After spending 30 hours in labour, media personality and NTV journalist Lizz Ntonjira has a new appreciation for her mother. “Sometimes when I'm exhausted I think about my mum and I wonder how she managed to do it all”, says the new mum of her own mother Beatrice Kagituyu Ntojira who is a nurse and VCT counselor. “It amazes me how she managed to raise six children and be a working mum at the same time. I don't remember her missing any one of our visiting days [in boarding school]. She's really amazing and supportive of all of us.”
While pregnant with her now 8-weeks old son, Ntonjira remembers how her mother brought her some porridge when she complained of that constant heart burn pregnant women often endure. Her mother's “selflessness” touched her to the core when on the day her son's birth, news came that her grandfather, her mother's father, had passed away. “We were sad and happy at the same time”, she remarks. “My mum was with me during my 30 hours of labour and even after I'd given birth she still found time to spend with the baby in the hospital and to check in on me too before she finally leaving to attend to her father.” Being over 100 years old, Ntonjira's grandfather had a fulfilling life thus the symbolism in the day of his death coinciding with the birth of her son was not at all lost on the family - their legacy, her grandfather's heritage would continue.
Like all relationships with mothers and their daughters it wasn't always hugs and kisses, tough love factored in too. As a child, Ntonjira remembers her mother insisting on their doing their homework soon as all her children had come from school. “She insisted that we take a bath first and then do our homework. One day, a friend convinced me to go out and play. She said to me, 'You're mother doesn't own a gun, she cant shoot you so come out and play'. I went out to play and when I saw my mother coming for me I ran back into the house and locked myself in the bathroom”. After about an hour in the locked bathroom, hunger pangs finally brought her out. “My mum told that I could play all I want on the weekends, weekdays were for homework.” She credits the discipline she has to date to her mother and recalls how it helped her get through her first years as a journalist. “One of the best things about my mum is that she trusts her children. She would understand when I had to work late jobs. Even while I was still in campus and there'd be those late night parties, I'd find it difficult to lie to her because she's the sort of person you can tell anything and she wont judge you at all. She's very forgiving.”
This forgiving trait in her mother Ntonjira remembers of the first time she went to a boarding school. “I really, really hated it!', she says of the boarding school. “I had to come back home after only a week because I terribly missed my mother.” The term's fees had already been paid in full and after failing to convince her daughter to go back, Beatrice Ntojira talked to her husband and together they transferred their daughter to another school.
“I can't equate the love and support I've received from my mother over the years and if I had all the money in the world I would take her to a nice resort for an entire week or more just to relax, soak up the sun and take a break from taking care of all of us.”
“Ndoa ni kuvumiliana”, is the great piece of advice screenwriter and actress Damaris Irungu-Ochieng got from her mother. This Elenester Gathoni Irungu said to her daughter in giving the younger woman advice on what to expect in marriage which, if the Kiswahili saying is to be believed, is all about a couple's ability to put up with each other so to speak.
As an actress, screen and features writer, Damaris has a reservoir full of words with which to best describe her mother whom she says often used a “mwiko”[wooden cooking spoon] to discipline Damaris and her brother. “My relationship with my mother is bliss because I know for sure there is no mwiko around and that gives me peace of mind knowing that now we can dialogue.She listens more to my suggestions and I listen to hers. We’ve found a way to complement each other because now she thinks I am wise and I find her wiser. Anything she says these days I take as gospel truth.” Thus, the saying, “Ndoa ni kuvumiliana” she relies on often in her marriage adding, “I apply it anytime my husband makes me feel like pulling out my weave!”
Among the qualities she admires most about her mother is her patience. “My brother and I used to wet the bed for the longest time until we were about 11 years old and I remember my mum trying to get us to stop by waking us up every two hours to take us to the bathroom. There are many days she'd wake us at 2am and when she came back by 4am we had already wet the bed. But she never gave up on us, she just kept trying till we finally stopped”
Maintaining her well-of-wisdom image, Elenester Irungu while raising her daughter gave another lasting piece of advice. “She told me that my blanket is not my friend and only pretends to be.
I took that literally and to date I'm an early bird. Normal waking up time for me is 4:30am, I get a lot of writing work done between that time and 7 am. Its the reason I'm able to work on many projects simultaneously and live a comfortable life.
If she had the means, money would be the ideal gift Damaris would give her mother. “If I could, I would refund her all the money she lost in a pyramid scheme. She lost a lot of money and I know the big plans she had for that money. That would my ideal gift, giving her back her millions.”
On how she plans on spending Mothers Day she says, “Mother’s Day always [seems to] fall on Sunday and this is one day of the week my mum has got more than a million things to do. Church, chama... you can never really get her on Sundays and we gave up trying to get to free up Sundays for Mothers Day. What we do instead is to pick her up from whichever meeting she's at, get her home for some chicken choma which is one her favourite meals with ugali and kachumbari. It makes for a simple but lovely mother’s day evening.
"My mother was a source of inspiration to the whole family," says Kisauni MP and Transport assistant minister Hassan Joho. He says as the world celebrate Mother's day, a mosque built in her honour will keep her memories living.
The day is globally celebrated to honouring mothers and celebrating motherhood, maternal bonds and the influence of mothers in society. It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in March, April, or May.And this year, it is celebrated today.
"She was a unifying factor in our family," says Joho of his late mother Ummu Kulthum.Kulthum passed on in October 2010 after battling with colon cancer for long.
"She was the brain behind the construction of the Mosque.She always wanted a Mosque in the area. Unfortunately she died before its completion and that is why we decided to name it after her," he says.
Construction of the mosque was completed seven months after Kulthum's death. Joho through his Hassan Joho Foundation constructed the mosque which can accommodate 1000 people conducting prayers at ago. "Our mother used to encourage us.I miss her a lot and when I enter the mosque, I can feel the presence of my mother," says the MP.
The mosque situated in Mombasa was officially opened in August last year, just in time for the holy month of Ramadhan. Joho says this is one of the Foundation's several projects that is done in memory of his late mother. "We are currently constructing a school in Mtopanga which will also be named after her," he says.
Maria Soti Girls’ Educational Centre was established to honour the memory and commitment of Maria Soti, who died in 1986. The late Maria according to the school's website was a champion of education and to keep her memories alive, his son, Nicholas Biwott built the Maria Soti Girls’ Educational Centre.
"She was a passionate advocate of the importance of education for all, boys and girls, regardless of their tribe or background, and of the need to strive for excellence in education as the basis for a life of greater opportunity and personal liberty," says the school's website of Biwoott's mother.
The Maria Soti Educational Centre, a model school for girls, was developed and funded by Nicholas Biwott as a tribute to his mother and to ensure that her work continues.
Construction of the Maria Soti Educational Centre began in 2004 amid protests that it was built on a public land.It's first students enrolled for the 2007 academic year. The school currently has some 300 students enrolled.
The school is situated five kilometers from Kaptarakwa shopping centre in Kitany Location, Keiyo District. It is about 46 kilometers from Eldoret town. The former powerful cabinet minister in Moi government and long serving MP for Keiyo South set up the school which is expected to be an education complex.
"There were issues but it's advantages outweighed the disadvantages," says former TSC commissioner Richard Cheror who was the Keiyo District Education Officer (DEO) when the school was put up. The school supports the boarding of homeless children, orphans and children from very impoverished families.