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Matatu Musings: Let’s Be Nosy

The world will be better if you poke your nose in other people's business

BY Joan Thatiah

Feb 23, 2021, 01:26 PM

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Hi there! I’m Joan, and I am nosy. I love eavesdropping on random conversations. Breakups, intellectual debates, hot sweet nothing conversations…I listen because you never know where you will get the next big story idea, right?

Every time I meet a woman for the first time, I wonder what her story is. What makes her happy? Who hurt her? What is she running away from? Because most women are running from something. Most days I just wonder but sometimes, I ask my questions out loud.

In my everyday life, I will ask many questions; ask for things to be repeated, particularly if the matter in question involves gender. I have been called nosy. Annoying. Asked why I care so much that this happened to this woman or that man yet it doesn’t concern me. When people say this, you can almost hear them thinking, why can’t she just mind her own business?

There were days I minded my business, decades ago. In the late 90s when I went to this boarding primary school in Kutus, Kirinyaga County. The headmistress was a religious fanatic and the director, her husband, was an animal who derived pleasure from preying on little girls.  We knew to run if we saw him in the dark because if he caught you, he would fondle you.

His wife, instead of calling the cops on this predator, saw us, little twelve and thirteen-year-old girls as her competition. On random evenings, she would call girls into her office, soften them up with a soda and then ask them whether her husband had called you into his office or tried to touch you. Woe unto you if he had because she would give you the beating of your life, have you kneel and rebuke the spirit of seduction she was convinced you were carrying.

When I think of this time of my life, I think about a girl I was in standard seven with, a girl this man liked calling into his office during night preps. I think about the night I walked in on him raping her, how terrified and confused I was and how I ran back to class and tried to put all of it behind me. Decades later, I haven’t been able to. I still wonder whether she survived this trauma, about how many girls I might have saved had I spoken out.

Especially now with Covid-19, cases of gender-based violence have increased. You will watch on the television every other day as neighbors of a woman who just got beaten or stabbed to death narrate how they knew her, and how they listened as her boyfriend or her husband beat her. If you ask, they will tell you they didn’t want to interfere. “Hii ni mambo ya nyumbani,” they will shrug.

The way I see it, that beating next door concerns you. Silence is complicity. If you do not care that a man or a woman is being beaten black and blue next door, if you can ignore their screams as you tuck your children in their beds and go on to have a good night, if this doesn’t bother you, then you approve of it. 

If all of us were a little nosier, if we asked more questions, raised more eyebrows, and spoke out more on the things we felt were unfair even if they didn’t happen to us, then the injustices around us would significantly die down. 

Let’s get out there and be nosy, shall we?