Kenyan women in the Diaspora have a problem with Kenyan men.
Romantic relationships between Kenyans in the US, for instance, are beset with untold challenges.
The Nairobian spoke to a number of women of different ages and careers who concur that relationships are not working and Kenyan men should take a big chunk of the blame.
Sarah Mwangi, an auditor with a top auditing firm and whose resume is quite impressive, says Kenyan men may be intelligent, but they lack a certain charm that women value and cherish: ambition.
“They lack the drive and their presentation is so poor. Some will still don those ‘Mwalimu Jini’ shoes, yet they are in the United States,” says Sarah, chuckling.
Sarah is not alone.
Chero Leitich notes that dating has not been as rewarding and her expectations have been shrinking each passing day.
Currently, she is seeing someone and hopes it will herald a new chapter in her life by dating someone of a different race and nationality.
Chero who hails from Nakuru vows never to date a Kenyan man in the Diaspora. Her public admission is a feeling many Kenyan women in the Diaspora privately share.
Chero parted ways with her Kenyan boyfriend partly because of the “demands of the environment” and reckons that the relationship would probably have worked in Kenya.
She always felt limited to Kenyan standards while she was willing to pursue standards in American where, sadly, there is one man for every five women.
“Even something as simple as public display of affection, which women value so much, is almost impossible with Kenyan men,” she observes. In addition, she feels that she had little say in the relationship because Kenyan men do not like a woman who is outspoken or opinionated.
Chero adds that Kenyan men in the Diaspora are not motivated, lack ambition and are comfortable in circles where they only drink and have barbeques.
She adds that Kenyan men in the Diaspora leave it to the women to work, which should not be the case.
Rebecca Musau, who works as nurse in Washington DC agrees.
“It is true the single ladies find it hard to find men. I know some in their 40s with no men or kids in their lives. They have money but no man. It is not easy to get a white or American man. They are too busy just like everyone is in America. You many get one from online dating sites, which unfortunately has seen many women being scammed by con men,” explains Rebecca, who has been in the US for two years.
Another challenge is that the available Kenyan men, especially the older ones, are married either in the US or back home. The only arrangement is having sexual liaisons to “help each other” out, but not long-term commitment.
White and African-American men are hardly available, hence most women either decide to stay single or become single mums.
“I think Kenyan men are few compared to women here,” she observes.
But are men entirely to blame?
Many in the Diaspora agree that women adapt easily to the American environment compared to men.
“Even a woman from the remotest part of Kenya comes here and a few months later, she will be driving and earning $2,000 a month (Sh170,000), probably from babysitting. Do you think such a woman will care about or respect the husband?” asks Rebecca who studies Public Health Policy in Washington. With rights, freedom and money, women are no longer subjected to the directions of their men as is the case in Kenya. With such freedom, you can understand the runaway infidelity that has become the order of the day here, explains Rebecca.
Sonie Kendi, who recently moved to Indiana, thinks that despite the allegations, it boils down to individual preferences.
“Some Kenyan women cannot date Kenya men and vice-versa. Generally, most of my friends prefer American men, black or white, to Kenyans,” she says. She has been in the US for four months now.
What influences the choices according to Sonie is the cultural background of individuals since the two cultures are worlds apart.
“In my estimation, I think as East African women score highly amongst American men because our black American women counterparts are rowdy, uncouth and not as ‘feminine’ as us, hence we attract their men,” she adds.
Rhoda Adera* a journalist in Missouri and a resident of the US for more than 13 years, says the difficulty Kenyan women have in snagging soulmates has to do with the nature of life in America.
“It depends on the visa one is granted. Save for those who immigrate here on the Green Card, many Kenyans come here as students or visitors. Without proper documentation, you cannot work and without work, finding a stable relationship is nearly impossible,” she observes.
It is the reason many men and women often gravitate towards Americans in the hope that they can marry them and streamline to legalise they stay find jobs.
Yet, even those who immigrate on the Green Card are divorcing at alarming levels.
“Most married Kenyans, especially those who immigrate here on a Green Card, divorce within five years. It is the trend, even though data from the Kenyan embassy is not available, but that is the general trend everywhere you look,” she says and decries the inability of the Kenyan embassy to track the welfare of Kenyans in the US. Men unable to keep up with liberal culture
There are a myriad of reasons why marriages and relationships are not working in the US. Kenyan men find it difficult to keep up with the liberal culture, which Kenyan women take to like ducks to water.
“Women navigate the culture shock faster than men. Unless you were brought up in a wealthy and liberal family back in Kenya where you share responsibilities with your sisters, the idea of a housewife in America is non-existent,” observes Rhoda, adding, “The hours can be unforgiving and that complicates many relationships.”
Another problem that Kenyans encounter is that in the US, there is no communal life. It is very individualistic. Kenyans reportedly don’t keep each other’s company, given their knack for petty domestic issues. And if you find yourself in a town without any Kenyan, you will hardly have a social support system.
Furthermore, America changes the way one thinks. Those who cannot change their mindset cannot withstand the pressure.
“Views towards marriage are looked at from a cultural, financial and academic perspective. Before you settle with anyone, there must be a catch. But you notice younger women are not really interested in marriage anymore,” says Rhoda who writes for a local newspaper.
At the end of the day, Kenyans and Africans must accept that they can never be 100 per cent equal with the whites. Those who discover this early, go back to those they are familiar with: their fellow Kenyans or other Africans.