Book Review: Fighting without ceasing

Book Cover- Fighting without ceasing. Photo: Odhiambo Orlale
Book Cover- Fighting without ceasing. Photo: Odhiambo Orlale

Title:  Muthoni Likimani
Fighting Without Ceasing
Publisher: Noni’s Publicity.

 A book covering Kenya’s pre- and post- independence from a gender lens is now available.

Fighting Without Ceasing is an autobiography by Muthoni Likimani, a well-known local author, who has decided to share her over 80 years’ experience with the world of what it meant to be a village girl who was determined to make something of herself no matter the odds.

In the 339-page book, Muthoni takes us on a journey through her remarkable life, a journey that is as inspiring as it is a captivating as a teacher, broadcaster, actress, politician, woman trail blazer in business and a renowned public speaker among others.  She has always projected herself as a principled woman with unshakeable determination.

This determination, coupled with her desire to fight discrimination based on gender, colour and culture has seen her venture into the male dominated domains. She quit her job at Voice of Kenya (VOK) when she was discriminated against in favour of a male colleague during a promotion and started her own public relations firm, Noni’s Publicity. She later starred in the award-winning movie, The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin Dada, as the wife of the dictator in 1981.

Hurdles

Muthoni has surmounted many hurdles and her strong resolve has helped her emerge as one of the foremost woman leader in Kenya and beyond.

Besides penning this autobiography, Muthoni has published four other books which include What Does a Man Want? They Shall Be chastised; Pass Book Number F47927: Women & Mau Mau in Kenya; and Shangazi na Watoto. She also boats seven other publications on women and publications by 2005 when the autobiography was launched.

In the preface, Muthoni says: “Politically, I am glad that I have worked with various regimes. As I grew up, I observed the foreign teachers at the missionary school. I experienced discrimination first-hand, some of it even being practiced by the Christian missionaries holding the Holy Bible under their arms. I also saw the suffering of our people during the freedom struggle, and had the pleasure of working with the colonial government and our independent government during the Jomo Kenyatta era (1963-1978), Daniel arap Moi era (1978-2002) and the Mwai Kibaki era (2003-2013).”

Position

Muthoni says her wide experience has given her a firm stand and helped chart the way forward in her life. “My observation of my Kenyan society is that we are easily manipulated and sometimes take actions without thinking of their outcome. We also tend to follow things we do not believe in just to be on the safe side. We must train our people to stand firm, to work hard as well as to serve and fear God.”

The easy-to-read book is very unique as it has three prominent personalities who were honoured to write separate forewords on who the real Muthoni was and is in their social, personal, professional and political lives.

Dr Fitzroy G. Joseph says: “I have known Muthoni the broadcaster, the teacher, the activist, the public relations specialist and finally the writer for some 30 years. The theme in her life has always been the same that is not to let other people and their negative forces to keep her down! Her education and training prepared her well for community activity, with an emphasis on women in Kenya.”

Muthoni is described as “one of Kenya’s great daughters”, by her long-time friend Evelyn Mungai, the proprietor of Evelyn College of Design and former President of All Africa Businesswomen Association.

“I have known Muthoni for many years and I have never ceased to marvel at her great courage and accomplishments. She has dared to tread where others feared. She has excelled in the world of business; her public relations firm (Noni’s Publicity in 1973) was the first to be owned by an indigenous person. A trail blazer indeed,” says Mungai.

Trail blazer

Another friend, Honorine Kiplagat, the Africa Region chairperson of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, described her as “an encyclopaedia” because of the great experience and knowledge she has as a trail blazer and as the wife of the first African Director of Medical Services as well as  the first couple to occupy a former colonial residence.

Muthoni has many firsts: she has been a radio and television presenter for the defunct Voice of Kenya (precursor of Kenya Broadcasting Corporation) where she was voted best producer of the year, and worked briefly at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in London. She was a founder member of Public Relations Association of Kenya; is a former Nominated Councillor in Nairobi (1971); vied for the Bahati parliamentary seat in Nairobi in the 1974; and is a renowned author in her own right.

Says Kiplagat: “She is someone who has made and continues to make a difference. She is someone the society needs to appreciate and value because of the enormous contributions she has made and is still making. She is for me indeed a ‘Grande Dame’, a woman of substance whom I admire.”

It was while working at KBC that Muthoni came face to face with discrimination as a woman, but she turned it into an opportunity by quitting and starting her own public relations firm.

Looking back decades later, Muthoni, who is a mother of three, a grandmother and a great grandmother, says her advanced age has been taking its toll forcing her to go slow on public activities. However, she is still involved in her greatest passion, writing.

“I have been collecting many manuscripts which I wish to have published. I have also been collecting information and profiles of our Kenyan women who have contributed to the development of our nation. I still give talks — both locally and internationally — concerning women and development in Africa generally and in Kenya in particular. I intend to publish my speeches under the title: “The Way I See It.”

According to another friend, Lynn Muthoni Wanyeki, former Executive Director of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), this autobiography “is an extraordinary account of the life of an extraordinary woman, one who grew into herself at a pivotal point in Kenya’s history” and should be read by all Kenyan women (and men) who were born and brought up well after the country’s independence.