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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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Business

US investors express interest in pyrethrum

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Pyrethrum farmers are set for good tidings following increased interest in the sector by foreign investors. This follows an announcement by US Ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter that investors from his country are already in Kenya scouting to establish pyrethrum processing plants.McCarter said some US investors have already started setting up production factories in Nairobi.

“Pyrethrum is something that Kenya historically has seen a lot of prosperity from, and that market is coming back,” the envoy said during his tour of North Rift region recently. The envoy, who was speaking in Iten, Elgeyo-Marakwet County, said the US will continue supporting investments in Kenya, particularly in agriculture.

The cash crop used in the manufacture of agrochemicals including insecticides and pesticides was abandoned in the late 1990s following declining fortunes occasioned by the loss of key markets.McCarter encouraged pyrethrum manufacturers who had quit the business in Kenya to return, saying there was immense potential in the sector.

“We shall continue our support for agriculture. We have some US investors who are already in Kenya now to invest in pyrethrum. We want to encourage investors who left the country to return,” he said.

Largest producer

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos said his county was the second-largest producer of pyrethrum before the loss of market that triggered a shift to potatoes.The county boss noted that farmers from Elgeyo Marakwet highlands were ready for a revival of the crop as soon they are assured of a market.

“We invite investors from the US to our county. I wish we knew when the production factory was being established in Nairobi. We would have requested them to set it up in Elgeyo Marakwet,” said Tolgos.

He wooed American investors to set up another processing factory in Elgeyo Marakwet, which he noted will reduce transport costs to Nairobi.“Once we are assured of a market, our people will immediately start growing pyrethrum. We will also increase funds to the sector in our subsequent allocations.”Early this year, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui announced plans to revive pyrethrum through a partnership with four State agencies.

These are Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, the Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya and Egerton University.In the 1980s and early 1990s, Kenya was a major producer and player in the world’s pyrethrum sector. Nakuru, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kiambu, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Kisii and West Pokot were the highest producers.

By Standard

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Why flights to this part of Kenya have been suspended

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By JUDITH GICOBI

Amboseli airstrip was on Thursday closed by the Kenya Wildlife Service(KWS) after heavy rains pounded the area.

Following the airstrip’s closure, local airlines also suspended their flights on Friday in the wake of the KWS advisory.

There’s massive flooding at the airstrip, including the key amenities after heavy rains prompting the closure.

KWS has put a temporary closure of the airstrip effective 12th Dec 2019 following heavy rains,” a statement from Air Kenya read in part.

In the statement, the main entrance to the Amboseli National Park is also flooded.

The park’s Kimana Gate is periodically flooded and inaccessible as are some parts of the park,” KWS said.

Therefore, all visitors to Amboseli National Park are advised to seek guidance about the status of the roads via the park’s hotline number 0716493335,” the statement added.

The meteorological department has issued a warning of more heavy rains and thunderstorms in many parts of the country, and other regions will experience floods.

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VIDEO: Kenyan flag honored on the world’s tallest building in Dubai

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By JUDITH GICOBI

Kenyans on Twitter were uncontrollable after the Kenyan flag was beamed onto the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa,UAE, on Thursday night.

In the video, the Kenyan flag can be seen rotating from the top to the bottom as elated tourists watched. Photos and videos of the mall decorated with the Kenyan flag made rounds on social media. The beaming was displayed on December 12 when Kenyans celebrate Jamhuri day.

For a promotional advert or message it costs between Ksh 7 million to Ksh 27.5 million for five three minute impressions depending on the time and whether it’s a weekend or weekday.

Questions also arose on the cost of the 828 metre height display. It is not clear on who bore the cost for the display. Whether Kenya paid for the display or it was Dubai’s way of celebrating Kenya, which has a huge number of visitors and workers in the flashy Emirate.

 

 

 

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