Four upcoming Kenyan female musicians will join the protest against sexism and gender inequality by performing at the Women’s March on Nairobi on Saturday 21 January. The event, which will start at 10am will take place at Karura Forest and is a sister-march to the historic Women’s March taking place in Washington, DC on the same day.
Labdi Ommes, Valentine Zikki, Lydiah Dola and Janice Iche were handpicked not just for their music, but for being vocal about the rights of women and minorities. They will be joined by the seasoned poet Alleya Kassam.
The march calls for more progressive and inclusive governance in Kenya, the US and around the world. It will take place in 370 cities around the world. Initially a response to the US presidential election victory of Donald Trump, who has demonstrated disregard and disrespect for women, the march is now a global platform for participants to use in mobilizing their governments on issues of women’s rights.
Some of the issues to be highlighted at the march are reproductive freedom, female genital mutilation, trafficking, education for girls, an end to violence against women, police brutality, economic injustice, LGBTQ rights and the global migration crisis. The organizers intend to engage political leaders and create social justice movements.
“As an American woman living in Kenya, I cannot sit back silently as a government takes the reins in my home country that seems poised to trample on the rights of women and vulnerable groups,” said Neela Ghoshal, a member of Progressive Americans in Kenya and one of the organizers of the march. The march has been endorsed by a wide range of Kenyan and international civil society organizations.
Eddah Mbaya, a public relations consultant, says that other than the requirement that the musicians be socially conscious and vocal about human rights, they chose the artists that were willing to offer their talent for the march pro bono.
“Some of the established artists we approached refused to participate because they weren’t being paid. Offering their talents for a cause is part of artists’ social responsibility and I think our musicians miss the opportunity to contribute to society when they focus only on the money. However, we are glad to have such reputable artists agreeing to perform,” she said.
Ommes, a powerful afro-pop vocalist who plays the orutu, a string instrument from the Luo community in Kenya, says she is taking part in the march to support women's rights because marginalization against one woman affects all women in the world.
“We must make a statement in support of other women so they know they are not alone. You cannot escape the impact of music. It is a powerful tool for addressing gender-based discrimination. I intend to perform my own compositions on my orutu; songs that empower women to work for themselves, to strive and to free their minds and hearts,” she explained.
The Women’s March on Washington has attracted top American artists such as Janelle Monae and Maxwell as well as Angelique Kidjo among others.
The Women’s March on Nairobi kicks off at 10 am.
Watch the video for Dola's 'Afrika Aleki' here: