. They decided to strip me naked in public to see my genitalia.

Suddenly, I was seen as a bad omen. I could not even get a job despite my excellent results.

And things only got worse. My mother, who had been battling depression due to the stigma of giving birth to me, became mentally ill. She was raped soon after and gave birth.

It was now up to me to provide and take care of my mother and the new baby girl. I had to take my baby sister to a children’s centre.

She is there to date. My mother is at Mathari and I visit her on weekends.

The pressure has been piling up on me. In 2014, I tried committing suicide three times. After the third failed attempt, I knew I was in this world for a reason.

Through one of my high schoolteachers, I started speaking about my condition in public.

During one media interview, I met Hon Isaac Mwaura, who promised to do his best to push for a bill that will see intersex individuals considered as a third gender.

The challenges are many but I was overjoyed when Kenya National Bureau of Statistics added us as the third gender in the upcoming national census.

I do hope the government can do more in recognising us, especially in documentations.”

By nation.co.ke


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Diaspora

VIDEO: 28 year old Kenyan woman marries a 60 year old German and tongues can’t stop wagging

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Ciru Njuguna is 28 and her husband Greg Twiss is 60. Please don’t let that age gap fool you, these two deeply love each other and they are living their best life together.

But when people say Ciru is just after Greg’s money and he will end up in a septic tank, that gets to her. She is not ashamed of her relationship and strongly urges the public to let other people be.

“My German husband is older than my father. People say I am his slave and he is a colonial master,” she says.

She sat down with Lynn Ngugi for this exclusive episode of Tuko Talks and this is her story.


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Navigating through the Covid-19 Terrain and a Story of Exceptional Transformation at Optiven

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Navigating through the Covid-19 Terrain and a Story of Exceptional Transformation at Optiven

Optiven Group has continuously had all its eyes trained on its vision of economically and socially empowering and transforming the society.

This vision was however momentarily shaken by Covid-19, especially on the month of March 2020, when the first case was reported. Soon, all was not business as usual. The pandemic scared our staff and customers alike. With huge loans to pay, massive salary bills and many office rentals to cope with, everything seemed daunting. The worst was when we closed our offices and temporarily sent hundreds of staff home. That was extremely agonizing to bear.

As an entrepreneur, this was one of my worst periods ever. The headaches were not ceding ground and the only thing that was consoling was the power of prayers. It is during such times when the test of leadership comes to play.

Our most affected area of business was our sister venture entities in the name of restaurants. Indeed, we sent hundreds of staff home. We are now however thanking God that 85% of these staff are back and with a projection of bringing back the rest soon, as business starts coming back.

Importantly, soon after Covid-19 pandemic hit, Optiven Group was swift in adopting new strategies and quickly embracing appropriate technology to counter the new terrain. This is perhaps one of the reasons why the firm is still expanding, especially on the area of job creation and mentorship front.

It is largely courtesy of these strategies that despite the current pandemic, we have managed to launch enormous mentorship programs such as the George Wachiuri School of Mentorship and also engaged in encouraging SMEs that have really been struggling to stay afloat through our business mentorship sessions. Through the latter, we have continued to inspire over 7,000 active participants through George Wachiuri’s Facebook LIVE shows that are also available on my You Tube channel, this has continued to give hope to many.

Still, during this period, we have managed to create over 100 permanent jobs for both senior and middle level employees, plus over 200 casuals that daily work in our projects. This job increase is in line with our goal of creating over 30, 000 jobs by the year 2030.

On the real estate front, we really had to think away from the box and undertake a massive 360 degree transformation that was educated by thinking differently and changing how we used to do things before Covid-19.

Thanks to this, we have continued to provide our customers with even more offerings in terms of value additions to our projects. It is during this period of Covid-19 when we decided to put our efforts towards GoingGreen in most of our projects. Matter of fact, we have surprised our customers by further transforming our projects through installation of green energy, massive tree planting, and installation of water recycling systems, encouraging plot owners engage in farming of organic foods and subsequently feed their families from their previously idle plots. Significantly, we also changed from use of Kenya Power electricity in our projects to the use of solar energy on almost all amenities and by so doing, we have now managed to save millions of shillings in terms of KPLC bills. Most importantly, we are glad that we are now fully plugged on the green energy agenda.

All along, the company has continued to flourish through innovation, partnerships, massive philanthropy activities and even more importantly, a commitment to always entrust all our undertakings to God.

We are glad that we are consistently realizing our vision of being pacesetters in social economic transformation through opportunities such as job creation that have a positive multiplier effect on the society.

Guided by the same vision, we always dedicate 5% of what we make in business and channel it to the less fortunate through a registered foundation viz Optiven Foundation. We have hundreds of orphans whom we support to go through school. We also support the physically challenged to get free wheelchairs and support girls to access schools. The Foundation also cares for over 300 families and helps them to get food daily.

Indeed, we at Optiven exist to economically and socially empower and transform the society.

#ChangingLives
#EyesOnTheCommunity
#CreatingJobs
#GoingGreen
#HousingKenyans

Contact Optiven Group:0790 300 300
Email: admin@optiven.co.ke Website: www.optiven.co.ke George Wachiuri Blog: www.georgewachiuri.com
YouTube: https://bit.ly/2VdSuFJ


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Maradona dies at 60 following a heart attack

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Argentina legend Diego Maradona died on Wednesday at the he age of 60 following a heart attack. According to ESPN, Matias Morla, Maradona’s longtime agent, confirmed the news to of his demise.

He suffered a heart attack at his home in the outskirts of Buenos Aires on Wednesday, according to Argentine media as well as several acquaintances of the former player.

Maradona had recently battled health issues, even undergoing emergency surgery for a subdural hematoma several weeks ago.

Following his death, a statement from the Argentina Football Association read: “The Argentine Football Association, through its President Claudio Tapia, expresses its deepest pain at the death of our legend, Diego Armando Maradona. You’ll always be in our hearts.”

He was one of the most recognisable people in the world.

Maradona, who was born in 1960, captained Argentina to World Cup 1986 glory as well as reaching the final in 1990. At the height of his club career, at Napoli from 1984 to 1991, he helped the side win its only two Italian league titles. le people in the world.

According to ESPN, in 2004, he was hospitalised with severe heart and respiratory problems related to a long battle with drug addiction.

Major news agencies report that he had undergone two gastric bypass operations to control his weight and received treatment for alcohol abuse.

Maradona is survived by his wife, Veronica Ojeda, two daughters, two sons, and his former wife, Claudia Villafane.


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