There is a lot women can share from parenting,food, sex to marriage. And Naserian Ole Mapelu founded a perfect platform for it, a women’s only Facebook page that seeks to empower them as well as let them pour their hearts out. She talks to Betty Muindi
What is Hello Mamas (HM)?
HM was formed almost a year ago with only 10 members. We are now 11 months old with a membership of over 8,000. It is a women’s only group because we identify with each other’s needs. It is a closed group, but all women are invited. I started the group together with my friend, Gertrude Chebet. Members later voted for Christine Njeri who helps with managing the page.
What are some of the issues discussed in the forum?
We discuss everything and anything touching on the life of a Kenyan woman. We discuss marital issues, pregnancies, the best hospitals to deliver at, safe neighbourhoods, house hunting, job opportunities, advice on best schools for our children, cooking tips and ideas, where to find house girls and how to deal with them. We also expose rogue service providers.
What other activities does HM do to empower women?
We visit children homes, the sick and the needy. For example, about two weeks ago, we were fundraising for a cervical cancer patient who has five children. We raised over Sh35,000, sanitary pads and clothes for the children. In the process of paying her chemotherapy for six months and the National Hospital Insurance Fund offered to pay for a whole year. This month, we are organising a pap smear session and breast cancer checks for members.
There are times when there is so much drama going on, how do you handle that?
Let’s just say where two or three women are gathered, there ought to be lots and lots of drama. As an admin, I try to be as neutral as possible and not take sides. We have rules and regulations. One rule of the thumb is that we should treat each other with dignity.
Sometimes we advise participants to take some time off the group, and when the drama cools off they can request to be added back. What kind of messages do you receive? All manner of messages. This is a platform where women turn to for help.
I have housed two women who were battered by their husbands at night. The fact that someone has thought of you in their time of need means they really believe in you, and the best you can do is to lend a helping hand. Some request me to post their stories because they want to remain anonymous. Others want jobs or even food.
Did you ever felt like quitting at one point?
So many times, especially when there is lots of drama. However, when I look at the bigger picture, we soldier on. We have a Whatsapp group chat for the admins to discuss how best to handle it before posting on the group.
Ever been bullied?
Yes, so many times. I know haters are people who really admire what I do, but they just can’t be me! How is it running such a large and diverse group? My challenge is that people expect you to be an angel as an admin, and most times they can’t forgive you for a mistake. There is also the issue of becoming a ‘celebrity’ of some sort, you start forgetting about your private life.
What does your partner think about your being the HM admin?
He is not a social media person. He loves his privacy and is an introvert. He is always complaining about HM and that it takes so much of my time… but then he supports me because I love doing what I do. He helps me run some HM errands or baby sit. My daughter Nerima, christened Butu (a Bengali word for an endearment) is always asking me if I am going to Hello Mamas… she knows each time I am on my phone I have HM issues that I am sorting.
How is it juggling between HM, family and work?
I am a blogger, social media marketer, so I spent nearly 18 hours a day online hence administrating the group becomes easier. I try as much as possible to create time for my family.