Founder of African women in Europe, Joy Wanjiku Zenz, a Kenyan based in Freiburg; Germany has narrated her experience with racism and how she eventually learnt to deal with it over the years.
This comes amidst the ongoing protests in America and other parts of the globe that have risen up to condemn the death of George Floyd who lost his life in the hand of cops who mishandled him.
The mother of two relocated to Germany 20 years ago after she got married and this forced her to adjust to the way of life in that part of the world. Speaking in an interview, Joy reveals that life in Germany has had its ups and downs including facing racism, ending her marriage and missing out on the physical connection with her extended family.
Although she has never been physically attacked for being a person of colour, Joy says that there was a time she was forced to relocate to a different location when her children began to feel a ‘pinch’ of racism.
“I had issues with racism with my kids in school, I had to understand what it was. I had no idea. I struggled alot to get used to it first and to explain to my children and tell them how to protect themselves and deal with it” she said
Although she commends Germany for being a safe country, she admits that she has had to avoid some areas believed to have incidents of racism.
‘I have never been attacked in the streets because of racism but I hear it happens around a lot and I am so scared for that so I avoid the areas” she stated
Despite the challenges that her children have gone through including being treated differently for being of mixed race, Joy is proud that they have grown to become confident for who they are.
According to Joy, she was able to fight it off through the support of other women from her founded group as they openly discussed how to deal with it by sharing their personal experiences. She added that the decision to move to a different location was indeed a good decision and it paid off.
“Racism is there but I have found my way to go around it. I have never gone through a direct situation but I somehow learnt how to avoid it.
I believe that if you stand up, be yourself and concentrate on what you want… you know sometimes you keep looking for these troubles and you get it. But I never give it a chance.” she said
Her advice to other Africans in the diaspora is that they should be willing to work with others instead of living in isolation.
She also insists that it is important to interact with the locals in order to have an understanding of how their systems operate and true to her word, Joy has a couple of German friends who have been supportive and helped her learn their culture.
Through her organization, she has been able to bring together African women living in Europe and have been supporting each other to invest and work on several projects.
Despite the challenges she has endured over the years, she admits that living in Germany has had a positive impact in her life including knowledge of the language as well as founding the organization.
Her advice to Africans who wish to relocate to the diaspora is that they should do their research first before moving and make an effort to learn the basic skills they would need to survive in their ‘dream’ destinations.
Beyond her dream to support Africans in Diaspora, Joy says her wish is to move back to Kenya after her retirement and establish a home located near other diaspora returnees.