At approximately 4:30 pm of Friday the 27th of January 2017, my wife, my best friend, the love of my life, Dr. Eunice Songa-Saraceno, died like a hero. Aged 34, she died young and beautiful, like the heroes of the ancient myths; willing to change her Country she died fighting inequality and injustice, like only true heroes do.” That is how Eunice’s husband, Dr. Luca Saraceno introduces his very emotional memorial tribute to his wife.
I remember reading Dr. Eunice’s thought-provoking blog post regarding the problem that is Kenya’s middle class. She was basically describing me. And most likely you.
Then she died three days later.
Dr. Eunice Songa-Saraceno, formerly of Gertrude’s Garden Children’s Hospital and most recently Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) used her voice and platform to fight for justice. She leaves behind her husband and daughter aged just one year and ten months. In her blog post, she wrote:
….”We the lucky few in this country, who don’t earn anywhere near a dollar a day, who have running water in our 3 bedroom apartments, who can line up for terrific Tuesdays and fill our bellies with pizza, we have become consumed by distractions. We are distracted by the authenticity of Kim K’s derriere, by the attention seeking empty “debes” on Nairobi Dairies, with odds and bets of Sportpesa, with the ever juicy udaku on Kilimani Mums and with hash-tagging our picture perfect lives on Instagram.
So what about the guy who is a little better off; the one who earns 100 dollars a month like your house-help, the supermarket attendant or even the Kenyan police? They may not be literally starving, but they are living hand to mouth every single month. They give birth in KNH and share the blood stained single bed with two other women because maternity care was made free by the government but the hospital didn’t get more beds. They can’t afford secondary school for their teenagers. They may not be able to make rent this month because Cucu’s arthritis was flaring up again and so they had to send money back home. Then we ask how it is that the policeman asks for a bribe or the public school teacher gives illegal tuition.
Then there’s you and me; we sip our French vanilla lattes on the Art Caffé terrace and cheer our favourite Premier League time while enjoying cold beers at our local neighbourhood joint. Our children in perfectly pressed uniforms get on the school bus. And we complain about the 1 hour wait at Gertrude’s or Aga Khan because little Kevo has a stuffy nose for the 3rd time this year. We enjoy our weekends at Garden city, T-mall, Sarit Centre and Westgate filling our bellies and our Nakumatt baskets. But while we have been obsessed with these diversions, we have allowed our country to be governed, dare I say dictated by a select few. The people we have entrusted with power have decided to treat our beloved Republic as their own personal playground….”
Just three days later, Dr. Eunice died suddenly. You can go over to her husband’s memorial tribute in his post here, and may you be challenged.
You, just like me, forms Kenya’s middle class. We are the ones that Dr. Eunice addressed in her post. Be the change you want in Kenya. Take action. Do you have a voter’s card? Or do you feel too defeated by the system, and you believe that ‘your vote will make no difference anyway’, because you’ll be electing a leader from the basket of ‘the best of the worst’?
By the way, let me be honest. There was a time I was so into Kenyan politics. I’m not a politician, but I loved analyzing politics. The topic excited me. I knew Kenya’s politics like the back of my hand. Then the 2007 general elections happened. And something died in me. It just died. And got buried. It’s a very personal issue for me.
I am the one Dr. Eunice describes when she asks:
“Why are we the middle and upper class so apathetic when it comes to politics and governance? The point is not to feel guilty about having a good life. I don’t feel bad about it, so why should you? You wake up at the crack of dawn, fight through Nairobi traffic, deal with bills and bosses, deadlines and proposals, loans and losses. Why shouldn’t you enjoy the trappings of success? Those fun idle distractions are necessary but they shouldn’t blind you to what goes on in the real world. Many of us say: so what am I supposed to do about it? How can I change what is happening? I don’t have any power!” Read the full post here.
May her words challenge you as they have me.
Rest in Peace Dr. Eunice.
Mummy Tales is a blog dedicated to empowering its readers on different aspects of maternal and newborn health, as well as various issues surrounding motherhood and women. Read more motherhood experiences of Kenyan moms here. Follow Mummy Tales on: FACEBOOK l INSTAGRAM l TWITTER
*Featured photo courtesy: Dr. Luca Sareceno LinkedIn