One Small Decision

I’ve got some good news today! Three weeks ago I submitted an idea into a competition our university runs called ‘Venture Further‘. It gives students and recent graduates an opportunity to submit an idea and win £10,000 to implement the idea. I didn’t have plans to submit an idea until three days before the end of the competition, when someone nudged me to submit an idea I had been researching about into the competition. After 30 mins of uhmming and ahhhing, I realised there was really nothing to lose by entering the competition.

So with a couple of days before the end of competition, I hurriedly put together the entry and submitted it- 10 minutes before the deadline.

A week and a half later, I received an email with the news that the idea had been selected as a finalist in the competition! I was in shock. It took me about 20 mins of staring at the email to finally understand what was happening, without fear that it was a hoax or a case of mistaken identity.

Small decisions can shed light on a bigger story, as they have for me.

Connecting the dots The funny thing is that two years ago I entered this very competition with a different idea. It was rejected in the first instance and the idea died at that point. Timing is a great thing because this many years later, I submitted an idea that I know I will work on, even if we don’t win the competition. Things needed to be in place for me to have a strong entry that will go beyond the competition. Everything in its own time; everything in God’s time.

Try. Always try I know I repeat this message but its because I can’t emphasise enough how its changed my life. Last week a good friend of mine asked me what gives me the courage to try and my answer was simple- every time you accept a challenge, you are making a decision to take your life forward. Staying comfortable doesn’t do anyone any good. Keep your ears to the ground and when a challenge presents itself and requires you to try, say yes!

No-one is ever 100% ready Following on from the decision to try, I think it’s so important to remember that no-one is ever 100% ready. You may be waiting for the perfect moment to apply for a job, start a project or make a move on someone you care about, but if you wait until you are ready, you will wait forever. I thought my entry from the competition was far from perfect, but I sent it anyway. You don’t have to be all the way ready; there’s room to figure things out on the way.

All you need is love As I’ve shared my idea with a few friends, some have disappointed me with their responses. I’m reminded that I need to surround myself with love. I don’t have time for naysayers on the sidelines as I play my game. I need cheerleaders- friends who send love, thoughts, prayers and encouragement when I need it most. If you find that the people sitting front row at your game are not doing the aforementioned, don’t be afraid to take away their courtside tickets- they don’t deserve them.

Tomorrow, we find out who the winner of the Venture Further competition is. I’m excited and anxious, all at the same time! I’d appreciate your prayers and positive thoughts.

p.s. If you’re interested, more details on the competition can be found here. The idea I submitted is called ‘My Nairobi’. 

UPDATE- Our idea won second place in the competition! We’ve been awarded £2500 to implement the idea. More details here. Here’s a pic from the awards night!

Awards dinner pic


© Tessy Maritim

The Last Lap

Fitness is a great way to test some key life values. If you can commit to a fitness routine, you can do anything really. Training your body to take instructions from your mind is incredibly difficult. But once you get it, there’s no stopping you. I was doing my warm-up on the treadmill last week and actively tried to use my mind to control my body.

I began running with a good pace. After 7 minutes, I thought, “Okay, this isn’t so bad. I can do this”. I continued for another 3 minutes. Another 5 minutes. And then another 2 minutes before I looked at the timer and realized I was running much faster than the time was moving. I was at a steadily increasing pace and it was getting difficult. I just kept thinking, “I’ve got this athletic gene, you know? I’m sure I can do this.” I looked at myself in the mirror with the most serious game face I could bear. Keep going.

The remaining 10 minutes were the most excruciating. I toyed with the idea of stopping. This isn’t even that serious, I don’t really have to do this anyway, right? My face was warm and glistening with sweat. My legs could almost not bear it, but they were listening to the strict instructions of my mind- keep going. In the last minute, my body almost gave way.

The last lap is always the most painful. You’re almost finished, but not quite. You often feel like you’ve done enough to warrant you stopping. But you can’t quite afford to yet.

Your last lap could be of your final year of school, last few months of a job or final round of a race. Keep the momentum. You’re almost done. This is the golden hour. It’s where your legacy lies. It could determine your final degree classification, as it did for me in university.

Control your mind. Feed it with positive thoughts. Stay motivated.

As I finished my run on the treadmill, I was panting and in pain. I wish you the same. Finish panting, finish in pain- but finish strong.



© Tessy Maritim

No patriarchy, no feminism

Last week, I shared a video on my timeline that opened up a very interesting conversation about feminism from an African perspective. As expected, there were many who agreed and many who disagreed- the most amusing criticism being that the equality of women be advocated for ‘to a certain limit’. Sigh.

I’m writing this post to highlight a few other points I didn’t manage to address in my video.

I’ve heard many make a claim that feminism unfairly advantages women over men. If you think about feminism in a vacuum, you would probably think that. But feminism is a response to a societal problem- it exists to counter the patriarchy. As I said in my video, there’s no better place to see the patriarchy play out than in African society(s). Stripping women on the streets- men having the prerogative to decide what is deemed decent or indecent for a woman and then proceeding to punish her publicly if they feel she violates this- is a symptom of the patriarchy. The legal system- that means that men can be sentenced to cutting grass for raping a woman– is a symptom of patriarchy. Cultural norms- such as FGM (female genital mutilation) and forced early marriage- are a symptom of the patriarchy. For years, women have been set back by structural oppression. So it’s a vacuous criticism to say that feminism is ‘unfair’.

This illustration says it all.

FullSizeRender (3)

The image on the left conveys many people’s idea of equality- giving all the same ‘leg-up’. But that changes nothing. You can’t continue to empower those who are already structurally privileged. This is why feminism is important- it provides a platform for women’s achievements, rights and struggles to be affirmed. For as long as the patriarchy exists, there must be a movement fighting against it- and it must be led by women.

The word ‘feminist’ isn’t saying that women are better than men. It’s an explicit and powerful acknowledgement of their oppression in society- it’s a political statement.

I’m a strong believer that there’s a place for men in feminism. To me, this means standing up and speaking against manifestations of patriarchy which could include catcalling, groping, rape, victim blaming, and most importantly, letting women lead their own liberation.

It’s difficult to be a feminist. There’s a lot of resistance. But its important that you make a political stance when taking on a monster like patriarchy. We can’t afford to be nonchalant- women’s lives are at stake.

For anyone who hasn’t already watched this (I doubt there’ll be many of you), please check out Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDx talk on feminism. She speaks about feminism from an African perspective with some hilarious and very relatable anecdotes.



© Tessy Maritim

(UPDATE- As I edited this post yesterday, I read the best news I’ve seen in a while- three men have been convicted and found guilty of gang-rape and causing grievious bodily harm to ‘Liz’ and as a result sentenced to 15 and 7 years in jail respectively. They had previously been ordered to cut grass as punishment. Read more about that here. Also check out the petition and protests that pressured courts to catch the perpetrators- feminism and activism at its’ best!)


The validation I seek

As I grow older, I realize that I need to be validated. Validation doesn’t have as negative a connotation for me as it once did. I’ve acknowledged that there are reaffirmations I need in order to push me to be my best self- and that’s important.

My validation comes from three sources;

Self– There’s an intrinsic validation we can acquire, as we grow older. My parents made it their job to ensure that all their children knew that they could take on anything they set their mind to. In fact, as a child, my Mom was convinced that all her children were excellent at English Language and Literature- even when our grades proved otherwise. Whenever I brought home a low English grade she would say to me, “Mummy, this is not you! All my children are great at English- no one is incapable!” She made sure we never forgot. To this day, I think I got an A* in English because she spoke those words over my life.

I’m also validated by the fact that I’m a child of God. My favourite reminder of this is Joshua 1:9 which says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”. It’s amazing to feel a sense of purpose and protection that sometimes cannot be explained.

Others– Oprah said it first- we all seek validation from people. We want to know, “Did you hear me? Did you see me? Did what I say mean anything to you?” That’s a natural desire from humans- to want to be seen, loved, heard and felt by others. If you look at the people closest to you, you’ll realize that they each in their own way, validate you. That validation is important, because it allows you to be you; it allows you to express yourself in your truest form.

Activities– As I grow older, I’ve began to identify the activities that validate me. They are things that make me feel alive. The two things that come to mind as I write this are The Arena and this blog. They both stand on their own as individual entities but I feel incredibly attached to them, almost as if a part of me has become it’s own thing. It’s great to do something and feel as if there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing. An audience or applause don’t mean much when what you do validates you. Writing because I feel a greater sense of purpose will always be far more important than any number of views.

It’s also important to recognize that there is also the wrong validation. There’s so much in life that’s fleeting so it’s important to peg your life to things that will sustain and keep you.

The three levels of validation I’ve mentioned above don’t always exist simultaneously. Sometimes, it’s the validation of others that keeps you going when you’ve lost all intrinsic validation. Sometimes, your intrinsic validation is all you need.

I wish you endless validation of your existence! Find it your way.



© Tessy Maritim

#faves – African changemakers

It was only when I came to study in the UK that I began to identify as ‘African‘. Before that, I was just Kenyan. I never saw myself in the context of the wider world and I guess that’s one of the benefits of studying abroad- you discover a lot of new things but also begin to see old things from new perspective(s).

I’ve watched myself become fiercely protective of African identity (if there is one at all). I recognise the difference between when an African speaks about Africa and when a non-African speaks about Africa. The former is usually from a place of understanding the many similarities between African nations while the latter is more often that not, bound with ignorance. I’m reminded of a time when someone asked me “Are you planning on going back to Africa?” Excuse me, but what do you mean?

Things are changing and there are people who are at the forefront of this process- undefining stereotypes and challenging global perceptions about Africa in small and big ways. For today’s #faves post, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite African changemakers. Here we go!

Africans are activists – Boniface Mwangi


(picture courtesy of

Boniface Mwangi is a Kenyan activist and a photographer by profession. For me, he defines what it means to be a patriot. This past year working in student politics has taught me the importance of grassroots activism and community organising. When politicians misuse and manipulate systems to benefit themselves, the most powerful course of action is to take the streets and make our voices too loud to ignore. Boniface has pioneered and set the pace for other young Kenyans to take a stance and not let powerful politicians get away with setting our country back. His courage is inspiring!

Africans are creators– Sharon Mundia


(picture courtesy of

Internet and connectivity is opening up opportunities for many to have a space of their own which they can use to express their creativity. Sharon Mundia’s ‘This is Ess’ is my favourite example of this. She’s created a brand from a simple idea, consistency and quality delivery. It’s a worldwide phenomenon but in Kenya and other African countries, there’s still a slow response to the huge platform that bloggers provide for brands. People like Sharon are changing this- one blog post at a time.

Africans are educators– Patrick Awuah


(picture courtesy of

Patrick Awuah left a career at Microsoft to set up Ashesi University– an independent, co-educational, public benefit education institution operating on a not-for-profit basis. I think it’s wonderful that there are some visionary leaders setting up educational institutions with a focus on how people can use their skills and knowledge to transform the continent. It’s so important that these universities exist to challenge the perception that one must get a Western education to succeed in life.

Africans are entrepreneurs– Tara Fela-Durotoye


(picture courtesy of

If you’re African you know the stigma that was once attached to careers that are not medicine, engineering or law. But things have changed and we have people like Tara Fela-Durotoye to thank for that! Tara is the Founder of House of Tara, a cosmetics company with a focus on make-up. It’s tough enough to be an entrepreneur, let alone in the untapped beauty industry. House of Tara is a reminder that Africans can succeed and pioneer, even in fields that are perceived ‘non-African’.

As a continent, we are nowhere near reaching our capacity. We are an awakening giant. Slowly but surely transforming our communities, our brands, our economies and our world.

I love you Africa!

Share some of your #fave African changemakers below!



© Tessy Maritim

Winning in a loss

Before my election began, I wrote down three cardinal rules for myself. I knew this election would be challenging and would really test my limits. I had to find a way to keep myself grounded and focused.

  1. God is always in control. I’m a firm believer that my life is in God’s hands. Whether I won or lost the election was a decision to be made by my creator according to what’s in line with my purpose. My only role was to do my absolute best. That’s the most you can do in any situation. If it’s for you, there is nothing in the world that will stop you from having it. If it’s not for you, take the loss as a redirection to what is truly for you.
  2. Competition is important. There’s nothing glorious about running a race with nothing at stake. It’s quite ironic but competition helps you focus on yourself better. Competition is a reminder that you need to be at your best. It keeps you on your toes and pushes you to your limit.
  3. Politics is politics. It’s just a game so it’s never that serious. Don’t sacrifice friendships or relationships for the sake of winning the competition. Try hard not to take things so personally. Focus on the prize and be strategic about everything.

I put my blood, sweat and tears into my election campaign. And I didn’t win. It’s so easy to get upset and vow to never try again. I heard a fellow candidate who didn’t win say that they would never run in an election again and it got me thinking- if you face a challenge with the mindset that it is either a win or a loss, you are already setting yourself up to lose. It’s never about the outcome- it’s about what you gain from the process. Whether it’s an election or any other challenge, the process is what builds you- not the outcome. So you have to value the process and perceive it as a win in itself. You are already a superior version of yourself just by virtue of going through the challenge. So when the opportunity for another challenge comes again, please don’t turn away- grab it with both hands and run with it! You have to try again.

Theodore Roosevelt says it best;

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Not winning is okay. There’s something to win in every loss. Look for the lesson, appreciate it and carry it with you.

(p.s. If you want a sneak peak into what students’ union elections are like at the University of Manchester, check out this cool video! Brief cameo from me, other candidates and the 2015/2016 Exec team)

Full elections results can be found here, if you are interested! ->


© Tessy Maritim

My human parents

When did you first realize that your parents are also human?

Before I came to Manchester to study, there was a day that my Dad left the house to organize drinks for my leaving party. After a couple of hours I began to worry. So I went to my Mom’s room to seek comfort, as you do when worried about something.

Mom, have you tried calling Dad?”

Yes, he’s not picking up” she responded. She was staring straight ahead, eyes wide with fear. I knew at that moment, that her fear and my worry could not coincide. She needed my comfort at that moment. She needed my reassurance that he was okay.

So I put on a brave face and told her, “Don’t worry, I’m sure he’s caught up or something. He’ll call back

He called back soon after and my Mom breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

We grow up with the warped perception that our parents are superhuman beings. They are perfect; they never worry, and they simply can do no wrong. As you grow older you start to realize that this actually does not hold true. They have emotions and are capable of mistakes- just like the rest of us.

Sometimes the decisions parents make may have a strong effect on you. It’s easy to get angry with them for not maintaining that impeccable parent thing they do. You think, “what are you doing being anything less than superhuman?” But parents are people before they are parents.

In that moment with my Mom I wondered, “Who is supposed to be comforting who here?” But your mom and dad need you sometimes. As you grow older they begin to accept you as an adult and you see that they too have weaknesses. You begin to see that it’s normal and inherent in each one of us.

My parents have a great relationship with my sisters and myself. We share with each other, sometimes agree and sometimes disagree. But the most important thing is to be able to understand and accept each other through being friends with your parents.

As my Mom says, family is really the cornerstone of life. Accept, love and understand each other.




© Tessy Maritim

Natural Hair Politics

My mom never let me perm my hair. I remember begging my mom for the longest time but she was resolute- none of her three daughters would have relaxer in their hair. She had (and still does have) deep admiration for natural hair and how it grew on our heads- striking and glorious. Whenever I took my braids out in high school, I dreaded the few days before I braided it again, just in case someone from school saw my hair in its virgin state.

It’s only while in university that I finally adopted my mom’s perspective on hair and left it out in natural curls- comfortably. These days, I love watching people’s reaction when they see me after I take out my braids,

“Oh wow, you look so different!”

“You must be so comfortable with yourself, eh?”

“Are you going to comb your hair?”

and my absolute favourite,

“You look so humble and decent with your hair like that”

It’s a challenge to respond to these comments; to make people understand, so these days I just stick to a polite smile. I never quite understood Chimamanda when she said that hair is political. I never quite understood that by wearing your hair a certain way, you were making a statement about yourself. Not just to others, but to yourself too.

My perception on my natural hair became apparent when I was on a flight to Mombasa and someone seated next to me asked me where I was from,

Eldoret”, I said, with suspicion as to why he was asking

He looked shocked. “Eldoret? I thought you were Somali or something

Again, recently, I was identified as Somali and another time as Rwandese. Every time it happened, I got excited. I was being seen as exotic. Yet I often feel uncomfortable when someone says to me “You look very Kenyan”. What does that even mean?

And then there’s the male angle. I was recently having some quality time with a few of my friends when one of my guy friends said that he loves women with natural, curly hair. A female friend responded,

Oh, so like Tessy’s?

He hesitated. He didn’t mean my type of kinky natural hair. For him, and many guys, he was referring to the soft, natural, exotic type. You know, the type that doesn’t come naturally for many African girls.

I realize that there are levels to natural hair and its correlation with identity. You want to have your hair natural, but only if it can be identified as exotic. You’re not doing it right if it looks too natural or ‘too Kenyan’. Not forgetting the pressure to wear perfect make-up and dress to the nines to compensate for the way you wear your hair.

It’s just hair, isn’t it?



© Tessy Maritim

When Are You Getting Married?

So, when will you get a boyfriend??

My sister, best friend, and cousin all ask the same innocent question. I’ve heard it so many times I ask myself, when will I get a boyfriend??

It really would be the best time for me to be in a relationship, I’ve been told. I’m working; finished with my undergraduate degree- it just seems like the next natural step, you know? That’s the idea. That’s the vision for my life that is not my reality.

It won’t be long before I start to hear, “So, when are you getting married??” Marriage is apparently the gold standard of life. And therefore, we are constantly in pursuit of this dream that for some, will not materialize. And that’s not necessarily through an individual’s fault, but because some things just are. We’re still forcing this narrative of marriage down people’s throats. Not because they would be happy in it. But because we’ve been sold the idea that marriage is a magical place of happiness, love and success. Marriage is not a happy place because it’s marriage. It’s happy because two people make the commitment and effort in their relationship.

I get the sense that this pressure weighs heavier for women and is almost non-existent for men. That’s nothing we don’t already know though.

I would love to get married. But should I not, I would hate to feel like the life I live is lesser than those who share this union. Surely, if I’m happy and content, I’m enjoying a gold standard of life? We all live a gold standard life when we realize our own potential.

If you’re missing my point, let me simplify- these things aren’t forced. Find what’s for you. And as I’ve heard someone say before, if you find that you’re in a place that isn’t the best fit for you, I hope and pray you get the courage to start over again.


© Tessy Maritim


Yes Days Off

It’s no secret that our generation is hungrier than it’s ever been. Everyone is on their #workflow and taking #nodaysoff. We’ve glamourized and glorified overworking at the dangerous expense of self-care.

For many of us, myself included, overworking begins in university. With strict deadlines, late nights and copious amounts of coffee, overworking is an unspoken language. But I often wonder whether there’s another way to do it.

It’s easy to feel selfish or lazy for taking time off and taking care of yourself. But I’ve realized the importance of keeping your cup full. You can’t give anything you don’t already have. You are far more productive when you regularly reboot.

Your physical and mental health is never worth the sacrifice. If you’re overwhelmed and need a break, take one. Find what rejuvenates you and fills your spirit. It’s okay to take care of you!

We live in a society where we are made to feel guilty for resting. But what many don’t realize is that the habits you cultivate in your 20’s stick with you for the rest of your life. I believe work ethic is the discipline to put in work and equally, the discipline to put in rest.

I am blessed to work in an environment where we are encouraged to take time off and rejuvenate. I love to unwind by writing, reading, cooking with loud music on and most importantly, sleeping. I’m going to learn how to bake this year!

What if we were taught to take care of our wellbeing as earnestly as we are taught to work hard? There’s nothing noble or admirable about overworking yourself.

Wishing you a productive and equally restful week!


p.s. Please spare an hour to watch this amazing talk by Oprah. You’ll need a notebook for this one!



© Tessy Maritim