Clothed in the love of the women who wanted to die

Early this week, Sandra (whose blog you should check out) and I had a little photo session to capture my awkward moments as a model for a beautiful red shift dress. I have to confess that even though I am not very maternal, I wished I was pregnant in this red dress.I could have been such a hot mama. I knooow, right? You can check some of the photos here on my flicker page. You know I sincerely hope this bold move to share my pictures will embolden me to be a little more expressional of my fashion. An artiste’s work is an extension is who s/he. They fear it being criticised because when we make it, it is not about whether it is good or not. We were going through something and we communicated through art. Back to the dress. Yes the dress. The reactions on the photo below- its height, colour warts and all- has been… profound. Let us just thank God my pastor godfather does not have access to my inbox.

Red shift dress with jewellery from Tuinuke Tuendelee women's group PHOTO/Sandra Ruong'o
Red shift dress with jewellery from Tuinuke Tuendelee women’s group PHOTO/Sandra Ruong’o

On this red dress, you can see my very colourful jewellery. These beads are a story of two women who were on the way to the grave and refused to die. Last month I met two women—Lucy and Rosemary— HIV survivors whose story I wrote for one of our magazines. I met them through my friend from campus Chris Sunday. Chris works for, Fondazione L’Albero della Vita, an international organisation that has assisted Mary and the women in her care on how to manage their money, sell their crafts and use whatever little is available in their sorrounding to survive. It looks so easy when I put it like that, right? It wasn’t. Poor and ostracized, their neighbours barred them from even using the public toilet sometimes. That was not what touched me. The stories that usually remain etched in your mind as a journalist are the “off the record” statements.

Rosemary(Left) and Lucy(right) in their workshop in Nairobi's Mathare area.
Rosemary(Left) and Lucy(right) in their workshop in Nairobi’s Mathare area.

By all means, Mary and Lucy had been shortchanged at life. They had given so much and yet gotten so little out of it. Yet here they were, taking in other women to hold their hands and walk with them through greater or lesser problems that they had encountered on their own. In their three bedroom house at the heart of Nairobi’s Mathare area, young women with children came in and they took them in so lovingly you would imagine they have lived there with them forever.

I love TD Jakes, and he said something today that reminded me that we cannot allow circumstances in our lives to silence our thirst to achieve what is big. Within us, there are dreams bigger than us. When we allow ourselves to be silenced, even the voices of those that would have benefitted from us get silenced too.

The women in Rosemary and Lucy's care at work
The women in Rosemary and Lucy’s care at work

Look at Lucy and Mary. They never felt the pressure to respond to what looked like “normal”. In a world that was cruel, they chose “gentle”. In an environment where everybody gave politically correct answers on controversial issues, Lucy and Mary chose to stand by single mothers. As you draw your inspiration from their lives, please pass by Chris Sunday’s wall and let him guide you to where you can buy the beautiful stuff that these women make.

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