Her story

ONE Mom Cooper Munroe reflects on her week in Kenya with nine other American mom bloggers.

Three weeks before the ONE Moms left for Kenya, I received an email from a woman who wanted to share some insight and advice for our journey.

A daughter of Ugandan parents, Birungi Ives wrote to me that it was vital we did all we could to hear the “real” story of African women and mothers. Knowing that only so much could be learned at face value, and that the many smiles we’d see, and dancing and singing we’d share would only tell part of the story, she urged me to “dig deep.”

Birungi wrote, “Please make it a point to connect with Kenyan women on a deeper level. So be completely open and understand it may take longer for the Kenyan women, but be patient. Be patient, because their stories have the power not only to heal their country and their continent, but their stories have the power to heal you.”

Every conversation, every meeting, every place we went in Kenya, those words rang through my mind. “Listen. Dig deep. Be patient. Hear the stories.”

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At Amani Ya Juu, a sewing and training program in Nairobi for marginalized women from across Africa, a program participant, Delphi, told me with great pride about her accomplishments, her quilts and floral designs. After a while, our conversation turned to what the hardships — and changes — in her life ultimately meant for her and her family. She shared that through her achievements she finally could say she was “strong” and know that she’s a leader for others. Toward the end of our conversation we talked about her son Aaron, who died at age 1, and we hugged and cried for a good, long time.

Every day, throughout the day, each ONEMom forged connections with their Kenyan counterparts. Please read each post –- they are amazing.

On a potato farm, Rachel Fox showed her potato peeling skills to one of the farmers, Grace, and in the process formed a lovely, warm friendship -– and one that will continue.

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Jennifer James and Teresia Riungu spent time in deep conversation on Teresia’s dairy farm, and to Jennifer, Teresia shared words of wisdom to which all women –- no matter where they live -– can relate: Not having to ask a husband for money to buy things gives a woman true freedom and independence.

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Here Elisa Morgan listens to mothers share stories about the risks childbirth poses to them and their children and I wish you could have seen the hugs that followed.

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Birungi wrote a poem about the importance of listening to the women of Africa. Her words carry in them the power of what can now be achieved through the foundation the ONE Moms trip has built.

Her Story

To truly know Africa, you need to be still enough to listen to her quiet story.
The story that is written between the lines.
The story that lies behind the eyes of the storyteller.
The story that lives in the hearts and spirits of her people.
You must be still and …LISTEN!
There is a deep pain behind the bright white smiles and the swaying hips of her women.
There is a cool and turbulent frustration held in the fist of protest and the praying hands of her men.
There is a despondence lying in the laughing eyes and humble obedience of her children.
But to know the full dynamics of her story…
You must listen…
With your heart, not your ears
With your soul, not your mind
With your love and not your ignorance.
You must listen.
Then and only then, will you HEAR her story.
Then and only then, will you KNOW her story.
-Birungi Ives

-Cooper Munroe, The Motherhood