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‘Rafiki’ is a reflection of our society

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By MAGUNGA WILLIAMS
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Finally Kenyans got to see the banned film Rafiki, following a court order to lift the ban temporarily to allow for seven days of screening in public theatres.

It is interesting to note, however, that long before its banning by the Kenya Film Classification Board, the board’s chief executive Ezekiel Mutua, had gone on radio to sing its praises and that of its producer, Wanuri Kahiu.

Mutua is on record saying, “It is a great story…she has a great story. We want it to be our movie, we want it to be our story…we need to celebrate Wanuri and her crew…”

But after the Cannes Film Festival, where the film was first screened to much acclaim, the film’s greatest supporter turned into its fiercest critic and the KFCB banned Rafiki “due to its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law.”

Kahiu sued the board, arguing in her suit that the ban made it impossible for her to submit the film for consideration by the Oscars Selection Committee Kenya for submission in the Best Foreign Language Film category award.

As soon as the court gave the order, Prestige Cinemas in Nairobi advertised dates and timings for screenings. In a matter of hours, tickets were sold out for the first day and the management was forced to show the film on both its screens, thanks to the hype created by the controversy around it.

The screening, from September 23-29, finally gave Kenyan viewers a chance to judge the film for themselves.

I attended the first day of screening at Prestige. I arrived half an hour before the start of the show and the place was buzzing with excitement. The queues for last minute ticket buyers were long. The tickets, selling at Ksh500 ($4.9), were cheaper than those charged for foreign-made films.

Members of the LGBTIQ community and their sympathisers had come out in full force to show support. Rafiki is after all about them.

Foreign-made films do not exactly grasp their challenges because in the West, homosexuality is neither illegal nor criminal. Rafiki is their opportunity not just to look at themselves in the mirror, but also to tell society about their daily struggles.

Rafiki is based on the lives of two girls, Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva). The daughters of rival politicians. They fall in love but their “unusual’’ relationship is not accepted by their community.

They have watched the violence that is meted out on other gay people and so they try to keep their relationship secret, without much success.

The more I think about this film, the more I am convinced that (ironically), there is nobody who has described it better than the person who hates it the most — KFCB’s Mutua.

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Speaking at the aforementioned radio interview, he said “…Rafiki is a story about the realities of our times and the challenges that our kids are facing, especially with their sexuality… things that we sweep under the carpet and pretend that it is not happening…”

As a heterosexual man with gay friends and one who is aware of the challenges they go through — both online and offline — I still cannot say that I know what it means to live as an LGBTIQ person in Kenya. This film sheds light on their daily tribulations.

The hatred is palpable— being denied access to basic human rights like healthcare, housing and the right to love. If there is an undoubted success in Rafiki, it is how it manages to humanise the experience of gays and lesbians.

The theme story is woven into a spellbinding tale that offers us a glimpse into a world unfamiliar to heterosexuals. Lasting only 82 minutes, I did not expect it to answer all questions on homosexuality.

However, the overriding lesbian theme is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it popularised the film but on the other, denied it the opportunity to be examined as purely a work of art.

The acting, costumes and soundtrack choices is stellar. The casting as perfect and the lead characters are brilliant in their roles as lesbian lovers.

That said, there are aspects of the film that did not work for me. The pace is way too slow. The dialogue in some parts sounds forced, maybe to appeal to a Western audience. And the subtitles are shoddily done.

The film has emotional moments between Kena and Ziki; carefree laughter from a bodaboda character called Blackstar and a food vendor who happens to be the neighbourhood gossip.

On a deeper layer, Rafiki explores the depths of parental love and heartbreak at the same time, when in a tender moment, a father chooses his daughter over winning an election, while a mother decides she loves her religion more than her daughter. But there is also unbelievable hate from a community that refuses to accept what they consider abnormal.

Rafiki is about everyday relations, and there is betrayal through the character of Waireri, who joins in a mob beating of someone he calls a friend.

But love conquers all as Kena and Ziki defy time and distance, and the threats hanging over them. And that is what I love about Rafiki — a bittersweet ending showing that there are things in life worth fighting for, at a whatever cost.

Rafiki is based on Ugandan writer Monica Arac de Nyeko’s short story Jambula Tree, which won the 2007 Caine Prize.

Here is a tip on how to watch Rafiki if you want to really grasp the story. First watch the video of the song Take Me To Church by Hozier, read the poem titled Some Kind of Man, and finally read Jambula Tree. Only then should you watch the movie.

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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